When should I start training my gundog puppy?

When should I start training my gundog puppy?

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Longhaired Weimaraner Puppies Waiting
Longhaired Weimaraner Puppies waiting

Why shouldn't you wait?

Firstly let me introduce you to the puppies in the photo above…….

These puppies are less than 8 weeks old, they are from my “Practical Magic” named litter and before they went to their new homes they had learnt:

  • How to sit and wait for their food
  • How to sit when asked to
  • They ALL recalled immediately on a whistle cue, without fail, every time!
  • They knew how to settle in a crate happily and confidently
  • They were confident to both play and train away from their litter mates, and even to spend the night away from them
  • How to engage with a placeboard
  • They had learnt to pick out the smell of cloves for scentwork
  • They were basically clicker trained
  • Had a basic retrieve
  • Had learnt how to be bathed confidently
  • How to stand still for head-to-toe examinations
  • How to have their nails trimmed happily (to the point they would fall asleep)

All the above is in addition to the many experiences they had such as the sound of fireworks via CD, the sounds they would hear on a shoot via CD, obedience commands that stewards would give (pre-recorded by me), trick training, clicker fun and just so much more than you probably even want to read about here.

So what is my point?

Well, I have several:

  • My point is that if puppies under 8 weeks old can happily achieve all the above using positive, reward-based and holistic training methods imagine how much time is wasted waiting for your puppy to reach 6mths or more before you start training.
  • My point is that it is well known that if you want to create new neural pathways in the brain (i.e. learning) the younger the brain the easier it is to do so.
  • My point is why would you want to wait before teaching life saving skills like recall, leave it, emergency sits and more?
  • Why would you allow 6mths or more for bad habits to form that you have to undo before you can start teaching the good ones?
  • If you wait then you’ll find that those small bad habits have become bigger, more ingrained and more problematic! If you have a small puppy jumping at strangers that is received very differently from a larger one planting their feet on someone when out and about.

Why should you start the moment your gundog puppy comes home?

Gundog Puppy

Puppies are little learning sponges, they soak up new information all day every day, it just makes sense that we make sure they what they are soaking up all helps build the kind of dog we want to spend enjoyable days with for many years to come.

Whatever your puppy does they are forming good habits or bad habits, if they don’t receive input to help them make good choices then some choices they make can really have profound effects on how much we can enjoy them later during their life with us, it also effects how much they get to enjoy life, freedom and emotional stability.

Training your gundog puppy shouldn’t be a chore for either of you, so the trick with youngsters is to make sure training time is positive time both for them and for you.

Training shouldn’t crush their personality, it should simply mould it, we should always respect them as individual beings with their own, wants needs, fears and personalities but the way we train should help them, build their confidence, help them make good decisions that give them more ability to be offered more choices.

Training your gundog should never involve punishing them, there is simply no need and punishment just damages relationships. We should encourage them to express themselves during training, if we never truly learn who they are then how can we help them become their best selves?

So how do you start training your gundog puppy?

You need to train your gundog for the adult gundog you want in your life, not for the puppy that they are, however you need to train the puppy in front of you not the adult you don’t have yet.

What do I mean by that? 

I see too many puppies that have had too much pressure put on them too young, they can do fantastic retrieves, wait for ages and recall perfectly until they can’t. They hit a point when they realise that life can be fun and all they have ever known is discipline so they begin to choose anything that is away from their owner and their owner doesn’t understand where this has come from. Unfortunately the owner in these cases hasn’t trained the puppy in front of them but they have trained the adult they didn’t yet have!

I also see many older gundog puppies that are exhibiting problem behaviours that are only a problem now they are growing up. What they did was deemed ‘cute’ when they were a tiny puppy, perhaps they jumped at strangers when they said hi and those strangers said “oh its ok, isn’t he cute” or similar, but now that puppy has grown and slams into them when they say hello instead of being met with “isn’t he cute” he is met with distain and sometimes even anger. The problem here is normally that the owner hasn’t trained the puppy in front of them for the adult they would want later.

How to start training your gundog.

Always think about what will be acceptable to you and to others later, if you don’t want a 36kilo Weimaraner jumping at strangers then don’t allow your puppy to do that. Teach something incompatible with jumping such as when they say hi they receive rewards for having their feet on the floor, if they are too excited to do this at first then don’t let them approach until they are calmer, puppies learn super fast and just like us ‘they do what works’.

What do I mean by they do what works?

If you go to shop A and it has everything that shop B has except the queues are horrendous in shop A, which shop will you go back to? Shop B and you’ll make that decision without even really thinking about it. We do what works for us in life and so do our dogs, they are no more being sneaky or dominating than we are they are just living their life in a way that makes sense to them.

Bearing that in mind, we find out what makes our puppy tick and we use that to help them make good choices, choices we know will help them to live good lives with us.

No matter if you are training for field or just for fun, decide what you want from a lifetime with your dog, look at your dog honestly for who they are and what they need too then train positively and kindly to help them become the best version of themselves they can be. Instil confidence and knowledge, be black and white so they understand the rules (don’t change them just because they grow bigger, train them from the start).

Always remember it takes 5C’s to balance the lead –
* Calm
* Connection
* Communication
* Clarity
* Consistency

and if you’re unsure how to get going please get in touch for a chat!

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Content Disclaimer

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this article is not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article. Nina Fotara T/as Confident Canine disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article.