Its all very interesting finding out about how dogs learn, and reading the different training exercises.
But what many people with a young dog actually want to know is:
“Where do I start?”
“What do I teach my dog first? And when I’ve taught that, what do I do next?”
Building a training programme
What many of you want is a training ‘programme’
A series of lessons that takes you from the ‘start’ to the ‘finish’ of the training journey. Something you can work through, one step at a time.
Something that takes the mystery out of the whole gundog training process
A clear path to follow
Every dog is different
Of course, every dog is different. And different dogs have different problems.[wp_ad_camp_1]So the path of training may vary a little from one dog to another.
But these variations are not as many or as great as some would have you think.
There are certain ‘milestones’ that each dog needs to pass through on his training journey.
And this is where Graded Training comes in handy.
The gundog Graded Training Scheme is designed to take you through a series of milestones on your training journey.
There are milestones in each of the three aspects of gundog training. (Hunting, Retrieving, Obedience)
Milestones like delivering to hand (retrieving), quartering in a pattern (hunting) and remaining seated whilst a handler walks away (obedience).
As the dog becomes more advanced, milestones become more complex. And some dogs reach those milestones more quickly and more simply, than others.
Why milestones matter
A milestone skill is not just some random skill or trick you can teach a dog. It is a key skill on which further skills or competence are built. Rather than a skill that leads to a dead end.
Tricks are sometimes dead end skills, in that they may not progress the dog any further along a particular route. Tricks are often very valuable in terms of increasing a trainer’s skill and a dog’s focus but that is another story.
Milestone skills on the other hand are essential. Delivery to hand is a milestone skill, because without it, you can never achieve a dog that will be able to safely deliver wounded birds.
If your dog drops everything at your feet, you can still collect dead game, but you will have to leave runners to another dog.
The value in celebrating milestones
Every dog that reaches a particular standard, will have passed through the same milestones as other dogs at the same standard. This is the value of defining, describing and celebrating training milestones.
It is very motivating and comforting to know if, and when, you have reached a particular level of skill.
It is this process of defining, describing, and celebrating, that lies at the heart of the Gundog Club’s graded training scheme.
How does Graded Training help?
Because there are so many different milestones for you to reach as you train your dog, and because it is so important to be able to assess and celebrate your progress, the gundog training process has been divided into a series of ‘Grades’.
You can read all about these grades here: graded training for gundogs. And each grade contains a number of specific milestones for you to achieve.
Following these grades will give you a clear training path, and a measure of your progress. You will work towards each of the necessary milestones in turn, until you have reached the level of competence you want for you and your dog.
Start at Grade One and work up
The best way to know where to begin with your dog, is to start at the first grade, and make sure that you and your dog have met all the milestones involved in that grade.
Check you are working in the right category (Retriever, Spaniel, HPR) and when you have reached the standard described at Grade One, get yourself assessed.
It is very satisfying, and a lot of fun, to take the Grade One test and earn your certificate and rosette.
Yes, taking the test can be a bit daunting, and yes, you have to fork out a few pounds to take part.
But it’s worth it for that feeling of satisfaction and the knowledge that you have achieved the milestones necessary in order to move on with your training.
What about methods?
OK, so now you have a clear training path to follow, what are the best methods to use for training a gundog?
You can find information about choice of methods available to you in this section. You will find that the exercises in this website are largely positive reinforcement based.
I’ll be adding more information and training exercises to help you achieve your milestones, in the training section of this website shortly.
You can also purchase my Grade One training manual from the Gundog Club bookshop, and find out how to book a Grade One Field Test on the Gundog Club website. All proceeds from the sale of books and Field Tests from the Gundog Club, go to our national gundog charity, The Gundog Trust.
If you enjoy my articles, you might like my new book: The Happy Puppy Handbook – a definitive guide to early puppy care and training.