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The Gun Dog Training Timeline

In an age of instant gratification where nearly everything a person may need is available at his or her fingertips, the art of patience has been forgotten – especially when it comes to dog training.  Often, dog owners forget that dog training takes time, especially when the dog in question is expected to develop skills that far exceed the difficulty level of those performed by a typical house pet.  It is becoming increasingly common for dog owners to expect a dog to be fully trained and field-ready within 2-4 weeks, which sets up both the dog and owner for failure and disappointment. Here, a typical gun dog training timeline will be discussed

Basic Skills Gun Dogs Require

Dog training requires time, patience, and dedication.  Nearly every skill requires a series of layering, meaning one task is mastered before the dog can learn the next component of the drill.  For instance, a dog cannot be expected to “stay” until he or she has mastered “sit.”

From start to finish, the skills that a gun dog must learn include:

  •       Socialization
  •       Basic obedience
  •       Crate training
  •       Electronic collar training
  •       Retrieves
  •       Blind manners / Steadiness
  •       Marks
  •       Voice commands
  •       Whistle commands

Be wary of anyone who tells you that he or she can produce a reliable gun dog in fewer than 3 months, unless a dog has already mastered some of the skills on this list. The key word here being “Mastered”…

Gun Dog Training Timeline

Why does it take 3 months to reliably train a gun dog?  There are two reasons for this generally agreed-upon timeframe.  First, few owners are willing to send their dogs to professional trainers for longer than 3 months.  Second, 3 months is the shortest amount of time that is generally required for a dog to reliably execute commands for the owner, in addition to the trainer.

While no two dogs will ever be trained on the exact same timeline, there are two extremes that most dog trainers observe.

The first is the young dog with excellent genes.  Within the first month of training the dog is introduced to different types of birds, encouraged into different types of cover, and allowed to hunt.  Basic obedience is also covered during the first month of training. In the 2nd month, a dog of this caliber undergoes e-collar training and basic yardwork.  In the final month of training the dog is tested for readiness in the field as well as appropriate ground coverage.  At the end of the three months, the dog is well its way to working reliably in the field, with continual training from the owner.  These results can be expected for a dog with good genes that is started at an appropriate age and already has consistent retrieving skills.   

An example where a 3-month time frame may not be long enough is when trainers are brought dogs that do not already retrieve, or that do so poorly (i.e., ones that “kill” game).  A dog that has not learned a forced retrieve will require an additional 1 – 2 months of training.

Alternatives to Sending Your Dog to a Trainer

Not everyone can send his or her dog to a professional trainer.  If you are unable to commit to the time or cost that is necessary to produce a professionally-trained dog, there are other options available.

For instance, many regions of the country have training groups where a professional trainer or experienced handler guides dog owners through the training of their gun dogs.

Additionally, there are numerous print and online resources available that outline the entire training process.  However, dog owners should be aware that the training timeline may be significantly longer when starting from scratch with a DIY method.

Ultimately, dog owners must respect that producing a well-trained dog requires time, energy, and patience.  It is unfair to both your dog and a trainer to expect this process to be quick. By understanding the skills that are required of a proficient gun dog and when to start building appropriate foundation commands, training can occur in a timelier manner.

Contact Joe Scarpy at Bull Valley Retrievers for Board & Train or One-on-One training options for your next hunting companion.