You may have seen us talking recently about our popular Fun Gundog course and wondered whether your pet spaniel or retriever would be up to the job. You might have even assumed you and your terrier aren’t invited! This couldn’t be further from the truth – we’re more than happy for any dog of any breed to attend and we know that ALL of you can have fun and benefit from the training we cover in the course. Gundog training, at its core, is about advanced obedience training that works outside, off the lead and around distractions – even when our dogs are excited. It doesn’t matter if your dog couldn’t be further from a gundog breed or will never “work,” there is plenty for them to learn and loads for you to achieve together.
We’ve decided to write this blog to explain what we cover in the course and how it can benefit you and your dog – from pugs to poodles, beagles to bulldogs and beyond!
Target training is a method in which we use something in the environment to show our dogs where we want them to be – they “target” whatever we are using. For example, when we teach our dogs to “go to your bed,” they are targeting the dog bed with their feet. When we teach our dogs the “touch” exercise, they are targeting our hand with their nose! Targeting is a great way to start working at a distance from our dogs, as it helps show them where to go while we teach them what to do. With some exercises we then “phase out” the target once the behaviour has been taught, so our dogs can do it freestyle!
A placeboard is a raised, textured platform and is great for target training as it helps us as handlers to be much clearer and more consistent, so our dogs know exactly where we want their feet and what we are rewarding them for. This clarity in training helps make learning much faster and more enjoyable for our dogs, so you can breeze along at lightning speed!
Heelwork (on- & off-lead)
We often put a lot of focus on teaching our dogs to walk on a loose lead with us, but working on heelwork both on and off the lead is a great way to improve our on-lead walking tenfold and elevate our off-lead training. Gundogs need to be able to stay engaged, focused and under control while off the lead, even when they’re really excited in anticipation of doing their job and around big distractions such as other dogs and wildlife. We know that pet owners and their dogs stand to benefit hugely from the confidence that comes with a high standard of training while off the lead!
Retrieving is something that many of our dogs love to do, to one degree or another, so working on teaching a formal retrieve is a great way to offer our dogs an outlet for this natural behaviour. Working on various kinds of retrieves give our dogs the opportunity to use their brains (to remember where the article they’re retrieving was in memory retrieves) and their noses (to find it, especially in blind retrieves), to practice impulse control (waiting for us to send them out) and to stay engaged and focused on us at a distance. It’s also a great way to teach our dogs a solid “drop,” so they are able to relinquish items directly into our hands – this is great for our dogs who love to carry things around and may be more prone to guarding behaviours, as it makes the act of handing us the item they have into a fun, positive experience.
We know that recall is a top priority for almost every dog owner – we all love to see our dogs enjoying time off lead, stretching their legs and getting to explore and sniff to their heart’s content! We’ve mentioned already how important off-lead control is for gundogs and a solid, reliable recall is a big part of that. As well as working specifically on recall exercises, the level of impulse control, distance work and more that is covered in gundog training will take your recall to the next level!
Teaching our dogs to respond to directional cues is a great way to continue building their engagement at a distance and is an incredibly practical skill, particularly if we want to spend more time with our dogs off the lead. This is a great cognitive exercise for our dogs and builds listening skills and focus. This is also a fantastic skill to work on if you ever want to have a go at ANY kind of dog sport or activity with your dog, such as agility!
When we look at all the elements of gundog training – on- & off-lead heeling, impulse control, engagement at a distance, appropriate outlets for natural behaviours, recalling etc – it’s clear to see that there’s so much for any dog owner to gain from working through these exercises with their dogs. We love seeing how much you and your dogs are capable of when you put your minds to it and we know how great it feels for you to have the confidence and pride in your dogs that this training gives you!
Our gundog course runs on a few set dates of the year and have limited space available, so get booked in ASAP to avoid disappointment! https://www.bestbehaviourdogtraining.co.uk/agility-classes/fun-gun-dog-an-introduction/