Starting Off

Owning a well-trained gundog doesn’t just happen by chance; a training program is normally undertaken from the puppy stage, often with the help of a club. The Working Gundog Association of Australia (WGAA) (Vic) is committed to providing training for its members and regularly conducts training days and other events to improve dogs for hunting and retrieving in the field. The dog’s skills are also honed for trials. The discipline is structured to facilitate all levels of gundogs, from young beginners to mature champions, and WGAA (Vic) is fortunate to have some of Australia’s leading trainers and handlers as instructors.

Gundogs were originally bred to assist their owners to find game, either birds or four-legged game, and today the instinct to hunt and retrieve is just as strong as it was centuries ago. Labradors, spaniels, pointers and dozens of other gundog breeds carry the genes and instincts of their forebears. Indeed, so strong is this inheritance that gundogs today have proven to be adept at roles that, while they are far removed from what their forebears were bred for, have proven to be invaluable in the modern world. Sniffer dogs at airports, tracking dogs searching for lost children, trained dogs hunting out introduced plants and pests … the list of examples goes on.

So, you have a new gundog that you want to turn into a trained gundog. Where do you start? Who do you turn to for assistance? WGAA (Vic) is made up of gundog owners who are dedicated to helping newcomers in the task of turning that 5 kg of boundless energy into a well- mannered gundog that anyone would be proud to own.

A common question from newcomers is “At what age should I start training my 8-week-old pup?” The answer is always, straight away. Of course, we don’t mean rigorous training, but socialising with other dogs and people. At WGAA (Vic)’s training days there are always plenty of dogs of all ages and abilities, plenty of bangs from the equipment and plenty of people for a pup to introduce itself to.

A gundog needs to come when called, sit and stay when told to … the list goes on, and while it is not an overly long list, it is an important one. At WGAA (Vic) handlers and their dogs are given lessons in all these elements of dog training, and are encouraged to work on their training on a daily basis.

Specific gundog training such as retrieving and pointing is best learned from a successful gundog trainer or, if you are lucky enough to have one convenient to where you live, a club such as WGAA. Another path to take in your quest for the trained gundog is from books and DVD’s. There are quite a few good gundog training texts by authors who have had success with their own gundogs. While this is not perhaps the ideal way to learn, nevertheless a wide reading of as many training books that you can lay your hands on can open the door to overcoming a problem or trying something new.

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