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Tips From One Newcomer to Another

Updated: May 26

Our blog this month comes from guest writer, Emily Cartigny, who is a relatively new handler and is training her first gundog, Merlot.

A black & white spaniel stood next to its handler.

Seeing your dog complete the task that they were bred for hundreds of years for, the job that they were born to do, especially when you’ve put in the hard work to get there, is incredibly gratifying. This is what the world of Gundogs can offer you. Yet, taking your first steps into this world can be equally daunting for both you and your four-legged friend. As a relative newcomer, these are my tips for anyone else starting out.

No Gear and No Idea

When I arrived at my first gundog training session, I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was wearing the “wrong” clothes, I had the “wrong” equipment, I certainly didn’t have much knowledge, and I even had a van that got stuck in the field (no 4X4 for me!). While this can be intimidating, what really matters is your enthusiasm. If you truly want to work hard with your dog, you should be welcome in any circle.

Find Your Tribe

If for any reason, you feel uncomfortable - try somewhere else. It can be overwhelming at first trying to understand the different training approaches and the different routes you can take with your dog, and you might find yourself in a place you’re not sure you like. That’s OK. At least now, you can rule it out. I promise you there’s a place for you in this world. It might just take a few attempts to find it. Once you do find your place, you’ll never look back.

Questions, questions, questions

When meeting new people, it’s only polite for them to get to know you. However, often well-intentioned questions can end up feeling like a pop quiz you didn’t know you were sitting. What breed they are? What lines are they from? Was their sire a Field Trail Champion (FTCh) in 2018? For most people, these are just genuine questions from people who love the world of dogs. As the owner of a Sprocker who came from no significant working lines, unfortunately, I sometimes felt a certain level of judgement when I gave my answer. If you come across the same thing, let it wash over you and prove them wrong! You’ll soon realise that it is your partnership and determination that matters.

Safe spaces for newbies

To get you started, there are some great groups that welcome newbies with open arms. The Ladies Working Dog Group is a great one, but there are also high-quality training groups around the country where your silly questions will get the empathetic response you need.

Three questions to keep asking yourself:

Whenever you’re working with a trainer or training group remember to ask yourself these three questions:

  • What am I doing? It’s always good to make sure you understand the exercise!

  • Why am I doing it? This will help you start to understand the theory behind training your dog.

  • Am I comfortable with it? Even if you’re new, you can trust your gut on this one. If the answer is No, for whatever reason, it’s OK to sit it out.

While the journey is unlikely to be wholly positive, for every negative experience, there have been ten good ones. Meeting my training group is now a highlight of my week. If you ever feel unsure, all you have to do is look into the eyes of your best friend and you’ll know you’re not alone.

You can follow Emily's journey with her Sprocker Merlot on her Instragram page @lesadventuresofmerlot

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1 comentario

Miembro desconocido
31 jul 2023

Great advice! I think the LWDG is the perfect place to start if you haven’t got a clue what you’re doing. There’s no such thing as a daft question, and it’s a community of supportive and friendly women. Good luck with the rest of your journey Emily, I’ll be following on Insta 🥰. Laila x

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