List of Roles: 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.

Minimum vocational training requirements As a dog trainer As a dog training instructor As a professional trainer As a gundog trainer Dogs handled Hours required
Theory / academic knowledge
Reading for interest 150 200 350
Watching videos 50 50 100
Coursework 250 250
Practical experience / courses attended
Courses attended 100 100 100 300
Individual dogs trained 150 150 (dogs)
Breeds handled - minimum 20 20 (breeds)
Drives participated in 50 50 (drives)
Different shoots attended 3 3 (shoots)
Teaching
Adult dog classes 100 100
Puppy classes 50 50
On-to-one training sessions 100 100
Mentored learning
Observation of / attending training / classes 150 150
Instructed learning one-to-one 200 200
Teaching assistant: adult dog classes 50 50
Teaching assistant: puppy classes 100 100
Totals 900 250 350 250 150 1750

Overview of minimum skills and experience required:

Theoretical

Knowledge of specific gundog breed type:

  • Retrievers
  • Spaniels
  • 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:

  • Marking
  • Casting off
  • Presenting
  • Finishing to heel
  • Dropped retrieve
  • Thrown retrieve
  • Steadiness

Intermediate gundog training:

  • Hunting
  • Quartering
  • 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

Practical

How to motivate
Basic gundog training skills
Intermediate gundog training skills
Advanced gundog training skills
Equipment usage
Dummies & dokens:

  • Decoys
  • Dummy launchers, stocks and remotes
  • Starter pistols
  • Whistles
  • Pens and corridors

Operational

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.

Continuity
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

Theoretical

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

Personal (Work Based) Achievements

KC Competition obedience

KC Beginner
KC Novice
KC A B C comp-C

KC Agility
KC Working Trials

UD/UDX
CD/CDX
WD/WDX

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.

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” i.e., 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.