Gun dogs! No, not dogs with guns, silly. Gun dogs are a group of dog breeds!  Bred to work with men (or women for that matter) with guns or gamekeepers on hunts and shoots. Out in the forests and fields, their job is to find, flush and pick up game. They are a pretty regal bunch, these Gun dogs. 

Gun dogs can be Spaniels, Setters, Retrievers, Pointers, and Water Retrievers – each is bred for a specific job that they do amazingly well at! You also get ‘HPR’ that’s hunt point retriever dogs who manage to do it all, they are the real smarty pants of the Gun dog group.

A Gun dog puppy will be bright, eager to learn and generally have a fantastic relationship with humans. They’ve been bred to work with and for us, for thousands of years. 

This guide to Gun dog puppy training will give you a great 8 week intro to the basics, but we really do recommend downloading a trial of the Zigzag puppy training app for the full monty. We have a personalised programme specifically made for your breed of Gun dog, and a team of experts ready for any questions you might have about training your Gun dog puppy, 7, yes 7, days a week! 

Prerequisites for training my Gun dog puppy

What age can I start to train my Gun dog puppy?

Once you’ve brought your Gun dog puppy home you can, and should, start to train them immediately. Never fall into the trap of thinking you’re not training your puppy to do something, Gun dog puppies and puppies, in general, are always learning. 

They’re either learning what we want them to do, because we’re actively training, or they’re learning what we don’t want them to do and are getting up to mischief! 

What do I need to train my Gun dog puppy? 

Training a Gun dog won’t require a huge list of equipment but it’s much easier to train a puppy when you’re prepared and have some of the following list.

A collar and 2m training lead – In many countries, wearing a collar with ID tags is the law, wouldn’t want you to get in trouble! A 2m training lead will also be really useful and can be used for many different purposes.

A well-fitting harness – We think dogs are much better off wearing well-fitting harnesses that don’t tighten or restrict their natural gait. Of course if you’re out shooting or on a trial somewhere, your Gun dog may well be ‘naked’ because they’re working, but that’s not the case when you’re just off to the park with the family! 

Food and water bowls –  You should always have fresh water available for your puppy, and they’ll want something to eat out of too! Bowls come in all shapes and sizes depending on the size of your Gun dog, and yes they’ll probably try and swim in the bowl if you let them. 

A treat pouch or treat bag – Food is a primary reinforcer, and a great way to teach your Gun dog what you want them to do. Having a treat bag means you’re always able to reward them quickly for a job well done. Always remember though, should you not have your treats to hand – praise and a good rub will do the trick too. 

Vet bed, travel mat or blanket – Dogs appreciate knowing when they’re working vs when they’re not, and having some kind of settle mat is really useful for this. You can also teach them that is their place to go when you go to cafes, restaurants, or the local pub too!

Enrichment toysthe most enriching thing for your gun dog is likely to be doing the job they were bred for. But other kinds of activities can use their problem-solving skills and keep them busy too. Puzzle toys, Kongs and other brain games will also positively affect their wellbeing and help them cope with frustration. 

Two identical toys – Identical toys will come in handy for retrieving work and for teaching them how to swap. Gun dogs have large mouths, so find something suitable that they’ll find easy to hold like the mallard or pheasant shaped toys, they go wild for these.

Tasty treats – Their usual kibble will work just fine, but you’ll also want to use some tastier treats like bits of sausage or cheese to pay ‘high wages’ at times.

A crate and playpen – When training your Gun dog puppy, it can be hard to get them to switch off and have downtime. A crate or playpen can really help get them into a structured nap time.

Grooming brushes – Some Gun dogs don’t need a huge amount of grooming, while others will do (hello poodles!). A soft rubber grooming brush will help keep them looking dashing and clean, and a wire slicker brush will get through any knots. Having a grooming routine will also help strengthen your bond as most love being touched.

A squeaky ball on a rope – You’ve probably seen the Gun dogs used by Border Force or the police. What do they always have as a reward for them? Yep, a tennis ball. They’re obsessed. Try having the ball on a rope to make it easier to get back – we also think it’s safer as there’s no chance of it getting stuck.

Good to know about training Gun dog puppies

What are Gun dogs bred for?

Gun dogs are a group of dog breeds and carry out the following jobs when out on a hunt

  • Flushing

These dogs would track down the game birds by scent, then drive them out from the cover or undergrowth for the hunters to shoot. Typically flushing dogs are Spaniels and Retrievers. 

  • Pointing

Pointing dogs track down the game and then freeze to tell the hunter where it is. They don’t actually point with their paws… although that would be amazing! Pointers (obviously) and Setters are both types of Gun dog who do this.

  • Retrieving

Retrieving Gun dogs would bring the game back once shot. Most Gun dogs will retrieve. Hence why they all love a game of fetch!

There is some overlap as to what a Gun dog will do. Depending on what other dogs are out on the shoot will mean that dog does that particular job. 

What does this have to do with how I train my Gun dog?

So you probably don’t own a gun and go out shooting, but knowing what your breed of gun dog is bred to do will be useful to understand their motivations when training and why your Gun dog puppy behaves the way they do.

For instance, your Labrador Retriever is likely to pick up socks, or other items in your house, it’s literally in their blood and is hard wired, it’s not something you should tell them off for, or be worried about. You’ll notice how happy and proud they are parading around with whatever it is they have! 

Similarly, you’ll want to teach some self control around water to your Nova-Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever or your Irish Water Spaniel because they are bred to want to swim. The clue is in the name – they’re water Gun dogs! But that doesn’t mean they can be jumping in every lake and pond they want. It might not be safe and results in stinky dogs and some ruined walks! 

So rather than thinking about how we stop your Gun dog from doing the things they want to do, think about it more in terms of what can you train them to do instead and how can you make that reinforcing? Also giving them plenty of opportunity to carry out those breed-specific behaviours and behave as they’re bred when you want them to, will mean you’re meeting their needs. We’re not saying never let your water dogs swim, far from it, but we want to be able to manage them doing it.

Overview of the training programme and topics we’ll cover

In this guide to training your Gun dog puppy we’ll be covering the following topics

  • Sitting
  • Lying down
  • Learning their name
  • Coming when you call them
  • Walking nicely on a lead
  • Playing fetch
  • Sleeping in their crate
  • Coping with being left alone
  • Going to the toilet in the right place 

Push, drop, stick sounds like some sort of exercise class, we know, but it’s a really effective way of increasing the difficulty of training. Using the push, drop, stick method means that we know when our dog is ready to try that little bit harder without frustrating them. 

What exactly is Push, Drop, and Stick?

Push, Drop, Stick is a method of gradually increasing the difficulty of an activity or behaviour.

If exercises are always made too easy, dogs will continue to complete them correctly because they are rewarded. However, they will make slower progress since they will become ‘stuck’ at this level.

If the lessons are too difficult, they will most likely give up because the treats will be less plentiful and frustration sets in.

By keeping enough momentum, ‘Push, Drop, Stick’ can help avoid both scenarios: it will keep your puppy interested and prevent them from quitting, but not so much that they aren’t thinking about how to get rewarded by trying harder.

So how does Push, Drop, Stick work? 

We will count how many of the exercises the dog correctly completes after five repetitions. Then we can decide which of the following to do based on how they perform:

Push means we advance to the next difficulty level (raise criteria)

Drop means to return to the easier level (lower criteria)

To stick means to continue at the current level of difficulty (stay with current criteria)

Here’s a handy table to help you figure it out – you’ll want to refer to this throughout our guide to training your Gun dog puppy to keep things interesting.

  How many out of 5 did your puppy get right? What should I do? Why?
Push 5 out of 5 Increase the difficulty Well done – a gold star for your puppy! They’re proficient at the current level, and can move on to a harder level.
Drop 0, 1, or 2 out of 5 Make it easier They might be close to quitting – this level is too hard for them right now. 
Stick 3 or 4 out of 5 Do another set of 5 at this difficulty Your puppy doesn’t need you to drop, but they aren’t quite ready to be pushed yet.

Why do I need to train this way?

We are much less likely to become stuck during training if we do 5 repetitions in a row. It also helps to keep it interesting for your super clever Gun dog puppy.

Additionally, it means that we’ll be able to track our progress so that we can develop behaviours that are ever-stronger. 

What are criteria or difficulty?

The “three D’s” of duration, distraction, and distance are related to difficulty or criteria*. These concern the length of time the dog can perform the behaviour, the type of distraction level, and the distance the dog can do the behaviour from us.

*Criterion being single, criteria being plural – it’s a bit of jargon you probably don’t need to know, but here at Zigzag we’re all about science-based puppy training, and you may have heard these terms used interchangeably in puppy training books, or in online blogs.

Week 1 – Training your Gun dog puppy

So, here’s what you’ve been waiting for… the first week of training your Gun dog puppy will be a wild ride! But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

In the first week, we’ll dive straight into socialisation exercisestraining and husbandry tasks. 

Socialisation exercises to do this week Training to do this week Husbandry tasks to do this week
– Let your puppy explore the garden
– Teach your puppy about surfaces
– Name
– Sit
– Recall
– Retrieve
– Crate Training
– Toilet Training
– Alone Training
– Brushing
– Hand Touch


You’ll need to decide where you want your Gun dog puppy to sleep. Where that is will depend on how your breeder has raised them and whether or not your breeder has done any crate training yet. We recommend they sleep in your room at first. They’ve had a big shock leaving their mother and littermates and will need the safety of knowing you’re nearby until they’ve learnt to cope on their own. 

Read our articles on how to get a puppy to sleep through the night and figure out the perfect puppy night-time routine for more tips. 



We know that knowing your puppy is happy alone is really important and luckily for some, Gun dog breeds are quite happy to be on their own, but at first you’ll need to make sure they feel comfortable in their new home. So try not to rush. We recommend you start out by:

  • Feeding them in their crate at mealtimes, or in a bowl away from where you are. But you’re still close by. 

  • Move around while they’re eating, don’t be in a rush to go too far just yet. 

For more information, you can also read our article on puppy alone time training. 


You’ll want to get this one cracked as soon as possible, just for your own sanity! Gun dog puppies will want to go to the toilet very frequently so ensure you take them outside or to their toilet area often but in particular:


  • Immediately after waking up from a snooze or sleep

  • After eating

  • During and after playing

  • During and after training

  • Probably at least once during the night

Use plenty of treats to reward them for going in the right place, if you don’t happen to have the treats to hand then really praise them and make that tail wag! they need to know how pleased you are. It’s really a case of when not if they have an accident, don’t tell them off, they’re just not toilet trained yet and it’s not their fault! 

Make sure you’ve puppy proofed your home so that rugs and carpets don’t get used as pee spots. 

Check out our full guide to Toilet training to learn more.

Socialisation is all about teaching your Gun dog puppy about the world around them, as well as how to react in certain situations and with other dogs, or other species of animals. 

In this first week stay close to home and try:

  • Letting your Gun dog puppy explore the garden – your Gun dog puppy is likely to get very curious about all of the goings on in the garden. So many smells, noises and probably lots of birds!
  • Teach your puppy about surfaces – lay out different surfaces as we describe in the Zigzag app and allow your Gun dog puppy to explore them. No need to rush them, or make it too difficult or slippery yet. This exercise is all about giving them confidence.

Your Gun dog puppy is going to be keen to learn, after all they are dogs bred to want to train and work. 

Let’s start out with basic training that will be really useful for you later on

  • Teach your Gun dog their name – this will be the first part of you getting your puppy’s attention or recalling them so make sure you practice a lot, and use plenty of food rewards to keep them interested. Never use a harsh tone, we want their name to mean something wonderful, not a predictor of you being cross.
  • Teach your Gun dog puppy to sit – lots of Gun dog puppies will be able to do this already, but make sure they really understand it before you put a verbal cue in.
  • Recall – how to teach your Gun dog puppy to come back when called! Because who wants to be in the ‘20s version of the classic Fenton video? Gun dog puppies can go off after a scent or a bird to flush so do plenty of practice.
  • Retrieve/fetch – this one should come pretty naturally to most Gun dogs. Make sure you choose a toy that’s large enough for their mouth. Gun dogs have wide open jaws so that they don’t damage the game when retrieving, so some toys are a little skinny for them; they’ll enjoy holding onto something quite large most often.

When training your Gun dog to retrieve, it’s really important to also teach a non-confrontational drop, and not to chase after them for the toy. Sometimes, if you do this you can end up with a dog who sees holding the item and not giving it up as more valuable than giving it to you, and this can develop into resource guarding

There is a long list of things that puppies find appealing for some reason, including:

  • Underwear
  • Shoes
  • Toys
  • Food
  • Disgusting tissues picked up outside

If we don’t handle the situation appropriately, these could end up getting guarded quite quickly! Your favourite pair of unicorn pants no longer being yours would make us sad.

What can I do to prevent it?

Teach plenty of swaps!! Practice trading toys for food or other toys as rewards.

Most Gun dogs have a hard-wired desire to grip or carry objects in their mouths because they like retrieving. In essence, this is okay as long as it’s a toy that dogs can play with, but it’s not okay when it’s something important or dangerous. Either way you want your Gun dog puppy to learn ‘I’m going to give you this lovely thing, and you give me that’ – no big deal.

This first week we want you to do lots of handling so that your puppy sees that hands = good things. Lots of Gun dogs really love being stroked, but also check ears, mouth and in between the paws, it will be really useful later when you have to check them for grass seeds or the dreaded ticks or fleas! Allow your puppy to move away if there’s something they don’t like, or they feel a bit overwhelmed. Being given a choice can be a powerful reinforcer for lots of Gun dogs. 

Week 2 – Training your Gun dog puppy

So, how did your first week of Gun dog puppy training go? Well, we hope. Still, there’s plenty more to teach them so let’s crack on. 

Socialisation exercises to do this week Training to do this week Husbandry tasks to do this week
– Fireworks
– Watch the world go by outside your house
– Play dress up
– Sit in the car
– Invite friends over
– Alone Training
– Crate Training
– Toilet Training
– Name – in garden
– Recall – cue word
– Fetch
– Drop
-Sit – add a cue word
– Lead walking
– Grooming

Socialisation will be a gradual process that you keep on building on week by week. 

Fireworks – we have a full programme of getting your puppy used to sounds in the Zigzag app. We also recommend you try the Sound Proof Puppy App as it’s worth getting them used to sounds from a young age. Generally, Gun dogs are good at getting used to noises, but you still want to teach them there’s nothing to worry about when national holidays come around.

Watch the world go by  – try this out the front of your house to begin with, no need to go too far. What we’re doing is building positive associations with the outside world, so no need to rush.

How to do it

  • Choose a time when there will be people around but it will not be a busy time of day.
  • Carry your puppy outside and let them observe everything that is going on around them.
  • Stay for around 10 minutes, which will give them ample time to notice everything and learn more about their environment.
  • Giving your puppy treats on a regular basis (every minute or so) is a fantastic way to keep them happy and comfortable.
  • Play dress up – your puppy will need to get used to lots of different people and how they look. Some will look very different to us, so experiment gradually with scarves, hats, hi-vis jackets, walking sticks and act like it’s no big deal.
  • Sit in the car – just like you did in the watch-the-world-go-by exercises, grab some treats and sit in the car with your puppy. Just let them have a treat every now and again. If they have a puppy car carrier it’s worth doing some training on that too – just giving them a few treats for being behind the tailgate, or sitting on the booster seat. 

In week 2 of training your Gun dog puppy, let’s get them prepared for being on their own, teaching them to love their crate if you’re using one, and focus on that all important recall. 

  • Alone training – have you managed to get your puppy to eat while you move around? This week try popping the food in a separate room to where you are and popping in and out. Using a Kong or other stuffed food toys will slow down mealtimes which gives you more time to move around the house while your puppy eats. 

  • Crate training – crate training is quite a personal thing, some people don’t like the idea of them, but if used correctly they can be beneficial for all sorts of reasons. If you’re not using a crate or playpen then do make sure your house is fully puppy proofed and safe to be loose in! Your Gun dog puppy will be curious and get into everything, maybe even chewing up precious items, or putting themselves in dangerous situations and eating the wrong things.

  • Teach them their name in the garden – remember how much your puppy loves to sniff? The garden will give plenty of distractions for them. Teach them their name in the same way you taught them inside – use really high value treats and keep your tone happy and light. 

  • Recall training: add a cue word – being able to communicate with your puppy using verbal cues will be wonderful once they’ve got the hang of it. You can also use a whistle to teach them a recall, but let’s focus on getting a word first!

How to put a recall on cue

  1. Choose a place in your house where you both spend lots of time so that your puppy is relaxed – pop a handful of treats in your pocket
  2. Say your puppy’s name – did they look at you? 
  3. Great! Drop a treat on the floor when they do
  4. Repeat this another time
  5. On the next go, say your puppy’s name, but don’t drop the treat this time.
  6. Your puppy will probably start walking towards you because they expect the treat, add your word ‘come’ or ‘come here’ when they do
  7. Tell your puppy what a clever pup they are and give them a treat when they get to you
  8. Move around and repeat steps 5-7 another 3 times, then take a break.

  • Fetch and drop – your gun dog will likely love fetching items for you! This is a great game to play with them as they find it so reinforcing. Swap the toy they have for another, and try to play with larger toys rather than balls. 

Don’t be concerned if your puppy stops halfway and drops the toy; simply show them the second toy and get them interested in it.

If your puppy isn’t interested in letting you take the first toy off of them, make the second toy comes to life and become super exciting! No, it doesn’t matter how silly you think you look!

Lead walking is something which many Gun dogs can struggle with, centuries of breeding have given them the ability to work well off the lead, so being on a lead can present challengers.

Although some Gun dogs may be small like Cocker Spaniels, some may be large like Labradors and all of the ones in between, they can all be very strong and determined when they catch sight of a bird, or sniff a delicious scent! (you’ll know when you strain a muscle from one of their forceful pulls on the lead) It’s worth putting in the work to walk them pleasantly.

Check out our guide on teaching a puppy to walk to heel and it’s also worth you choosing a well fitting harness.

This week we’ll focus on brushing your puppy. Your Gun dog puppy’s coat will depend on what breed they are, some require just a gentle going over with a rubber mitt, or rubber slicker, whereas others such as poodles and crosses will require much more intensive grooming, so you’ll need a comb and flexible wire slicker

Even if your Gun dog doesn’t require much brushing, brushing their fur is great for distributing oils in the coat, increasing blood flow to the skin and keeping your puppy’s fur healthy, it’s also a great bonding experience for the two of you. 

Week 3 – Training your Gun dog puppy

How can we be 3 weeks into this guide already, I hope you’re amazed at how well your Gun dog puppy is doing. We also understand that things can get a bit tricky as a new puppy owner, this is why we have the puppy coaches in the Zigzag puppy training app ready to talk you through pretty much anything, 7 days a week! 

Socialisation exercises to do this week Training Exercises to do this week Husbandry tasks to do this week
– Scent Trails
– Go for a drive
– Invite Friends Over
– Write a puppy socialisation checklist
– Recall – outside in the garden
– Four Paws on the floor – Not Jumping up
– Down
– Generalisation
– Alone Training
– Harness fitting

  • Scent trails – most Gun dogs love to sniff, in fact, find me a dog who doesn’t! Scent trails are a fab way of starting to work on your Gun dog puppy’s SEEKING behaviour.

How to set up puppy scent trails

  1. Place your puppy outside the room or have someone hold them while you set down a trail of 10 treats around half a metre apart.
  2. A small pile of the remaining treats should be placed at the end of the trail.
  3. Bring your gun dog puppy in and show him or her the first treat. They will most likely follow the rest of the path on their own, and won’t require much help getting to the end!
  4. As your puppy trots down the route, munching the treats, use a cue word like ‘search’ or ‘find it’.

  • Invite friends over – we bet you couldn’t wait to have your friends over to meet your new puppy. Some Gun dog puppies can get a little overexcited or overwhelmed when people come over, causing them to pee! When you ask people to come in make sure they’re calm and sit down, not making a fuss of your puppy. That way your puppy can approach them to say hello in their own times, your friends can drop some treats for your puppy too.

  • Go for a drive with your Gun dog puppy – have you got your Gun dog puppy used to being in the car yet? Pop them in their puppy car carrier and see if you can go for a quick spin. It’s useful to have a friend or family member with you to check on how your puppy is doing and give them treats every so often. 

  • Write a puppy socialisation checklist for your Gun dog puppy – think about all of the things you do in day-to-day life, and probably some that you don’t but might come up in the future. Maybe you’ll teach them about going on a bus or train. Bring treats along to make everything go smoothly, and focus on your puppy’s body language to see how they’re feeling about novelty and new experiences. 

You’ve probably by now noticed a few of your puppy’s quirks – the excited jumping up or perhaps being distracted when you try to train outside in the garden? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered let’s get going on week 3 of Gun dog puppy training

  • Recall: teaching your puppy to come when called, outside will be a challenge at first. Have you figured out what kind of toy they like yet? Practice your recalls in the garden just as you did inside, and see if they become more motivated by food or toys as a reward. 
  • Stop your puppy jumping up – jumping up can be quite a thing when Gun dog puppy training. Puppies jump up for a few different reasons. Sometimes it’s because they are just so delighted to see you they can’t help themselves, other times it’s because they feel overwhelmed, and often it’s for appeasement.  As in, ‘I’m no threat, I come in peace’. Knowing how to handle jumping up will be really useful, so we can teach our gun dog puppies to sit to greet instead.
  • Generalisation – different locations are going to make gun dog puppy training challenging at times. Our pups need to learn that sit, and down and come when called mean the same thing wherever we ask them for it, but when they change locations it’s almost like teaching them things all over again. This is because dogs don’t generalise very well, so while your puppy might find things really easy when training in the kitchen, taking them out to the garden can be difficult. Start off slow and pick 3 locations to train in your house and garden and practice simple things like their name and sit at first. 

  • Teach your Gun dog puppy to lie down – teaching a down in gun dog puppy training usually comes quite easily. Make sure they have something comfortable to lie down onto and try it using a piece of food to lure them from a stand into a down position.
    Once they are following the food well, try using a hand signal with your gun dog puppy. They are pretty clever, and we want to remove the food lure as soon as we can so they start following our hand signals. 
  • Alone training – Each week you’ll build on the time you leave your puppy, can you take the rubbish out with them staying settled? Many Gun dogs are very interested in where you’re going, but they shouldn’t feel super worried as long as you do the training right. Don’t leave them to cry, the crying out method doesn’t work and can cause separation problems later on, plus it’s torture to listen to those puppy cries!

    Also remember not to leave your puppy for too long. Even if they’re quite happy being alone, they’ll need the toilet frequently at this age, and we don’t want you to undo all of your good work. 

This week we recommend fitting your gun dog puppy with a harness. Some websites will say harnesses encourage pulling, they don’t, they allow your puppy to be trained to walk nicely on a lead, and they’re much kinder for them to walk than just the lead on the collar. 

When thinking about using a harness for Gun dog puppy training, although the shape and size of your flavour of gun dog will vary, we find a wide strapped V shaped harness best from an anatomic perspective as it allows free movement of the shoulders. 

Here’s how to train your Gun dog to like wearing the harness:

Before you start

  • Grab some treats (as always!) and sit somewhere comfortable on the floor with your Gun dog puppy
  • Adjust the harness to roughly fit your puppy’s size before trying it on. If you’re unsure, it’s generally preferable if it’s too big than too small. Too small can really dig in and hurt.

How to do it:

  1. Let’s get them familiar with one another. Sit on the floor while holding the harness and allowing your puppy to investigate – they’ll probably want to sniff it
  2. Give them a couple of treats and run the harness over them
  3. Encourage your puppy to put their head through the harness and reward them when they do! They should think of the harness as a positive thing that offers lots of treats. 
  4. Once your puppy gets comfortable with their head in the harness, carefully secure it and give them a handful of treats.
  5. If you have to do up clips on the side, scatter some treats on the floor so they’re eating the treats while you do up the clips
  6. Remove the harness and practice putting it back on them around three times – keep on rewarding your puppy!

PRO TIP: It’s best not to adjust the harness too much while your puppy is wearing it… If it needs to be adjusted, take it off and resize it before putting it back on.

Week 4 – Training your Gun dog puppy

Half way through our guide already! you’re doing an amazing job, but your gun dog puppy still has a lot to learn! In week 4 of gun dog puppy training we’ll introduce your puppy to another dog, as well as suggestions for a puppy class, some recalls, lead walking and how to groom those tricky areas.

Socialisation exercises to do this week Training to do this week Husbandry tasks to do this week
– Meet another dog
– Find a puppy class
– Settle on a mat
– Lead walking
– Recall games
– Push/drop/stick on known exercises
– Grooming sensitive areas

When thinking about socialising your puppy with other dogs in their socialisation window, the way that some people expose their puppy is often too much too soon. 

Let’s take a look at appropriate dog-dog socialisation in gun dog puppy training this week.

  • Meeting another dog – when your gun dog puppy meets another dog, it might be the first time they have seen a dog since they left their mother and littermates. We recommend inviting a friend over who has a calm older dog that is fully vaccinated. Sit in the garden where there is more space and have both dogs on loose relaxed leads. You can allow them to sniff and say hello, then call your puppy back with a treat.

    There’s no need to let them launch into play just yet. First see what the other dog’s body language, as well as your puppy’s, is saying about the situation.

    Reward both dogs frequently for staying calm and leaving each other alone, a well socialised dog is one who can not lose their mind when they see another dog, so start teaching your puppy good habits from the off. 

You can also read our full guide on how to introduce your puppy to another dog.

  • Find a good puppy class for your puppy – Finding a good puppy socialisation class or a suitable trainer for your puppy can be as challenging as finding a school for your children. See if you can go and watch a class to get a feel for it before you sign up, and ask yourself if the classes look fun, and if they use positive reinforcement training with dogs as well as humans. 

The title of dog trainer is not a protected term, so make sure the class you’re going to has a trainer who’s a member of one of the UK Dog Behaviour and Training Charter’s membership

This week let’s look at teaching your gun dog puppy to settle, start off their lead walking training and play some recall games.

  • Settle on a mat

Teaching a gun dog puppy an off switch and that there’s somewhere they can go to relax is really useful. We want to be able to take our pups around with us while still allowing them to relax. Teaching a settle on a mat is a great way of doing this.

To prepare

  • Choose a mat – anything portable and non-slip, such as a piece of vet bed, is perfect. A grippy bath mat will also work fine.
  • Put on your puppy’s harness and have them on their lead.
  • Prepare a filled Kong or a tasty chew toy.

How to do it

  1. Place the mat next to your sofa or favourite chair on the floor.

  1. Sit down and turn on your TV, tying your puppy’s lead to the leg of your chair or slipping it under your foot to secure it.
  2. You’ll need your puppy to have enough lead that they’re able to stand, lie down, and shuffle about freely, so make sure the leash isn’t too short. Equally, don’t allow it to become too lengthy so that your puppy starts sniffing around for trouble. 
  3. Place the Kong on the mat to keep your puppy entertained while you relax – you can hold the Kong under your foot if your puppy gets too animated, this will encourage to lick the contents and probably lie down while doing it.
  4. After your puppy has finished the Kong, watch TV for another 10/15 minutes. They could still be chewing the toy, awake or asleep, at this moment.
  5. The idea here is for your gun dog puppy to lie down and relax, but they may also wiggle around or stand up. But this technique will teach them that sometimes they just have to settle next to you.

PRO TIP: A good idea is to do this when your puppy is already quite snoozy. Having them settle at the end of a walk while you have a delicious coffee, or a cheeky wine – sounds idyllic doesn’t it?

  • Lead walking – you’ll want to keep practising lead walking, training never stops with this one! When you go out for a walk, think ‘training session’ especially when they’re little. Puppies are naturally very curious about their surroundings, and will sniff things a lot. Let your puppy ‘check their pee mails’ when you go out for walks, it’s really important!

    When you first take your Gun dog puppy out for walks, they might do a lot of stopping and sitting down, this is normal. They’re trying to understand the world and there are going to be a lot of firsts and a lot of new experiences for them to have on their early walks. 

If your puppy does sit, just let them wait and learn about the world a little. Be patient and then when they feel brave enough to move on, heavily reward them with lots of praise and treats. Don’t expect to get very far just yet.

  • Recall games – Play tennis with your puppy!

    Playing tennis with your puppy is an easy one. Practice this at home between two family members or you and a friend. 

Ping pong the puppy between you by calling them and then giving them a tasty reward when they get to you, then the other person does the same.

This game is great for strengthening your puppy’s recall, check out some of the other training games in the Zigzag app, or in our article on training games

Grooming a puppy – focusing on sensitive areas

This week you’ll want to carry on brushing your puppy, and focus on those areas that might be a little more tricky. Grooming around the face or the feet is often tricky for many dogs, so get your Gun dog puppy training off to a great start by beginning nice and early. Of course, use plenty of treats, or also think about using a Kong or other puzzle toy to keep them busy and stop biting the brush. 

Week 5 – Training your Gun dog puppy

You’ve now got a lot of the basics of Gun dog puppy training, well kinda. Now it’s time to up the ante and start increasing the difficulty, and moving things along a little so your puppy’s amazing little brain continues to be stretched as they develop.

Socialisation exercises to do this week Training to do this week Husbandry tasks to do this week
– Go to the pub – you deserve it!
– Tick 3 things off your personal socialisation checklist
– Alone Training
– Recall – outside using a lead
– Lead walking – outside
– Push/drop/stick on known exercises
– Pretend nail clips
– Grooming

How has your Gun dog socialisation training been going? Are they coping ok? Checking in on your puppy’s behaviour and body language for tell tale signs will be important. While some Gun dogs are very confident and bomb proof others can be more shy. It’s still important to socialise the shy ones, but we need to make sure the experiences are positive for them so that they can grow their confidence week on week.

  • Go to the pub/dog friendly café – you deserve it! Yay here comes the fun bit, take your settle mat and stuffed chew toy along with you and after making sure your gun dog puppy has been exercised and been to the toilet, see if you can settle them in a quiet corner with you in a café or pub.
  • Tick 3 things off your personal socialisation checklist – what will it be this week? Perhaps you have high expectations that your Gun dog puppy will join you on your paddleboard, in which case show them it in the house or garden, let them sniff and investigate it at their own pace and do some fun games or scent trails around it. Then next week perhaps you’ll fit them for a doggy life jacket!  

Let’s dive right into the all important week 5 of Gun dog puppy training.

  • Alone training: increasing time alone if your puppy is able to. No worries if not, meet them where they’re at, and break the time down into smaller steps. 

  • Recall – Outside, using a lead, dealing with distractions

Taking your puppy to the park and teaching them to recall can be nerve wracking. Use their regular lead for recalls this week, there will be lots of distractions around, so let them watch and observe a little before calling them to you.  

  • Lead walking – outside, loose lead walking will be a challenge. We recommend walking up and down the same street several times, that way your puppy can check all their pee mails and then be ready to focus on you and learn to walk nicely on a lead.
  • Push/drop/stick – sit is a good one to start with

  1. Take out 5 treats. 
  2. Ask your puppy to sit, give them 3-5 seconds to respond, do they sit? Great, toss a treat. 
  3. They didn’t sit? Put the treat on the side away from the others. 
  4. Ask for the sit in the same way again and count 3-5 seconds. If they sit then give them a treat if they don’t then put the treat in the other pile. 
  5. Repeat this until you’ve used the remaining treats up, and see how well your puppy has done.

Are you going to Push, drop or stick? Refer to our previous table to decide whether your puppy is ready to move on, if they need more time to practise or if they found it too difficult and they need the exercise to be made easier.

If you’re dropping, you might go back to using a hand signal, or even a food lure. 

Try not to repeat cues ‘sit-sit-sit’ is a common one, we want our Gun dog puppy to respond first time, which is why we use push, drop, stick and why we give them thinking time. 

Even Gun dogs need a manicure but Gun dog puppy training for claw trims should start slowly by first just pretending to clip the nails, and not diving straight in and cutting them. Read our full guide to how to trim a puppy’s nails here. You’ll need a pair of nail clippers, a treat pouch and treats, and some time and patience. 

Week 6 – Training your Gun dog puppy

If you’ve been following our Gun dog puppy training guide for the last 5 weeks you’re well on your way to having a wonderfully behaved and well adjusted puppy. This guide is just a taster of the breed specific training we have for you in the Zigzag app, it’s all based on the latest science to help you every step of the way.

Each week you’ll want to carry on practising what’s been learnt before, that’s how dogs learn. It’s a bit like building a wall, with practice, patience and persistence.

Socialisation exercises to do this week Training to do this week Husbandry tasks to do this week
– Tick 3 things off your personal checklist – Following on walks
– Push/drop/stick on known exercises
– Check puppy’s mouth

  • Tick 3 more items off your socialisation checklist – what will you give your puppy positive exposure to this week? Perhaps it’s to do with noises, or people who look different to you. Have you been to the farmers market with your puppy? These are all new things for them to try.

In week 6 of Gun dog puppy training you’ll want to teach your puppy that following you is worthwhile, and let’s take things up a gear and make things a bit trickier for them with their exercises.

  • Following on walks
    Playing the ‘follow me’ game on walks is an ideal method to boost recall. The ‘follow me’ game will help keep your puppy focused on you in areas where there are distractions, which for your Gun dog puppy is anywhere other than your home!

You will need:

A treat pouch stocked up with small, smelly treats.

Find somewhere that’s secure and quiet so that your puppy can go off lead safely. A corner of the park that’s fenced in is perfect. Sometimes unused tennis courts can be handy too!

Use a long dog lead (or what we like to call a long line or recall line – one that’s about 10 metres long is great) if you’re worried about letting your puppy off lead, or if the area is not fully secure.

How to do it

1. Go to a quiet space which is away from other people and dogs.

2. Ask your puppy to sit – either with a verbal cue or a hand signal

3. When your puppy sits, say your marker word ‘good’ and throw the treat so they have to go and get it.

4. Wait until your puppy is nearly finished with their treat before running away from them, your puppy will almost certainly follow you!

5. Come to a stop just before they reach you and ask them to sit again.

7. Say ‘good,’ throw the treat again, and run!

8. Repeat as many times as you like, running a little further with each repetition.

  • Push/drop/stick on known exercises – can your puppy sit for a little longer now? Keep going with the push drop stick method to increase difficulty.


Start checking your puppy’s mouth and their teeth – yes it’s a good idea to start checking your Gun dog puppy’s mouth and teeth, and also get them used to the taste of toothpaste as well. 



Even though their adult teeth are the ones that need cleaning, preparing your puppy to have their teeth cleaned early on will make it a lot easier later on. So, don’t delay.


Week 7 – Training your Gun dog puppy

Your puppy will hopefully be doing really well by this point. Depending on their age they’ve probably found their confidence too and are getting cheeky. Though it can be tempting to phase out food rewards, phasing them out too quickly can lead to problems as Gun dogs find other ways to self-reinforce.

Socialisation exercises to do this week Training to do this week Husbandry tasks to do this week
– Puppy Agility
– Tick 3 things off your personal checklist
– Wait
– Walk with a friend’s dog
– Recall – off the lead
– Push/drop/stick on known exercises
– Pretend ear drops

  • Have a go at puppy agility – Agility can be a great activity for lots of Gun dogs, have you seen the spaniels go? Find out if you have a local agility club and if they do puppy agility sessions, being involved in a sport or activity together can reap fabulous rewards, and helps us humans stay fit too.

    Agility not your thing? Then try Scentwork or Working trials, perfect for Gun dogs puppy training and they get to use their nose more!

  • Tick 3 things off your personal socialisation checklist – perhaps you can swing by the vets this week, not for an appointment, just to let the vet nurses coo and aah over your Gun dog puppy. 

  • Teach your Gun dog puppy to stay – staying still doesn’t come naturally to Gun dogs, but it can be taught really effectively if you follow our guide.
  • Go for a walk with a friend’s dog – yes a walk with friends is all part of Gun dog puppy training! Just one friend for now, and make sure the other dog likes puppies! 

  • Recall – off the lead. I know, it’s a bit scary, but you have to start now. Puppies will naturally follow us, especially if we’ve played the follow me game. 

  • Push/drop/stick on known exercises – could you try this with down yet? See if you can get 5 out of 5 and push on.

Pretend ear drops

Teaching your gun dog puppy through preventative training exercises such as ear drop training can be of great help to teach them that using them isn’t a big deal. When the day comes where you actually use them it won’t be so tricky as they’ll be fully ready for them.  

For the poodles and spaniels they may need their ear hair plucked or trimmed. All Gun dogs need their ears cleaning, especially ones who love to swim, so make sure your puppy is happy having their ears checked and then try the pretend ear drop exercise.

Things you’ll need

  • Yummy treats
  • Something like vet bed or a non slip mat for your puppy to stand on
  • An empty ear or eye drop bottle (a human one is fine, they won’t know!)

How to do it

  1. Sit on the floor with the bottle behind your back
  2. Show your puppy the eye drop bottle and instantly offer them a treat. Getting them to think drops are treats is an excellent start (dog geek alert – this is called classical conditioning)
  3. Repeat this 5 times – pulling out the bottle should predict something good.
  4. Now comes the exciting part. Give your puppy a treat after touching their ear with the bottle (not inside the ear).
  5. Repeat 5 times more.

Week 8 – Training your Gun dog puppy

It might be the final week of this guide, but you are not nearly done with Gun dog puppy training – haha sorry! Well, I hope you see the funny side and find training enjoyable. 

Socialisation exercises to do this week Training to do this week Husbandry tasks to do this week
– Joggers and Cyclists
– Tick 3 things off your personal checklist
– Practice exercises in different locations
– Teach a hand target
– Introduce nose work
– Push/drop/stick on known exercises
– Nail trims

  • Joggers and Cyclists – these guys move fast, and may well encourage your Gun dog puppy to chase them. Instead of letting them do it and potentially scaring the person or getting into an accident, teach your puppy to focus on you when these zippy things go past them. If you’re worried your Gun dog puppy is a bit keen to ‘say hi’ use the long line at the park. We just want your training to be safe and fun. 

  • Tick 3 things off your personal socialisation checklist

For Gun dog puppy training this week you’ll learn about generalisation some more, teach your puppy to target and your hand and introduce nosework. Prepare to be impressed.

  • Practice exercises in different locations – we talked before about generalisation and you practised in different areas of your house. So how about different locations outside of the house? Some will be less distracting than others, so the corner of B&Q car park is likely to be much easier for your puppy to sit and lie down in than in Pets at Home right near the chickens. Have a look for dog friendly shops, cafes and spaces in your area and take your puppy to train there, so that they really will ‘know sit’
  • Teach a hand target  – this is such a fun one to do in gun dog puppy training, Hand targeting is a great game to play with your puppy to stave off the boredom and can be done anywhere. It’s also great for giving your dog direction and works amazingly as a recall. 

You will need

Treats and a treat pouch – that’s it!

How to do it

  1. Place your right hand out flat, palms facing sideways, at the height of your puppy’s snout.
  2. They will most likely inspect it and go in for a sniff (they’re dogs, sniffing things is the best part of life). Say your marker word ‘good’ as soon as they do.
  3. Give them a treat right away using your left hand.
  4. Repeat this at least ten times. Once your puppy has gotten the hang of things, you should notice them giving your hand a good shove with their snout.
  5. Now try the same thing with your hand a little further away so they come up to you to nose at your hand.

PRO TIP: To be honest, the first time is frequently a fluke. It could also be because your puppy naturally wanted to sniff, so be patient for the second go. 

The main idea here is that you want your puppy to touch you so that they come to your hand rather than your hand coming to their nose. Noses are sensitive; we need to let them ‘boop the snoot’ not the other way around.

  • Introducing nose work to your puppy – don’t stop retrieving as the song goes, are those not the lyrics, oh, well, we can use our Gun dogs amazing retrieving AND scenting abilities to find their favourite food toy. They are perfect for this game. 

How to prepare

  • Pop your puppy out of the room
  • Place an old towel on the floor
  • Hide underneath a stuffed Kong or a toilet roll with some food

How to do it

  1. Bring your puppy in to the room and encourage them to find the toy by using the word ‘find it’ like you did in the scent trails exercise
  2. Use your wonderfully cheerful voice to give your puppy some extra encouragement.

Good job! There’s no better reward than finding a toy with food inside, you can also try this one with your Gun dog puppy’s soft toys too. 

Have you been practising your pretend nail trims so that your Gun dog puppy is happy with you touching their nails with the clippers? Now you can move on and clip a claw or two, be ready to clip all of your puppy’s nails. Don’t do all the paws at once, take little breaks and make sure your Gun dog puppy is happy with the process. Use plenty of treats.

What’s next for your Gun dog puppy?

Gun dogs excel at sports where they are doing the job they are bred for, so consider signing up for Gun dog club classes and working your way through the levels. Some Gun dog trainers are more progressive than others, so make sure they use kind and effective methods with your dog. 

Looking for more puppy training tips? Discover the best places for online puppy training, next.

Why not take a look at some of the other training you can do with your Gun dog puppy in the Zigzag puppy training app? You’ll find more in-depth training, games and socialisation advice – and access to a team of experts to help you every step of the way. They’re pawfully friendly too!