When you begin to train your dog, I believe it is important to start without distractions. The logic behind this is simple – it is easier for the dog to learn when you have it’s undivided attention than when it is surrounded by interesting scents, other dogs, traffic and so on. Try teaching a child how to do a sum when the TV is on and showing an interesting program; you will be wasting your time.

 So what can we train a dog (any dog; this does not apply only to gundogs) in the confines of a backyard? I am generally happy if the basic training for the following commands are completed;


Please note that these do not have to all be taught before you can take the dog out in the big wide world and teach it to cope with distractions, but it makes sense to teach each command somewhere quiet and familiar before asking the dog to cope with a new command and distractions.

The Sit!


Sit! This is the essential command of all – if you have ever seen a dog intent on crossing a busy road and not been able to stop it then you will know why.


The Recall (the Come! command)

dog retrieving a toyThe Recall is the second most important command. It allows you to bring your dog out of active danger. I always feel the sit (or stop) command gives you the power to stop the dog jumping in with the bull, but if you are too slow the recall lets you get it back out… and Jim’s bulls have always been slow to react, but his cows with calves can be a bit more temperamental.



 One of Jim’s bulls… placid, even when a german shorthaired pointer jumps the gate without you expecting it, hits the top bar and rolls between his legs…


The Down

The down can be taught in much the same way as the sit, with food treats being used to encourage the dog into a comfortable position.



The Finish

The finish is the final step in the recall or retrieve, if you want the dog to return to your side ready for another retrieve or to walk off.