But they are not insurmountable.
It is good to be aware of areas which might cause you problems and to arm yourself with as much information as you can in dealing with these problems, before you begin to train.
Preferably before you even bring home your pup.
Successful clicker training is absolutely dependent on controlling rewards. A dog will repeat the behaviour that gets him the best reward.
There are no two ways about this. Unless you are prepared to control the rewards available to your dog, you will not be successful as a clicker trainer.
What this means in real terms is if you wish to take your young dog for lots of ‘off lead’ walks in countryside full of gamey scent, rabbits to chase etc, you had better have an even more attractive reward ready than the ones your dog gets for himself.
If you have a keen hunting dog, and most spaniels and many working bred Labradors fall into this category, this will not be easy.
Your best option if you wish to clicker train your dog effectively as a working gundog, is to thoroughly control your dog’s exercise, so that he does not have access to free hunting and chasing behaviour.
This advice is also important to those who are training traditionally, but as a clicker trainer it is crucial.
If you wish to avoid all forms of punishment, you will need to take particular care to avoid self rewarding behaviour.
Once the dog has discovered the joys of intrinsic rewards, you will find it very difficult to compete with them.
Because of the opportunities in the field for self rewarding behaviours, distractions must therefore be introduced to the clicker trained gundog in very tiny steps and carefully monitored to maintain your standards.
In training a gundog for fieldwork, there are more opportunities for these ‘intrinsically rewarding behaviours than in any other dog related sport.
If you wish to take on the challenge of clicker training your gundog, it will help you to consider how you are going to deal with these issues in a systematic and effective manner.
Methods of control
There is no doubt that the kind of control necessary to prevent a dog self rewarding and to prevent undesirable behaviours getting established, is challenging to implement in the field.
The best way to prevent self rewarding in distracting environments is through the consistent use of a training line during early training.
Using a long line
The long line cannot be used on a short term basis without the risk of the dog becoming ‘line-wise’. Therefore the dog may need to wear a long line when outdoors for several weeks.
This can be a problem for novice trainers both because a long line isn’t easy to manage in certain types of terrain.
And because the use of such equipment is not widely understood or approved of by traditional gundog trainers. Which brings us to getting support with your training.
Lack of support
One major problem for novice gundog trainers wishing to go down the clicker training route is the lack of support and knowledge available for them, from within the gundog community.
At the time of writing, much of the working gundog community is skeptical about, or even opposed to, the concept of training without force, and to the kinds of equipment used by force-free trainers.
This is gradually changing as more evidence comes to light, and as more clicker trained gun dogs begin to win awards on the Field Trial circuit.
But until there is wider mainstream support for force free training, those wishing to make progress with their working gun dogs in this way need to get the basics established using help and support from force free trainers in other disciplines.
Getting help with clicker training
Clicker training is a skill, and you will improve with practice. You can learn from an experienced clicker trainer and you can learn from a good book
Using an experienced instructor has benefits. They will be able to observe your mistakes and provide you with invaluable feedback.
The Gundog Club also have a small but growing number of force free instructors on their books, and you can be put in touch with an instructor in your area by telephoning 01428 717529.
You’ll need to let them know that you are looking for clicker training as only a minority of instructors offer this.
Without a doubt, the biggest challenge for the gundog clicker trainer is in preventing the dog from rewarding himself for bad behaviour.
If you are prepared to make the time and take the effort to ensure that you control the rewards available to your dog, there is no reason why this challenge should not be overcome.
This article was originally published in 2011 and has been extensively revised and updated for 2015