Gundog training might be one of the oldest dog sports, and it’s still very popular to this day. Several trainings methods have been developed in the past years and there doesn’t seem to be a right or wrong. It’s notable that more and more gundog owners choose to train their dog with the help of positive reinforcement and the use of clickertraining. This is still an upcoming training method in this sport but it’s becoming increasingly popular. Clickertraining and gundog training don’t seem to be a perfect match at first glance, and many beginning gundog owners stumble upon questions on how to match gundog training with the clicker method. The book Retrieving For All Occasions, written by the Swedish gundog trainers Elsa Blomster and Lena Gunnarsson answers a lot of these questions for beginning and experienced gundog owners. Next to the Swedish version the book is now available in English as well.
The training philosophy of both trainers easily shines through: positive reinforcement, a solid training structure and based on success. The reader gets a walkthrough along the development of a good training structure for every exercise. The base of this all is to be able to praise the dog for desired behavior while undesired behavior will be prevented as much as possible. The trainings method is based purely on praise and without a form of correction. To do this successfully, the owner of the dog must have the knowledge about the training structure so that he or she is always in control over the situation. Does the dog react in an unexpected way? The behavior will be ignored or stopped without the use of a correction, and the owner will have to get back to his or her training plan for adjustments to prevent future mistakes.
The influence of clickertraining in this book is large and is easily translated to exercises from gundog training. Like the title insinuates, it doesn’t matter what’s the goal of the gundog owner: “for all occasions.” The book describes all abilities that are used in the different hunting and workingtests for both retrievers and spaniels worldwide, there’s information about practical hunting and also the owners who train just for fun will find tons of inspiration in this book. Clickertraining is fully integrated in the exercises from gundog training with the use of simple tasks and many examples. It follows the techniques that we often see in clickertraining where an exercise is divided into many small steps which are eventually chained together after the dog has learned them separately. This method makes it easier for both the dog and owner to master complicated exercises without too much pressure.
It quickly becomes clear that this book is meant to be brainwork for the gundog owner. The exercises are described extensively but the main goal seems to be to give the owner insight in the exercise before he or she starts working with the dog. By gaining insight in the way dogs learn and react to different methods we find out how we can teach the dog different exercises in a reliable and efficient way by using positive reinforcement. All information provided in this book is based on the many years of experience both authors have as gundog trainers. This is how they include often made mistakes per exercise and advice on how to prevent them. The information provided leaves room for the differences in temperament the individual dogs can have. The exercises are described for both the very driven field trial Retriever as well as the easily distracted Spaniel and anything in between. It’s up to the owner to decide which description matches his or her dog best for each exercise.
The book is not only divided in different chapters based on the several aspects of gundog training, but each chapter also includes a clear structure. Except for the useful information, you will also find multiple easy to perform exercises that help the dog master the complete exercise in every chapter. A returning subject in the book is playing. Learning through playing is used frequently and returns in every chapter. It breaks with the myth that says that gundogs shouldn’t be allowed to play by teaching several ways where playing helps increase the abilities needed for gundog training. This includes steadiness, delivering a retrieve and mastering a perfect retrieve. The end of each chapter gives a summary of the most important information that was described in the previous pages. In some cases it’s combined with a few exercises that teaches the owner how much the dog has mastered this part of the training. These exercises are also divided into small, easy steps where the owner can check off the steps that the dog can do successfully. Additionally, each chapter contains several useful tips and tricks as little notes next to the given information.
Most gundog owners who read this book will learn that gundog training includes more theory than they originally thought. The structured way the training is arranged is based on many rules that the owner should follow. The development of a training is the most important factor for success and asks for good planning and multiple adjustments along the way. A good trainer will set up a training plan that will be adjusted as the training progresses. This is done by teaching the owner how to set up a solid training plan. After each session the owner is supposed to check back on it and see if any adjustments should be made. This makes the training plan a dynamic feature that cannot be written just once, but rather develops over time to reach the eventual goal.
Except for the book, there are more ways to learn about this method of gundog training. The authors are both active as gundog trainers for group trainings, private lessons and during several workshops and seminars about gundog training for retrievers and spaniels. A fairly new method of teaching in Europe is through online lessons of gundog training. The different subjects of gundog training are available through online courses of Retrieving for all Occasions. Owners get to choose online courses with or without personal feedback on the website. The written information is supported by the use of video footage and many easy to follow examples. During the online course the information is provided in small parts in a few days time. They offer online courses for certain parts of gundog training such as heelwork, delivering a retrieve and the stop whistle. There are also extended online courses for both beginning gundogs and owners and experienced handlers and dogs.
A lot of the written information is supported by video footage that’s accessible through the Youtube account of Retrieving for all Occasions. There you will find the different subjects of training and an easy to follow development into these training techniques. Together with the book this forms a solid base for both beginning and experienced gundog owners. For beginning owners it’s recommended to read the entire book before the training of the puppy starts. For experienced gundog owners the book can be a good addition to the current training. Gundog owners will often find themselves checking back on certain chapters of the book in order to gain inspiration for training or to fix mistakes that have been made in the training plan. The authors make clear in the foreword that the complete training of a gundog is a long way with many different options. Readers can read the entire book and learn about the philosophy of this training method completely and integrate the parts that they find useful in their everyday training routine. Everyone will have to decide for themselves which road they want to follow and which suits them and their dog best. This book is only one resource that gundog owners can consult. However, this is the first time an entire book is based on gundog training with the use of clicker training and solely positive reinforcement for retrievers and spaniels. A convenient tool for everyone who is looking for a clear and structured way to work with this method in the gundog sport.