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Wolters’ Gun Dog: A Great Place to Start for New Bird Dog Puppy Owners

GunDogOver the course of the last few weeks, I’ve received dozens of messages from bird hunters excited to welcome a puppy into their lives for the first time this spring. Most of these messages have revolved around one central question:

“Do I have any tips for starting off on the right foot in a pup’s training process?”

Yes, yes I do. Although it was first published in 1961, it’s my opinion Richard Wolters’ book Gun Dog remains the gold standard for beginning bird dog owners.

  • Fundamentals of Obedience. While the book covers more advanced elements of your hunting dog’s education (introduction to guns, birds, and water), it’s Wolters’ focus on the basics of obedience that keep me pointing folks toward Gun Dog as a wonderful foundation upon which to create the bird dog of your dreams.
  • Visual Learners. Gun Dog is also filled with photos and easy-to-understand captions of the training process. Like a good cookbook that includes a snapshot from every step of a recipe, Wolters does a wonderful service to the reader including photos to bring home his text for more visual learners.
  • Bowties & Bird Dogs. Speaking of photos, I always get a kick out of the photos of Wolters training his English setter in his bowtie. The point being, Wolters’ training exercises are short and easy for the bird dog owner after a long work day.
  • Breed Agnostic. It doesn’t make any difference if you own a Lab, springer, or German wirehair, Gun Dog is a versatile training guide for retrievers, flushers or pointers.

As you progress in the training process, you’ll encounter folks who disagree with some of the finer points of Wolters’ instructions. For instance, some pointing dog trainers nowadays don’t want to teach their dog the sit command out of concern a point will slide into a sit. Additionally, Wolters’ text came prior to the advent of e-collars as training tools. There is no doubt some things have changed in the 53 years since Wolters wrote Gun Dog. The basics haven’t changed and that’s where Gun Dog shines.

I’ve used Wolters’ principles to help me establish the fundamentals in two German shorthaired pointing bird dogs that have also doubled as obedient members of our family. I plan to use Wolters’ guidance again on my pup to arrive this summer. If you’re looking for the first building block in training a bird dog yourself, then Wolters’ Gun Dog is a fantastic place to start.

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

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6 Responses to “Wolters’ Gun Dog: A Great Place to Start for New Bird Dog Puppy Owners”

  1. erzola says:

    I agree. Wolters books are great and obedience may be about the only thing you need to teach your hunting dog. The dog’s instincts will normally do very well on their own. It’s not rocket science. If you train your dog to whoa, come, sit, stay and heel you are more than halfway there. Perhaps directional hand signaling can be helpful, other than that, let them hunt. Personally, I don’t like to hunt with a dog that has much more direction that what I earlier mentioned. I like my dogs to hunt in their own fashion with a little correction when needed.

  2. Seve says:

    With a PP pup coming home tomorrow this is a very timely post! I just looked it up on Amazon and read a couple of pages on the free preview. What I read was certainly old-school but fantastic. I managed to buy a used copy from a Goodwill in Iowa via Amazon for $6. Thank you for the heads up.

  3. Jay Gore says:

    Thank you for posting this excellent book. I started training Labs in the 1960′s and the main training book was James Lamb Free’s Training your Retriever. Very scary book. Then in late 60′s Richard Wolters came out with Water Dog. This made dog training understandable for the average dog owner. I suspect more hunting dogs have been trained using his books and tips than any other. Love your doggy blog site.

  4. erzola says:

    “Old school” may sometimes be the best school. Hunting dog’s have been around a lot longer than most of us and early Gun Dog trainer’s were around before E Collars and the rest. Wolter’s books are good for anyone whether it be a flusher, retriever or pointer.

  5. Terry J. says:

    Picked up a copy tonight at Barns & Noble.

  6. Frank says:



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