Always been perplexed with this relatively new concept over the past 15 years . It has become a growth Industry for many with a bag of treats in a village hall or fenced off grassland in the summer. Every one gets an 8 week old puppy who has had 8 weeks of Dog socialization from the best Trainer in the world ! (Its mother) Most new dog owners have this urge to take the Puppy 4 weeks later for "Puppy socialization classes" with strange dogs and strange people in strange surroundings without establishing "Socialization in the new Home environment with Humans" ? I have decided to Hold Puppy Un-socialization training classes . These will incorporate methods and instruction on how Not to socialize with other dogs and people in the public park . Practices and training techniques how to be engaging with Your dog rather than the dog engaging with everything else rather than You in the public park ,or just restrained with a lead in a Hall with 4 walls will be the aim . Too many these days are bad encounters in the public park ! .. Weekly sessions with Results guaranteed .
Sounds like a simple question ?
But it really has so many permutations that it becomes impossible to answer unless a reply is "When its Ready" ! ..Even that Is not an answer to the person asking ,but it does have a grain of truth in it.
Often the euphoria of many who have had success during the Spring /Summer in competition Gun Dog Working tests with a Young dog would be in the belief that this is the time ?
Often there are many who take the approach "It will learn on the job" ,and by the end of the first season it will be Experienced?
So, "What age" is usually the next consideration/Question !
Well, An 8 year old dog that hasn't any previous training is most likely to behave on a shooting day like a 1 year old with the same level of Training ?
So Its Not an age entry level.
It cant be an experience level within a shoot environment with a 14 month old dog come August on Grouse/Hare/Rabbit ! (Earlier if its Pigeons) ..That would mean in our Game season the dog would have to been exposed to that shoot environment Last year ?.. Do the Arithmetic . The dog would have to be exposed to this when it was 8 weeks old or before it was born !
When/What time of year the Gun dog Is born plays a vital part in the Opportunities for experience or development training at a younger age than some .
A Gun Dog Puppy arriving in your life at 8 weeks old in September will be 9 months old at the start of the Working Test Season in April, but have the opportunity during December/January at aged 5/6 month old to experience game in season .
A Gun Dog Puppy arriving in your life at 8 weeks old in March will be 9 month old come the Shooting season for Pheasants but had all the opportunities during the summer months for Water Training in good weather ,but too young for even Puppy Working Tests during Apr/May/Jun/July.
So ..How do the Experts manage to get a Ftch no matter the day in the year it is born or even "When They Take their Gun Dog out Shooting" ?
Im sure its a management decision based on many factors other than "When" .
What about the many that have a great dog in the shooting field and never gave a thought about any management of time or training for seasoned game . ..Dont you just love them dogs .
The "Shooting Field" would have to be quantified . A driven Shoot on pheasants for a Picking up Dog behind 8 guns in sight of the dog with the guns firing 25 shots per gun at over 300 birds in the sky over a period of 40 minutes is vastly different to a dog walking at heel and one bird being flushed and one shot being fired .
It would also have to be quantified where a hunt involving the dog in front of One handler and only one piece of game being flushed and the dog commanded to stop as opposed to 10 dogs being hunted by 10 handlers in a line and 50 birds being flushed .
I have taken many 5 month old Spaniels on live walked up shoots and they have taken it in their stride . I have been asked to Train many that have not.
I have taken 5 month old HPRs on a Beating line and many folk thought I was a raving lunatic . I never told them I played a continuous loop recording of the shoot in the dogs kennel for 2 months ?
" When Can I take My Gun Dog Out Shooting ?"
If you have to ask ...Its Not ready ,neither are You .
(But You will,and the dog in spite of us will still have a good day)
Gun Dog Working Tests are becoming more and more popular with all breeds and all types of breed owners .
Spectator involvement and enjoyment to watch these dogs perform has also contributed to the growth in the sport from all spectres who have a Gun Dog breed or would want to aspire to have one that perform in Crufts green baize arena or a country Fair .
All this is Great for the Gun Dog Breeds and the future of these breeds to be 'Fit for purpose' .
Do the 'Gun dog Working Tests' and the demonstrations really show what is the purpose that the dogs should be fit for ?
The common practice for Spaniel 'Tests' would be to evaluate the 'Hunting style' of the dog when and after the dog has been commanded to hunt , followed by a 'Stop to Shot' .
This invariably comes from somewhere that has no correlation to a Gun being mounted by anyone in the line including the Judge and or handler .
When a Hunt /quest/pattern of hunting is performed a shot fired and Then a dummy thrown by an assistant and or judge is Not replicating what happens in reality for a flushing dog ?...The bird flushes and the Bird is shot and the dog stops on the flush , not the shot . So why do many 'Tests' 'Demonstrations' adopt the sequence of 'fire a shot then Throw a dummy' ?
This process doesn't happen in real life as a Bird/game is flushed and the 'flushing dog' should stop to that flush ! then the shot will be fired . That's 'Fit for Purpose' .
The common practice for Retriever 'Tests' on a Simple Marked retrieve is a shot fired and a dummy thrown !.. That's not really how and what happens in real life ?. A bird/game is either flushed or driven then a shot is fired , invariably the shot is nowhere near the 'Fall' of the dummy/game .
So why are so many 'Tests' which have scenarios of a shot then a Dummy thrown as a 'Marked Retrieve' ? That's Not 'Fit for purpose' to a 'Marked fall' ..Is It ? .The shot could and would or invariably be from the line or 40 yards from the first movement in the sky or ground !
Good fun though , showing the handling skills of the dog returning a dummy in your hand ...in the end ?
Dog Trainers ,are they training the dog or the people? . How many 'Dog Trainers' do You know that take charge of an owners dog with issues in a group Training class and show the dog doing what the Owner said the dog doesn't do ?
All around the globe there is a multitude of experts who train dogs to standards that mere mortals admire and aspire with admiration.
Many make a profitable living 'Telling and showing' what their dogs have done and can do .
There are others famously who have Training sessions with aspiring people that wish the same results from the mentor.
Who is Training who ? and what is being learned ?
You can lead a horse to water ,but you can't make it drink ,if it's not thirsty ....A phrase comes to mind .
How many ''Dog Trainers'' do you know actually take physical hold and or control in a training session or class to show demonstrate and or fix issues that you have ?
Ask another question .
How many ''Dog Trainers'' do you know that continually show You how it should be done by explanation and or demonstration with Their dog ? ..In person or by video/DVD .
The 'Program' for many don't always fit . ?
To be honest you may as well ask how much is an Elephant .
You know it's going to be more than you would think ,but when you get an answer you think it should be cheaper.
The next one is usually 'How much is a Trained Gun Dog' ?
Again, you may as well ask how much is a Trained Elephant .!
African or Asian ? 1 year old or 10 year old ? Cow or Bull ? Oh and by the way ,'what do you expect it to actually do '?
From here on in it gets real complicated when you take in the context of 'How much does a Gun Dog Cost' .
Let's make it easy and start with a Puppy ?
Before we start we would have to narrow it down to specific breed as Retriever puppies cost between £500 -£1,500 ,so adding in other breed specific would just make it an accountancy nightmare from the very start and we haven't even got the dog yet ! Or arrived at any possible end figure.
Keeping it real simple ,we will stick with the more common Retriever with that vague band of £1,000 differential .
Start with the £500 puppy with the same health test/clearances as the £1,500 puppy as a guide to obtain this 'How much is a Gun Dog' figure .
Let's assume they both have relevantly the same number of 'Ftch' in their pedigrees to make it a fair playing field (and is usually the case in real life)
Normal is 8 weeks old that the puppy is in the hands of 'The purchaser' from the breeder,and from there in costs apply on top of the purchase price .
Registration and transfer ownership fees with Kennel Club along with Vet vaccinations and microchip change of registration fee,and food,for the next few weeks ,never mind any accessories you buy such as lead/collar/bedding /kennelling etc .This can also range from £100- £200 no matter which puppy we are talking about and the pup is only 10 weeks old by now ! So the cost for both so far is circa £700 and £1,700 respectively.
So now comes 'environment' by that ,it could be in the house or outside in kennels . Kennels range from minimum £500 - £10,000.Now even if You already have the kennels they were a cost and the pup is now part of that cost .In the House may require a Crate . Crates range in size and price from £30 -£100 .
So far this Gun Dog puppy is becoming an expensive asset and not on the accountancy books for many ? and not even retrieved one duck !
Usually after this conversation with the man/Woman on the street the numbers have went way over their head ! ...
Many just then Buy a Gun Dog breed such as a Retriever puppy and decide they don't want a 'Trained Gun Dog' .
But the cost is exactly the same ! When they take the same route Up to this point ..?
So let's carry on after this 10 week point with the owner who want's to go further .
Next comes ,'Training' . Well that has to take a differential from both these £500 and £1,500 pups also . Training a £500 pup for someone that already has the skills and the facilities already in place such as kennel/crate/experience /training aids/grounds and more importantly 'Time' is obviously going to achieve more than someone with the £1,500 pup who doesn't have these things in place ?, but it fit's the other way just the same to the pup .
Now we have a Huge differential ! ...The cost of training A Gun Dog !
Fee's paid by someone who can't or doesn't know how to train this Gun Dog has the same cost for a £500 pup or a £1,500 pup .
There is no fee for the breeder of a £1,500 pup to train his/her Gun Dog , only If they can without a Trainer or any Training fees.
Any one lost on the figures and the permutations yet ?
We haven't got to 'How long does it take' YET!
'How Much Does a Gun Dog Cost' ?
A Lifetime !
Often the biggest fear when someone starts their journey with a Gun Dog is 'What if I do something wrong'?
The first port of call these days for many is to look at the internet for advice rather than the guy down the street who has experience with Gun Dogs or the Library.
These days Library's are few and far between and most books are either outdated or have a personal connotation to 'Their way' with 'Their dogs' .
The guy down the street could be much the same all be it with personal prowess /achievement /and or success in what they do,but that may not suit You or Your dog .
It's a nightmare ! Isn't it ? Combine that with the myriad of advice at the touch of a button on the internet ,and who is Right and Who is Wrong .
Probably all of them/none of them/some of them ,but more importantly is the advice Right for You and Your Gun Dog .
But You may have an issue with recall, or dropping the dummy or ,etc,etc . The book or the DVD or the man down the street or the Professional Trainer doesn't have these issues with his dogs.
Advice however is available on how to do it ?........
Is it fixed ?
If any issue was caused in training then it must have been caused by the trainer ? Not in my book ! It would however been learned by both dog and trainer if the same thing had been done over a period of time . (you have to believe this ,otherwise how else would you believe that by doing the Right thing over a period of time by any one of the two parties is actually training/learning/conditioning)
This Blog post was instigated by a fellow Dog Trainer in the USA. On that side of the pond they have many 'Programs' for Gun Dog training .mostly they follow a process for e-collar training ,but they all have the one basic formula 'A sequential process' .
Over here in the UK , we don't have programs as such ,but we do have DVD'S and formulas from successful people in the field of Gun dogs showing their dogs and their way.
The mass don't have their dogs or their facility or bearing ,so that's highly unlikely to 'fix' any novice handler's issue with Their individual dog ,even if it's been bred from the 'Pro' .
Many if not the majority who actually have issues are not interested in Field Trials nor likely to attend .
The Americans do have one thing we can learn from in their 'Programs' if we want to learn .
'A sequential process' is a start and a matrix ,that you can't steer from otherwise it is no longer a sequential process for that individual program. Many Novice handlers of Gun Dogs with their first dog in the UK use a mix of their own beliefs ,advice from the Pro,advice from the guy down the street ,and sadly the myriad of advice on the internet.
The Kennel club site is not much use either to those embarking on 'How to fix' or 'How to train my Gun Dog', it directs most to the Pro who has interest in Field Trials or a behaviourist if it's an issue , or a registered with them approved trainer under their scheme and they usually have a local community hall with group classes and a clicker.
Back to my American Friend. In the UK we pride ourselves in quiet,steady ,honourable and biddable dogs in the shooting field ,so why do we have this in contrast to our American friends who have the reputation of having such High rolling unsteady at the line ,dancing and noisy dogs (Retrievers) . These are two typical phrases used frequently across the pond .
In reality , the ones in the UK that earn that accolade have been through a 'Sequential process' from the start and had ''Nothing to Fix''.
In reality , there are many American ones who are Not the stereotype quoted ,because they have been through a sequential process , even with a program . !
Don't test your dog in training, train it (Polmaise Gun Dogs)
Don't train your dog at a test ,It's too late