Training gundogs is hugely rewarding, but it's worth knowing what you are getting yourself into. Janet Menzies shares what she wishes she'd known before she started gundog training

Starting gundog training is like entering into a marriage. Just as there are things you should know before you reach the altar, there are things you should know before that first pup arrives on your doorstep. Janet Menzies shares the things she wishes she’d known before she started gundog training.

There are many elements to gundog training but the sit command is the most fundamental of them all, and probably the first you will teach. Find out how to do it properly with Janet Menzies’ tips, read how to get your gundog to sit.


During my days as a tabloid hackette, I used to write a feature called Things I wish I’d known at the altar, in which celebrities were interviewed about marriage.

Inevitably the subjects were already on their fourth marriage or filing the divorce papers at the time of going to press. But just because you are incapable of following good advice doesn’t mean you are unable to give it.

Much-married Richard Harris (and locked in the gaze of those blue eyes it was understandable) told me: “The secret of a good marriage is separate bathrooms” – notice he said good rather than long, the two not necessarily being the same thing at all.

In gun dog terms this translates to, don’t have working dogs in the sitting-room, which is pretty good advice. It set me thinking about all the things I wish I’d known when I first started training and working gun dogs.

Unlike all those wonderful golden wedding anniversary couples who cite ‘give and take’ as the secret of their success, this motto didn’t spring to mind in terms of gun dogs.

In fact, I wish I’d known that if you give a young dog an inch you’ll soon find he takes yards out of you with every stride.


  • Cockers are not busy or merry, they are nuts. So, when someone tells you that they are demented bumblebees, listen.
  • Gundog manuals only go so far. No matter how many you read they never seem to cover the exact issues raised by your particular dog. They can be useful, though, for flinging at a dog that is running-in.
  • Be aware of the difference between the hunting and retrieving breeds. Try as hard as you can to hold off buying a puppy until you have a good idea of how the different breeds work and which will suit you.
  • Ask for advice. It will probably be years before you actually start taking it, but getting help is an essential first step towards learning.
  • Try not to get too serious. The first sign you are becoming a gundog anorak will be when your dog starts taking the mickey. Be aware and beware.
  • Even if you get to the stage of competing with or being paid to work dogs, keep hold of how much fun it is. Your day may be wet and tiring, but there will always be a nugget of pleasure in there.