Career Path – How To Become A Gundog Trainer

Have you ever thought about becoming a dog trainer and following that as a career path? It does sound like one of the most rewarding jobs a dog lover can do. A gundog trainer is a very specialized and unique field of training. Essentially, you will train a dog to become the hunter’s right hand to search, flush, and retrieve game. As a career path, you will need to know everything on how to become a gundog trainer.

A certified gundog trainer can expect to undergo at least two years of training and assessment. With this qualification, you will become registered with the issuing body as well as the AKC. A minimum requirement of 300 hours is advised, as well as theoretical examination papers and field trail assessments.

A gundog trainer is an exciting career path to consider; it allows you to become well acquainted with various breeds of gundogs, their characteristics, various upland and wetland hunting terrains, and different game types. These would include birds like pheasants, grouse, woodcock, ducks, geese, rabbits, hare, and small game like a buck.

To train any dog successfully, you have to prove that you can bring the dog’s best out for the owner or potential owner. As a hunting and sporting dog enthusiast, you could earn a salary from training gundogs, which makes this career super exciting and rewarding. Let us look into what it takes to become qualified.

Is There A Need For Gundog Trainers?

Excellent dog trainers are always in high demand, especially well-qualified gundog trainers. One of the reasons for that is the quality of available dogs, and owners are spending increasingly higher amounts for a well-bred gundog from good bloodlines. If an inexperienced hand should teach a gundog terrible habits, that dog is considered useless in the field, and the dog would be ruined for good.

People who would typically hire the services of a gundog trainer are dog owners that are new to the sport. Kennels that have dogs in various degrees of training and that sell dogs ready to work. A gundog training center that would be interested in hiring the services of an extra trainer. Certain seasons of the year, you expect to see the demand for training in upland and wetland dogs rise so that the dogs are fresh and polished.

Certain owners will need a dedicated trainer’s service if they compete in field trials, for example. This is a simulated hunt where the dog gets tested in every possible aspect of the hunt. The trainer can significantly help the competitor get their dog ready in any number of disciplines ranging from basic obedience to distance work and retrieving on command.

Those who compete in field trials take the profession extremely seriously, and it is very demanding of the dog and owner. Trainers can give an outside perspective and greatly assist in corrective behavior. Owners of dogs who carry the FTC champion abbreviation are able to demand a higher price for their puppies.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Qualified Gundog Trainer?

You can take many different courses, and it depends on the level of qualification you are looking for. The higher qualified you are, the more you will be able to charge for your services. Some courses are only about three months, but you can be sure that will not give you an excellent qualification, and you will not be able to charge top prices per hour.

It would be best to consider how serious you are about the profession and how good you want to become. The minimum time that you should consider is one year. That will give you an entry-level qualification. This should include theory and some practical.

Some training schools require that you already have some experience before you take on the more advanced modules. For gundog training, most schools need you to be qualified in several basic modules first. Considering these courses are not cheap and rightfully so, they are preparing you to train various dogs and hopefully allow you to run your training center successfully.

For practicality, you can expect to become qualified and certified within 1 to 2 years, depending on if you are committed to full-time training or if you can only do it part-time in staggered modules.

Where Do You Start To Become A Gun Dog Trainer?

An excellent place to begin researching would be to go online and find a dog training school in your immediate area. If you cannot find one closeby, you might look at the state or at states where small game hunting and wingshooting are popular. Make contact with a few schools, and you can ask them a few questions like;

  • Are they an accredited school?
  • Who are they affiliated to?
  • Are they registered with the North American Gundog Association?
  • Does the AKC recognize them?
  • What certification can you expect to carry after?
  • Can they give you previous students’ success stories to look at?
  • See if they have a Google rating.

Once you have had all of these questions answered to your satisfaction, you can then decide which schools you would like to visit. It is always recommended that you do a site visit and see the location and facility for yourself.

It is always better to make a judgment call once you meet somebody face to face. The personality of the trainer is critical to the success of the dog. Since you will be spending quite a lot of time with your coach and trainer, you will want to be with somebody who is professional, well qualified, and has a people’s approach with patience and discipline at the order of the day.

Very importantly, you need to see how the trainer handles their dogs. The dogs should be relaxed and confident around the trainer with no visible fear or anxiety displayed. This will be an overall indication of what you can expect.

Step By Step Training

Taking a look at some of the courses out there. We identify 12 different training modules, the length, and the content. This course overview will give you an idea of what you can expect to cover within the timeframe. Each of these modules can take between 2 weeks to a month per module, depending on the learning speed. A module can cost as much as $ 1500 each.

The Novice Or Beginner Trainer

  1. Module 1 – The History of Gundogs/Dog Development Stages/How To Select The Right Puppy. In this first module, you will learn everything about the dog’s fundamentals, domestication history, how they develop, and how do you select the right puppy for the field. The modules can include;
  2. The history of the canine and its domestication.
  3. Specific breeds and their purpose.
  4. Puppy development is explained in stages.
  5. Proper socialization and specific concerns to be aware of.
  6. How to raise dogs for specific needs.
  7. Common concerns – rehoming – life expectancy and end of life decisions.
  8. Health issues with specific breeds and known behavioral problems.

For a beginners module such as this, no previous training would be required, and this would constitute your first in any training academy.

  • Module 2 – The Concepts Of TrainingThe fundamentals of dog training.How dogs learn. Positive approaches for the correct behavioral responses. In this module, you will learn how dogs respond to stimulation, how they learn, and the best way to get a positive result from your approach. The modules can include;
  • How dogs learn.
  • Outside factors that influence learning.
  • Internal factors that influence learning.
  • How to acquire the desired behavior – Methods in practice
  • Training stages – Acquisition – Maintenance
  • Frozen pigeons or wings for training purposes.

A module like this will have a prerequisite of a beginner’s module to be completed.

  • Module 3 –  Basic Obedience 1 – Functional Life Skills – The basics of obedience. The purpose of obedience. Obedience in practice indoor and outdoor applications. In the third and fundamental module, you will learn the importance of the basic sit, heel, lie down, WHOA, back, and bring commands. You will learn how to apply them indoors and outdoors. The module can include;
  • The purpose of obedience and the cues to use.
  • The correct cues for the right environment
  • How to avoid confusion when cueing the dog
  • Obedience training cues and stages.

To do this module, you will need to have done both previous beginner modules to have a solid foundation of basic dog training.

  • Module 4 – Developing Positive ReliabilityIn this module, you will learn the basics of control amidst distractions and do so without using leads, e-collars, choker chains, and slip leads. This module should cover;
  • Using the correct approach to positively developing reliability.
  • Using high distraction situations to develop stable, functional obedience.
  • How to motivate and develop prey drive and to control it.
  • Positive training – the advanced principles.
  • Working with other field dogs.

For this module, you will need at least modules 2 and 3 and prove proficiency to continue.

  • Module 5 – Field Obedience –  In this module, you will learn about high distraction obedience training in the field. How to train and direct high-energy dogs with equally high drive under challenging circumstances of situations. This module should cover;
  • Working at a distance, increasing distance. Increase distractions and the duration of each exercise.
  • Secure a reliable recall of the dog from any distance and situation.
  • How to attain reliable off-leash obedience in any situation.
  • Using basic obedience to recall a dog in mid cue.

To qualify for this module, you need a minimum level 3 equivalent to advance with this training level.

  • Module 6 – Positive Retrieving and Scent Work BasicsThis module will cover these two rewarding aspects of training gundogs. Most gundogs love to train in this field as it is very stimulating for them. This module should cover;
  • How to use scent work.
  • The importance of scent work in the field.
  • How to detect odors – Fundamentals.
  • How to develop air scent abilities.
  • How to develop ground scent abilities.
  • The uses and importance of the retrieve.
  • Positive retrieving training.

For this module, you need to know modules 1 and 2 as a minimum requirement.

  • Module 7 – Behavior Issues 1- Basic Behavior ModificationHow to identify behavioral issues and apply proper modification techniques. Solving common problems like excessive barking, marking territory in the house, jumping on guests, and destructive behaviors. This module should cover;
  • How to solve behavioral issues without the use of force or harsh correction.
  • Using tested behavior modification strategies and techniques.
  • How to use dog-specific techniques and not textbook applications.

For this advanced module, you will need the basics of modules 1 to 3 minimum.

  • Module 8 – Behavior Issues 2 – Advanced Behavior Modification This module deals with dogs’ anxiety, dogs that display baseless fear, and fear-driven aggression. This module should cover;
  • The most noted common causes of fear and anxiety in dogs.
  • How to curb boredom and related anxiety.
  • Dealing with separation anxiety.
  • Dealing with and stopping leash aggression.
  • Modifying socialization problems.
  • Aggressive dog management and behavior modification via obedience.

For this module, you will need to have done a module 1 to 3 minimum. This is a relatively advanced module and requires good foundational knowledge.

  • Module 9 – Choosing The Right Gundog – Raising and Exposure. In this module, you will learn about choosing the right breed, the right puppy, and raising it right. How to avoid making critical errors and learning bad habits. This module should cover the following;
  • Breeds and their purpose.
  • How to choose the right breed.
  • How to choose the right puppy.
  • The best socialization methods.
  • The correct exposure to birds.
  • Gundog assessment procedures.
  • Exposure to environments the right way.
  • The right time to expose the dog to guns.

For the module, you will be required to have at least a module 1 to 2 background.

  1. Module 10 – The Gundog Starter – Tracking, pointing, flushing, and retrieving. In this module, you will be tested and learn how to control upland or field dogs. This module should cover;
  2. Finding and flushing birds.
  3. How to work the field and quartering basics.
  4. How to be steady at the shot and on the wing.
  5. Proper retrieving and recall.
  6. Dummies on land and in water. Correct retrieve.

For this module type, you will need modules 1 to 5 and 9 as a minimum requirement.

  1.  Module 11 – The Finished Gundog – Upland and Waterfowl Work. This module will cover the finishing and fine-tuning of the new working dog. Track, pointing, retrieving, and steadiness. This module should include;
  2. Blind retrieving.
  3. Waterwork.
  4. Hunting in apparel like jackets.
  5. Tracking wounded game.
  6. Ultimate steadiness on the wing and on the gun.
  7. Dummies on land and in water. Proper retrieve and release.

For this module, you will be tested and required to know modules 1 to 5, 9, and 11.

  1. Module 12 – Opening and Running Your Own Gundog Training Center– Everything you need to know about being a gundog trainer as a career choice. This module should cover;
  2. The ethics of training.
  3. How to run a training facility.
  4. Legal framework.
  5. Affiliations and registrations.
  6. Marketing.

At the end of these 12 modules, you can take two more that will include specific working with dummies and waterwork retrieving.

How Much Money Does A Gundog Trainer Make?

On average, a fully qualified gundog trainer in America can earn between $ 50 to $120 per hour depending on their expertise, proven track record, and location. The stated average salary for a gundog trainer is around $ 62 000 per year. This is a fair salary in the United States.

Typically gundog trainers can charge around $ 80 per class, going up in rate depending on the dog’s level and what is expected from the dog specifically.


It is relatively easy to make a career out of becoming a gundog trainer. You need to find a great training center, work with a budget that you can afford, and not be too much in a hurry to get qualified. Working with live animals takes patience and dedication.

Gundogs are particularly sensitive and require a trainer with a steady personality, an understanding of the fundamentals of training, and deep knowledge and love of dogs. As gundog trainers are in such high demand, this is an exciting career option to consider.


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