What is a Gun dog
Three primary classifications of Gundog
The Gun dog is divided into three primary classifications based upon method of work which are Retrievers, Flushing Spaniels and Pointer breeds. The techniques used for training a dog depends very much on the type of work the dog is expected to perform.
Retrievers like the Labrador and working Golden Retrievers are generally known as the pickers up dog and are used to hunt and retrieve game that has been shot. A retriever should be trained to perform a set of particular tasks including;
Remain under control and remain sitting calmly and quietly until sent to retrieve. Watch and mark a falling bird or multiple birds. With the command Mark the dog should look and follow the bird and remember where it has dropped.
Retrieve after sent away, all birds that have been marked one at a time. The handler sends the dog out to retrieve the bird, guiding the dog with the use of a whistle and hand signals. Once retrieved the dog should gently but firmly hold the bird until commanded to release it to the handler’s hand.
The spaniel is especially bred to flush game and is generally known as the beaters dog, working the dense cover flushing pheasants and partridges. A spaniel or beaters dog should be trained to perform tasks such as;
Work within gun range and stay steady to the gun, they should be able to mark the fallen birds but not run out of the line to retrieve unless instructed.
They should be versatile hunters being able to quarter and hunt in open fields, woodlands, cover crop and hedgerows.
They should be trained to work at a certain distance away from handler. The instinct to chase a pushed bird, rabbit or hare should be controlled and the dog should be trained to come away when commanded. The beaters dog should be trained to disengage and remain calm and steady even when presented with high stimuli and excitement.
Pointing dogs were originally used by hunters not to flush but to allow the hunter to throw the net over the game before it flushed. A Pointer will freeze or set (hence the name Setter) and are now more often than not used by Falconers to flush game for the raptors. Although the Pointer is one of the most natural of working dogs, it should still be trained to perform a certain set of particular tasks;
Perform a good solid steady point, the dog should find and point out the location of birds without flushing or chasing. It should stop immediately or within a few steps of the game. Using a pointing stance so the hunter is aware of the game. Although not natural retrievers, the Pointer can be trained to find dead or wounded game.
The pointer must be trained to work ahead and independently away from the hunter, sometimes up to 300 yards plus away. With this type of distance the hunter must have 100% trust in the dog and control of its behaviour.
The Pointer is a specialist hunter and should only be trained to work by a specialist who understands the breed and it needs.
There are over 20 different gun dog breeds in the UK alone with all of them having different skill sets. They are the closest we can get to the original hunter gatherers dog with now three primary classifications. The classification is based upon the method of work they have been naturally bred to perform.