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Clicker Gundog Training - Book Review

BOOK REVIEW by Wendy Hanson

  CLICKER GUNDOG By Helen Phillips  ISBN:  1-904-116-21-0 Gundog training has traditionally seen the use of punishment and negative reinforcement but Helen truly turns the tide and shows the way forward in this excellent book presenting the joys and effectiveness of teaching all aspects of gundog training using positive reinforcement with the aid of the clicker. This book covers all gundog skills and all gundog breeds.  The setters and pointers that find game and freeze, the spaniels that beat, flush and retrieve, the retrievers that pick the game and the all round hunt, point, retrievers with their multitude of talents.   Helen begins with foundation training of the pup or novice dog and takes the reader through in a structured and easy to follow way the progressions up to advanced skills.  It covers such things as working with instinctive drives and training against competing motivations, originally thought to be impossible without the use of aversive techniques. How do you convince a dog that it is better to stop dead in its tracks on a flush instead of doing what comes naturally – chasing bunny till he disappears down a hole or is caught or shot?  Or to look to you for direction and instruction instead of the bird?   All is revealed in this book which works on conditioning responses that actually change neural pathway patterns of behaviour but without any fear or avoidance tactics on the part of the dog.  Helen says that good fieldwork is built on the understanding of a dog's ability to maintain self control and the handler's ability to understand this and the environment.   This book will show you how to achieve this.  In fact the whole book is based on understanding the dog's mind and the effect of the dog's mind that the environment plays. No mention of the forced retrieve, the unkind ear pinches or the ouch factor associated with delivery of physical pain and the associated relief of the removal of it.  Or worse still,  the ridiculous notion of those not ‘in the know' that you can train a dog by reducing some sort of perceived status.   Just pure, kind methods based on a sound knowledge of learning theory and canine psychology that the dog can enjoy learning and the owner enjoy teaching. I highly recommend this book for anyone that wishes to train a gundog either for rough or organised shoots or for the more formal gundog tests and trials, or even just for pure fun and to allow the dog to be doing what it was bred for.  Note:   This book does require some prior knowledge of clicker training.  Wendy Hanson  Book obtainable from www.learningaboutdogs.comPO Box 13, Chipping Campden, Glos.  GL55 6WX    

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