Diary of a Gundog: From Puppy To First Shoot. Episode 1 – Entering The Family Home


Our new series of blog posts will follow a gundog puppy from meeting his family to first shoot. We’ll look at the huge amount of work involved in training a gundog, any unwanted behaviours and how they are dealing with them. We’ll also find out a lot about the pros and cons of combining a high-energy dog with everyday family life.

Oscar1Meet Oscar – the Newest Member of the Family

At approximately 10 weeks old, Oscar, a yellow Labrador puppy bred from good shooting stock, was brought home to meet his new family. As newcomers to training a puppy, the family were careful to choose a good dog breeder and a puppy bred from good parents, which should make their job easier. In these initial first few days the priority was ensuring he settled well with the family, whilst at the same time putting boundaries in place for his life in their home. A fine line to tread, his family managed to ensure that he wasn’t distressed at night time, without bringing him upstairs; a rule they were keen to keep to. Oscar barely cried once left alone downstairs in his crate and slept well to the relief of the family. Similarly during the day, Oscar would need to get used to being left at home alone. They began with very short periods of leaving him. At first ten to twenty minutes, whilst they stayed in the garden, and then twenty minutes whilst they popped to the village shop, gradually increasing the length of time. Each time he was left, they would use the word ‘stay’ and a raised palm hand command, so that this could be reinforced in later training.

His crate and his blanket are where he sleeps at night time, where he lies for family meals and where he is left when the family leave the house. It is vitally important that he does not see it as a punishment in any way and the family are satisfied that he is happy to go there and sees it as his safe haven, where he can go for some rest. With young children in the house it is also important that they understand that Oscar needs peace and quiet sometimes and time to sleep undisturbed. When he is in his crate, he is left in peace.

oscar2Oscar would like to try out his teeth on a whole host of objects in the home and of course this must be discouraged. He has his own toys that he is allowed to chew and is encouraged to play with these rather than children’s shoes or family possessions. Unwanted chewing is dealt with swiftly, the object removed and placed out of reach, to be replaced with his designated toys and plenty of praise for playing with those instead. Toilet training is attended to in a similar way. With two school age children, the family are well practised on this subject! They judge when he is most likely to need to go and take him outside. Praise and affection is given for anything he does outside, whilst accidents indoors are cleaned up with minimal attention.

Unable to venture out where other dogs have possibly been until ten days after the last jabs, Oscar was going to be a very tying commitment for the family during this initial period, particularly over the course of the school summer holidays and a family trip away. At home, Oscar was allowed out into the garden under a watchful eye, but further walks into the village or the surrounding area would have to wait. For people with a passion for the outdoors, this was naturally frustrating, but the knowledge that this phase would soon be over kept them going. The family holiday proved challenging, with the usual trips to the beach and moors out of bounds for Oscar. Taking turns to stay in with him, whilst the other parent undertook longer trips out with the children, or shorter trips and leaving Oscar in a well ventilated car, would have to suffice this holiday.

Now the end is in sight and the family are looking forward to taking Oscar on his first walks. The new phase will see a continuation of more thorough training on coming on command, staying to heel, getting used to rivers and streams and other vital gun dog skills. It is expected that Oscar will only need a lead at the school gates and for busy places, as is common with gun dogs, so obedience training starts early.

The basics have already been put in place, with Oscar knowing his name, understanding ‘yes’ and ‘no’ and beginning to stay and come on command (more on this in Episode 2). This has been implemented gradually in the home and garden, at mealtimes and during games, with an emphasis on friendliness and creating a bond. The aim is that Oscar will want to work for and obey his owners that he loves and trusts, whilst also recognising boundaries; building a firm relationship for years to come.

Settling In – Through Oscar’s Eyes (we hope!)

My new home is warm and cosy. I quickly found out that they come back downstairs in the morning and also come back when they go out of the house, so that’s okay. It’s very quiet when they’re not here. I like the children, they cuddle me, stroke me and play games with me. Sometimes there are other children too, this is very exciting, but I get told off for jumping up. The house is full of interesting smells, especially when someone is busy in the kitchen. Their dinner smells amazing, though I lie on my bed whilst they eat.

I love their garden. I like running round as fast as I can and there are so many interesting smells out there. Every time I find something interesting to eat, they take it off me though; snails, stones, sticks and anything else I can nab whilst they’re not looking. I don’t like being carried around outside. I want to get down and explore. They say I’ll be allowed to soon: I can’t wait.