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Gun Dog Training: Considering Your First Pup

Welcome to North American Outdoorsman’s newest column, “Gun Dog Training.” I’m honored to be part of this special magazine and to share my personal thoughts and experiences in helping you train your hunting dog.

My goal is to help new owners of hunting dogs find success in their dog training for hunting waterfowl, upland birds or even small game. I’m not a professional dog trainer and I don’t pretend to be. But I’ve had the privilege of hunting behind many breeds of dogs around the world for more than two decades, and of working with professional trainers and breeders who have all taught me a great deal.

I’ve had my own versatile gun dogs, pudelpointers, for the past eight years and I have trained them myself. I’ve also helped train a number of dogs of other breeds.

Since the pandemic, a record number of people have invested in hunting dogs. I call it an investment because that’s what it is, in both your time and your money. Dogs typically are with us for more than a decade, and they can cost quite a bit. Some of the budget spent on a dog is planned, like food and annual visits to the vet. Other costs are unforeseen, such as emergency surgeries that can run into thousands of dollars.

Before investing in a gun dog, make sure you have ample room for it to run and train each day for the next several years.

Some Considerations

This is not an advanced column for providing advice on attaining picture-perfect points and high scores on intense field tests. This information is for people who want a hunting dog that will obey commands, maintain composure, behave around other dogs and people, and point, flush, track, trail and retrieve. The overall goal is to help you shape a dog to fit your hunting needs.

When the time comes for you to bring a dog into your life, be honest with yourself in knowing what your needs and interests are. Also, figure out how much time you can realistically give to your dog each day and how your family may be involved. Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself:

  • Do you want a dog that stays outside in a kennel at night or one that sleeps on your bed?
  • Do you mind a dog that sheds, or do you want one that’s more hypoallergenic?
  • Are you seeking a dog that’s of average intelligence and lovable or one that’s so smart it can read your mind and all it wants to do is hunt?
Gun dogs need to hunt, so making sure you pick the right breed to suit your personal hunting and recreational needs is important.

Time is Important

If you work long hours and have little time to devote to raising a puppy, now may not be the time to get one. If you live in the city or where you can’t get your dog out multiple times day, then it may not be the right time for a high-energy hunting dog.

The biggest disservice you can do to a hunting dog is to not have it hunt often, or worse, fail to get it outside every single day to develop its instincts and to bond with

If you can’t get the dog out regularly or don’t intend to hunt more than a few weekends a year, then consider a house dog, not a hunting Gun dogs are bred to hunt, and some will literally go crazy if they can’t do that.

I hear from hunters all the time that their dogs don’t mind, are overweight, or don’t listen when afield. A dog’s misbehavior isn’t their fault; they simply want to do what’s A good gun dog will be a better hunter than any human, and if they’re not given the chance to develop, they won’t be happy and you’ll only be frustrated.

Before deciding on what kind of gun dog to get, ask yourself what kind of hunting you’ll be doing and how many hunts a year you’ll be taking your dog. Some breeds are fine hunting a few times a season, while others are most happy hunting at least three times a week.

What’s Easy, What’s Not

Training a puppy is easy. The hard part is consistently devoting 15 minutes a day to that puppy‘s training and even more time to playing with it. If that time is split into three short sessions during morning, mid-day and evening, you’ll be amazed at how simple training can be. In fact, once your pup catches on, six minutes of training per day during the puppy stage will produce impressive results. Before getting a puppy, though, make sure you have this kind of time to devote to it.

When it comes to getting the most out of your gun dog, having time is everything. Make sure you can devote sufficient time to proper training, that you live in a place that allows the proper raising of a pup, and that you have a safe, roomy place to train each day. Also, be prepared to spend even more time playing with the pup than actually training it, since this is how that all- important bond forms. Once you know you can meet these needs, go ahead and get a pup and start enjoying some of the best days of your life.

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