Over the course of the last few weeks, I’ve received dozens of messages from bird hunters excited to welcome a puppy into their lives for the first time this spring. Most of these messages have revolved around one central question:
“Do I have any tips for starting off on the right foot in a pup’s training process?”
Yes, yes I do. Although it was first published in 1961, it’s my opinion Richard Wolters’ book Gun Dog remains the gold standard for beginning bird dog owners.
- Fundamentals of Obedience. While the book covers more advanced elements of your hunting dog’s education (introduction to guns, birds, and water), it’s Wolters’ focus on the basics of obedience that keep me pointing folks toward Gun Dog as a wonderful foundation upon which to create the bird dog of your dreams.
- Visual Learners. Gun Dog is also filled with photos and easy-to-understand captions of the training process. Like a good cookbook that includes a snapshot from every step of a recipe, Wolters does a wonderful service to the reader including photos to bring home his text for more visual learners.
- Bowties & Bird Dogs. Speaking of photos, I always get a kick out of the photos of Wolters training his English setter in his bowtie. The point being, Wolters’ training exercises are short and easy for the bird dog owner after a long work day.
- Breed Agnostic. It doesn’t make any difference if you own a Lab, springer, or German wirehair, Gun Dog is a versatile training guide for retrievers, flushers or pointers.
As you progress in the training process, you’ll encounter folks who disagree with some of the finer points of Wolters’ instructions. For instance, some pointing dog trainers nowadays don’t want to teach their dog the sit command out of concern a point will slide into a sit. Additionally, Wolters’ text came prior to the advent of e-collars as training tools. There is no doubt some things have changed in the 53 years since Wolters wrote Gun Dog. The basics haven’t changed and that’s where Gun Dog shines.
I’ve used Wolters’ principles to help me establish the fundamentals in two German shorthaired pointing bird dogs that have also doubled as obedient members of our family. I plan to use Wolters’ guidance again on my pup to arrive this summer. If you’re looking for the first building block in training a bird dog yourself, then Wolters’ Gun Dog is a fantastic place to start.
The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.