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Question: Hi i was hoping you may be able to help, I 've been an avid follower of the gundog training in sporting shooter since we first got our now three year old cocker spaniel puppy. I m an inexperienced trainer but with the help of training advice and training in a gundog group we've come along leaps and bounds, as well as great exercise its fun for us all. Our problem arose about three months ago... ROVER has worked well to the whistle sit and recall both strong, both close quarters and a distance. We were training in an open field and I had ROVER off lead heeling as we returned to the car. Just at the turn of my head I saw him bolt back to the centre of the field sat staring at me!!! I called, whistled nothing. If I return to him i'll get within ten yards of him and he ll return to my side so I can't reprimand him for returning surely? but this has become more and more frequent. I ve tried everything back to basics- short distance recall and high reward working out over distance. long lead work with recall and he's great with both! we tried making a policy not to walk back to him but he's sat staring for forty five minutes when we tried to wait him out one day, when we re going home the same thing happens time after time, he knows exactly what he's doing i m sure. we've had to turn to avoidance putting him on the lead early but it doesn't solve the problem. The only thing people are recommending are electric collars but I don't want to go down that route really if i can avoid it. Please help, any advice you have would be very much appreciated.

Answer: Firstly many thanks for following the Sporting Shooter articles, I hope some of the stuff has been helpful.

First thoughts are that your Cocker simply associates returning to the car with the end of what is obviously great fun for him. Its interesting that you say putting him on a lead prior to ending the session is not teaching him to do the right thing, I would say do this without fail. Finish sessions on a lead with say an on lead retrieve, obviously its going to be a short one, when you return to the car make it an 'ace place'. Food or bones in the boot/crate, make him so hungry that he would go round the world and back for a nugget of his complete food, don't feed him out of a bowl, instead measure out his daily ration and drip feed him it from the back of the car. Get him retrieving from the back of the car, in short make the back of the car somewhere every self respecting Cocker would want to be in on the off chance that there is food or a dummy for him to find.

You will off course need to apply common sense in every area make sure he neither injures himself or that you create a problem with his body weight but he really needs to be hungry for this to succeed. All of this advice is based on assuming he is comfortable in the car and that there are no fear related issues with the car?

Its essential that you eliminate this behaviour and ensure you always return him to the car on lead in a positive rewarding way, (as above), this will create good habits, and eliminate the battle of wills that you are currently in.

Let me know your thoughts and a progress report would be great.

Question: We have a footpath running along the garden and our dog started barking if  people go along the footpath – our neighbours are not happy!

Answer: The Footpath is bad news because it allows your dog to get a result from her Natural Guarding Behaviour, people arrive, she barks and runs up and down the fence chasing them, they always walk away, (that’s what footpaths do), your dog thinks “Brilliant, that worked, I can now repel Intruders”, the behaviour will gradually escalate…… Reward Based Training!

This is tricky because she needs the garden time but this current situation is obviously untenable. Is it possible to restrict her access to this part of the garden, other than that you will need to supervise her and discourage the behaviour every time she does it, one method might be to fit an anti-bark collar, this gives her a small correction each time she barks, it works from throat vibration and may discourage the whole behaviour?

Question: My Dog Runs off when I let him off the lead

1. Answer :Firstly you must stop him from running off, keep him in an enclosed area, when working with a dog that wants to run off we get him in a pen or enclosed room/barn, then get him interested in you by throwing a dummy or ball around for him encouraging the youngster to retrieve.

2. This game if done properly will make him more interested and want to be with you. You can hide the dummy and encourage him to hunt, again engaging him in a fun game. Both of these exercises will probably only work indoors at the moment.

3. Once the dog is really involved this make require a couple of weeks of play you can then either take him outside into some form of ‘enclosed retrieving alley way.’ Or attach a long line to his lead and again play the retrieving/hunting games on this line.

4. Assuming all of the above goes to plan you can now use these sessions to get him to sit, stay, wait, take direction, left, right, back and by using some Brashing’s continue with his hunting development, apply discipline slowly and increase his steadiness, if you are doing things correctly his desire for these games and your attention should develop rapidly.

All of the above sounds really straight forward but unless you are an experienced handler things might not go to plan, this is where you must resort to spending some time with a trainer who really knows what they are doing.

Just enquiring about dog training and how i can get my dogs to be better trained. We have a 1 yr 2 month old Jack Russell called Alfie and a 6/7 month old Beagle called Breeze.

The problems we have are the jack Russell is frightened of other dogs he don't know and tries to bite them, even dogs he does know after a while he just barks at them, then starts nipping at them.†He is always looking for other dogs when he is out for walks. Going back at Xmas time 2 dogs ran out the hedge at him, to go for him, which did not†help. He tends to bark a lot at other dogs and even birds in the sky. Can not get him to relax.

The Beagle is still very much a puppy, but when we let them off for run she starts going for the Jack Russell, which we don't want.†Could always improve on here obedience. Some times she just seems to shut off.

Now my problems, i hate dogs†fighting, so if i see another dog off the lead my heart starts racing. Which i know does not help the dogs.

We would love to be able to walk the dogs on the leads and not have them pull us. If we see other dogs out on or off the leads they take no notice of them.

Can you help?

Fear and then barking or showing aggression towards other dogs is not uncommon.

There is no real quick fix, but I would recommend that initially you walk or exercise your dogs away from dogs that they are showing these unwanted behaviours towards.

Alongside this exercise program time spent using play or reward based training to encourage the dogs to focus on you. Use play/training sessions to increase their levels of obedience. This combined effort will put you in a stronger position to deal with the fear related, stuff.

Last season my 2 year old cocker bitch was working very well, but all of a sudden she started chasing flying birds, she is steady to thrown dummies, dummy launcher and cold game, what would you advise me to do?

Iím not quite sure whether your Cocker is chasing song birds around your garden, or that you mean she is chasing flying game birds in the shooting field.

Chasing flying game is the more serious of the two. But of course both are linked. A dog that has given chase and caught a wounded flying bird will often pursue flying game, particularly if it senses the bird is pricked or injured. The reward the dog gets from the chase coupled with the possibility of catching the bird outweighs the effort. Most experienced dogs will do the opposite, knowing that to chase a healthy bird is futile, but will give chase to a wounded bird. To sort this problem we would ensure that the dog sits sharply to the flush, ensuring that it does not give chase to anything unless sent. Teaching a dog to sit to the flush is fairly straight forward. Start with ensuring she sits tight to a moving tennis ball, gradually moving up to rabbits or game, access to a well stocked rabbit pen, would be helpful.

Maintaining a consistent sit to the flush is only possible if you are hunting your spaniel close to your feet. If however, you are picking up with the dog out of sight, this will prove to be difficult.

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