We are very frequently asked by first time versatile gun dog owners what they need in the way of equipment. Since that’s what we sell, it puts us in a peculiar position - we don’t want to “over recommend”, and yet it doesn’t make sense to be so conservative that the owner doesn’t get those things he or she really needs. This page is our attempt to solve that problem. For owners of those breeds of dogs considered versatiles, we’ve put together this list of recommendations. A great many of the items can be obtained through us. Of course, even if your puppy is not what’s traditionally thought of as a “versatile”, if it’s a gun dog you will still probably want most of these same items.
For those who have landed on this page out of curiosity, a versatile gun dog (or simply “versatile”) is one of any of those breeds of hunting dogs which are expected to have inherited the natural instincts to point, retrieve on land and from water, and track game (follow foot scent on land or body scent trails across water). In Germany, this class of dog includes the Deutsch-Drahthaar, Deutsch-Kurzhaar, Kleine Münsterlander, Deutsch-Langhaar, Grosse Münsterlander, Pudelpointer, Weimaraner, and Griffon. (We've listed these in the order of their participation in VGP - the German Utility Test.) Obviously, there are great differences between the breeds and between individuals with respect to their inherited abilities in each area. It’s the handler’s job to create balance in the dog, so that it does everything to an acceptable or better level. In the USA, these breeds are becoming increasingly popular, and American counterparts that you might recognize include the German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP), German Wirehaired Pointer (GWP), Weimaraner, and Wirehaired Pointing Griffon (WPG). We should also point out that other versatile gun dog breeds also exist - we’ve just concentrated on those from Germany.
OK, here we go with our list. For these purposes we’ll assume that you have raised other pups before, and probably have had another hunting dog, but that you now have a new versatile gun dog pup and want all the necessary “stuff”.
Books and Publications - This is one of the toughest areas in which to make a recommendation because there is so little on the subject written in English. So, your library should include several titles each on training pointing breeds, retrievers, and tracking training - this will all provide good general background. A standard in the field is Training and Care of the Versatile Gun Dog, a NAVHDA publication. There’s a lot about this one we don’t like, and wouldn’t want a pup out of our kennel trained with it exclusively, but it remains a “must read”. Yet another is Training the Sporting Dog, by Don Smith & Ervin E. Jones, the Official Training System of the American Hunting Dog Club. However, we haven’t read this one in it’s entirety, and there are some aspects with which we don’t agree, but it does contain a wealth of good information. Don’t forget a good book on health care, like Carlson & Giffin’s Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook.
We don’t sell any of the books mentioned above, but we imagine a decent search engine will find you one or more sources for them. One we do carry is the Tri-Tronics book, Retriever Training. Again, not perfect and a little out of date, but it contains a tremendous amount of good information, particularly about e-collar use.
Of course, all this has been leading up to our little book, the Drahthaar Puppy Manual. It’s about due for an update, but we think that it’s absolutely essential for anyone who intends to test in the German tests, or the counterparts in this country. It’s biased toward our breed of choice, but if you can get over that, and if you’ve read the other stuff we’ve mentioned, you should find our manual will keep you on track. It’s intended to cover what you need to do (versatile gun dog training-wise) from eight weeks to about two years. While it does not detail VGP preparation, it does include sections on steadiness training and beginning blood tracking work. It differs from many of the others in that it stresses development of natural abilities to their fullest and avoiding anything that might weaken those abilities. We, for example, typically don’t use a check cord until a dog is over about 18 months, and feel that Hold training is mostly to get a proper delivery, not a substitute for the desire to retrieve.
There’s also a periodical which is very popular with the versatile dog folks - “Gun Dog Magazine”. Keep in mind that not all authors are straight-shooters and not all know what they’re talking about. This caution applies equally to books. We once mentioned to one of America’s most popular hunting dog authors that we thought one section of his most recent book was complete and utter B.S. His reply, “I know, but it sells books.”
Finally, and most importantly, we would urge you to join your breed club and purchase any publications they may have. Certainly, if they have breeding and/or test regulations, you must get them early on, so you know how to interpret or weigh what is said in your other reading.
Gear for 7 weeks up to 5 1/2 or so months old - In our view, socialization and exposure to everything possible is what is most important now. Throw in a little light obedience training and response conditioning, and maybe a puppy obedience class. Items we normally stock are indicated by an asterisk.
- Nylabones - several, not the Gumabone permutation: get the hard nylon only
- Wing on a string rig (handkerchief or rag can substitute for wing)
- Dual tone whistle (at least three, unless you never lose anything) *
- Choke collar of appropriate size - get a cheap little one locally, but no nylon or fabric
- Puppy collar* with ID tag
- Training lead - 6 to 8' lead with hand loop *
- Dressage whip or other very light switch (probably will only ever be used 1 to 3 times)
- Spray water bottle or water pistol (for longer range in-house corrections, like noise in crate)
- Wire kennel crate (plastics get too hot inside)
- Dummies - one canvas puppy, one 2x12 regular knobby, one 3x12 jumbo knobby, any color *
- Cap pistol and blank pistol or equivalent for gun-shot noise conditioning
Gear for 5 to 18 months old
- Dummies (lots), for example - minimum total of six 3x12 jumbos: two of the 50/50 black and white, four of the orange, and maybe a bag to carry them *
- Jäger lead *
- Shedding blade and quality horse brush
- Kennel/ID collar* with proper ID tag (we get our tags at boomerangtags.com )
- Training lead, 8' *
- Tracking slip leads - (3 minimum; you’ll also use these as drag ropes) *
- Tracking collar (optional)
- 30' cotton training lead / long line
- Dowels (several) 3/4" to 1" diameter, 8 to 10" long
- Dumbbells, from 1 up to 6 or 8 pounds
- Bell, beeper*, or e-collar* with remote-control beeper*
- Adult-size choker
- Prong Collar with quick release
- Stiff pole or conduit with cord for pole drags (see Puppy Manual)
- Dummy Launcher* with shoulder stock* and four dummies* (optional, but nice if you often don’t have a helper)
- E-collar* of choice, preferably one with lots of choices (15 or more) of very low continuous stimulation. Be sure to first decide whether you want (and can afford) one which can remotely control a beeper - a feature we consider absolutely essential. If you'll be doing escape training (which we prefer) and need the ability to remotely control a beeper, then our choices would be the Tri-Tronics Pro 100 G3 EXP, or the G3 Sport Upland. If you will never want to use a remote-control beeper, our personal preferences would again include the Tri-Tronics Pro 100 G3 EXP, as well as the Tri-Tronics G3 Sport Combo, the Tri-Tronics G3 Sport Basic. See our Selecting Advice for more details.
- Bird carrier bag
- Surveyor’s tape
- Bird transport box - the best are homemade - plans readily available, also described in our Drahthaar Puppy Manual
- 12 ga. blanks
Gear for about 18 months and beyond
- Poly check cord (30' to 50'), can also serve as a blood tracking lead
- Tracking collar
- Leather or poly blood tracking leash
- Deer hide for blood tracking training
- Bird launchers (very optional - we don’t use)