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Training Tips

Margaret Allen BOOKS

Margaret has had extensive experience of training, trialling, breeding and showing dogs. Margaret's dogs have won many field trial and test awards, both at Novice and Open level. Margaret also does Gundog training demonstrations for country fairs and regularly gives lectures on dog training and canine psychology. Margaret and her dogs have been featured in the Shooting Times, Shooting Gazette and The Field.


In 2011, she judged the Working Gundog Class at Crufts. Her books cover various aspects of dog care, with a particular focus on obedience training, which comprises more than half of her publications. These sections are especially beneficial for owners of field golden retrievers and I highly recommend them.


In the Bag !

In the Bag! offers a fresh approach to gundog training for beginners and seasoned trainers alike. It contains sound advice on the selection of your Labrador Retriever (OR GOLDEN RETRIEVER) and valuable information regarding his care and management from puppy to veteran. It gives step-by-step guidance on his training and how to make smooth progress towards the finished article: a Labrador that is a pleasure in the home as well as in the field, and a reliable shooting companion who puts game in the bag.

Margaret Allen has been successfully training, trialling, breeding and showing Labradors since 1964. Trying to understand the workings of the canine mind has always held a fascination for Margaret and she believes that in order to train your dog successfully, you should make it your chief objective to find out what makes him tick. In this book, you will learn how your dog thinks, reacts and learns. Armed with this knowledge, training should proceed with a minimum of setbacks. Our working Labrador has been bred for generations to retrieve game - it is in his blood. Through selective breeding, dogs have been produced which are kindly and willing to please. It should not, therefore, be hard work to make him into a Gundog. It should be fun! This book will help you make it so. A fresh approach to gundog training for beginners and seasoned trainers alike, which explains how to train your Labrador so that he is a pleasure to work with and an asset in the field. Contains sound advice on the selection of your Labrador and valuable information on care and management from puppy to veteran. Fully illustrated with 90 colour photographs. Margaret Allen has been successfully training, trialling, breeding and showing Labradors since 1964 and her dogs have been featured in various shooting magazines. Eight of the twelve chapters in this book cover general obedience, applicable to any breed or house dog. The final four focus exclusively on retrieving. If you read the first eight chapters, you'll be well on your way to having the perfect dog!

It can be found on many places on the internet. or 

the troublewithgundogs.png


The Trouble with Gundogs takes a new look at the causes and cures for the many faults that can crop up in the process of training a Gundog. Dogs and humans have lived, worked and played together for thousands of years and strong bonds have formed between them. With luck and care, the training, management and handling of a Gundog will progress without a hitch. The luck begins with natural talent on both sides and the care ensures that correct choices are made and good sense prevails. However, things can still go wrong. This book offers solutions to the problems that may occur along the way. There are hundreds of different types of dog and each one has its own character. Because of this, one size does not fit all when tackling a problem, and different approaches are offered. Observation, determination and perseverance will usually be rewarded.

It can be found on many places on the internet. OR

MY Training Advice and thoughts

Dog training is a diverse and fascinating field, marked by a variety of methods and opinions. With countless approaches available, it's essential to navigate through the myriad of information carefully. Unfortunately, the industry also sees its share of questionable advice, often from individuals who might claim expertise after completing only a brief online course. In dog training, real-world experience is invaluable.

At its core, training a dog is quite straightforward: it involves shaping a dog's behavior through positive reinforcement or corrective measures. However, one of the more challenging aspects is avoiding the development of bad habits. This is where resources like Margaret's books become crucial. Amidst a sea of unreliable information, her books provide a solid, consistent methodology. Although primarily focused on retrieving, over three quarters of the content is dedicated to general training principles. By adhering closely to her guidance, you are likely to raise a well-rounded, obedient dog.


Margaret's methods have been proven effective through the training of thousands of dogs, offering a reliable path to success without the need to explore other techniques.


One of the most valuable pieces of advice I've received throughout my years of dog training is the importance of accepting responsibility for a dog's behaviour. Reflecting on my early days competing in dog obedience trials, I recall analysing each performance and, like many others, initially blaming my dog for any mistakes, attributing errors to their actions or perceived silliness. However, a pivotal moment came when an esteemed and experienced trainer, whom I greatly respected, challenged my perspective. He pointed out that top-level competitors, who perform at national levels, never blame their dogs for mistakes. Instead, they hold themselves accountable, recognising that any fault lies in their own training methods and their execution under trial conditions. Embracing this mindset—that every single mistake is a reflection of my training—led to significant improvements in my results, even got me a second at the Nationals in Obedience.

This principle holds true not just for competitive training but also for everyday dog owners. For example, failing to teach a puppy independence will lead to stress and anxiety later in life. Likewise, inadequate socialisation or providing too much freedom too soon can create behavioral issues. Puppies, unlike children, require clear, black-and-white communication.

Margret's books delve into effective communication strategies with puppies and dogs. They outline critical dos and don'ts in training, illustrating the consequences of certain actions and the benefits of others. These insights are invaluable for anyone looking to foster a well-adjusted and happy canine companion. Her approach is based on understanding the canine mind and ensuring the training is enjoyable for both the dog and the trainer and this is why I love her methods so much, they just work.

Here's a list of positive habits that you should encourage

your puppy to develop for a healthy and happy life:

  1. Regular Eating Schedule: Teach your puppy to eat at set times to promote digestive health and routine.

  2. Consistent Potty Training: Establish and maintain a strict bathroom schedule to help your puppy learn where and when it's appropriate to go.

  3. Gentle Play: Encourage your puppy to play gently with humans and other animals, discouraging biting or overly rough play.

  4. Crate Training: Help your puppy view their crate as a safe space, facilitating easier travel, sleep, and anxiety management.

  5. Socialization: Expose your puppy to different environments, people, and other animals to develop confidence and reduce fear or aggression.

  6. Basic Commands: Train your puppy in basic commands like "sit", "stay", "come", and "leave it" to enhance safety and manageability.

  7. Walking on a Leash: Teach your puppy to walk nicely on a leash without pulling, making walks enjoyable for both of you. In all my years I have never seen a top dog trainer use a harness to walk their dog.

  8. Chewing Appropriately: Provide appropriate toys for chewing and consistently discourage chewing on inappropriate items like furniture or shoes.

  9. Independence: Encourage periods of independence to prevent separation anxiety, allowing your puppy to feel comfortable alone for short periods.

  10. Handling: Regularly handle your puppy, touching their paws, ears, and mouth to prepare them for vet visits and grooming. 

  11. Calm Behavior Indoors: Train your puppy to understand that indoors is a place for calm behavior, helping them distinguish between outdoor playtime and indoor relaxation.

  12. Patience: Teach your puppy to wait for food, toys, or attention, which can help manage impulsive behavior and reinforce self-control.

  13. Regular Grooming Tolerance: Acclimate your puppy to regular grooming practices, including brushing, bathing, and nail trimming to ensure they are comfortable with routine care.

  14. Noise Desensitization: Expose your puppy to various sounds, from household appliances to traffic noises, to minimize fear and anxiety related to loud or unfamiliar noises.

  15. Sleep Routine: Establish a consistent bedtime routine, helping your puppy understand when it's time to settle down for the night.

  16. Respecting Boundaries: Train your puppy to respect boundaries within the home, such as staying out of certain rooms or off specific furniture, if desired.

  17. Positive Reinforcement: Use treats, praise, and toys to reward desired behavior, promoting a positive learning environment.

  18. Travel Comfort: Introduce your puppy to car rides and travel crates early on to ensure they are comfortable with traveling.

  19. Health Check Readiness: Make regular handling a part of your routine to prepare your puppy for veterinary exams, making them more manageable for both the vet and the dog.

  20. Environmental Enrichment: Provide a variety of experiences that stimulate your puppy’s senses, such as different textures underfoot, puzzle toys, or safe new locations to explore.


By nurturing these habits from an early age, your puppy will grow into a well-adjusted and well-mannered adult dog.

Here's a list of behaviors you should discourage from the

start to ensure your puppy grows into a well-mannered adult dog:

  1. Jumping Up: Discourage your puppy from jumping on people as a greeting or to get attention, as this can become problematic, especially as they grow larger.

  2. Play Biting: While it may seem harmless, allowing play biting can lead to more aggressive behavior in the future. Teach your puppy to play gently without using their teeth.

  3. Getting Overly Excited Indoors: Train your puppy to remain calm inside the house. High energy and rowdy behavior indoors can lead to accidents and damage.

  4. Begging for Food: Never encourage begging at the table by giving in and feeding your puppy scraps from your plate.

  5. Chewing on Inappropriate Items: Provide suitable chew toys and consistently teach your puppy what is not acceptable to chew on, like furniture, shoes, or personal items.

  6. Barking for Attention: Do not reinforce excessive barking by giving attention; instead, reward quiet behavior.

  7. Pulling on the Leash: Start leash training early to prevent your puppy from developing a habit of pulling during walks.

  8. Jumping on Furniture Without Permission: If you prefer your dog not to be on the furniture, enforce this rule consistently from the start.

  9. Rushing Through Doors: Teach your puppy to sit and wait at doors until you give the signal to proceed, promoting patience and preventing accidents.

  10. Ignoring Recall: Make recall training a priority so that your puppy learns to come when called, which is crucial for their safety.

  11. Counter Surfing: Prevent your puppy from learning to steal food off counters by keeping counters clear and not rewarding this behavior.

  12. Aggression Over Food or Toys: Teach your puppy to be calm and patient during feeding and playtime and to share or give up their toys on command.

  13. Excessive Whining: While some whining is normal, especially in young puppies, it's important not to reinforce it by responding to every whimper, which could lead to a habit of whining for attention or out of anxiety.

  14. Stealing and Hoarding: Teach your puppy not to pick up and hide objects that aren't theirs. This includes everything from socks to remote controls, which can be dangerous if chewed.

  15. Resource Guarding: Address signs of resource guarding early. This behavior involves your puppy growling, snapping, or biting to protect their food or toys from others, which can escalate if not managed.

  16. Being Disruptive During Meals: Train your puppy to stay calm and settled during human meal times, either by staying in a crate or lying down at a designated spot.

  17. Not Being Handled: Get your puppy used to being touched all over, including paws, ears, and mouth. This will make grooming, vet visits, and daily handling much easier as they grow.

  18. Climbing on People: Teach your puppy that climbing on people is not acceptable. This is particularly important for larger breeds, which can inadvertently cause harm as they grow.

  19. Chasing Small Animals or Children: Discourage the instinct to chase, especially around small animals or children, to prevent problematic predatory behaviors and ensure safety for everyone.

  20. Lack of Focus: Work on training exercises that increase your puppy's focus and attention on you, especially in distracting environments. This will aid in better training outcomes and behavior control.

  21. Sleeping in Your Bed: If you prefer your puppy to sleep in their own bed, be consistent from the start. Allowing them into your bed, even occasionally, can set a precedent that might be hard to reverse later.

  22. Digging: If your puppy shows a tendency to dig, provide an appropriate outlet for this behavior in a designated area, or discourage it entirely by redirecting their energy to other activities.

  23. Jumping into Water Without Permission: If you're around pools, lakes, or rivers, teach your puppy to wait for your command before jumping in. This can prevent dangerous situations and promote disciplined behavior around water bodies.

  24. Ignoring Boundaries: Teach your puppy about boundaries in the house, such as not entering certain rooms or areas. This can help prevent accidents and keep them safe.

  25. Eating Non-Food Items: Puppies often explore with their mouths, which can lead them to eat inappropriate things. Discourage this behavior by providing plenty of appropriate chew toys and closely monitoring their environment.

  26. Hyperactivity When Guests Arrive: Train your puppy to remain calm and polite when guests come over, sitting to greet rather than jumping or barking excessively.

  27. Barking at Other Animals: Discourage excessive barking at other animals, whether it's through the window at home or encountering them on walks, to prevent aggressive and reactive behaviors.

  28. Pulling Towels or Clothing: Puppies may see items like towels or clothing as play items. Teach them what is not a toy by redirecting them to appropriate items when they grab something they shouldn't.

  29. Escaping Through Open Doors or Gates: Ensure your puppy learns to stay even when an exit point is open. This can prevent them from running out and facing dangerous situations like traffic.

  30. Fear of Being Alone: Gradually acclimate your puppy to being alone for short periods to prevent separation anxiety. Use positive reinforcement to create a reassuring environment when they are alone.

  31. Being Distracted During Training: Minimize distractions during training sessions to help your puppy learn to focus. Over time, slowly introduce distractions to teach them to maintain focus no matter the environment.

  32. Negative Reaction to Bath Time or Cleaning: Make bath time and cleaning a positive experience from the start with treats and gentle handling to prevent fears and negative behaviors associated with grooming.

  33. Overreacting to the Leash or Collar: Get your puppy used to wearing a collar and leash by starting with short, positive sessions that include plenty of treats and praise, gradually increasing the time they wear them.

  34. Habit of Sitting on People: While it may seem cute, discourage your puppy from sitting on people as a sign of dominance or seeking attention, especially as this can become problematic with larger dogs.

  35. Nipping When Excited: While puppies may nip when playing or excited, it's important to teach them gentle interactions from the start. Redirect this behavior using toys or stop playing to teach that nipping leads to the end of fun activities.

Establishing these boundaries early on can help prevent a range of behavior problems as your puppy matures, making for a more harmonious relationship between you and your pet.

Sticking to one proven, consistent method

is usually the best approach for effective training. Here's why:

1. Consistency Is Key

Consistency is crucial in dog training. Dogs learn through repetition and reinforcement. When the rules and methods keep changing, it becomes difficult for a dog to understand what is expected of them. For instance, if one training method rewards a behavior and another ignores it, the dog may become confused about whether that behavior is desirable.

2. Building Trust

Dogs thrive in an environment where they can predict and understand outcomes. When training methods are consistent, dogs learn to trust their handlers because they can anticipate their reactions. Inconsistent training can undermine this trust, making dogs anxious or uncertain about how to behave, which can hinder learning.

3. Avoiding Mixed Signals

Different training methods often have different commands, cues, and rewards systems. For example, some trainers might use clickers as a part of positive reinforcement, while others might rely more on verbal praise or treats. Switching methods can send mixed signals to your dog, making it hard for them to understand which cues are linked to which actions.

4. Risk of Regression

If a dog is not consistently corrected or rewarded for a behavior, they might revert to previous behaviors that might not be desirable. This regression can occur because the dog might not fully understand which behaviors are rewarded under the new system, especially if they were used to a different set of expectations.

5. Stress and Anxiety

Frequent changes in training methods can lead to increased stress and anxiety in dogs. This is because they may struggle to understand what leads to rewards or corrections. Stress can impede learning and might even lead to behavioral issues, such as aggression or withdrawal.

6. Efficiency of Training

Using one proven method allows the trainer and dog to progress more smoothly through training milestones. It creates a clear path of progression that can be easily followed and adjusted if necessary, without the need to relearn or unlearn certain aspects of previous training methods.

7. Evaluating Progress

Sticking to one methodology makes it easier to track a dog’s progress and troubleshoot issues. If a method isn’t working, it’s easier to make small adjustments rather than overhauling the approach entirely. This allows for a more measured and informed approach to training.

For dog training to be most effective, it should be clear, consistent, and methodical. While it might be tempting to switch methods in response to challenges or slow progress, it's generally more effective to adjust and refine a single method. This approach helps in building a strong foundation of trust and understanding between the dog and the trainer, making learning more effective and enjoyable for both.


The Importance of Teaching Puppies and Dogs Independence and Calmness

In a world where dogs are more like family members than pets, it's important to find the right way to train and bond with them.

Teaching our puppies to be independent and calm isn't just for our convenience—it's vital for their happiness and our sanity. In this blog post, we'll dive into why it's crucial to nurture these qualities in our furry friends and offer some handy tips on how to cultivate a calm and independent pup. Often, issues like separation anxiety stem from not teaching puppies how to handle being on their own.

Understanding the Need for Independence

Dogs are naturally pack  animals, which means they are predisposed to follow a leader and find comfort in companionship and field golden retrievers are one of the most loyal dog breeds. However, in a modern setting where humans lead increasingly busy lives, it's essential for dogs to feel secure and content even when they're alone! Training your dog to be independent helps prevent anxiety, destructive behaviour, and excessive clinginess.

Independence in a dog means that it can entertain itself, handle being alone without distress, and cope in various situations without constant reassurance from its owner. This trait is particularly important because overly dependent dogs can develop separation anxiety, leading to problematic behaviours such as barking, chewing, and other forms of property destruction. Training independence should start at 8 weeks.

The Power of Calmness

Similarly, teaching your dog to be calm has myriad benefits. A calm dog is not only a pleasure to be around but also tends to be healthier and less prone to anxiety-driven behaviours. Training your dog to be calm involves teaching them to manage their impulses and react to potentially exciting or stressful situations with a level head.

Practical Steps to Encourage Independence and Calmness

1. Controlled Greetings:

One of the most common mistakes dog owners make is greeting their dogs with too much excitement. While it feels natural to welcome our pets with enthusiasm, this can actually encourage hyperactivity and anxiety. Dogs often mirror our emotions, so if they see us getting overly excited, they too will match that energy. Instead, practice a calm and controlled greeting when you arrive home. This sets the tone for a calm interaction and teaches your dog that while your arrival is positive, it's also a normal part of the day. Do the same when friends come over, don’t let anyone greet your puppy win an exciting manor.

2. Calming Exercises:

Teaching your dog to relax on command is a powerful tool. Start by using a specific word or phrase, such as "settle" or "relax," and use it consistently. Begin these training sessions in a quiet environment where your dog can focus without distractions. Encourage your dog to lie down and offer them a treat when they exhibit calm behaviour. Gradually extend the duration they must remain calm before receiving a reward. Additionally, you can incorporate tools like calming mats or specialized toys that promote relaxation. Use the Muzzle hold as a tool to teach the puppies calm and teach calm in every environment, so often people say they do it at home or we are alone but doesn’t when they go out. The reason is because YOU haven’t taught the puppy to do this things in every circumstance or environment, for example the first time you take your puppy to a café you let it meet and play with every dog and or person so they think that is normal, then afte the 5th time you decide you are going to train the puppy to be calm and have to UNDO all the bad habits you created to start with, this applies to 99% of issues with puppies and dogs

3. Independence Training:

To foster independence, start with short periods of separation and gradually increase them. Use a baby gate or a crate to create physical separation between you and your dog while you’re still at home. Give them a comfortable space with access to toys and perhaps an item with your scent on it to provide comfort. Over time, your dog will learn that being alone is safe and can be enjoyable.

4. Routine and Structure:

Dogs thrive on routine because it gives them a sense of security and predictability. Establish a daily routine that includes times for meals, walks, play, and relaxation. This routine shouldn’t always require your direct involvement; for example, puzzle feeders can keep a dog engaged and provide mental stimulation while you’re busy with other tasks.

5. Socialization and Exposure:

Socialization isn't about playing with other dogs; it's also about exposing your dog to various situations. Take your dog to different environments where they can experience new sights, sounds, and smells. This exposure will help them become more adaptable and less likely to react negatively to changes in their surroundings. Letting your puppy “say hello” to every dog on your walk is actually the worst thing you can do!!!

Teaching your dog to be calm and independent is crucial for enhancing both your lives. This requires consistency, patience, and understanding, and the benefits are substantial. Implementing these practical tips will foster a rewarding relationship with your pet.

Legendary dogs aren't born, they're made! Remember, you're training a well-behaved dog, not an athlete. Prioritize training over walking with your puppy at all times.

Why Independence Training Matters

Training your dog to be comfortable alone is crucial for their well-being, particularly to mitigate separation anxiety. Here are essential strategies to foster independence and ensure your dog remains happy and healthy:

1. Create a Safe Space

   - Establish a secure area for your dog, such as a crate or a designated spot in your home, where they feel safe and can enjoy positive experiences like treats and toys.

   - Practice short periods of separation daily, even when you're home, to help them get used to being alone.

2. Outdoor Alone Time

   - Encourage your dog to spend time alone outdoors, in a safe area, with engaging toys or treats like raw bones to keep them occupied.

3. Manage Greetings and Goodbyes

   - Keep your arrivals and departures low-key. Ignore excitable behaviours like jumping and barking until your dog calms down, rewarding them with attention only when they are settled.

4. Stimulate Their Mind and Body

   - Engage your dog in scent work and games that tap into their natural instincts, such as hiding treats for them to find. This not only reduces boredom but also alleviates anxiety.

5. Desensitize to Departures

   - Mix up your departure routine and normalize departure cues like keys jingling to prevent these actions from triggering anxiety.

6. Maintain Regular Exercise

   - Ensure your dog gets at least 30 minutes of exercise daily. 15 mins morning and night but mental stimulation via training is more important..

7. Obedience Training and Boundaries

   - From an early age, teach your puppy to be independent. Respond selectively to their cues and establish clear, consistent boundaries about acceptable behaviours and areas in the home.


Independence training is vital at every stage of your dog's life to build their confidence and comfort with being alone, benefiting both their emotional and physical health.

Puppy Socialization Checklist


I think of socialisation as desensitization and here is an extensive list of things you should expose your puppy to prior to 16 weeks


  • Concrete

  • Artificial grass/turf

  • Slick floors (linoleum, hardwood)

  • Wet grass

  • Mud and dirt

  • Icy areas and snow

  • Metal surfaces (vet scale, etc.)

  • Uneven terrain and rocky areas


  • Animal sounds (e.g., goat, pig)

  • Crane/construction machinery

  • Fireworks

  • People cheering

  • Smoke alarm/security alarm

  • Thunder/gunshots

  • Ambulance/police siren

  • Doorbell/knocking on door

  • Vacuum cleaner

  • Dishwasher, washing machine/dryer


  • Women

  • People of different ethnicities

  • Tall men

  • Men with deep voices

  • Men with beards/facial hair

  • Elderly people

  • People in wheelchairs

  • People who use canes/crutches

  • People wearing hoods/hats

  • People wearing helmets

  • People wearing sunglasses

  • People wearing multiple colors

  • People wearing backpacks

  • Infants

  • Crawling infants

  • Toddlers

  • Multiple toddlers being loud

  • People running

  • Teenagers


  • Outside of ears

  • Inside ears (not into ear canal)

  • Outside of mouth area

  • Inside of mouth area (be gentle)

  • Back teeth

  • Eye area (be careful)

  • Paws

  • Nail areas specifically

  • Pinching skin

  • Grabbing tail

  • Nose

  • Holding in arms

  • Holding on lap

  • Wiping body with towel

  • Wiping paws with towel

  • Wiping face with towel

  • Handling by collar

  • Putting on collar

  • Being brushed/combed

  • Hug/squeeze puppy softly


  • Busy street

  • Busy sidewalk

  • Park with lots of people

  • Park with lots of children

  • Parking lots

  • Shopping areas (pet-friendly)

  • Inside business buildings

  • Inside other people's homes

  • Street markets and fairs

  • Restaurant patios

  • Sporting events (as allowed)

  • Skate park/biking area

  • Lakes and ponds

  • Streams and rivers

  • Unfamiliar neighborhoods

  • Vet office

  • Grooming/boarding stores

  • Running races/similar events


  • Cooking pots and pans

  • Brooms/mops

  • Blankets/rugs being shaken

  • Balloons

  • Umbrellas

  • Garbage bag being opened

  • Bags blowing in wind

  • Soccer/basketball

  • Computers

  • TV/Video game noises

  • Garbage cans with lids

  • Metal type surfaces

  • Clicker (for training)

Discover the joy of training your puppy with guidance from Margret's insightful books. Often, I find myself drawn into the intricacies of dog training, but let me simplify it for you: start by purchasing both of Margret’s books. These invaluable resources will equip you with a clear list of behaviors to avoid, preventing bad habits before they even begin. Utilize the list above as a foundation, and delve deeper with Margret’s expert advice.

As you embark on your training journey, remember to infuse each session with fun and affection. Dog training shouldn’t be a

chore—it should be an enjoyable and rewarding experience filled with pats, cuddles, and playful interactions. Keep the atmosphere light and engaging, turning training into a delightful game that both you and your puppy will look forward to. This approach not only enhances your puppy's learning but also deepens the bond you share.

It's crucial to remember that if your dog makes a mistake, it’s an opportunity for you to improve Your communication skills. Each misstep is a chance to re-evaluate and refine your approach, ensuring You are clear and consistent in your commands.

By embracing these principles, you are setting the stage for a wonderfully trained companion. Margret's books are not just about training—they are about creating a lifelong friendship built on mutual respect and understanding.


Embark on this transformative journey and watch as your puppy grows into the perfect dog. This isn't just training; it's a way to foster a deep, enduring bond that will enrich both your lives for years to come.

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