Are you the proud owner of a working bred gundog puppy or young dog? Have you had working dogs before or is this the first time? Do you want to work him or her?
Whatever the answers, what is certain is that your gundog will need training, otherwise that sweet, adorable puppy will have you tearing your hair out when it quickly grows into a teenager.
A teenager who takes no notice of you, leaps onto your sofa when wet, tugs you along for a walk, apparently goes deaf as it disappears into the far distance and generally becomes unmanageable.
“Many working bred gundogs are bought by people who do not want to work them,” said Margot Porter, who runs gundog training weekends at Ty Gwyn Farm, Llandrindod Wells in Mid Wales. “This is, of course, perfectly fine but problems can arise if owners do not understand the inbred instinct these dogs have for doing a job of work.
“I have two working cocker spaniels, Ash an eight years old and Jack who is just a year old. Having had him from a puppy has reminded me just how much you need to do with them when they are young.
“From the moment I had him as a nine week old puppy, I started gently teaching him things that would help him understand how I wanted him to behave for the rest of his life. This is not formal training which would normally start at six months but rather conditioning so they begin to learn without realising it.”
One example Margot cites is to never let your puppy go too far ahead of you, don’t take him for long walks where he is always in front, let him run a little way in front and then change direction. As he comes towards you, encourage him by calling his name.
Gradually you can start using your recall word as he comes to you. This will teach your dog the recall word so as he becomes older it will be easier to make him come to your command.
“Letting your young dog go off hunting on its own, or self-hunting as it is known, is one of the big mistakes people make and it will only get worse as they get older and more confident. We see the results in some dogs who come on our training weekends, they have learnt to do their own thing, owners have lost that all important connection with their dog and things can go badly wrong,” added Margot.
“On our weekends, we don’t take dogs until they are six months old but so often we see dogs who already have bad habits as a result of the owner unwittingly doing the wrong thing when the dog was a small puppy.”
She says it may seem sweet when your puppy runs around the house with your shoe but as you run after him you have already started making trouble for yourself. Your puppy has learnt that it is easy to run away from you and it can become a natural reaction when he does not want to do something.
Owners often make the mistake of thinking that puppies and young dogs need lots of exercise, thinking that it will tire them. Not only is that bad for their joints at an early age but they need to use their brains as well.
“On our courses, we show people how to teach their dog to hunt and pick up using dummies and tennis balls, which is a great way of exercising their brains as well as their bodies,” explained Margot. “These methods are equally valuable for the owner who wants to work his dog in the shooting field and the owner who wants a well behaved, happy companion dog.
“If you follow some simple, sensible rules, then you can have years of pleasure with your working bred dog. We encourage people to come on our courses even if they have no intention of working their dogs, so they can find out more about these intelligent animals and learn ways of giving them brain exercise so they have a happy and well behaved dog.”