Books from Swan Valley Press

How to Help Gundogs Train Themselves

How to Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves

How to Have the Best Trained Gundog

How to Have the Best Trained Gun Dog


Griffon: Gun Dog Supreme

gun dog magazine logo

March/April 2012

Gun Dog Magazine’s John McGonigle says: “Buy and read…How to Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves, by Joan Bailey, prior to bringing pup home.” In the 2008 March/April issue he wrote: “The best book there is on dealing with and training a new gun dog pup is How to Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves by Joan Bailey.”

duck unlimited logo

Sept/Oct 2011

From the Bookshelf section: “Joan Bailey, an experienced field trial judge, award-winning writer, and long time editor of The Gun Dog Supreme offers spot-on training advice for sporting dogs in this revised edition of How to Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves. Bailey stresses making the most of a pup’s developmental time.”

pipin head

Update of a Classic

October 2004
Larry Mueller, hunting dog editor, says:

"Joan's already popular book, now in its fourth printing, has been revised and expanded, especially in the important area of retrieving...."

  • Learn
  • Contents
  • Chapter 12
  • Reviews
  • Recommendations
  • Testimonials
  • How easy it is to cultivate your gun dog's natural hunting talents the easy, painless, fun way
  • How to avoid mistakes that can ruin a good gun dog
  • How to socialize, expose and condition your gun dog during the first 12 months of his life
  • How to utilize the young dog's critical developmental months

Designed in an easy to read, step-by-step, format How to Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves assists gun dog owners by providing proven methods emphasizing socialization, exposure and conditioning during the critical first 12 months of a dog's life. Under the skillful direction of Joan Bailey, gun dog enthusiasts will learn what thousands of successful bird hunters have known for years---with a little help gun dogs just about train themselves.

Table of Contents:
How to Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves

Chapter 1: The Keys

  • How to use this book
  • The dog we want to own

Chapter 2: How Dogs Learn

Chapter 3: Universal Rules

Chapter 4: Choosing Your Puppy

  • Breeds
  • Checking on Breeders
  • Field tested stock
  • Test results - statistics
  • Temperament
  • Age of pup

Chapter 5: Getting Ready for Puppy

  • "Average" pup
  • Who is boss?
  • Sleeping quarters
  • The dog crate
  • The breeder and the crate
  • Fenced yard or kennel run
  • Naming your dog
  • Finding a good veterinarian
  • Collar and leash
  • Collar on or off?
  • Vacations - boarding your pup
  • Summary - things to do before pup arrives

Chapter 6: D-Day! Your Pup Arrives

  • Shipping - Airport pickup
  • Arrival in pup's new home
  • Pup's first day in his new home
  • Food
  • The crate as bed and nest
  • The traveling dog crate
  • After the first day

Chapter 7: Day-to-Day House and Yard Conditioning

  • House-breaking
  • Pup's bathroom
  • When to teach a pointing dog to sit
  • Feeding
  • Come
  • No!
  • Chewing
  • Digging
  • Jumping
  • Off limit places
  • Children
  • Other dogs
  • Around town conditioning
  • Leash conditioning
  • Cat conditioning
  • Camping

Chapter 8: Day-to-Day House and Yard Conditioning II

  • Preliminary "WHOA" conditioning
  • Retrieving conditioning
  • Force retrieving or natural retrieving???
  • Using dummies and dead birds for retrieving conditioning
  • Some don'ts for retrieving conditioning
  • The training table - a valuable tool
  • Training table conditioning
  • Preliminary gun conditioning
  • Boarding kennel conditioning

Chapter 9: Field Exposure I: Learning to Search for Game

  • Finding the right fields
  • Water areas
  • Getting pup started in the field
  • Other conditioning
  • Your behavior in field and forest
  • Establishing the special one-on-one connection
  • Whistles and calling your dog
  • Continuing the one-on-one connection
  • No talking!
  • Reinforcement of "COME" during field and woods exposure
  • Searching for game
  • Barbed wire
  • Gun conditioning in the field

Chapter 10: Field Exposure, Part II: Pointing and Retrieving

  • What to do when he does point
  • Avoid planted birds like the plague
  • Avoid using a fly rod with bird wing attached
  • Never shoot a bird that the young dog doesn't point
  • Retrieving conditioning in the field

Chapter 11: Water Conditioning

  • Introduction to water
  • What to do if the pup won't go in water
  • Water conditioning for duck hunting
  • Preliminary gun conditioning at the water
  • Shooting over dog in water and working with live ducks

Chapter 12: The First Hunting Season

  • First bird shot over pup
  • Introduction to upland hunting
  • Waterfowl hunting conditioning
  • Variety of game

Chapter 13: Getting The Most Out of Your Gun Dog

  • Understanding your dog
  • After the first year
  • The slow bloomers
  • Contact members of your breed club for help
  • Finishing off the rough edges and fine tuning
  • Good luck with your gun dog

Chapter 12 - How to Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves
The First Hunting Season

It's important that you evaluate the factors listed below before you decide when to start hunting with your partner.

For our "average" pup that is six months old on October 1st, who has had a typical development in his conditioning and lives in the northern half of the country, I would definitely begin some very short, appropriate hunts this fall. If he progresses well during the early part of the season, I would continue hunting him, giving him every opportunity to experience as much wild game as possible. Factors involved are: maturity, where your pup is in his own individual development, and what part of the country you live in.


If you have the opportunity to shoot a bird over your young dog shortly before the opening of hunting season, do so. That way, you can orchestrate things a little better than in actual hunting conditions. You could do this with bobwhite quail released from a recall box.

Assuming you have been successful in all the preliminary gun conditioning as described in Chapter Six, and in the previous chapters on Field Conditioning and Water Condition, go out now and hunt for quail. When pup has a really good point, walk in boldly, flush the bird, and shoot it well. You want this first bird to fall down dead. You do not want it wing-tipped and running. Usually the pup is off and running toward the bird as soon as it flushes. When he reaches the bird, he may pick it up almost immediately and start back to you. Often the young dog isn't quite sure what to do. If he reaches the bird and doesn't pick it up immediately and start back, encourage him, "Good boy, good boy." Put lots of excitement and praise into your voice.

If he doesn't pick the bird up after one or two minutes walk to the bird and point to it and keep encouraging the dog. If he still doesn't grab it up, reach for it and offer it to the pup. Play with him with the bird to build enthusiasm. Only as a last resort, gently put it in his mouth, making sure his lips are not pinched against his teeth. These first few times should be pleasant experiences to store in his memory bank-you're not training, just showing pup what you want.

Once pup has the bird in his mouth, walk back to the spot where the dog pointed the bird, encouraging your dog to come with you. When you get there proceed just as if he has done the retrieve without your having to walk out there. Almost always, the young dog will bring the bird back, especially if you have been doing a good job of retrieving conditioning.

When he gets to you with the bird, which might still be alive, don't grab for the bird right away. Bring the dog to you; hang on to him by his collar, not by the scruff of the neck. Pet him; tell him how wonderful he is. Make a BIG FUSS over him. Then, say, "GIVE" and gently take the bird from him.

If the dog won't release the bird, take a good hold of the back of his collar and lift his front legs off the ground. This cuts off his breathing and he will spit the bird out. Two or three times of being choked will teach the dog about GIVE and he will also know that he gets to hang on to the bird for a minute before he has to give it up to BOSS.

After he releases the bird to you, stay down on your knees. Keep your hand around the bird; praise the dog quietly (sweet-talk). Let him nose the bird and get his fill of it. Then let him see you put the bird in your game pocket. If the dog should try to chew the bird, your hand on the bird will prevent the chewing, and still provide time for praise. If you are good buddies he won't chew hard on our hand. Pup probably has some bird feathers stuck in his mouth. You should help get rid of them. Pull as many feathers out of his mouth as you can. Having just gone through the sequence of finding, pointing, shooting and retrieving the first bird, you have undoubtedly just cemented a lifelong relationship of devotion and partnership.

If you don't have an opportunity to set this up before hunting season, then just go out after the season opens to a place you know holds wild birds. Do the same thing. Wait for the good point, walk in boldly, flush, and short the bird cleanly.

Additional sections included in this Chapter are:

  • Introduction to Upland Hunting
  • Variety of Game
  • Photos

American Hunter's gun dog editor, Bill McClure, says Bailey's book is different. He writes, ."With enthusiasm, the author emphasizes 'Use common sense, consistency, and a small dose of formal training, and you've got yourself a fine hunting dog.' That's what the book is about and believe me, it's a good one. . .I would recommend it to anyone about to start a young pup. Buy it before he comes home and memorize the first seven chapters. Then the next six.." Read the entire review...

outdoor life logoOutdoor Life's hunting dog editor for 25 years, Larry Mueller, says: "Hopefully Joan Bailey's insight into the dog's first year will at last clarify this important subject. . .The timely thrust of this book is how to accomplish the amazing things that can be done ONLY while the dog is but a baby. . .If you have a pup don't put this book aside to read later." Read the entire review...

field and stream logoField & Stream's gun dog editor for 25 years, Bill Tarrant, said Bailey's book". . .is a stand-up, self-propelling training and dog behavior book that emphasizes the first days of a pup's life in effective training. . .Get yourself a copy of this fast-reading but fully detailed dog training manual and give your next pup a head start in life."

Main Sportsman "Once you’ve absorbed [Joan's] ideas, you’ll refer to the book often... You’ll learn to judge your dog and adapt this schedule to its individual personality … Dozens of photographs illustrate key moments in the growing relationship between dog and master. The captions are especially well written in plain language by a hunter for hunters; it’s designed to help the dog owner who “wants to go hunting, not training.” If that description fits you, get this book before your next puppy. You’ll replace anxiety about training with confidence and pleasing expectations. When the dog senses this attitude, he’ll respond in kind, and your years together will be better for it." (Steve Duren, writing for The Main Sportsman)

dogs in canada logo "Joan Bailey's credentials as an author on this topic are first-rate. She's familiar with the classic works in the field, has a wealth of experience as editor of The Gun Dog Supreme. . .and has been a field. . .judge of versatile hunting dogs for. . .two decades. . .HOW TO HELP GUN DOGS TRAIN THEMSELVES offers an organized and readable approach to training." (Sandy Gunn, writing for Dogs in Canada) 


Website review of How to Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves:

October 2015, Wyoming Wildlife

“The Art of the Uplands, Training taps.”

Tom Reed

In his comprehensive article, the Art of the Uplands, Tom wrote of his own experiences in raising and Training a hunting dog. He writes “…Hang around gun dog people long and you will fine out that advice is free and freely given. Take everything with a grain of salt, including this article. But there is one book, more than any other that has guided my dog training for 30 years: How to Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves by Joan Bailey. Every time I’ve taken on a new pup, I’ve pulled out a well-worn copy of that book and Read it all over again, chuckling at the 1970’s-era photographs. But Bailey’s words work for me and they have worked for all of my gun dogs over the years. I’ve tried to adhere to the book as much as possible and heed its advice to not be too serious or too rigid in training a young dog…”

"The best book there is on raising and training young hunting dogs of any breed is Joan Bailey's How To Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves." John McGonigle in his regular column on flushing dogs, Gun Dog Magazine, March/April 2008.

“…The book you should have bought…is called How to Help Gun dogs Train Themselves by Joan Bailey (no relation)…Actually, it would have been better if you had bought the book before you got the pup so you could have avoided accidental mistakes…Joan Bailey’s book will tell you what you should be doing so your pup is in the best position to learn and to take further training…” Dr. Ed Bailey, Gun Dog Magazine, August 2007

“Joan Bailey, an experienced field trial judge, award-winning writer, and long time editor of The Gun Dogs Supreme, offers spot-on-training advice for sporting dogs in this revised edition of How to Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves. Bailey stresses making the most of a pup’s developmental time.” Ducks Unlimited, Sept/Oct 2011

English springer spaniel breeder in Wisconsin: “If you can have only one training book, it should be How to Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves."

“…I often refer to this fine book, which is based upon early conditioned learning for both pointing and flushing breeds, when training my own dogs. The author, who has won many writing awards and is a 20-year field judge of versatile hunting dogs, writes in a clear, no-nonsense style. With the help of 130 photos, she imparts tips and techniques for socializing and conditioning, cultivating natural hunting instincts, and avoiding mistakes that can ruin a good gun dog…” Tom Huggler, Michigan Out-of-Doors. Tom also writes regularly for Pointing Dog Journal.

“I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your book and that it really fills a slot in the training and development of gun dogs that is all too often ignored or taken for granted…I’ve gotten some good information from your book…I guess that the biggest thing for us has been spending the extra time with a pup that first and most important year. After that it has paid big dividends…it was a very good job on your part and very much needed and I hope it’s well received and most importantly, very heavily read by folks with their new puppies. I’m going to recommend it as a ‘must read’ book for folks we place puppies with. It’s got the ‘right stuff’ to start a puppy’s first year and to build the foundation.” Ken Osborn, Trainer, Northern California.

"The one book I would recommend over all others for giving you and your pup a level playing field is How to Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves, written by Joan Bailey.and is endorsed by a lot of very knowledgeable dog people." Dr. Edward D. Bailey, Professor of Animal Behavior, University of Guelph, Canada, from Gun Dog Magazine, August/September, 2001.

"New dog owners, if they really want the best should own the following books: Training Your Retriever by James Lamb Free, Wing & Shot by Bob Wehle, and How To Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves." Jack Dallimore, long-time NAVHDA, WPGCA, and KDK field judge

“Hi Joan, it’s been a while since I contacted you…However, your name still rolls through my mind and voice on a regular basis. Whenever I meet someone with a new gun dog pup, I always recommend your book How to Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves. And of course I tell the story of how I came to know you…so many years ago…Despite many, many years of training dogs and helping others with their dogs and problems, the family and I have followed your advice in the book to the letter with the new little one. The result? An awesome young lady who is exceptionally well behaved, well balanced, easy to train, and a hunting machine already! The psychology and research behind the practical advice in your book works like magic. John Mann, Ontario, Canada, October 2008.

“…I just got my first gun dog and am a beginner with a hunting background. Would like to do my dog justice and let her do what she was bred to do. She’s a 13 week Spinone pup and had I not read How to Help…I would have made so many mistakes already!” Donna Gimler, Kansas, March 2009

photo 1

Young dog on her way to becoming a reliable retriever.

"Dear Joan: Wow! I should have bought this book years ago! Up until now, my favorite dog book has been Konrad Lorenz's Man Meets Dog. I like yours better and I've only had it three hours. The young Britt is doing great. . . Thanks again." Russ Stauff, Oregon, July 2000.

". . .I'm getting a new pup and I used your book with my first dog and it worked great. It's a bible for me. Now I need a copy for my 12 year old stepson to read before the new pup arrives." Dan Michels, Alaska, August 2000.

". . .I've got 15 dog books, but yours is the basic one. If you are only going to have one book, it should be this one." Bruce Thoms, Michigan, October 2000.

"Thank you so much for sending the book before payment. My husband hasn't put it down. Puppy arrives in less than a month. Thanks again." Janet Brotschot, Washington, June 2001.

". . .Enjoyed my first copy, as have many of my hunting friends. That [first] copy is still circulating somewhere! Looking forward to reading [my new copy] again. Thank you." Ed Pugliese, New York, July 2001.

"Read your book.Loved it. I thought I knew it all and you surprised me. Good back up stuff for the breeder." Jack Lulack, Montana

"Am having a delightful time with THE BOOK-well done! Bravo! Wish I would have had it 25 years ago. Had to learn the hard way." Rolf Benseler, Northern California

"Your book is great! I certainly wish I had the benefit of your book when I bought my first bird dog, a little Brittany spaniel, many years ago." Brad Meyen, Alaska

Dear Joan. . .a few months ago I ordered your book How To Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves. Just wanted you to know that it is an awesome book! Have gone through it once already and now am going back a second time to read things over more carefully. This is EXACTLY the kind of book I've been looking for. Truly. As a soon-to-be-first-time-gun-dog-owner, your book was extremely reassuring. Thank you!"
Anna Ziedins, California, June 2001.

photo 2

Helping the boss pick up the decoys at the end of the day.

"My pup is 10 weeks old and I've started her but desperately need your book.I've started two dogs using your book. One was a puppy and one a 4-year-old stray Brittany. I pressed on with my stray Brittany and your technique worked beautifully!!! On our last hunt of the season, she pointed quail, rabbit and pheasant in one day while retrieving all species. She was a good retriever on doves and ducks as well. We lost her to cancer.I look forward to getting [a new copy] of your book. It's a treasure." Dan Steigerwald, Kansas

"Joan, thank you again for all the great tips in your book How To Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves. This book has become my go to library of what to do and not do with my Vizsla. I have never read a book that lays out the first 12 months in a new dog's life so easily especially for someone that has never owned a pointing dog before, let alone a versatile breed. I have recommended your book countless times to other hunting dog owners." Shawn Olsen, Bozeman, Montana, 2005

"Congratulations! You have written one of those books that any hunting dog owner can read and understand. Truly a book I could not put down. This book should accompany every gun dog puppy going to its new home and be required reading for Pup's new Boss. Like most new pup owners, I taught my new charge to sit, only to experience the problem discussed in "When to Teach A Pointing Dog Sit." I have trained many dogs as retrievers and read with great interest your thoughts on Force Retrieving or Natural Retrieving. I am proud to own a copy of your book and know that it will be well received!" Bobby Carlson, New Jersey

“It is my opinion that the most important part of a dog’s life is the first year. This is when hereditary tendencies are shaped and formed into behaviors. Knowing how to shape them into behaviors that you want is very helpful and makes other training through the course of the dog’s life much easier. If a puppy learns how to learn, teaching them new tricks when they are older is not difficult. The best book to help that process is the Bailey book, How To Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves. We recommend it above all others on our list of books that we give to puppy buyers.” Jason Givens, Springer Spaniel breeder, Wisconsin.

“...What I found in my research is that there is no one way to train a pointing dog, and there is a lot of conflicting advice floating around. Your name, not the name of the book, kept popping up in forums and internet articles, and the consensus was that your book was helpful in socializing and the early conditioning of the puppy. I have never seen a negative comment about your book, only positive comments. I completed my first reading this afternoon. It is an excellent book, handling a subject matter of substance often overlooked by authors of how-to books. Now I'm not surprised that I saw so many admiring references to your book on the Internet. I found it a good book not only for first-time gun dog owners, but also your experienced dog persons. Not only did I discover new tips in your book, but I was reacquainted with things I once knew and had forgotten.” Denis Richter, Nevada, Feb, 2005

 Website review of How to Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves:

 October 2015, Wyoming Wildlife  “The Art of the Uplands, Training taps.”

o:p>n his comprehensive article, the Art of the Uplands, wrote of his own experiences in raising and training a hunting dog.

Tom Reed i

He writes “…Hang around gun dog people long and you will fine out that advice is free and freely given. Take everything with a grain of salt, including this article. But there is one book, more than any other that has guided my dog training for 30 years: How to Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves by Joan Bailey. Every time I’ve taken on a new pup, I’ve pulled out a well-worn copy of that book and Read it all over again, chuckling at the 1970’s-era photographs. But Bailey’s words work for me and they have worked for all of my gun dogs over the years. I’ve tried to adhere to the book as much as possible and heed its advice to not be too serious or too rigid in training a young dog…” 


More than 220 information-packed pages and more than 130 photographs showing you exactly how to bring your pup along using easy, informal, time-tested methods.