Handler guidlines for training a GSP

Handler Guidelines for Training a German Short-haired Pointer for the Hunting Field

The purpose of writing these notes is to familiarize owners of new pups where, when and how to begin a Hunt, Point and Retrieve training programme so that you may quickly being a position to begin hunting and field trialing your dog.

These notes are not going to be involved with training a handler on how to train elementary sit, fetch or house breaking (Pee outside) commands etc, it must be assumed that you either already know how to do this or you will learn these things practically through the HPR club or other sources. These notes will not cover the extremely important Backing (honouring a brace mates point) requirement that is expected from all dogs in the field where more than one dog is hunting at a time. I feel that this requirement must be practically demonstrated to a GSP owner as writing the requirement down on paper may go some way to distracting a GSP owner from the most important requirements of his dog, which are finding, pointing and retrieving his own birds.


1. A person that is interested in using dogs for game bird shooting and/or Field Trials, both bird hunting and field trials are fundamentally identical. It is how ever understandable that some hunters are not inclined to doing Field Trials and that is acceptable, but in order to hunt your GSP effectively you must still train your dog to the standard as explained in these notes. Hunters that do not wish to do Field Trial testing are strongly urged to partake in the "Natural Ability Test" and it is strongly recommended that you do not breed with your "German Short hair Pointer" until you have passed this test. Should you breed your dog without passing at least the "Natural Ability test" you will be doing the German Short hair pointers in South Africa a terrible disservice. Follow these notes exactly as written and you should easily pass the Natural Ability test and do well in Field Trials (find out about the backing requirement).
2. 15 minutes a day
3. NB: If you do not have access to Wild birds (Francolins, Partridges or Guinea Fowl) then you will require a few homing pigeons and 2 or 3 "quick release" bird traps. If you do have access to enough wild birds in your vicinity then it is recommended that you never use Pigeons or release traps and concentrate on making use of only Wild birds for your training. If you have access to Wild birds and still want to use Pigeons and release traps, then you will only need the Pigeons and release traps for "sit and stay to flush “conditioning (phase 4), after which you will use Wild birds to continue your training.
4. A shotgun and a Cap pistol capable of firing .22 blank cartridges (or a school race starter pistol)
5. A farm or large plot on which you can get access and where the owners don't mind the odd shot going off. Get permission first and be careful not to scare horses, children, game or other dogs. Never kill any of that farm or plots wild bird population, as these birds are your bread and butter to train your dog on (If possible, after you've done a bird population census you can cull a few birds in the area immediately adjacent your training area). Try to keep them tame and look after their natural habitat as far as possible, in fact look after all-Natural Habitat wherever you find yourself or future generations will have nothing to hunt.
6. A handler with an even temperament and such a person must realize at all times that he/she is dealing with an animal that does not understand and is not interested inhuman language.
7. A handler that can properly make assessments as to when his pup can move on from one section of the training Phases to the next. The handler must be very sure that each phase is properly completed (as explained in the notes) before moving to the next one. There is no way that I can advise you through the different ages your pup reaches, for example I can’t say that your pup is three months old, now you must move to the next phase, you have to feel your way through this because it is a grey area (also some people train every day, some once a week or even once a year. Some dogs mature faster than others etc…). As a rule of thumb, you need to have every phase 100% correct before moving on to the next one. Do not try to shortcut the phases (do 1-5 in sequence) or leave any of them out, problems within your training program are likely to develop as a result of doing this.


1. A bad temper or violent tendencies
2. An obsessive desire to have your dog trained as soon as possible, you need to relax about training your dog and don't let your training routine alter the way your life was before you got your pup (don't become too obsessive about having a Field Trial Champion and always remember that your dog will remain your all-time equalizer). Bare in mind though, it's not something you can do 1 week before the hunting season, so get to it sooner rather than later and remember to enjoy it.
3. A whistle. Commands need to be timed to perfection, so use your voice. A whistle needs to be found and brought to your lips by which time the opportunity to give the "sit and stay to flush" command (phase 4) while working on birds is lost. A whistle is okay to get your dog’s attention when you change direction or you want to call your dog in.
4. A whip. Look at numbers 1, 2, 6, 10 and 13 under what is not required. Please also refer to notes on how and when to punish under the section "Must Sit and Stay" (phase3)
5. Impatience
6. A lot of time
7. A dummy launcher (there are other, cheaper ways)
8. Another pointing dog (unless you have a lot of experience with training GSP'S, don't buy another pointing dog until your first one is perfect, also don't mix your pointer with flushing breeds as this is a disastrous combination)
9. An obsessive desire to shoot birds over your dog as soon as possible.
10. The shooting of Rock pigeons. Buy a Labrador for this type of shooting.
11. Biltong or meaty tit bits when training. That method of training is not practical for hunting dogs, when you begin hunting with your dog you will find out why.
12. A shock collar. The thing about people that use shock collars is the open display of their inability to train their dog and the presence of a shock collar proves this fact entirely. The shock collar lends itself directly to animal abuse and is completely unacceptable to most bird dog owners as well as animal rights organizations. Never be tempted to try this so-called shortcut, it really does not work and gives the sport of bird shooting over dogs a bad name. Statistically, Field Trial prizes among dogs that have been trained on shock collars are proving to be very low indeed, and it is very obvious that dogs trained on shock collars have less self-confidence and a reduced hunting desire! The shock collar is a logical invention from a Human perspective but a dog does not understand this system at all (no matter what they say in the United States of Gadget sand toys-rather follow the five phases as explained in these notes), and please remember that you are dealing with a dog!!!!


Training your dog to obey commands is all about consistently using the same word that must be sharply obeyed by a consistent action from your dog.

The commands mentioned below are exactly what they practically mean. Here I want to use an importance rating. 10's are very important and 1 is not immediately important. Any command that carries a weight of less than 10 is a routine command and is slowly phased in, but you really don't have to be overly anxious about them. Commands carrying a weight of 10 are very important and need to be quickly and immediately obeyed. The "Good dog" command is to train you to praise your dog each and every time he/she obeys the command correctly. It's important to understand that commands 1, 2and 6 are never given more than one time and are immediately obeyed. If they are obeyed then it's "good boy/girl" followed by a simultaneous but gentle and genuine rub on the neck (praise), if the command is not obeyed then it’s back to the way you trained your sit, come and no commands in the first place until they are properly obeyed first time every time.

1. Sit and stay, both commands are in fact one and the same command (10)
2. Come (10)
3. Hunt or seek-up etc… (5)
4. Good Dog or Praise (10)
5. Fetch (6)
6. No (10)
7. Outside (3)
8. Bed (I command "up" and my dogs go to bed) (3)



1. Sit before handing (mouthing) over a dummy or bird after a retrieve
2. Heel, Labradors heel, GSP'S must hunt - not heel, put him on a leash if you want him to remain at your side.
3. Lie Down
4. Any command not mentioned from 1-8 above. All commands not mentioned from 1-8above are a waste of time and non-conducive to the practical usage of a bird hunting dog. Remember also that a dog can only learn a limited number of commands (it cannot have a conversation) so it's best therefore to stick to the most essential and elementary commands that lend themselves entirely and directly to training your GSP for practical hunting purposes only.




Pups mind is really just like blotting paper for at least the first 4 to 6 months of its life. As with Humans the first few months for pups and the first two years for Human babies are an intense learning period. Success with a GSP gun dog can depend on your own attitude during this period. Mainly though you do not need to be overawed because your dog is an HPR gun dog and not some other type of dog. The basics for any type of pup are the same, the only difference is that you need to bare in mind your actions can at times have a profound bearing on your dog’s future behaviour in the hunting field and the Field Trial. I would like to give you some do's and don’ts examples as I feel this may be the best method to explain exactly what you need to do during this phase so that the step that follows on from this puppy step and so on comes easily and will simply be a follow on, like building a house, the puppy phase is your foundation. All the points mentioned below are related to the future gun dog you are trying to create. Doing the wrong thing now may always be wrong in the pup’s mind and the right thing always right (there may be mishaps with your pup and when they happen it's not something to worry yourself to death over, pups are resilient and the odd mistake on your part during this phase will not necessarily cause permanent damage to your pups’ personality or potential in the field when he's older). How can throwing pup into the water at this age possibly give pup a good attitude to water later on? How does scaring pup with a shotgun now equal a dog that is not gun shy later? You need to judge your own actions and the future implications your actions will have on your dog in the hunting field.


1. Bond with your pup. Everybody that loves dogs does this naturally.
2. Play with your pup but don't chase him, let him rather chase you. Let him play with other dogs or pups as much as possible.
3. Take walks with your pup in the veld and let him run without you trying to stop him, he’s very young now so he won’t run far from your side but do change direction now and again, every 30 meters or so. Give him water in the veld and don't tire him out all the time-walk slowly.
4. Retrieving training with a small dummy. Place your hand around pup's chest and roll the dummy away. After a brief moment (a count of 2) let pup go and fetch (use the routine "fetch" command as mentioned under commands) the dummy, now put your head to the ground and call him by name back to you, praise him when he comes (with the dummy) and stroke his neck as explained saying "good boy/girl". If he doesn't come with the dummy now, it’s really no train smash and it’s not a reflection on his future retrieving abilities. Just have fun and play with the dummy!
5. Take pup on outings and introduce pup to other dogs (socializing him at the HPR club), vehicles and people. Let him sit in the car in the same place he will always sit, even when he's very old-even better if he lies down and goes to sleep in the car. Getting used to a collar and being on a leash now is also okay.
6. You can take two frying pans about 20 meters from pup and bang them together while pup eats. If he is startled by the banging noise then you need to move further away, if not startled then move closer but not closer than 5 meters for now. The point is that pup needs to associate loud bangs with something nice. Eating and loud noises are nice associations in pups mind and therefore you are on the right track. When you shooting future pup will always associate the sound of the gun with something nice.
7. On the occasions that you are not banging the pans together (don't bang pans all the time, you will go mad or deaf and Divorce from your spouse will become a real possibility) while pup eats, you can kneel down next to pup and with a calm tone of voice stroke him for a minute while he eats. This is a really good way to get pup to trust you when he is in precarious situations, like when you need to get close to him while he's pointing bird for you.


1. Some say: Never let pup sleep anywhere else but in permanent sleeping quarters. Never go to pup when he howls from his bed, as this is a very quick way for pup to start training you. NOTE: It is my opinion that dogs should be able to get access to their pack leader throughout their lives. I have always allowed my pups and dogs complete access to me whenever I am home. In this way I have found that none of my dog’s whine when in the car, hunting field or on a leash. So, if you want pup sleeping with you in your bed, then I'm all for that. As soon as your pup can't get access to you, that's when whining starts and it never goes away. Also, to avoid serious whining, never put your dog in a trailer.
2. Punish pup in any way at all, pup can only do right now, even if he chews your expensive wallets, shoes, cell phones, money, TV remotes etc… chewing will happen, so rather remove chewy things before they get destroyed. You absolutely cannot punish pup for putting anything in his mouth ever, even when he's 10 years old. Don't do pathetic things like rub your pups’ nose in his poop and pee when he mishaps inside, also don't hit pup with rolled up newspapers etc, when you see pup needs to pee or poop then get up and put him outside (notice the tail is up and pup is sniffing about frantically). Praise him when he does his business outside. Keep repeating the exercise and he'll learn to go outside.
3. Do not try to train commands 1, 2 and 6 (all elementary commands can be gently used now but no insistence, everything is fun and games now) do train your self-command number 4. It's "good boy/girl" all the time now so get into the praising habit early.
4. Do not do more than 3 basic retrieves and come back with dummy games per day. Do not fetch the dummy yourself, always gently insist, within reason that he brings ("fetch “command) dummy to you. Don't make the retrieves difficult at first; I'm talking about ad distance of about 2-3 meters. Need I add that you use a light dummy like an old pair of socks for this exercise? Please also remember that retrieving is a game, it's not time to be overly concerned about it yet!
5. Show pup any birds or try and make him do any point work. Hunting and walking in the veld without commands and without a shotgun is recommended now and you can encourage pup to get out there and hunt. Let him learn what a Butterfly is and if he wants to chase Plovers then that's fabulous.
6. Don't throw pup in the water, but do go to the water’s edge and play some games there. If he goes in on his own accord, then don't discourage him. If he won’t go in now it's not a reflection on his future water ability. HINT: Take water-loving dogs with you to the water’s edge and your pup may just follow them in (pup will normally go into knee high water at first) when he sees what fun is to be had in the water!
7. Allow your servant/s to hit or mistreat pup for chewing a handbag while you are at work, he may be put off for life when it comes to retrieving and picking things up in his mouth later on. Children generally enjoy playing catch-up games with puppies which teaches pup that Humans will follow him, as explained before, you don't want your pup to think Humans will follow him. Children must obviously be able to bond with pup, but I suggest some sort of supervision when they do so that problems don't enter your training program later on (surprisingly though, I have seen young people train excellent Field Trial dogs in the past and it is not uncommon for youngsters to leave egg on the faces of older trainers). Use common sense here.



There will come a time possibly 12 to 16 weeks after you have taken delivery of your pup that you will begin to see that your pup is in a position to take very light sit, come, no and more advanced retrieve training. He is also old enough to take light discipline without being unduly affected. It is now that you need to begin gentle sit and stay training.

When out in the Veld on your daily or weekly walks and you send him out to hunt. Do encourage him to hunt as far out ahead of you or to the side of you as he wants, the further and harder he runs and hunts while simultaneously adjusting to cover, the better. During this time, it's advisable to get into the habit of watching your dog (not follow him) while he's hunting. This teaches you to keep an eye on him so you won’t miss him pointing birds for you when you start shooting later on.

SIDE NOTE: The point to switching direction in the Veld while hunting your dog is to get your dog to keep an eye on you, in this way he will adjust to cover when practical hunting later on. For a moment imagine that the Veld is very thick where you are hunting, he will obviously need to stay close to you to keep an eye on you. Where the terrain is open, he will be able to range further from you while still keeping an eye on you. I like to keep my direction switches completely random and I like to create a certain amount of direction unpredictability when walking in the Veld. At times I even go backwards over my steps so that my dogs really need to watch me when hunting. I would like to add that when hunting, I choose the direction we are going to hunt and Is tick to my direction. The dog that refuses to hunt for me in the direction that I choose becomes a very lonely dog indeed because I do not stand waiting for him or allow him to dictate to me the direction we take, most of all I definitely do not follow him on the direction he takes (NB: Remain quiet while hunting your pup, don't shout, scream or sit on the whistle trying to keep him in range. Just walk in random directions 100 meters each and ignore your pup or talk encouragingly to him while he's properly adjusting to cover around you. He'll soon start hunting around you during the walk/hunt). Dogs are quick to realize that hunting alone provides no action or excitement for them (they also get no praise) so they very quickly begin to hunt on my terms. I do not shout at my dogs to stay in range while hunting and I never panic if one of my dogs disappears in the Field, it’s up to him to find me, not vice versa. With time and experience you will begin to realize that when your dog disappears it may be that he is pointing birds out of view and in this case, it is necessary for you to look for him so that you can shoot the bird over his point. Please don't get confused here, your first prize is to let him find you while hunting, when you have experience with his hunting technique you will begin to know when he's on birds or not. Usually the last glimpse you will get of your dog before he disappears is a semi-pointing stance as he's going after running birds or he has scent, which has carried far in the wind. Slight behavioural changes in your dog's attitude while hunting are something you can only learn with experience.


1. Let pup hunt often in the veld and see to it that he is starting to hunt hard, fast and wide at this stage (LET HIM HUNT-DON'T TRY AND STOP HIM) see to it that your pup adjusts to terrain by keeping an eye on you while you behave unpredictably in the directions you follow.
2. During this time when pup is a bit stronger and bolder you may come across Rabbits, Small Antelope, Game birds even Plovers and LBJ'S (little brown jobs). Pup may give chase when these flushes. The thing to do if this happens is to simply ignore pups chasing and change direction immediately that he begins his chase (at this stage you are trying to build your dog’s hunting instinct-you are not trying to make him steady to flush as you will do later in phase 4), you need to walk in the opposite direction to the direction he has taken on his chase and keep on walking, don't stand around waiting for him, screaming your lungs out at him or lean on your whistle. Keep as quiet as possible and let him struggle to find you after chasing, keep walking away from him, don't stop. When he does find you then praise him and make a fuss of him for finding you. A natural human reaction would be to give the dog a hiding when he re-appears after chasing birds or after going walkabout on his own, this is completely the wrong thing to do, you must rather praise your dog when he re-appears, no matter how irritated you may be.
3. Start gentle sit training in your yard (also now and again in the veld if you feel your pup can take it) and understand that sit means stay (it is one command) as well. So even if pup sits, he must remain sitting until you let him stand up again usually after a slow count to 6. Praise him when he successfully completes the "sit and stay command “exercises.
4. When doing the more advanced retrieve (5 meters now) training game you can sit him (meaning stay him also) and throw the dummy. He must remain sitting (count 1-6slowly) until you send him to "fetch" the dummy, be gentle and don't be a tyrant. It is possible to do this exercise from your couch while watching TV, especially during the boring advert breaks. Sit, stay, throw dummy, make pup wait to a count of 6 and "fetch “after which he must return the dummy to you on the couch, it's amusing but it does wonders for your dog’s progress when working on birds later on.
5. Exchange your pans for .22 blanks or starter cap gun, (like those used at swimming Gala's at schools) while pup is eating. Again, go some distance away and watch for any sensitivity (fire the pistol closer to him if he shows no reaction to the shot. If there is a negative reaction to the shot then move further away), on Alternative days you can stroke him for a minute, using a soothing voice while he eats.
6. Go and do the HPR Field Trial Puppy Stake, it's a gas and you meet people in the same position as you are with the same dog you have. Your pup must be a year or less to enter this stake.


1. Expose your pup to birds yet except those that you come across by mistake in the veld.
2. Try to see pup pointing yet, you are still a long way off that point (you may get some random pointing on Butterflies, Rats or even Game Birds now. Do encourage him by stroking him along the back if you encounter this situation, but when he chases after whatever he's been pointing then don't panic, just change direction and walk away). If your pups’ parents were properly tested in Field Trials and/or the Natural Ability test and you bought your pup under these pre-conditions, I will go as far as to guarantee you that your pup points. Therefore, don't worry about the pointing ability of your pup for now. Don't do silly things like put a bird wing on a Fishing Rod to see your pup point, that is totally ridiculous and you can be sure you are moving backwards with your training if you do things like that.
3. Fire shots directly over pup yet, you are doing well enough with firing .22 blanks from a distance while he eats.
4. Should you go away on holiday or your training ceases for a while then that is okay, but don't allow your neighbour or whoever is looking after your pup to fire shots or carry on with your training program in your absence. It takes effort and dedication from your part to train your dog, but it can take only one minute to destroy your dog for life.



Pup is at the point now where you have gently taught him to sit and therefore stay commands, and more often than not he is obeying you. The odd occasion that he hasn't listened you have not been too severe on him. Pup is now strong, boisterous and he eyeballs you whenever he sees you because he is now used to you providing great entertainment for him in the veld. Your come command is also more than adequate now because since he was a small puppy you have not chased pup around, rather you have let him chase you around while calling his name. We are going over to Pigeons or wild birds after this section so you really need to begin to be insistent that pup sits and stays under any and all circumstances. As an example of the level of sharpness required of your sit and stay command before moving onto birds, try to imagine your pup running directly towards a busy tar road, you are too far away to physically stop him so you rap out the sit command which is the only option to stop him stepping onto the tar road. Now imagine how urgent it will be for you that he sits and stays in that (hopefully)hypothetical situation. That is about the level of sit and stay conditioning required before attempting bird work.

When training (conditioning) the sit and stay command, I like to look for situations that are really random and as difficult as possible for my dog to obey. I call it breaking the “mad rush". A dog is quick to go into autopilot mode and without thinking rushes at things moving away from him. At these times you are in a very good position to condition your sit and stay command. Ever noticed what your dog does when suddenly confronted with a fleeing rabbit or cat? Okay now get him to sit and stay. In my opinion, it is training the Sit and stay command under any situation that is the most difficult part to training a GSP. It is this command that you will use to condition your dog to sit and stay to the flushing bird later on. Bare in mind that sitting and staying every time you hold out a piece of biltong is not good enough and will never be useful in conditioning your dog to sit and stay to birds flushing ahead of him.


1. Practice sit and stay daily, praise him when you allow him to stand again
2. Intermittently, have somebody hold pup various distances from the food bowl during feeding times and out of sight. Position yourself where you can randomly rap out the sit command and obviously where pup will be close enough for you to grab if he ignores you. Now call him to the food bowl and give the sit command while he is sprinting to the food bowl NOTE: I fire a shot with a cap pistol as I give the sit command at this time. Do this randomly and not every day. Give your sit command in different places around your house while pup is on his way to the food bowl. Make the timing and the places you give the sit command completely random so that pup never expects the sit command. Sometimes go for a whole week before rapping out the sit command during feeding, sometimes do it in different places every day for three days and so on. Remember praise him when he sits and leave him sitting (count 6) until you are ready for him to carry onto the food bowl and commence eating (you must get into the habit of counting to six slowly whenever you sit and stay your dog).
3. Sit pup down and leave him sitting, now move away 20 meters, get your head down to the same level as his head and call him to you, Praise him when he comes to you. If pup creeps, while you move to your 20-meter mark you need to run back to him and harshly replace him into the same position that you originally sat him, now move to your20 meter mark again, if he creeps again then replace him again etc… until he remains sitting while you complete the 20 meters.
4. When out walking in the veld, and pup is hunting around you, you can randomly give him the sit command. Try to only give him the random sit command when you can reach him to make him sit and stay. Beware of him learning that when you are too far away, he can simply ignore you. If he disobeys you, he must be close enough for you to be able to grab him and make him sit and stay (try to reach a point where you only need to give the sit and stay command once only before he obeys). Praise him each time he is successful in obeying your random sit command in the veld.
5. Set pup up in situations that you think are almost impossible for him to obey the sit and stay command. If he is romping on the lawn with your other dogs for instance you can rap out the sit command at random and when he least expects it, and make him obey, praise him when he does obey. If he chases a cat or bird across the lawn then rap out the sit and stay command, run and catch him if he disobeys and make him obey by pushing his butt to the ground at exactly the place that you issued the sit command in the first place. Make him stay sitting there until you are good and ready for him to stand up again. Remember to praise and always make him feel like a king when the exercise is successfully completed, no matter how much effort or time it took to complete.
6. Maintain the veld walks, having pup hunt around you and watch as he hunts further and further from you as he gets strength and confidence. Never try and stop him from running and hunting as he wishes, your only concern is that he switches direction when you do (let him watch your movements so be unpredictable in your direction switches-he will very quickly begin to adjust correctly to cover while hunting), just let him hunt and change direction every 100 meters. Call him as you turn and keep on moving (don't stop and wait for him) now let him hunt for you in the new direction.
7. Please don't get confused with this one. Do try it though (At this stage of your pups development it's recommended that you try to sit and stay him before he takes off on a chase after a Rabbit or other animal eg: Duiker. If you fail to sit him before the chase starts then don't chase after him shouting at him, remember your running after him shouting at him makes him think you are trying to help him catch the fleeing animal. If you fail to sit him as the animal flushes then you'll never catch him, so remain quiet and walk away in the opposite direction (and no-a shock collar is not your answer here). If you keep at it (giving him the sit command as the animal flushes), then it won't be long before you will be able to sit and stay him before he chases. Praise him when he does sit and stay as the animal flushes. When you send him to hunt again after he has obeyed the sit and stay command to the flushing Rabbit or Duiker then send him off in a different direction to the direction the fleeing animal took, or put him on a leash and let him off again some ways from the Rabbit or buck incident-the point here is that you don't want your dog following up on the animal after you have successfully stopped him chasing it in the first place. Soon he may point Rabbits as he would a game bird, if he does so then treat the Rabbit as you would a bird as explained in "Must sit and stay to flush" conditioning for Game birds and Pigeons (phase 4). Depending on the species of Rabbit and provided I have a hunting license to shoot them, I have no problem shooting Rabbits over my GSP'S, but all rules as explained in these notes still apply as explained under "Must sit and stay to flush conditioning (phase 4) and "Hunting" (phase 5))
8. Carry on with making him sit and stay as you throw the dummy and fire the .22 blank when you throw the dummy and the dummy is airborne so that you are conditioning your dog to remain steady to the gunshot at the same time that the dummy is airborne.(Note: You can also condition your dog to sit and stay to the gunshot by firing a .22blank each time you give the sit command regardless of whether you are throwing a dummy or not). Be very insistent that he sits and stays now, giving him the "fetch “command when you are ready for him to go and fetch it. There has to be a time delay before being allowed to fetch the dummy so leave him sitting and count to 6 slowly before sending him, just like you were doing from the couch in the previous section. If you struggle at all to get him to come back to you with the dummy then you simply turnaround and walk away (never move towards your dog when receiving a retrieve or when calling him to you-always move away from him) from him calling him as you go, praise him when he catches up to you with the dummy, take it gently from him and praise.
9. Go to a dam (not swimming pool) and sit and stay pup up to a count of 6 (same as above). From a distance of 5 meters throw your dummy into really shallow water on the water’s edge. Encourage him to fetch the dummy just the same as you do for land retrieving. Remember it must be shallow water, just enough to get his ankles wet. Start off by only doing two or three very shallow water retrieves. Followed by praise when he brings the dummy from the water! (Again, walk away from him calling him if he won’t immediately return the dummy to you). Remember water is great fun so if he won't even get his feet wet to fetch the dummy then you need to forget the whole retrieving exercise and you must get into the water yourself and encourage him to follow you in(HINT: if you have other dogs that enjoy swimming you can use them to encourage your pup into the water), praise him when he gets in with you and make him think water is great fun from the first time he sees it. Splash about but don't ever force him into the water, just have plenty of fun and games in the water and encourage him to join you. When he is happily and confidently entering the water for fun and games with you, then you can start the shallow water retrieving exercise again


1. Cause your pup any mental anguish while doing these harsher sit training exercises. Judge for yourself what he can take but don't break his spirit. Remember he's still young and possibly sensitive, so you still have to be rather gentle with him.
2. Lose your temper and lash out at him, he is an animal and training him takes time (always keep your own behaviour in mind while training your dog). If you feel you are getting nowhere then leave the sit and stay training for another day, just walk in the veld and stick to things pup is doing correctly (like proper adjustment to cover while keeping an eye on you) so that you praise him again and keep his confidence up. Also, it will give you time to think about how to better your own approach to the sit and stay training. Don't rush your sit and stay training, if it takes a long time to condition it firmly into your dog’s head then so be it. Nobody says you are working to a deadline here.
 Never hit your pup or dog in a manner that one human would punish another human. Dogs, wolves, Jackals and wild dogs only understand punishment that would resemble another of their kind punishing them which is a short sharp bite and push to the ground, followed by aggressive growling displays. Humans, Chimpanzees, Monkeys and Baboons understand multiple blows like slapping or punching the way we humans slap or punch our own kind when driven to such behaviour (ever noticed how inappropriate it would be to punch your dog, why then is slapping him or whipping him not as inappropriate?). This means that you've got to resemble another dog when you punish your pup and you do this by grabbing him by the skin around his neck and pushing his head to the ground while at the same time you growl "no", let him yelp or howl once only, and then release him while you immediately step back. Don't immediately praise him after a punishment because you feel bad about it, rather remain quiet and turn your back to him while walking away slowly. Keep walking away for a minute and then still with your back to him call him to you. Now do something he does well like "sit and stay" while you throw the dummy, then praise him again. Don't leave a training session angry at pup. Always leave a training session on a good note that was full of praise. Another important point about punishing your dog is that the punishment you dish out as explained above must be at exactly the same time that the in discretion takes place. A dog needs to associate a wrong action with immediate punishment, not afterward as is the case with a human. This means the punishment must simultaneous with the indiscretion, so your timing of any punishment must be perfect and you must be quick, awake and coordinated if you are to punish your dog for any reason. SOME EXAMPLES: 1) Your pup steals your supper off your plate while you are in the Kitchen. You cannot punish your pup when you get back, the punishment should have happened while he was stealing the food, not afterwards. 3) Your dog runs off into the bush and catches and kills a Duiker, when you find the dead Duiker two hours later, you may be tempted to punish him. Wrong again, the punishment would only have helped if you punished him while (or as) he was attacking the Duiker, not afterwards. 4)While training the "sit to flush" command on birds as is explained in Phase 4 below, your dog manages (God Forbid) to actually catch a Pigeon or wild bird as it is flushing. Your dog is now on his way to you with a freshly killed bird in his mouth. You are tempted to punish him while he's on his way to you. Wrong, if you punish him now, you'll be punishing him for bringing a bird to you (this destroys the dogs will to retrieve later on) not for catching it. The punishment would only have helped if you gave it to him while he was in the process of catching the bird, not while he's bringing the dead bird to you. NB: Proper sit and stay to flush conditioning (phase 4 below) is your remedy for this last example.



The only reason for using Pigeons in quick release bird cages or going directly onto wild birds in the veld is to make your dog "sit and stay to flush" this means that your dog must sit and stay as soon as he hears the first wing beat of the flushing bird. He must then remain sitting as he views the bird fly away and he must only stand up again when you tell him that he can, usually after a slow count to 6. "Sitting to flush" is the objective of all bird work, whether its wild birds or tame birds (Pigeons or Quails). It is the objective of any future hunting you will do with your dog in the Field. Pointing is never your objective when working on birds. Sitting and staying to flush is what you want. Pointing is just a by-product of sitting and staying to flush. Pointing is the inherent behavioural response to the expected flush of the bird, the fact that the dog may not catch or kill the prey (must sit and stay to flush) would serve to stretch the time that a dog points as well as intensify the actual pointing stance.

While being very insistent in making certain that your dog sits and stays to the first wing beat of the flushing bird, he will begin to point staunchly. Try to understand that your dog needs to eventually associate the flushing wings of the bird with sitting and staying (the sound of the flushing birds’ wings will become his sit command). This means that your ultimate goal is to stop instructing him to sit and stay when the bird flushes and he simply sits and stays without any commanding at all. Yes, this may take a fair amount of conditioning work and depending on the dog, it usually requires a fair amount of birds to get it right, but a well-trained GSP in the field is an amazing asset and if you do your bird work training properly, you will enjoy endless hunting with your dog in the future.

Warning: Your dog must be very well conditioned to the sit and stay command before attempting bird work, the sit and stay command (phase 3 above) must be at a stage where its over-rides anything and everything your dog is doing at any time of the day or night. I recommend that if your Sit and Stay command is as well conditioned as is required, then from now onwards you only need issue the Sit and Stay command when dummy throwing and when the birds flush (2 separate exercises). You can therefore stop practicing or training the sit and stay command on other random occasions as you have done in phase 3 above. This is so that your dog begins to focus on sitting and staying only when birds actually flush or the dummy is thrown. If you attempt bird work and your dog ignores your sit and stay command as is required when the birds flush or the dummy is thrown, then give up bird and dummy work immediately and go back to phase 3 above until you have properly conditioned the Sit and Stay command. Okay, you’ve been warned not to rush into this phase 4 until phase 3 is 100% correct.


1.NOTE:  TIMING OF THE SIT COMMAND IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT HERE. ONLY ISSUE THE SIT COMMAND AT THE FIRST WING BEAT OF THE GAME BIRD OR PIGEON-NOT BEFORE. Hunt up on wild birds as often as possible, notice how you are being naturally unpredictable in the direction you follow and how it's essential that your dog watch you for proper adjustment to cover. You also watch your dog so that you do not miss his finding birds, but you don't follow your dog. At this stage you yourself need to begin to show a lot of interest in finding birds (no longer are you ignoring them as before) and every time a game bird begins to move its wings to take off then give your sit and stay command (The game bird is still at ground level when you give the sit command and its wings are just starting to flap). Don't wait for the bird to be a meter in the air before giving the sit command (Notice how your dog is beginning to point anticipation of the flush, now get down next to him and gently stroke his back-food bowl style), your timing must be perfect so issue the Sit command at the first wing beat. Do not give him any commands except the 'GOOD BOY" command while he is actually pointing or working birds and until the bird flushes, follow the flush quickly with the Sit command and leave him sitting up to a slow count of 6. NOTE: you can slap him on the butt simultaneously as the bird’s flush (NB: not before they flush); this helps to condition him to sit to the flush. Praise him every time his sit to flush is successful, regardless of whether he pointed or not-leave him sitting to a slow count of six.
2. This paragraph is in brackets because it is not a recommended way of training your GSP, rather it is a way out for those folks with no wild birds to work their dogs on. Meaning, if you have Wild Birds to work on then you can ignore this bracketed paragraph.(PIGEONS: You can use Pigeons in quick release cages to do exercise number 1 above if you feel more comfortable doing things that way, but move to wild birds as soon as your dog sits and stays spontaneously every time the Pigeon moves his wings for the first flap. Once you have this correct then never go back to Pigeons again. When using Pigeons in release cages you must place the cages out of sight (hide the cages in the grass, don't let your dog see you hiding the cages and plant the cages so that the wind direction is going straight toward your dog, giving him the maximum possibility of scenting the birds before you flush them) because you want your dog to utilize his nose to find the birds, not his eyes. Also, if you see your dog is getting in too close to the release trap before you flush the bird, then you need to flush while he's still a ways off and flush the bird quicker (make him sit and stay as you release the bird and never let him catch the bird),be sure though that he has scented the birds before you flush them (if he points the pigeons then stroke his back-food bowl style. Issue the sit command as you release the pigeon from the trap) as it's pointless for him to be using any one of his senses other than his nose to find the birds, give him his sit and stay command to the first wing beat of the pigeon and praise him when he successfully sits and stays to the first wing beat-leave him sitting to a count of 6 as the birds fly off. NOTE: Do be careful that your release trap does not slam into your dog’s nose or face when you flush the birds, you never want your dog to associate birds with any sort of pain or bad experience like this, as it may cause him to ignore birds for the rest of his life).
3. Once your dog is spontaneously sitting to flush (regardless of whether you used points1 or 2 above to get to this point), you can begin to fire your blank .22 as the bird flies away and your dog remains sitting. Leave him sitting and staying up to a count of six, then praise him and set him off hunting again. Either to your next Pigeon trap or preferably to the next covey of Game birds!
4. Often while your pup is still inexperienced, he may bump into birds without scenting them (the wind direction and/or scenting conditions can also be off), this is perfect as long as he consistently sits and stays every time a bird takes off in front of him, keep him sitting and never let him chase (fire.22 blank as birds fly off). Yes, this does mean he's got to go into an immediate sitting position as the bird’s flush in front of him, even if he is sprinting flat-out. Notice now the importance of phase 3 above.
5. Go often to a dam and extend your retrieving work to deeper water. Remember it is sit and stay. Throw the dummy and fire your .22 blank while the dummy is in the air (simulate water fowl shooting). Keep him staying to a count of six and send him in to the water to retrieve. Do exactly the same thing on land also (simulate land bird shooting). Praise immediately after (once you have the dummy delivered to you) the successful completion of both individual exercises.
6. If at all possible, you can begin to fire a shotgun while your dog eats now and as before you need to begin from a distance, check for sensitivity and move closer to him or further away depending on his reaction.


1. Give your dog commands other than the "GOOD BOY" command while he is working and/or pointing birds. If he is pointing then get down next to him and stroke him along the back saying Good Boy. Issue your sit command at the first wing beat of the bird and after it begins to flush- not before.


Birds found: 100
Steady to Flush: 96 (Includes running Guinea Fowl and relocated Orange River).
Pointed: 65 (Due to bad Summer scenting conditions-I hope)
This means that of the 100 birds found there were 96 steady to flush results. 65 were birds pointed followed by steady dogs when the birds were flushed, for the rest (31) the dogs did not point but sat and stayed when the birds flushed (the birds were bumped), therefore 96 steady to flush results. These results are very bad because of too little pointing results before the birds were flushed, but in mitigation, summer scenting conditions are notoriously bad.
Chased: 4. All chasing was by the same dog (Bitch actually) because I neglected proper “sit and stay to flush conditioning" before shooting birds over her when she was a youngster.



1) Your dog is completely steady, or sitting and staying when you throw the dummy, you can now fire the shotgun as you throw the dummy and he is automatically waiting up to a count of 6 before you send him to retrieve it.
2) He is also sitting and staying spontaneously when the birds flush (regardless of whether he pointed or not-provided your dog has a pointing instinct he'll start to point staunchly now when he scents the birds and before they flush) and you fire the shotgun into the air as they go. He only stands up again when you let him.

As soon as no's 1 and 2 above are individually perfect and require very little enforcement effort from you, then you can start hunting and shooting birds with your dog. This means that points 1 and 2 as explained above will effectively become one complete exercise on its own!

You may want somebody else to do the actual shooting for you at first while you control and watch the dog to see that he remains sitting and staying when the birds flush, it’s up to you, but under no circumstances must he be allowed to move (must sit and stay) to the first wing beat of the flushing game bird, through the shot and he must wait for you to command him to fetch the bird after the routine wait until a count of 6.

This means that your dog hunts up the birds and is always steady to flush when they take off, in other words he is now pointing spontaneously, he also hunts to the gun because the direction you follow when hunting birds is completely random and obviously unpredictable (phase 2). Never ever shoot a bird that he is chasing or not steady on (if this happens, you need to give up hunting and go back to phase 3-remain objective when training your dog), come up to him and you flush the birds. Shoot one only and see to it that he sits and remains sitting as the bird takes off. Make him wait to the count of 6 and send him to retrieve. He may take a bit of time at first to put his first bird into his mouth, just stay where you are and tell him to bring it, don't help him and give him lots of encouragement until he brings the bird to hand and when he does then it is praise, praise and more praise. Judge for yourself if he did well and if you think so, then go ahead and shoot another bird, repeating the exercise. Don't push it and keep watching him for in discretion's (like breaking in before commanded to "fetch"). Give him water when hunting. NOTE: It is almost impossible for a young dog on his first few practical hunting outings to produce a faultless performance. Just see to it on the first few shoots that all the basics are properly adhered to. These are sitting and staying when the birds flush, through the shot and he must wait for your "fetch" command before leaving his sit position to retrieve the bird. With time and experience he will begin to nail (point)countless birds for you to shoot and he'll be steady all the time.

When shooting wild fowl at the water’s edge, it is the same as your water retrieving exercises mentioned earlier in these notes. Keep him close to you (on a leash if you want) as the Ducks fly in. Shoot the Duck when it's in range and count to 6 while he sits and stays. Now it's fetch and send him into the water to retrieve the duck, as with the land retrieve he may need a little encouragement before putting the first Duck in his mouth. Once you have the Duck, praise him and resume waiting for the next duck. Repeat the exercise for the next duck etc… don't try and fetch the Ducks for him once they've floated to the bank, rather insist that he brings it from the water all the way into your hands while you call him from the bank, be patient and encourage him (Note: some people say their dogs don't retrieve in water or on land, in my opinion that is because hunters are too impatient with their dogs on the first few bird retrieves that their dogs do-your dog’s first few water and land retrieves are critical and you need to be patient and positively encourage the dog-time has no meaning to a dog, it is the human that is impatient). If you see he is going to put the Duck down so that he can shake himself off then just move backwards calling him until he delivers the Duck into your hand!

Now it's time for Field Trials. Field Trials are really the only way to formally and objectively test your dog and the only way you can honestly go around telling people that you have a good GSP. All things being equal, these notes, if followed to the letter should be enough to put you on the road to doing well in a South African HPR Field Trial (Please find out about the honouring or backing requirement) and Natural Ability Test. From a point of view of fairness to future generations of GSP owners, your dog must be properly assessed so that his/her good qualities can be recognized and passed on. Somebody did it for you (look at your dog’s pedigree) so it's expected you do it for others. It is not expected (or required) of you to breed your dog until he/she has been properly and objectively assessed through formal tests such as Field Trials, or as a minimum requirement the Natural Ability test.








1. Always be very insistent throughout your dog’s life that he sit and stay to game birds getting up in front of him or even 100 meters from him. Hunters that have allowed this requirement to slip over their dog’s lifespan have unfortunately ended up with a dog that does not point as staunchly as is required and I have noticed that such hunters struggle to get into a decent shooting position before the bird’s flush. This is simply because the dog flushes the bird himself in his haste to chase (kill) the bird and of course the hunter is nowhere near in range to get a shot off.
2. Never be stressed out if your dog hunts a long way from you. Just maintain your hunting direction (or change course away from him) and let him discover that the shooting and real sport happens around you, not him, understand that the aim of using pointer while hunting is that he points and hold the birds until you get to him, so therefore this principle must also be applied even if he's a long way from you.
3. Always walk (do not run) up to your dog if he is pointing. Your dog was bred to point and hold the point until you get there.
4. If you are on a hunting field and your dog completely disappears then don't spend your day looking for him, looking for him plays nicely into doing what he wants you to do,(Okay if you suspect he's in a snare or injured then do something about it) Leave him to realize that you will not have your day in the field influenced by his behaviour. Just keep on hunting (without a dog) and when he comes back then give him water and praise him then let him start hunting for you again. A pointless and destructive thing to do would be to punish him when he eventually re-appears, this will cause him to fear you and next time he won’t come back at all.
5. When hunting your dog, never come to a stop. Keep moving, slowly if need be but don't stop. When he points, you still don't stop because you move around him to flush the birds (okay, you can stop to stroke him encouragingly along the back while he's pointing). Obviously then you will come to a complete stop to shoot the birds, and you will remain motionless while he fetches the bird (he fetches only on command and the bird/s are down). Generally, this is the only time you will come to a dead stop while hunting with your dog.
6. A dog still has all his pack behaviour instincts and it is still important for a dog to have a pack leader. The behaviour of a pack leader is all-important to a dog. The pack leader that keeps on following his dog around, runs to catch up with him when he's ranging far out or punishes him after, not during an indiscretion, will cause the structure of the pack to break down and he will quickly find himself with a sad example of a hunting dog that was full of potential as a puppy.
7. Praise your dog as often as possible and he'll perform better in the hunting field, Field Trial or even around your house.
8. The quieter and calmer you are while hunting or Field Trialling the better will be your dog's performance.

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