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Tips For Entering The World Of Gun Dogs

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October 11, 2011

Tips For Entering The World Of Gun Dogs

By Chad Love

A while back, in the comments section of a post I did on the pros and cons of buying a started dog reader jcarlin asked:

My gun dog experience is limited to hunting over my beagle, who was a rescue, hunts largely by instinct and by the introduction a past owner had given him. I really think I'd enjoy bird hunting over a dog, but never had. What path should an ignorant man like myself take towards owning a bird dog? Training your first pup seems like a good intro for the handler. Buying a started pup with no handling experience will likely lead to a flustered me and a completely puzzled dog who is looking to me for commands.

That's a great question, and my reply was, basically, that the best way to get into gundogs is to find someone already doing it and then ask to tag along. Don't get me wrong, there are a ton of resources out there, from training DVDs to online forums and boards, for the beginning gundog owner. There are many more resources available than there used to be, but I still think the best way to really learn and to foster that interest is hands-on advice, help, and support from a real live person. I even blogged about it.

Of course, that begs the question of how to find someone local, and for that there are several ways: I'd find out if you have a local chapter of Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, Quail Unlimited, Ruffed Grouse Society, DU, etc (you can find local chapter contact info on the national groups' websites) and ask if they have any training days, chapter fun hunts or anyone interested in training with you.

But perhaps the best way to find training help and advice is through local gundog or field trial clubs that will be affiliated with national gundog, field trial or hunt test groups. All these groups will have websites where you can find state and local chapters, and many gundog clubs will have scheduled training days where people are encouraged to come out and train with the group.

For example, if you're interested in retrievers, look at the Hunting Retriever Club, the North American Hunting Retriever Association, and the various AKC-affiliated hunt test and retriever field trials.

In fact, here's a great resource on the AKC website for finding clubs in your area. It's searchable by club type (field trial, hunt test, etc.) and state, and brings up a list of every AKC-affiliated dog club in your particular state, which includes all the various breed clubs, field trial and hunt test groups. That includes coonhounds, flusher trials and tests, pointing dog trials and tests and retriever trials and tests.

If you're into pointing and versatile dogs some of the other national groups to look into include the National Shoot To Retrieve Association, the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association, the Amateur Field Trial Clubs of America, and the National Bird Hunters Association, to name just a few.

Once you find a local club, call them up and ask to tag along with a training group. You'd be amazed by how willing people are to help you out. It's a win-win for everyone: your local club gets a new member, and you get an instant advice and support system for training your new pup.

But I'm interested, how did you all originally get into gun dogs? Family tradition? Gundog club? Or, like jcarlin, are you new to the sport and wondering how to break in?

Comments (13)

Top Rated
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from Bioboy wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

My dad had a dog when I was a kid. Once she died when I was about 13 I begged for another and got my vizsla when I was 15. I read a few hunting dog trainging books and took her to a few lessons with a pro. I did not do great by any measure, but I would rather hunt over my imperfect dog than anything else.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bj264 wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

I grew up with rabbit hunting beagles. After a trip with friends to Kansas I got hooked on birds. Afterward I got my first bird dog a GSP. Trained her myself with the aid of a couple of books. Now Im on my second bird dog a Boykin Spaniel.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

My dad owned hunting dogs from the time he was old enough to shoot a gun. I expect it was about the same for grandad before him. Mom and Dad already owned their first lab, Pug, for a year when I was born in 1952. I acquired my own lab when I was eleven, a year before I started hunting, and have owned at least one most of the time since then. Right now I have two labs and a Brittany pup. That little stinker will likely be my last dog (I'm nearly sixty).

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from dighunter wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

We always had pet dogs, but that was it. I have always enjoyed rabbit hunting, but some of the areas we hunt are to thick to go crashing through the brush. I finally got two decent beagles from a guy that was giving them away. I have been hooked ever since. I just got a Walker Hound pup this summer and am in the process of training it. It is really a lot of fun.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FOX wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

I want to get into gun dogs for two reasons. First I like dogs and always have tried to get them hunting but it never went well. Second I always get skunked when hunting I figure a friend will make it sting less. And maybe put a few extra birds in my game bag.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jcarlin wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Thanks for addressing that question Chad.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from spentcartridge wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

I didn't have any family or friends who owned bird dogs, so I kind of went it alone. Fortunately most of the people who hunt with dogs are happy to help a newcomer out. The trainer I use has his version of open mic night every Saturday morning. People from all over bring dogs by, some to evaluate, some to work through a problem, some just to learn. If there's a trainer in your area, it wouldn't hurt to call him, tell him you're interested in getting into bird dogs and ask if you can stop by to learn a little.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Winkmeister wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

with enthusiasm for many types of hunting, I found that upland and waterfowl are best pursued with at least one GOOD dog along. Helped a housemate years ago train his puppy and look forward to the chance to have my own when the situation is right.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from wills1235 wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

I had wanted to get into gun dogs from the time was 15. I finally got my first gun dog just after my 35th birthday. I was fortunate in that the breeder I purchased from was involved in a gun dog club and encouraged me to join. After a couple trips to his "fun trials" I was hooked. Not for the competition, but for the chance to meet and learn from other owners, many of whom's dogs are related to mine.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Lesa Phillips wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

I did some clicking on the links provided in this article and it seems that only pedigreed dogs can participate. Does anyone know of any groups that allow owners of rescued dogs without papers or "all-American" mixed dogs to get involved?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Lesa,
If your rescue dog is simply a purebreed dog, Lab, Chessie, Golden, etc., inspection by an AKC official could get the dog AKC certification.
However, the animal must be neutered or spayed before registration can be completed, and thus will be eligible for competition. As far as campaigning a 'mixed breed' dog, that's not a possibility but you can participate in local clubs training days where you can gain a great deal of knowledge and insight about training, and meet some super folks.
Bioboy,
A good dog will get you invited to some great hunts, a dog with numerous faults will get you not invited back.
Just food for thought. I understand how you feel about hunting with your dog. It is really easy for an owner to overlook faults of his/her dog, but others are often not so kind.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Chad,
To answer your question, as a child, the only dog I had was a 1/2 pointer 1/2 setter mix who was a patented bird finding machine. We hunted every day after shool and found many coveys.
In southeast Alabama, duck hunting opportunities were rare and it was not until after college that I became exposed to hardcore waterfowlers and duck/goose hunting and it just seemed natural that a waterfowler should have a dog. That was 31 years ago and I have not been without at least one Lab since.
I would encourage everyone who picks up a shotgun to investigate a gundog, hunting is just not much fun without a dog, whether it's pursuit of waterfowl or upland game.
Kindest Regards,
Robert Shell
3-S Kennels
Purveyor of fine Labrador Gundogs

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

Go where angels fear to tread and buy a dog knowing that purchase price is just the down payment to the total costs of a hunting dog.

It won't matter if the dog hunts well, bad, or indifferent you'll never want to be without a hunting dog.

Be careful on asking people to help train. Their ways and methods may not be your own, it doesn't matter if they are correct or wrong. If you train bad habits, these are your bad habits you can live with.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Winkmeister wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

with enthusiasm for many types of hunting, I found that upland and waterfowl are best pursued with at least one GOOD dog along. Helped a housemate years ago train his puppy and look forward to the chance to have my own when the situation is right.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bioboy wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

My dad had a dog when I was a kid. Once she died when I was about 13 I begged for another and got my vizsla when I was 15. I read a few hunting dog trainging books and took her to a few lessons with a pro. I did not do great by any measure, but I would rather hunt over my imperfect dog than anything else.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bj264 wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

I grew up with rabbit hunting beagles. After a trip with friends to Kansas I got hooked on birds. Afterward I got my first bird dog a GSP. Trained her myself with the aid of a couple of books. Now Im on my second bird dog a Boykin Spaniel.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

My dad owned hunting dogs from the time he was old enough to shoot a gun. I expect it was about the same for grandad before him. Mom and Dad already owned their first lab, Pug, for a year when I was born in 1952. I acquired my own lab when I was eleven, a year before I started hunting, and have owned at least one most of the time since then. Right now I have two labs and a Brittany pup. That little stinker will likely be my last dog (I'm nearly sixty).

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from dighunter wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

We always had pet dogs, but that was it. I have always enjoyed rabbit hunting, but some of the areas we hunt are to thick to go crashing through the brush. I finally got two decent beagles from a guy that was giving them away. I have been hooked ever since. I just got a Walker Hound pup this summer and am in the process of training it. It is really a lot of fun.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FOX wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

I want to get into gun dogs for two reasons. First I like dogs and always have tried to get them hunting but it never went well. Second I always get skunked when hunting I figure a friend will make it sting less. And maybe put a few extra birds in my game bag.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jcarlin wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Thanks for addressing that question Chad.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from spentcartridge wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

I didn't have any family or friends who owned bird dogs, so I kind of went it alone. Fortunately most of the people who hunt with dogs are happy to help a newcomer out. The trainer I use has his version of open mic night every Saturday morning. People from all over bring dogs by, some to evaluate, some to work through a problem, some just to learn. If there's a trainer in your area, it wouldn't hurt to call him, tell him you're interested in getting into bird dogs and ask if you can stop by to learn a little.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from wills1235 wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

I had wanted to get into gun dogs from the time was 15. I finally got my first gun dog just after my 35th birthday. I was fortunate in that the breeder I purchased from was involved in a gun dog club and encouraged me to join. After a couple trips to his "fun trials" I was hooked. Not for the competition, but for the chance to meet and learn from other owners, many of whom's dogs are related to mine.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Lesa Phillips wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

I did some clicking on the links provided in this article and it seems that only pedigreed dogs can participate. Does anyone know of any groups that allow owners of rescued dogs without papers or "all-American" mixed dogs to get involved?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Lesa,
If your rescue dog is simply a purebreed dog, Lab, Chessie, Golden, etc., inspection by an AKC official could get the dog AKC certification.
However, the animal must be neutered or spayed before registration can be completed, and thus will be eligible for competition. As far as campaigning a 'mixed breed' dog, that's not a possibility but you can participate in local clubs training days where you can gain a great deal of knowledge and insight about training, and meet some super folks.
Bioboy,
A good dog will get you invited to some great hunts, a dog with numerous faults will get you not invited back.
Just food for thought. I understand how you feel about hunting with your dog. It is really easy for an owner to overlook faults of his/her dog, but others are often not so kind.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Chad,
To answer your question, as a child, the only dog I had was a 1/2 pointer 1/2 setter mix who was a patented bird finding machine. We hunted every day after shool and found many coveys.
In southeast Alabama, duck hunting opportunities were rare and it was not until after college that I became exposed to hardcore waterfowlers and duck/goose hunting and it just seemed natural that a waterfowler should have a dog. That was 31 years ago and I have not been without at least one Lab since.
I would encourage everyone who picks up a shotgun to investigate a gundog, hunting is just not much fun without a dog, whether it's pursuit of waterfowl or upland game.
Kindest Regards,
Robert Shell
3-S Kennels
Purveyor of fine Labrador Gundogs

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

Go where angels fear to tread and buy a dog knowing that purchase price is just the down payment to the total costs of a hunting dog.

It won't matter if the dog hunts well, bad, or indifferent you'll never want to be without a hunting dog.

Be careful on asking people to help train. Their ways and methods may not be your own, it doesn't matter if they are correct or wrong. If you train bad habits, these are your bad habits you can live with.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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