What are the benefits of one-to-one gundog training?

What are the benefits of one-to-one gundog training?

Whether you want to work your dog on a shoot - beating, picking up or on the peg - or if you’re looking for a fun hobby to participate in with your pet gundog, delving into the world of gundog training with your labrador retriever, spaniel, or hunt, point, retrieve (HPR) breed is an adventure like no other.

Tapping into your gundog's natural abilities to hunt and retrieve and progressing with breed-specific training can help you unlock their full potential. It can also provide an outlet for their instincts, which, if suppressed, can cause problems on walks and at home, and it usually makes learning basic obedience, like sit, heel, and recall, much more rewarding and enjoyable for both of you.

If you and your pup thrive in a social environment and enjoy being around other handlers and their dogs, then joining a group class might be the way to go.

All classes at Teach Your Gundog are on a rolling basis, so that you can join any time. They provide a structured learning environment with regular, set schedules and progression plans. They’re also the most affordable training option.

Some gundogs, however, struggle to focus around other dogs, and some don’t fit into an obvious class or are in between levels. Equally, some handlers have tight schedules and cannot make regular classes, and some just want to focus on teaching a specific behaviour.

If the latter sounds like you and your dog, we will explore the benefits of one-on-one gundog training in this blog and hear from someone who has first-hand experience training individually with Jules Morgan at Loxwood in West Sussex.

Remember: Whether you choose group classes or one-on-one sessions, the most important thing is to find a qualified gundog trainer who uses force-free, ethical, and positive reinforcement techniques and makes you and your dog feel comfortable and supported throughout the training process.

man participating in one to one gundog training session with Jules Morgan

Tailored solutions and targeted problem solving

Picture this: you and your gundog, working side by side with a dedicated professional trainer, focused solely on your pup's unique challenges and your specific goals. That's the beauty of one-on-one training—it's all about personalised attention and tailored solutions.

With no one but you to cater to, they allow for a bespoke approach, where every aspect of the training is finely tuned to match you and your gundog's unique personality and learning style.

Is your labrador struggling with hand delivery? Is your spaniel having trouble with recall? Individualised gundog training sessions truly shine in these situations.

They offer the perfect platform to tackle these challenges head-on without worrying if other people in the class are ‘bored’ because their dog has already perfected whatever behaviour you’re having challenges with.

While all the basic gundog cues are covered in group classes, sometimes our dog needs extra support and a different approach to help them have a lightbulb moment.

With one-to-one training, you and your instructor can hone in on one area and figure out exactly what’s causing the issue before working through different strategies and developing a customised training plan that will work for the dog you’ve got in front of you.

For instance, there are a wide range of reasons why your gundog might not be delivering the dummy into your hand. In a class, delivery might be covered broadly, with a few different techniques showing how to teach it, but your instructor may need more time to run through all the different ways it can be fixed.

In a one-to-one, however, you can really drill down to what your dog is thinking and why they behave the way they do. Using this information will allow your trainer to suggest techniques to help them without hindering your progress.

Not only that, but you have an unlimited opportunity to ask questions, as the instructor is just there for you. They can also provide immediate feedback and suggest how to improve your handling skills. Equally, if something isn’t right, the trainer can tweak the approach based on your dog's reactions to find what resonates best with your gundog.

Jules Morgan smiling in one to one gundog training session at Teach Your Gundog

Minimising distractions for maximum results

Socialisation is essential for our gundogs, especially puppies, and group classes offer an excellent opportunity for them to get used to being around other breeds in a controlled setting.

However, the abundance of distractions in a group setting can sometimes hinder their progress.

Our gundogs are bred for their keen instincts, sharp focus, and desire to hunt, chase, and capture game. But what makes them excel at gundog training can also be their own worst enemy in a bustling group class setting.

For instance, eager high drive dogs love nothing more than to retrieve the dummy. But this can make it incredibly challenging for them to sit patiently and watch others run out to the dummy they want so badly.

While we want our dogs to be steady and honour other dogs that are working near them, we do not want them to struggle or become overly frustrated as this can cause lots of unwanted behaviours like noise, lunging and then boiling over and losing their heads when it is finally their turn.

During adolescence too, when hormones are peaking, keeping our dog’s attention on the training can be challenging. Imagine being 18 again and trying to concentrate on your studies when someone attractive invites you to a party that is taking place right outside your window.

Again, in time, we want our gundogs to be able to work in the presence of these distractions, but that is a big ask in the beginning when they are being taught new behaviours and are still learning what we want them to do.

By comparison, one-to-one training sessions provide a sanctuary of concentration. Gone are the distractions of group settings; here, it's just you, your dog, and your trainer's undivided attention.

You can then work on teaching your core behaviours so that when you return to class, you can use the distractions to proof and strengthen your behaviours instead of trying to battle against them.

Multiple gundogs at a one to one training session with Teach Your Gundog

Flexibility at your fingertips

Life can be hectic, but your gundog training schedule doesn't have to be. If you already have a jam-packed calendar or travel a great distance to train with the right person, you might find it impossible to make regular group classes.

One of the benefits of one-to-one gundog training sessions is flexibility. You’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to choosing a time and date in your trainer’s calendar that also works with your schedule to ensure that training fits seamlessly into your life.

This approach also gives you control over how often you visit your trainer. For some people, a week flies by too quickly, and it seems you are back at training before you’ve really had a chance to practice your homework. Some also travel a few hours for training (people travel from across the South East of England to train with Jules at Teach Your Gundog which is located on the Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire border), so it is more practical for them to plan monthly or quarterly visits.

For those with multiple dogs, the one-to-one training approach offers maximum efficiency too. In most instances, handlers tend to have dogs at different levels, but beginner and advanced classes are typically held on other days, so one-to-ones can avoid the need for multiple trips.

And there’s more. Not only do you get to choose when and how often you train, as it is just you there, but towards the end of your one-to-one training sessions, you can also spend five minutes or so discussing what you need to work on before your next session.

You and your trainer can come up with a detailed, personalised gundog training plan that aligns with your goals and is based on the dog, or dogs, you have in front of you.

Spaniel at a one to one training session with Jules Morgan in Loxwood West Sussex

What happens in a one-to-one training session at Teach Your Gundog? 

We caught up with Philippa Vallely to learn more about her one-on-one gundog training session with Jules Morgan. Here’s what she had to say:

"Just before Christmas, I was lucky enough to win a training session with Jules Morgan, owner of Teach Your Gundog on the Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire border.

On Friday 15th March, I travelled to her fabulous grounds in Loxwood with my two spaniels, Bisto and Toffee.

Jules was kind enough to let me take both dogs for the session. She is familiar with both of them, as I worked with Bisto on the GTA Handler’s Course in 2022 and Toffee on the GTA Teacher’s Course in 2023. The first time I met Jules was when Bisto had just turned one, and she assessed him for his Gundog Club Grade One (I am pleased to say we got Distinction).

Jules is a great source of spaniel knowledge and gundog training, so I was very excited about this opportunity.

We started with Toffee. My goal for the session was to get Jules to analyse Toffee’s hunting and give her more experience with the sound of shot, plus practising stop-to-shot. This is hard to do when you mostly train by yourself, as you don’t want your dog getting used to the sound and dummies always coming from your direction.

I also wanted to get Jules’ view on Toffee’s marking skills, especially when the dummy is not coming from me.

We worked through some light cover. Toffee was initially not very enthused, but as she came across more scent she started working very nicely.

It was nice to see that all our hard work on a tighter but lively hunting pattern was paying off compared to last year. Jules, too, was happy with her hunting but not so happy with my liberal use of the turn whistle. I agree, so phasing that out is the next bit for me to focus on.

Toffee stopped to shot well and marked well, although she occasionally took her eye off the dummy to look at me. Jules gave me some valuable pointers on how to get her to keep her eyes on the mark, and we have since been working on that at home.

Next up was Mister Bisto, who was described to me this week as my PhD dog because he is giving me a full PhD in learning different training methods and approaches.

With Bisto, I also wanted to look at his hunting because I have difficulty getting him going when he knows it’s not a shoot day.

I can get him to hunt if game has been in the area and the right smells are there. But as soon as he sees someone with a training vest on, he knows that the dummies will come from them at some point, so the hunting becomes more like heelwork as he eyeballs the dummy thrower.

On our one-to-one with Jules, this scenario wasn’t very different. We took him out onto some boggy area next to a lake and set off. There had undoubtedly been water birds in there, and most likely game birds and deer, but he was not interested as the picture wasn’t right for him.

After a while, with Bisto apathetically running left and right and pretending to hunt, we changed the session's focus to just practising stop to shot. He knows how to do it, but instead, he decided that running in was the best thing ever. It was just one of those days. To steal from Forrest Gump, Bisto is like a box of chocolates. You never know which one you’re going to get. Sometimes, he’s absolutely amazing, and sometimes he’s absolutely exasperating. My PhD dog, indeed.

Jules and I had a good chat about this, and one phrase Jules used has stuck with me since. Trying to get him to hunt outside the beating line is like “trying to stick a square peg in a round hole”.

I knew this, realistically, in my heart. From a tiny 8-week-old puppy, Bisto has always been very clear and definitive about what he likes and doesn’t like, and this is one of those things.

He’s a cracking dog when hunting, absolutely loves picking up and is steady when birds are flushing, but he just can’t be bothered to perform out of that context. And why should he? It doesn’t make sense to his intelligent working brain. He is who he is, but it was good to go for this session and talk it through with Jules.

All in all, the one-to-one session was really useful and informative, and I feel so lucky to have had this opportunity. I will next be back in June, and I’m already looking forward to it."

If you would like to book a one-to-one gundog training session with Jules Morgan at Teach Your Gundog, please click here to view her diary.





📸 Photographs 1, 2, 3, 4 credit Alice Loder Photography

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