Basic obedience training is one of the most important lessons you can teach any dog, but it is especially important when training your gun dog. You will continue to build on and use this training for the duration of your dogs hunting career.
As with socialization, starting basic training early is crucial to producing an effective gun dog. The lessons your dog learns during this time will continue and evolve during his tenure as your hunting partner and his life as your companion. Renowned Trainer Butch Goodwin explains in his article “Obedience Training Part 1” the importance of beginning obedience training early, “Early training and exposure for a young retriever pup is critical! Absolutely critical! And, regardless of how well-bred the pup is, inadequate early training can override all of his outstanding genetic traits.”
Why It’s Important
Basic obedience training is not only helpful to you in the field, it will also benefit you at home. Dave Carty in an article for Gun Dog Magazine gave this no-nonsense, common sense explanation of the importance of training obedience, “Consider them manners for bird dogs. Dogs that won’t come when called, who won’t sit when told to sit and who jump all over your shell-shocked visitors are no fun to be around. You wouldn’t let your kid tear up the neighborhood playground and behave like a brat, would you? Why would you let your bratty dog get away with the same behavior?”
You’ll use the basic commands “come,” “sit,” “heel,” and “down” both in the house and out of the house. These commands are going to be a huge part of a dog’s field training and his experiences with you while hunting. An ill trained dog will only impede your experience as a hunter. Goodwin put it succinctly, “If you don’t have your dog under control at your side, you will never have him under control at a distance.”
Along with field training, a good understanding of basic obedience will be imperative if and when you move on to e-collar training. In Part II of Butch Goodwin’s article “Obedience Training” he explains, “The electronic collar is not a replacement for basic training, it is not a quick fix nor a magic wand. The dog MUST have a solid foundation of basic obedience as I have outlined here BEFORE introducing the collar.
Depending on what trainer you talk to these basic commands may vary, however, these four basic obedience commands will get you and your pup on the road to a well-behaved hunting partner. Your dogs understanding of these commands will save you time and can potentially keep your dog out of a dangerous situation.
- Come – The command “come” is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. The “come” command is simply telling your dog it’s time to return to you. The “come” command will be essential when your dog is going after birds in the field.
- Sit – The “sit” command will come in handy no matter where you are, at home, in the field, at the park. Your dog’s understanding of the “sit” command will give you instant control of your dog. Carty elaborated on the many uses of the sit command: “The ‘sit’ command is extremely useful: when you’re trying to get your dog to settle down to put a collar on him, or when you’re trying to get him to hold still to pluck cactus spines out of his pads.”
- Heel – Although some hunters have shyed away from the “heel” command it’s still an effective training tool. Heeling says to your dog, “Stand at my side now.” Through the proper training your dog will immediately know which side he should be standing one when he hears the “heel” command. This simple command can keep your dogs out of harms way when they are multiple guns firing while out in the field with other hunters and their dogs.
- Down – The “down” command is telling your dog to lay down submissively with all fours on the ground and his head flat to the floor between his front paws. Seasoned gun dog trainer Butch Goodwin claims, “To the hunting dog, this command is nearly as important as the “sit” command.” Goodwin also says that because the down position is a submissive position for dogs you are gaining domination without force and in such a way that the dogs doesn’t feel dominated.
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