Early gundog training.


Uisce aged 1 year

For a long time I was stubbornly resistant to the idea of needing a gundog to be trained to the highest level it could be and perhaps there’s still a tiny part of me that will always remain so, rather like my chessies which is why I love them so much. However, I have found I enjoy the challenge of learning to train them in a way that they find fun and exciting and in doing so fulfilling their potential as working dogs in the future.

I have concentrated on getting a nice clean hand delivery with Uisce more so than I did with my previous dogs. It was always an aspect I let slide, preferring instead to concentrate on a nice prompt return. I have also found that by separating out the different aspects of a retrieve and working on each one to it’s conclusion Uisce has been able to maintain focus and momentum without flattening out. This can be a  problem sometimes with chessies as they get bored easily with long repetitive training sessions. The sessions therefore have been shorter but more frequent something which I think has also helped in keeping her enthusiasm levels up.

Keeping an enthusiastic chessie in training is key.

Keeping an enthusiastic chessie in training is key.

After battling for the last few years with two pushy young male chessies it has been interesting to again work with the softer attitude of a female. Again something that I need to be conscious of when I move her forward to more challenges in training.

Everything in her training so far has been geared towards building her confidence even the colour of the dummy which makes it easier for her to see when sent for a memory retrieve.

I have learnt much in the year since she was born thanks to the help and guidance from some wonderful gundog trainers, from watching competition work and from assessing my own dogs work and their attitude to it.

I suppose the most valuable lesson I have learnt is that there is and never should be a time limit on how long it takes to train a dog, each will learn in their own way and in their own time. There are no mistakes just different ways of doing things.

Enjoy your brown dogs everyone and make training fun!


Retriever training with Mr Paul Toal Altiquin Labradors

I have known Paul since I became involved in gundogs over a decade ago and I’ve always admired his calm approach when working his dogs.

Colum and I have reached a point now where we realise that if we want to progress our dogs we need to improve our handling skills and not just merely rely on luck for the dogs to find the dummy. Both of us are aware that we fell short of the standard at the last working test.With that in mind we were able to gather a small group of four and booked Paul for an afternoon of training at Lough Ennell.

Our group comprised of a flatcoated retriever, a golden retriever, a curly coated retriever and a chesapeake…all working dogs attempting to play the summer gundog games.

Paul started the session with the very basics . Tips for tightening up on heelwork and steadiness.These are things I tend to get lazy about preferring to focus on lining and blinds but it’s often the small things that lose the most marks in a working test.

The next aspect was most interesting as I subsequently was told the same thing by another trainer last weekend. When teaching the hunt up command I had traditionally just introduced the whistle when the dog put its head down on a marked retrieve and worked it from there. Now retrievers are being taught to hunt up in a quartering style, like a spaniel. It’s much more specific and much more efficient. The real beauty of it is that Bertie loves this game. Already I’m seeing an improvement in his attitude to the whistle as it’s not being used to nag him but to steer him.

Moving onto improving marking skills , again he showed us some wonderful ways to encourage our dogs to mark better, to succeed and build confidence. All just little things that can make a huge difference to our dogs.

We finished the session with blind work . Again incorrect use of the whistle appeared to be one of our main problems when handling our dogs but something that was so simple to correct. Remembering to use the whistle as an aid rather than  a corrector.

I think the most important thing I gained from the afternoon was that there is always scope for learning and that retriever training is progressing and moving all the time. Paul has a very open minded and patient approach to his training which works well when dealing with novice handlers and dogs. As he worked with us that afternoon he gave a structure with which we can carry forward to our training sessions in the next few weeks.We will most certainly be calling on him again before the end of the Summer.