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5 Books to Help Train Your Hunting Dog

If dreams of puppies mix regularly with dreams of your full-grown dog retrieving birds to hand, then these books focused on hunting dog training should be in your library.

I have to admit, I researched this list of books in a frenzy of baby bird dog excitement. My first bird dog is due in just a few weeks, and 7-8 weeks after that, I will be cradling a tiny brown Boykin spaniel in my arms.

Bird hunting behind dogs has been a rare but exceptional experience each time, so much so that I decided it was both a style of training and hunting that I wanted to take on. But I live in a small town where bird dog trainers are few and far between. So I figured I’d turn the page for more information.

When training my uber-sensitive border collie, I adjusted my training methods to his unique needs using a book called “The Loved Dog” by Tamar Geller, and I found it to be extremely helpful. Years later, Butch is a consummate gentleman, and he sets a high bar.

Now that I’ll be doing hunt-specific training, I’ll be using a variety of texts to start and finish my gun dog, and these are the ones I’ll be leaning on. Here are books recommended by reviewers and bird dog folks alike.

How to Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves, Taking Advantage of Early Conditioned Learning‘ by Joan Bailey

hunting dog training, joan bailey

This book is written primarily for dogs in the first 12 months of their life. It encourages owners to use socialization, exposure, and classical conditioning to help your pup grow into its instincts as a gun dog.

With over 130 pictures and step-by-step instructions, this is less a wordy diatribe on training and more a practical guide on how to set your young dog up for success with positive reinforcement and affection. How fast can I put this in my Amazon cart? So, so fast.

What customers say: “Unlike other ‘training methods’ that depend on negative and sometimes harsh reprimands, this book focuses on establishing a positive and constructive dialogue, between human and dog, built upon mutual trust, love, and affection. Even if the human’s objective is simply to raise a well-mannered family member and companion, this book is a MUST READ.” — Melissa Allen

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Absolutely Positively Gundog Training: Positive Training for Your Retriever Gundog‘ by Robert Milner

hunting dog training, robert milner

Robert Milner has long bred British Labradors, and he’s trained dogs for hunting, scent detection, and search-and-rescue. His take also focuses on positive reinforcement, and he adds useful scientific research into his methods.

The one downside is that it’s more pointed to flushing dogs like his retrievers rather than your pointing breeds. But, if flushing dogs are your thing, Milner has a lot of great advice on how to get the most out of them while having a good time together learning. And what’s more fun than having fun with your pup?

What customers say: “Takes the confusion and coercion out of dog training. This is the most direct and easily implemented method of training that I have ever found. It produces dogs who love to hunt and do it exceptionally well with bonus points for making a great family dog as well. I had given up the idea of training because the traditional methods just don’t work well and they are SLOW. This is 3 times faster and makes a dog who loves his work.” — Foxfire

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Game Dog: The Hunter’s Retriever for Upland Birds and Waterfowl‘ by Richard A. Wolters

hunting dog training, richard wolter

Richard Wolter’s first book on training dogs came out in 1961. Re: This guy has been training retrievers for a very long time. Many publications refer to his training books in a biblical sense. And more than 300 reviews net his methods five stars on Amazon.

Folks say to get this prior to getting your pup. But older dogs can learn new tricks. And Wolter’s methods are time-tested and continually produce well-mannered, happy retrievers.

What customers say: “Had to [buy] another copy, probably the 5th I have owned because I always end up giving it away to new dog owners who want their dog to be as well-mannered and disciplined as mine. Have trained 6 Labradors using Wolter’s methods over the years since I was 8 years old. Starting on my 7th. Chocolate Male. Off to a great start.” — SSS

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Training Your Pointing Dog for Hunting & Home‘ by Richard Weaver

pointing dog training

As a few books are focused on flushing retrievers (which my pup will be) I couldn’t leave out the pointing breeds among us. This book is really beloved by pointer trainers and owners alike.

It takes a wide berth, talking breeds, problem-solving, pointing specificities, and more. This is more of an instructive, which is what I’m looking for as I begin my new training journey. And it looks to be a great one for the owners of the fabulous and elegant pointing breeds.

What customers say: “Excellent book for someone looking to train a pointing dog for the first time…I’ve read several different training books from top trainers looking for a good plan or guide & came up with a plan of my own using these different methods to fit my style. Later, I found and read this book only to find it is spot on with my plans for training my new German Shorthair pup. I’ll be using it as a reference while I train this pup into a hunting dog.” — Tom Gordon

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Force-Free Gundog Training: The Fundamentals for Success‘ by Jo Laurens

bird dog training, jo laurens

In my work with both dogs and horses, I’ve found operant conditioning to be the quickest and most engaging tool with which my animal partner enjoys learning. It’s a useful tool for any animal at any point in training. And the more you figure it out, the better it gets.

That’s what this book covers, and it does so in a step-by-step way rather than taking a theoretical edge.

What customers say: “This IS the dog training textbook I’ve been looking for. Both me and dog are having a great time along this journey of training both of us the fundamentals of this sport in a way I can go to bed at night knowing both of us are having a wonderful time. Can’t wait for Jo’s next book on more advanced gun dog work!” — Jaime Dan

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Nicole Qualtieri

Based in Montana, Nicole Qualtieri is GearJunkie's Hunt + Fish Editor. She also serves as a Board Director for Orion the Hunters Insititute, a non-profit promoting fair chase and hunting ethics nationwide. A DIY hunter, she comes from a non-traditional hunting background and began hunting and fishing in her 30s. She's been a voice for hunting, fishing, and conservation since 2014, when she got started working on the television show MeatEater. She's an avid horsewoman, bird dog aficionado, snowboarder, hiker/backpacker, food nerd, and all-around outdoorswoman. Find her online at @nkqualtieri.