How to train a gundog

by admin on March 2, 2012

There is a lot of confusion that surrounds the simple question ‘what is the best way to train a gundog’.How to train a gundog

This article looks at ‘how to train a gundog’ from laying the right foundations right up to the ‘finished product’.

Good foundations

All gundogs need a good foundation in basic obedience.   You can do this basic training at home with your dog.   We provide a series of gundog training books   to help you work through this process.

If you like the idea of training in a group, you can join one of the beginner’s classes offered by our Accredited Gundog Trainers.  Gundogs need to come when they are called, sit and stay when requested, and to walk at heel on and off a lead.

Different approaches for hunting dogs

Some gundog trainers that specialise in the hunting breeds (such as spaniels and hprs) prefer to see hunting dogs taught to walk to heel at the very end of their training so as to avoid ‘cramping their style’  when hunting.   By no means all trainers support this view and many novice gundog owners will benefit from getting heelwork in at an earlier stage.


Just like pet dog training,  a gundog must be able to obey his basic commands in a range of different situations.  You will need to teach your dog to sit and stay,  to come when called and so on,  even when there are other dogs and people about.

This process is called ‘proofing’  and when you reach this stage, you may find it helpful to join a class or group.

Special skills

Unlike dogs that are not intended for gundog fieldwork,  working gundogs need some attention to some special skills.

These include important field behaviours such as hunting and retrieving.   And  additional skills such as the ability to remain silent when excited,  and to remain close to and focused on,  their handler.

These kinds of skills are best developed from an early age and more information about this can be found in our book The Right Start  which focuses on raising your puppy so as to develop good behaviours and avoid the bad ones!

Breaking training  into stages

It takes several months to train a gundog.   There is no quick fix,  and one of the best ways to approach this journey is to break it down into stages.

This is why the Gundog Club has launched the Graded Training Scheme for gundogs.   The scheme helps you and your gundog move up the training ladder in achievable steps.

You can even take a non-competitive Field Test at the end of each stage to make sure you are ‘on track’.

Getting help

If you intend to progress to fieldwork,  you will inevitably need help sooner rather than later.  The Gundog Club has set up a register of Accredited Instructors to support gundog trainers in making progress with their dog’s training.   To find out more about our trainers,  read: In Safe Hands

Traditional methods

Many gundog trainers are still quite traditional in style.   You will not find a large number of clicker trainers for example,  that specialise in gundog work.

The Gundog Club’s Accredited Instructors all undertake to train without harsh methods and it is important that any gundog instructor that you hire on a private basis,  no matter how traditional he or she may be,  is willing to do the same.

Advanced training

Taking a gundog past the basics and on to more advanced work requires access to rural facilities.  You will need places to practice retrieves from different types of cover.

You will need  access to streams and ponds to teach your dog to cross and to retrieve from water.    And you will eventually need access to ‘game’ to teach your dog to remain steady in the presence of wild animals and birds,  and to pick up shot game when the time comes.

One of the best ways to get access to these kinds of facilities is through taking some lessons with a professional gundog instructor.    He or she will also be able to guide you and your dog as you work through the advanced training process.

How to train a gundog

As you can see,  there is no short answer to ‘how to train a gundog’.   But the Gundog Club is here to help.   We are owned and managed by gundog welfare charity The Gundog Trust and the proceeds from sales of our books and from trainer registrations all go to the charity.

You might also like to read  Information For Gundog Owners

Good luck with training your dog,  and do contact our instructors if you need any help and support.


ken nuttall March 19, 2012 at 9:22 pm

What do i do with a four&half year old flatcoat who up to six month ago
was the perfect dog until he started running off to mount anything he saw
Any advice welcome

Terence Laheney April 2, 2013 at 7:27 pm

I have just got a 11 month ESS dog who has had some basic training, I’m now concentrating on sit and stay. Should I train him in a specific area? I have a spare paddock, everywhere else has scent everywhere and he is very distracted by it.

admin April 2, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Scent is a powerful distraction. Train in a distraction free zone first and when you move into an area with plenty of scent make the exercises easier to begin with. Each time you move on to a new/different area, make the exercise a bit easier and build back up again. The objective is to set the dog up to win so that he is confident in completing your exercises in lots of different locations.

craig wheater December 6, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Hi. I currently have a 4 month old springer spaniel. I’m just wondering if at this age it’s ok to start training him using one of your registered trainers. I’m based in the north east. Thanks craig

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