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Work Based Learning role description:

The Gundog Trainer

The Gundog Trainer has acquired on the job vocational training in training dogs on a one to one basis, whether this is as a full or part-time professional dog trainer.

The emphasis on the Gundog Trainer is one of training the dog rather than training the dog owner, hence the possible lack of specific experience in people skills, people training skills, people psychology skills or people body language awareness.

The Gundog Trainer needs to have in-depth knowledge of how dogs develop from birth to old age, how dogs communicate with other dogs and other species, how the pack hierarchy is established within a dog pack and a mixed-species pack and how that effects the dog’s behaviour when it meets with others of its own species.  An expert in weighing up each dog’s natural talent or innate instinct for the task required, be that retrieving, flushing or scenting ability. Once this has been established an individual training programme can be designed for that dog.

The Gundog Trainer needs to have an appreciation of the importance of breeding lines, especially if working to pair up dogs with owners. Knowledge of the different types of gundog breed types is essential, (that is HPR, Retrievers and Hunting Retrievers) as is the knowledge and ability of how to motivate the different types as well as the individual. The Gundog Trainer will have experience in kennel management and care, using his expertise to harness the kennel environment to enhance the training success of individual breeds and dogs.

Having experience of owning a dog, although not essential, is highly desirable so that experience is gained first hand of the joys as well as the trials and tribulations of dog ownership. It is essential however, that they have worked a gundog at a shoot in any capacity and that they have knowledge of shooting etiquette as well as the various tests, trials and scurries available in the gundog world.

Reflective Learning

As a dog trainer, of any kind whether that’s club or professional, adult dogs or puppies, we are constantly evaluating what we are doing when we are doing it.

We start training an exercise and modify what we are doing depending upon the response we get from the dog we are training. Sometimes we change our position, the dog’s position, the motivating force (us, toy, food etc.,) or the equipment we use. As a dog trainer we just call that dog training, however, in the work based learning arena it’s called being a “reflective practitioner”.

It is imperative that dog trainers realise that they are reflecting back; not only with the dog they have in front of them but of past cases and dogs they’ve worked with. A dog trainer cannot progress without this aspect of experiential learning, it would be impossible as no two dogs are the same and no two will react in the same manner.

Although we do it automatically, the importance of reflection in learning at work and awareness of the process, needs to be acknowledged for an individual to be able to carry out any kind of self-accreditation via the work based learning scheme.

Technical and textbook knowledge, though important, is insufficient to prepare individuals to be practising professionals. Knowing how or “knowing-in-action” must also be recognised as important. Knowing-in-action is referred to tacit and intuitive, rather than explicit knowledge, learned through doing rather than in the classroom. It is the kind of knowledge that underpins much everyday activity, whether at work or not.

Knowing-in-action is vital for dog trainers, as, as we all know, ‘real’ world problems tend to be “messy” rather than well formed. Problems with dogs tend to come along in rapid succession depending upon our reaction rather than nicely organised “first solve this problem, then solve that” as is often written in dog training books. Also some problems may well be unique to that situation, in the sense that they do not fit theoretical categories and therefore do not lend themselves to the applications of rules from the profession’s theoretical knowledge base.

When something untoward does happen it is likely to reflect on what’s going on in the midst of the activity itself. It is a consequence of this process that is known as “reflection-in-action” ie., thinking about what we’re doing while we’re doing it and changing the process as we go along.

To be able to put into practice these reflective skills, both during and after the action, is what makes you a truly reflective practitioner.

Donald Schon (1983, 1987)

Comparative Assessment elements:

In general an Animal Behaviour Degree will average 1800 hrs study time on wild animals and some domestic species. Dog specific theory is generally taught at less than 5% of the entire degree and rarely by a dog expert but by a teacher who has no practical experience. Animal behaviour degrees are not an expertise level in dog behaviour, training, theory or otherwise.

All vocational learning in canine work-based roles should be taught by highly skilled people with extensive hands-on experience. Degrees obtained, therefore, provide targeted theory learning in canine behaviour and training as well as extensive hands-on work to prepare the student for their chosen vocation.

Minimum vocational training requirements

As a dog trainer

As a dog Training instructor

As a Professional trainer

As a Gundog trainer

Dogs handled

Total number of hours required

Theory / academic knowledge

Reading for interest




Watching DVDs







Practical experience / courses attended

Courses attended





Indvidual dogs trained


(150 dogs)

Breeds handled - minimum


(20 breeds)

Drives participated in


(50 drives)

Different shoots attended


(3 shoots)


Adult dog classes



Puppy classes



On-to-one training sessions



Mentored learning

Observation of / attending training / classes



Instructed learning one-to-one



Teaching assistant: adult dog classes



Teaching assistant: puppy classes









Overview of minimum skills and experience required:

The Gundog Trainer will be an experienced Professional Dog Trainer. As such the minimum skills and experience required apply.




Knowledge of specific gundog breed type



Hunting Pointing Retrievers

and what motivates each ‘type’

Shoot etiquette

Gun law

Starter pistols and launchers

Dummies and their uses

Decoys and their uses

Basic Gundog training

Whistle sit

Whistle recall

Puppy retrieve

Formal retrieve including


Casting off


Finishing to heel

Dropped retrieve

Thrown retrieve


Intermediate gundog training



Directional control

Blind retrieves

Holding the point

Whistle stop

Advanced gundog training

Turning on the whistle

Introducing the gun

Rehabilitating gun-shy dogs

Plus training all of the above on cold game & where appropriate in the water

How to motivate

Basic gundog training skills

Intermediate gundog training skills

Advanced gundog training skills

Equipment usage

Dummies & dokens


Dummy launchers, stocks and remotes

Starter pistols


Pens and corridors

Spatial awareness when training

Awareness of other dogs, handlers or objects in the area whilst working with a dog so as not to stress the dog by banging into things or moving across the path of another dog.

Environmental awareness when training

A high awareness of events happening during training is crucial, for example knowing who is coming into the area and with what.


When training you need to be aware of change as and when it happens and be able to deal with it, for example if a dog is brought for training one week wearing a soft collar and a harness the next

The Work Based Learning Path to being a Gundog Trainer

More often than not, our path to being a Gundog Trainer starts when we get our first gundog or gundog-cross. Learning very quickly that the way to keep our gundog contented and fulfilled we generally start to train them to that which they've been bred for, either on our own in a field or by finding a gundog trainer. Once on the path to training a gundog and owning a trained gundog, the average dog owner just wants to learn more and more which can lead to training non-gundogs or just specialising immediately, however, the basic training for a gundog is the same as any other dog and the professional Gundog Trainer needs to be able to train to a very high standard of obedience.

Casual observation / formal observation

Owning and training own puppy

Dog Training

Ancillary Work Based Learning Skills

As well as being an established Gundog Trainer, the candidate may also have a plethora of other dog training skills, attended many courses and achieved many awards on a personal basis with their own dogs.

They may have qualifications outside of the Dog Training arena that contribute to their competence, confidence and skill as a Gundog Trainer and, under the Work Based Learning ethos, these should be acknowledged and recognised as achievements to date within the profession.

Accomplishments and Qualifications

Training course providers

Personal (Work Based) Achievements

Cambridge Institute for Dog Behaviour & Training

Animal Care College

Guide dog training

National Association of Security Dog Users

Home Office police dog training

The British Institute of Professional Dog Trainers

Other courses are also available

KC Competition obedience

KC Beginner

KC Novice

KC A B C comp-C

KC Agility

KC Working Trials




KC Field Trials

KC Bloodhound Trials

KC Herding Tests

Search & Rescue Cert

KC Accredited Instructor

The Kennel Club (KC) standards are some of the best in the world and to compete and win is an acknowledgement comparable with other high standards of training knowledge as in the horse world and international competitive events.