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

american hunter logoGETTING THE RIGHT START

By Bill McClure, Gun Dog Editor

You would think, wouldn't you, that the last thing in the world we need is another dog training book. There must be at least a half dozen in print for pointing dogs, more for retrievers, and a few more for spaniel owners. Then there is a whole basket of videos also directed at training your dog. Well there is a new book, released this month, and it is different. The author believes you can, through the application of common sense and a little schooling, enable your puppy virtually to train himself.

joan with dog

Author Joan Bailey emphasizes an early start and positive reinforcement as the keys to making young dogs excellent hunters.

Although How To Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves, by Joan Bailey, will give you all the basic advice you need to select and develop a hunting dog, the attentive reader will note that its underlying message is based on a knowledge of how dogs learn. This knowledge has been growing in animal behavioral studies for the last 30 years, and the author makes much use of the important findings. From such theoretical studies Bailey has developed a fun-based, confident, sensitive leadership role for you, the teacher. Positive reinforcement, she insists, is the secret to achieving an accelerated learning curve in a young dog. The owner's task is to create a variety of structured family and field opportunities where the pup can become socialized to humans, develop a bond with his master that replaces the bond present between pack members, then learn to cooperate with you, his new leader. With enthusiasm, the author emphasizes that, "If you have a well-bred pup that is mentally stable, that has all the inherited natural abilities, you need only expose him properly. 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. Missing are the short cuts, the hype, and the claim that you can train your dog in a hurry. Present is the reality of dog behavior, how they learn and how they can be molded to see you as their leader. Within the context of that relationship, you can help them to learn and to be proud of themselves.

Joan Bailey has given the concepts in her book a great deal of serious thought. Active as an owner, breeder, and field trial judge in the United State, Canada, and Europe, her mastery of this gundog development philosophy is outstanding. So is her study of the literature on dog behavior. That is where this 206-page, well-illustrated, deluxe paperback really focuses your attention. Bailey excerpts the important findings in the science of canine behavior and then applies them to a way of relating to your dog and helping him to learn. The emphasis is clearly on having a good time, a relationship with your dog based on mutual need, gratification, and a positive outcome. In fact, for the first year of your dog's life, the author recommends that both of you should enjoy yourselves learning together. Boredom must be avoided like the plague, while the canine student is praised whenever he advertently or inadvertently responds to a command. Essentially this is a book for new owners of family gundogs, concentrating, as it does, on the first year of your dog's life. Bailey is convinced just as the famous British researcher Dr. John Bowlby was convinced back in the 1950s, as a result of his work on human infants, that what happens in the first year of life is crucial.

Bailey believes that in that first year you and your dog can lay the groundwork for learning that will make the next and subsequent years easier. The old idea of doing little until the dog is one year old is discounted, as research has demonstrated that puppy's ability to bond and learn reaches an apex at about 12 weeks. There is so much a young dog can master, not the least of which is the inclination to cooperate, that to not take advantage of the opportunity is almost a sin. Wise, intuitive sporting-dog people have always known this.

Thirty years ago one of the most successful amateur trainers I have ever known employed all of these early-conditioned learning techniques, long before the ideas were expressed in dog circles. He knew instinctively that the way to fashion a winning field trial dog was to make him your friend and student. He spent hours and hours in the company of his puppies. Not only was he developing bonds, while also socializing them, but he also evaluated their reactions to situations. He had, it was said, an eye for a dog. People were astonished when one of his protégés, under a year old, won an adult event in a field trial, while exhibiting perfect manners. He wasn't in the least surprised because he expected that his dogs would be cooperative, well integrated youngsters at 12 months of age. He worked to raise their confidence and ready them for the final, fine points of a gundog's adult learning.

Bailey wouldn't be surprised either, because that is exactly what she would expect the outcomes would be if you, as a new puppy owner, applied "consistency, repetition, common sense, and exposure," to the life of your pup. In her book, she emphasizes these four points then goes on to explain the universal rules of dog conditioning and advises you how to select a good pup. Calling on the expert literature in the dog field, the author gives sound advice on temperament, mental stability, and field-tested stock. An important part of the book is a long section of practical advice on preparations for receiving a new pup into you home and life. My experience is that all too often the practical preparations are not made and weeks of chaos result at a time when your family and your pup should be having a pleasant time. Chapters Five and Six should be required reading for every prospective puppy buyer. On second thought, I meet far too many owners who have gotten inadequate information from the breeder of their puppy, so I recommend these sections to all of those who sell gundogs.

Everyday occurrences with a gundog pup including house breaking, chewing, dragging, leash conditioning, and a host of others are discussed. So is early exposure to retrieving, the gun, and field work. Detailed advice is given on later field exposure including stern counsel against the use of planted birds and the shooting of a bird the pup has not handled properly. Introduction to water is given an entire chapter, as is the pup's first hunting season. The final chapter is a plea for understanding of dogs on the part of you the owner and a review of why such knowledge is important. Bailey then restates the formula for success; "Time, common sense, consistency, repetition, exposure, and more exposure, don't' try to go too fast, and let your dog teach you. Follow this formula and you will end up with a fine hunting partner. He won't be perfect, but then who of us really is?"

Although written from the perspective of the owner of a versatile pointing dog, I believe this book would benefit any sporting dog owner. The benefit goes beyond the clearly expressed advice contained in How to Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves. There are no gimmicks and no instant formulas, but instead a plea for reason, understanding, joy, pride, and wonder at a young dog's growth and development. Now that's my kind of dog book!"