Playing vs. Training: The Do’s and Don’ts of Training Your Gun Dog

Breeze on Her First Scent Point

SportDOG Regional Sales Manager Josh Miller's puppy, Breeze, on her first scent point.

When you get your pup at seven or eight weeks everything you do with him is a learning experience. This includes the walks in the yard with new smells, petting and cuddling with you and the kids and even the games you play in the front room. Puppies love to play tug-of-war. This is the worst game a hunting dog can play with people. Visualize a beautiful ring necked pheasant being torn in two; one end in the dogs mouth and the other being held by a frustrated owner. Don’t play tug-of-war with any hunting dog. The meal you save may be your own!

To this end your toys should be segregated into two groups: play toys and training toys. The play toys are those that he can chew on and tear up whenever he wants. This can include a variety of pet store toys, old rags, rawhide bones etc., etc. If you give him old shoes or knotted up socks don’t be surprised when your new hunting boots have no laces, and the tongues are gone, or your dirty socks from the laundry room are shredded and strewn all over the house.

As far as training toys go, these need to be toys that are played with only when you have specific rules, i.e. bring this back to me. You may consider a tennis ball a training tool, but preferably a small canvas puppy dummy. Using a canvas dummy from the start gets your new friend accustomed to handling and carrying a training dummy. We use canvas at this young age because their teeth and gums are tender and don’t toughen up until they have grown their permanent teeth. When you throw it across the room, it is to be retrieved to you, not carried off and chewed on. Coax him back to you with lots of enthusiasm like clapping and “Here puppy puppy!”

Don’t forget to use your whistle. A few tweets mixed in with the verbal excitement will get him used to the whistle and the reason it is being

Gun Dog Puppies

Gun Dog training starts from day 1 of puppy ownership.

blown. When he does come back, lots of pats and praise will reinforce the good job he did. Don’t overdo the training at this young age. A few minutes several times a day is much better than one long session. You are dealing with a very short attention span that you will be able to watch grow and intensify as he matures over the next several weeks. After a few days of play/training with these “training toys”, just the sight of them will initiate excitement and maybe even a puddle of excitement. (Remember the rules about avoiding accidents?)

Training should be simple. Work on one lesson at a time using one word commands like HERE or COME with lots of praise when accomplished. Mix in the “sit and stay training” throughout the day also, remembering that repetition is your best friend and frustration is your enemy. Hitting or slapping causes hand shyness and even worse, a distrust of people. If you want this puppy to be a well-adjusted member of your family, mutual respect will go a long way to achieving this goal. Minimizing corporal punishment will raise a much more secure and happy dog with strong bonds to you and your family.


What suggestions do you have for gun dog puppy training?

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  1. Lauri
    Posted July 2, 2014 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    Help. Last month my 1 year old German shorthair bolted out the door when she heard local fireworks from an event a few blocks away. She took off running away from the booms. She was gone for 3 hours and found her a few miles away slumped hiding ina pile of leaves unable to walk. She ran her pads off all paws which is how we found her following bloody footprints. So traumatic. She is back to running but freaks when she hears loud bangs or traffic. How do we help her.

    • SportDOG
      Posted July 17, 2014 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      So sorry to hear your dog had to go through such a traumatic event. We have a lot of information on “gun-shy” dog training and this can easily be converted to loud noises in general. Check out the article Gun Shy Dogs Can Blossom http://www.sportdog.com/hunting-training-tips/gun-shy-dogs-can-blossom. Just remember to be patient as you try to move forward through this process. Pushing your pup too fast will do much more harm than good in this situation.

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