Bird Dogs Afield host Paul Fuller is the gun dog columnist for Northwoods Sporting Journal. The Journal has granted permission to re-print Paul’s articles. Thank you Northwoods Sporting Journal.

Northwoods Sporting Journal

Training Schedule

In last month’s column, we talked about picking a puppy. A reader and first-time puppy buyer asked me if I would provide him with a training schedule. We did that in our April 2011 column which can be found on our website ( That column was written in coordination with Steve Ries of Top Gun Kennel in Iowa. However, the following is an updated version of that 2011 column.

It’s important to understand that all dogs are different. It’s important that you spend time getting to know your puppy. Is it a little timid? Then slow down the schedule. Or, if the pup is afraid of nothing, then your pup will probably fit the schedule perfectly. Today, there are dozens of videos on YouTube offering instruction on just about everything listed in our schedule. Most are very good.

Patience, Persistence and Consistency are the most important words in dog training. The first 12 weeks of a puppy’s life is very important. Their brain is like a sponge; they learn very quickly. Don’t lose your cool over mistakes…patience is critical. Be persistent with your exercises; they’ll eventually get it. And, make sure you’re consistent; don’t change the drill. And, with puppies, always be positive. In fact, be positive with both puppies and adults. Positivity will be more productive throughout a dog’s life.

A great beginning for a new puppy owner is to join a puppy class. Both you and your puppy will benefit. It will help create that important bond between you and your pup and help socialize the pup to other dogs and people. Choose a reputable and experienced trainer. If you really want to become an expert on puppies, then I highly recommend you buy a DVD series titled Puppy Culture. It’s a powerful and comprehensive guide to the first 12 weeks of your puppy’s life. It’s available on Amazon.

Response to Name (8-10 weeks): This is not recall. This is simply getting your pup to respond to their name. In the simplest form, it’s saying the pup’s name and rewarding with a treat.

Automobile (Early!): With many hunting trips ahead, it’s very important to get your pup to enjoy auto trips. Start with very short trips…just down the road and back. Don’t feed or water for two hours before you begin the trip. Also, after a few short trips, introduce to a travel crate.

Whoa (9-12 weeks): This command is critical to saving your dog’s life and remaining steady on point.

Sit (8-12 weeks): This command will serve you well throughout the pup’s life. There are professional pointing dog trainers who don’t teach this command. They feel that if you put pressure on a dog while teaching steadiness, the dog will sit…which is not good. However, we have found that this only happens when negative reinforcement is used in steadiness training.

Crate or Kennel (8-12 weeks): This command is very important. The crate becomes a safe place for your pup.

Recall (10 to 12 weeks): Use either here or come. This command comes after you begin whoa training. If you teach recall first, then whoa becomes more difficult.

Heel (10-12 weeks): Every well-mannered dog is heel trained.

Live Birds (10-12 weeks): No actual training here…only an introduction. Don’t allow the bird to flap their wings in the face of the pup. Your pup could become bird shy.

Check Cords & Leads (10-12 weeks): These tools will be used throughout the life of your dog.

Trained Retrieve (six months): This is important if you want a reliable retrieve. It was always called force-fetch but has been renamed in the past few years.

Gun (four to six months): Gun shy dogs are not born…they’re created by man. Go slow on this.

Training (six to eight months): There is no question that e-collars have become very popular in the past 20 years with dog training. Unfortunately, they’ve been used improperly by many dog owners. And, that has often created a life-long problem for the dog. Don’t use an e-collar unless you’ve been properly trained by a professional. If you really want to become proficient with the e-collar, I would recommend you buy the DVD series Collar Training with Robin MacFarlane. It’s available from Gun Dog Supply. You’ll be at the top of your game after learning from Robin’s technique.

That covers many of the obedience exercises. Training natural ability with birds is a whole different topic. Investing time with your puppy will bring many rewards for the future. Have fun!

Copyright 2021 Paul Fuller

Paul and his wife Susan are co-hosts of Bird Dogs Afield TV ( Paul can be contacted at