A well-trained gundog is a delight to behold, and visitors to the Royal Bath & West Show can see some impressive displays in the Woodland and Countryside Arena. But what does it take to train a dog to that standard? With over 30 years’ experience in training gundogs Graham and Karen Watkins are certainly in the know – Graham lets us in on their top training tips.
- Don’t start training too early. Working gundog instincts don’t kick until they’re five months old. “Up until then the main reason to be training them is to stimulate them – it should be all about fun,” he says.
- Make yourself the most important thing in their life. “You’ve got to make yourself more important than anything else.”
- Put the time in. “We use tennis balls and we just do a 20-minute lesson most days, and it takes about eight weeks of training to train a dog well enough to take shooting.”
- Keep them close. “Don’t let them go far away from you when they’re puppies – no more than 20 yards.”
- Create habits. “It’s all about cultivating habits – make it so they don’t want to go far from you.”
- Don’t let it get boring. “There are only two or three retrieves in a puppy before they get bored, make sure they don’t get dormant.”
- Be consistent. “Most people aren’t thorough enough with their obedience – it needs to be 100% of the time or at least 90% – otherwise there’s no point.”
There is a whole host of different things to see in the Woodland and Countryside Arena, from the heavy horse display to fly casting, terrier racing, falconry, ferret racing and the Dog and Duck Show.