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Hi all,

I have recently got a 5 year old lab. He is very well trained with basic obedience (sit, stay, heel etc) and is fairly steady. However, I wish to take him rough shooting and I have no idea where to start, I am new to owning and training dogs. Most of the articles I can find online are focused on puppies and what to achieve rather than how to achieve it. 

To get me started I am wondering what I should focus on first? Should I train him on a whistle, get him retrieving, introduce him to gunfire. And then with dummies there seems to be so many options so I don't know which I should get? What weight, colour, with or without a pelt etc. Any advice would be really appreciated. Thanks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 I am no expert just learning with my sprocker. My old man took On a few labs at the older end some turned into very predictable gun dogs, though most had the odd trait that he struggled to train out. The good thing about rough shooting if you are unlikely to be too ‘judged’ by others but keeping you and dog safe is the main thing !

in your favour a labs brain is joined to it stomach so they can be trainable.

I would start by seeing if your lab is gun shy. I am not sure the best way but my pup was slowly introduced to gun fire at my local clay shooting  club lots of biscuits in the van with the doors open at a distance getting closer and the sat with me and then slowly getting closer to the stands only ever 5-10 minutes at a time working up to her sitting by me while I shot. 
 

Re the rest start with a hand thrown dummy / tennis ball and follow guides on here the fact it an older dog doubt it will make much difference might help them not being so distracted by every new smell they come across  if you and the dog enjoy you will probably progress I hope.

Good luck - final words on training reward positive and keep it short and fun repeat and move on.

atb Agriv8

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Get a lab training book and train it like its a puppy. 

 

Even if the dog is already obedient you'll lose nothing be going over the basics again, and they are normally part of a step by step chain to later training. 

 

Also have a think what exactly you want the dog to do out shooting, do you want to do what a retriever traditionally would, walk at heel and then retrieve when told, or do you want to run it like a hunting dog (spaniel etc) and get it to flush game for you to then shoot and retrieve? 

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Hi, welcome to the forum :)

Presuming the dog has no major defects (gun shyness, deafness, blindness, lameness) you'd surely be able to do at least something with a Labrador of that age.  Comparing your situation to the alternative "blank canvas" of training a pup, someone other than me would have to answer as to whether it's more difficult or less successful - I've no experience of it.  Of all the breeds, you've surely got to stand a chance with a Lab?!

If this was me I'd start by really making sure the dog knows you two are now going to be bonded.  Not having had dogs before, you've never experienced the bond between a shooter and his/her working dogs... it's quite intense and you know that the dog feels it too once you've achieved it.  You also need to make sure he knows you're the boss and not the other way round, because if he thinks he's the boss you're stuffed!

Try to spend as much time with him, just you and the dog (golden rule), doing fun stuff he likes (but not throwing balls!!) and just generally being together...and then start to work in some training.  The two most important things I'd work on are recall and sitting on command (later sitting to the shot, but I'd leave loud bangs out of it to begin with - although it might be a good idea in the very first place to carefully test for gun shyness or nervousness otherwise all the rest of your training might be wasted).  Luckily Labs are very food-oriented so little titbits are great.  You can buy bags of little puppy titbits which are not going to end up over-feeding him.  If he's fed dry kibble you can just use that, it doesn't have to be massive amounts of anything because you don't want to fill him up so he loses interest or get him fat - you can remove that amount of food from his usual dinner if his weight is an issue.

To start with recall, do it at home.  As with most commands they have three signals:

  • A verbal command word, usually "come"
  • An arm gesture, usually both arms like a "welcome" gesture.  The dog has to recognise that silhouette from some distance in the field so it's got to be easily distinguished from any other way you might be standing or signalling
  • A whistle pattern.  Loads of choices; I use 5 very short sharp pips, some people prefer to use longer blasts but be mindful of the fact that it's very annoying shooting alongside someone who spends all day endlessly blasting their dog whistle.  Less is more.  Try to avoid the same whistle pattern as anyone else you might be shooting with so think about that one.

To start, just get him sat up across the other side of the room or 5 paces away in the garden.  Have a few titbits in a little pot, make sure he knows what you've got.  Just give the verbal command to come and with any luck he'll saunter over and he gets his treat.  Once he's got that, add the arm gesture to the verbal command, then after he's consistent with that add the whistle.  Then take the verbal command away.  Then take the arm gesture away.  After some practice he'll respond to either of the three commands on their own, or any combination.

Choose a "stop" whistle which will tell your dog to stop whatever he is doing and sit.  Most people use one long blast of a couple of seconds.  Some prefer to use a thunderer (football referee type) whistle because it's loud, carries a long way and is very distinguishable from the usual dog whistle...... but bear in mind on many driven shoots that's the whistle used to signal the end of the drive, so you'll find yourself in trouble with the keeper or shoot captain for blowing it, and you'll be a bit stuffed trying to sit your dog without it!

The stop whistle is coupled with the visual command to sit - one hand up in the air like a policeman stopping traffic.  I would start with first teaching the dog your verbal sit command, usually either "sit" or "sit up" which over many years has been morphed into "hup".  Just choose whatever you're comfortable with and stick to it.  If he's already doing that, start a close-range recall, then try to stop him in his tracks with the verbal command & arm gesture.  Once he's nailed that, add the stop whistle.  Once he's got that, extend the range further and further and use it on both a recall and just throw it at him randomly on walks.  Later, with a dummy launcher you can introduce the flush and shot to the stop & sit.  If you want to rough shoot over him you are going to need him in close and under control otherwise you'll have him putting birds up too far out of range or haring off after flushed birds instead of waiting for you to tell him what to do.

Spend an hour or two on Amazon looking for gundog training books, you can pick up some good ones at very cheap prices.  Some are quite dated but many principles always have and always will be the same.  Just remember no two people do things exactly the same so you can expect some slightly contradictory advice at times.  Just use your noodle to work out what's going to suit you and your dog the best.

Training gun dogs is a black art and I certainly don't think I'm an expert, but have been able to knock a couple of springers into reasonable shape in my time by observing both good and bad in the field, and reading plenty of books on the subject.  You'll never get it right first time and you certainly won't have a field trial dog in this case but you might well end up with a dog that's going to give you a fair few seasons of good enough service for the job you want.

Best of luck, and remember to always be consistent - pick a command and stick to it -  and be patient.  If you lose your rag, the dog has won and will remain untrained.  Don't try to go too far too soon.  It's better to practice something for a little too long than try to rush to the next step before you're both ready.

Most of all enjoy the experience :)

 

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Rehomed my second Springer just over a year ago - he's six in March. He came from a home where he was never walked (he was just under 33kg!!) and training consisted of him not taking up all of the sofa. He had never been socialised and was very possesive over any toy that he had - if you gave him  a ball he would run away with it and grumble if you tried to take it from him, he had no recall and was totally unused to outdoor life. So, a year and a bit later, he comes as soon as he is called - in fact I can recall him with a hand signal if I choose, he retrieves to hand 90% of the time - the other occasions he drops the dummy at your feet. He can now cover 6-7 miles with ease and is just over 23 kg, he loves water - I swear that, if he could, he would sit in a glass of the stuff!! He is not, by any means, the perfect Dog but he is a perfect companion with the benefit of his new found love of flushing, he is a real bonus. Just before christmas he stopped like he had been pole axed and refused my signal to "come here" - 5 seconds later he pushed his nose under a bush and out flew a Woodcock - made my day. Jim Neal is spot on - enjoy the experience.

YIP.jpg

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34 minutes ago, bruno22rf said:

Rehomed my second Springer just over a year ago - he's six in March. He came from a home where he was never walked (he was just under 33kg!!) and training consisted of him not taking up all of the sofa. He had never been socialised and was very possesive over any toy that he had - if you gave him  a ball he would run away with it and grumble if you tried to take it from him, he had no recall and was totally unused to outdoor life. So, a year and a bit later, he comes as soon as he is called - in fact I can recall him with a hand signal if I choose, he retrieves to hand 90% of the time - the other occasions he drops the dummy at your feet. He can now cover 6-7 miles with ease and is just over 23 kg, he loves water - I swear that, if he could, he would sit in a glass of the stuff!! He is not, by any means, the perfect Dog but he is a perfect companion with the benefit of his new found love of flushing, he is a real bonus. Just before christmas he stopped like he had been pole axed and refused my signal to "come here" - 5 seconds later he pushed his nose under a bush and out flew a Woodcock - made my day. Jim Neal is spot on - enjoy the experience.

YIP.jpgW

38 minutes ago, bruno22rf said:

Rehomed my second Springer just over a year ago - he's six in March. He came from a home where he was never walked (he was just under 33kg!!) and training consisted of him not taking up all of the sofa. He had never been socialised and was very possesive over any toy that he had - if you gave him  a ball he would run away with it and grumble if you tried to take it from him, he had no recall and was totally unused to outdoor life. So, a year and a bit later, he comes as soon as he is called - in fact I can recall him with a hand signal if I choose, he retrieves to hand 90% of the time - the other occasions he drops the dummy at your feet. He can now cover 6-7 miles with ease and is just over 23 kg, he loves water - I swear that, if he could, he would sit in a glass of the stuff!! He is not, by any means, the perfect Dog but he is a perfect companion with the benefit of his new found love of flushing, he is a real bonus. Just before christmas he stopped like he had been pole axed and refused my signal to "come here" - 5 seconds later he pushed his nose under a bush and out flew a Woodcock - made my day. Jim Neal is spot on - enjoy the experience.

YIP.jpg

Well done for that - he looks to be enjoying his work ! My sprocker not scared  of water but has now started sitting in her cage after working as she knows she is going to get showered and cleaned !

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4 hours ago, bruno22rf said:

Rehomed my second Springer just over a year ago - he's six in March. He came from a home where he was never walked (he was just under 33kg!!) and training consisted of him not taking up all of the sofa. He had never been socialised and was very possesive over any toy that he had - if you gave him  a ball he would run away with it and grumble if you tried to take it from him, he had no recall and was totally unused to outdoor life. So, a year and a bit later, he comes as soon as he is called - in fact I can recall him with a hand signal if I choose, he retrieves to hand 90% of the time - the other occasions he drops the dummy at your feet. He can now cover 6-7 miles with ease and is just over 23 kg, he loves water - I swear that, if he could, he would sit in a glass of the stuff!! He is not, by any means, the perfect Dog but he is a perfect companion with the benefit of his new found love of flushing, he is a real bonus. Just before christmas he stopped like he had been pole axed and refused my signal to "come here" - 5 seconds later he pushed his nose under a bush and out flew a Woodcock - made my day. Jim Neal is spot on - enjoy the experience.

YIP.jpg

He's a good looking chap, and I think you've done as well as anyone could hope for with a dog having that background!  If he's lucky enough not to suffer any major physical problems he'll be good for another 4-5 seasons and hopefully get better and better along the way.

I've been considering the option of a re-home to try to solve my dog dilemma.  I have a springer bitch who's approaching 11 years old but still going strong.  I got a dog springer 2 years after her, with plans to maybe wait another 4 years or so before my next pup.  Then I got chucked a bit of a curve-ball: a "surprise" puppy of the two-legged variety who arrived mid-2016.  At least I got pick of the litter 🤥

I decided not to go ahead with getting another working pup, due to not only the demands of being a new parent but also a couple of other added factors.  Then the dog springer started to limp and it turned out he had arthritis in his elbow, so I had to retire him.  He actually passed away suddenly in December at 8yrs 9 months old, from a suspected pulmonary embolism, so even if my bitch manages another season at 11 going on 12, and even if I can manage to get myself a decent pup this coming spring, I'm left facing a possible 1 or 2 seasons without a working dog.

Therefore I've been pondering whether taking on an adult re-home that could be knocked into some sort of shape might fill the gap.  So I'm encouraged by your experience with this young man, and interested in how it pans out with @Dex89 and his new companion!

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Thanks for the replies and advice. 

As I'll mainly be doing rough shooting I would ideally like him to hunt and retrieve but I realise the former is the speciality of the spaniel. As long as we can both be safe and enjoy a few hours out in the countryside shooting achieving the basics that a gundog should then I'll be happy and anything additional would be a bonus. 

I don't think I'll have any issue keeping him within range as on walks he doesn't venture far from me in fact the opposite might be the issue as he tends to stick right by my side.

Hopefully an 'old' dog can learn new tricks

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Don't worry about hunting.  As soon as he realises that scent = game = the fun he was born for, he'll have no problem getting stuck in.  You just have to keep him working close.

It's stopping the dog chasing flushed birds that you have got to really avoid in a rough shooting scenario.  You want him sitting to the flush & shot, not darting off like a greyhound after a bird and then emptying the rest of the wood in front of you before you're anywhere near in range!

Keep us updated mate, I'm genuinely interested in how it goes :)

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So I have an update, after getting back in touch with the previous owner. It turns out he knows more than I realised.

I've bought a whistle and 1lb canvas dummy. He has been doing marked retrieve, memory and blind retrieving. And has been doing it well.

I've been told he is trained on the whistle but I've not had much success yet. Perhaps he is used to a 210.5 where as I have a 211.5, I'm not sure. And he will apparently hunt and retrieve from water and retrieve fur and feather dummies although I've not tried this with him yet.

With this in mind we have plenty to practice and perhaps when the lockdown eases the focus should be on checking if his gun shy or not apparently he is fine with gunshot at a distance. Certainly the fireworks at new years didn't bother him.

 

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2 hours ago, Dex89 said:

So I have an update, after getting back in touch with the previous owner. It turns out he knows more than I realised.

I've bought a whistle and 1lb canvas dummy. He has been doing marked retrieve, memory and blind retrieving. And has been doing it well.

I've been told he is trained on the whistle but I've not had much success yet. Perhaps he is used to a 210.5 where as I have a 211.5, I'm not sure. And he will apparently hunt and retrieve from water and retrieve fur and feather dummies although I've not tried this with him yet.

With this in mind we have plenty to practice and perhaps when the lockdown eases the focus should be on checking if his gun shy or not apparently he is fine with gunshot at a distance. Certainly the fireworks at new years didn't bother him.

 

 

My first ever springer was trained on the 210.5, if I picked up the 211.5 by mistake she still listened, after realising I was still blowing the whistle. 

If the dog knows the command and ignores it, its no the whistle... 

 

Did you buy a training book?

How are you getting on with it and the basics? 

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It's not the whistle.  There's guys who handle multiple dogs... probably 5 or more... with the same whistle in their gob.  It's just about rapport, which comes with time and repetition and positive reward.

I can't stress enough: start at the basics, go SLOWLY and work up from there.  It's as much about training you as it is the dog.  And don't let the dog train you either!!

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1 hour ago, Dex89 said:

I haven't got a book just yet but I've been reading a bit more on the forum and looking on youtube. I am tempted by the pet gundog and advanced pet gundog books I've seen on Amazon. 

 

Buy a decent book: Start with the basics and follow it step by step is my advice.

 

Everyone trains slightly differently, but it's all done in a learning chain and you can't progress onto the harder stuff until the basics are very well cemented. 

If you get a book and follow step by step you'll have a chain of progression to follow hopefully. 

 

Training the working labrador - Jeremy Hunt is supposed to be good. 

 

Retriever Training - Susan Scales - was also recommended to me by a trialler of labs when I bought my first ever gundog. 

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