Gundogs: Their Learning Chain by Joe Irving
After having read another Joe Irving book a few years
ago, I didn't know what to expect with "Gundogs, Their
Learning Chain." Perhaps it is because I currently
have two one-year-old Springers in the kennel and
therefore am attuned to training issues, or perhaps
the book is that much better, but Joe has made a
believer out of me.
Irving calls the sequences of basic lessons a
"learning chain." You must build on the first before
the next will be effective. For instance, if pup is
not consistently retrieving, has the foundation for
recall ("come" or "here") been established? If not, go
back and work on that before moving on to retrieving.
A simple concept indeed, but Irving's insight into the
mind of the pup (and the trainer) makes this book
Irving also stresses the need to make training fun for
the pup; you need to make it a "game." Say Irving,
"One little game progresses on to the next and they
are closely related to each other; if the trainer
engages in this regime in a happy relaxed frame of
mind, with little thought of failure, then success is
"From little acorns great oak trees grow", and so it
is with anything - there has to be a beginning. The
training of dogs is no exception; you have to start
somewhere and then build on it. The 'little acorn' in
the training situation is, of course, the 'sit'
command, for from this all else grows."
As with many books, not all the information is useful
to everyone. There is a chapter on "The Pointers and
Setters," and also a chapter on "Picking up and
Beating." And, as is often the case, the whistle
commands differ somewhat from those typically used in
American spaniel trials.
However, the book has over 200 pages of text, and with
a fairly compact font, so there is a lot of
information to digest. This is not a book you will
devour in a few sittings.
Besides the basic information, structured around the
"learning chain" paradigm, the book is chock-full of
little tricks that come only with years of experience.
Those who have been training for a while will probably
notice these techniques, and may even learn a thing or
two. This has been the most worthwhile training book I
have reviewed in quite some time.
"I am convinced that there is too much emphasis in
gundog training placed on physical chastisement and
not enough attention to the prevention of the problem
in the first place."
Copies of this book are available from:
Spaniel Journal Bookstore
Gundogs: Their Learning Chain, second edition
Copyright © 1998 Joe Irving
Swan Hill Press, Quiller Publishing Ltd
ISBN 1 84037 033 5
Bill Fawcett resides in the Shenandoah Valley of
Virginia with his wife, Cindy, and his Smythwicks
Springers: Jenna, Beebe, Chip and Dottie. He is a
hunter, field trialer, breeder and member of the M-AHSC and
the ESSFTA. He maintains a public FB ESS
pedigree database at smythwicks.org.