The Gun Dog Overview

What they go through: a condensed outline


Puppy Head Start (4-6 months of age)

In the Puppy head start program, your puppy is given exposures to things that are sometimes difficult to reproduce for the weekend warrior trainer. These pups are typically very precocious and if raised correctly (see blog on how to raise a puppy) will be ready to gain any knowledge you throw their way. The best thing we can do is keep any and all training light, fun, exciting, and free from harsh corrections. Therefore, in my very imperfect opinion, I feel it is best to have a period of time where we focus on simply developing the young pups’ confidence through exposures to all the right experiences. We give them exposure to the following:

– Water

– Gunfire

– Live and Dead birds

– Fun retrieves

– Gunner thrown marks

– Leash walking

– Puppy Obedience

– Cue Conditioning (watch, easy, good)

– Socialization with other dogs and people


Started Gun Dog (Any Age, but normally between 6-10 months)

The started level gun dog is one who sees a bird shot, marks it, has relative steadiness (5-15 seconds), is sent on name to the mark, grabs it, brings it back without chewing/biting/chomping/eating/sticking, sits, heals, and holds to hand on both land and water. The major gaiting item for young dogs to start our Started gun dog program is the dropping of puppy teeth and shoring up of their adult teeth. It can be fairly unethical and simply inconsiderate to make a dog hold or retrieve something when their mouth is in pain. Ideally, we would have a dog that will go and get regardless of how their mouth feels but that is not always the case. Some dogs are far more sensitive than others and need a little time to mature, gain confidence, and let their mouth stop hurting.

Once a young dog’s teeth have come in, we normally kick off the fetching process. There are a few things I want to discuss regarding the foundation of their training, Force Fetch/Fetch Training, that I want to discuss. There is a big difference between “Force Fetch” and “Fetch training.” Force Fetch, requires a dog to fetch, hold, and give using force techniques and thereby giving them the understanding of how to deal with pressure. The Fetching program first teaches a dog to fetch, hold, and then give through fun/play and then slowly incorporates pressure to being the force training factor after they have learned the concept. Both programs teach the dog to deal with pressure. However, Force Fetch educates the dog through force, and Fetching training educates the dog on fetching then implements pressure as a secondary reinforcer.

The started gun dog program is a foundation. This program will be built on throughout the remaining years of their lives. If we have holes in our program now, it will show later. It is vital to make sure all aspects of this training program are met in full and also not to rush it; this time is vital and can make or break a dog. The Aspects of the training they learn at this point are as follows:

– Basic Obedience

– Fetch Training

– eCollar Conditioning

– Walking Fetch

– Basic Field Marks

– Steadiness

– Water Marks

– Dismount – From a slough stand, layout blind, boat, and pit blind type of platform


Seasoned Gun Dog (Any Age, but normally between 9-14 months)

The seasoned gun dog is one who has a mastery of the started level, will fully steady, will watch and mark doubles on both land/water, started decheating work, honors another dog’s work and is running basic cold blinds on both land and water (30-60 yards). Most hunters would be blown away to have a dog at this level, and therefore, most of our client’s request to push their dogs through to this level. Once finished with the started level, it normally takes on average 4-6 months to get them fully proficient at this level. The training program consists of the following:

– Simple Doubles

– Full Land/Water Doubles

– Basic Pile work

– Mini-T

– Force To Pile

– Double-T

– Swimby

– Pattern Blinds

– Bird Boy Blinds

– Transition to Cold Blinds


Finished Gun Dog

The finished gun dog is one who has mastered both started and seasoned level gun dog trainings and has developed the ability to run more advanced blinds (80-130yds), Triples/Quads on both land and water (90-150yds), can deal with suction, is fully decheated, and fully honoring.


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