10 Best Bird Dog Training Books — 2023 Reviews & Top Picks
Whether you’re new to owning a bird dog or have decided to learn extra training techniques, finding the right training books can be a challenge. It all depends on what breed of bird dog you own and your preferred training style. This means there’s quite a number of books to consider, which is where we come in.
We researched and created reviews of 10 books that cover a variety of training techniques for bird dogs. Some cover just the basics, while others go more in-depth. We hope that you find just the right book to help train your dog to be the best bird dog ever!
A Quick Look at Our Favorites in 2023
|Best Overall||Tips and Tales: On Training Your Bird Dog||
|Best Value||Absolutely Positively Gundog Training||
|Premium Choice||Training Bird Dogs with Ronnie Smith Kennels||
|Best for Puppies||How to Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves||
|Force-Free Gundog Training||
The 10 Best Bird Dog Training Books
1. Tips and Tales: On Training Your Bird Dog — Best Overall
|Formats:||Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle|
|Publication Date:||Jan. 27, 2022|
The best overall training book for your bird dog is “Tips and Tales: On Training Your Bird Dog,” written by George DeCosta, Jr. This book is well-written and includes excellent training advice and personal stories that are both humorous and inspirational. The author stresses the importance of the bond between you and your hunting companion.
The author’s love for bird dogs shines through, and while he provides training techniques, they’re not too rigid because he believes that each dog is different and training should be adapted for each bird dog. The flaw with this book is that the author’s experience is primarily with pointers (especially Griffin Pointers) and not so much with retrievers or spaniels.
- Author tells stories both humorous and insightful
- Training techniques for different dogs
- Provides training methods from puppyhood to adult
- Stresses the importance of the bond between dog and owner
- Primarily about pointers
2. Absolutely Positively Gundog Training: Positive Training for Your Retriever Gundog — Best Value
|Publication Date:||July 19, 2015|
The best bird dog training book for the money is “Absolutely Positively Gundog Training: Positive Training for Your Retriever Gundog.” The author, Robert Milner, uses scientific research in addition to his own personal experience, which is extensive, to teach you how to train your dog with positive reinforcement. He covers training methods that should produce a bird dog that will respond to hand signals and whistle stops.
He has a versatile approach that enables you to train your dog to be a water dog, shed dog, gundog, or even an upland dog. However, it doesn’t focus much on upland hunting and is only meant for retrievers.
- Versatile approach
- Uses positive reinforcement
- Author uses experience and scientific research
- Not enough focus on upland hunting
- Only for retrievers
3. Training Bird Dogs with Ronnie Smith Kennels: Proven Techniques and an Upland Tradition — Premium Choice
|Publication Date:||October 1, 2019|
Our premium choice book is “Training Bird Dogs with Ronnie Smith Kennels: Proven Techniques and an Upland Tradition.” This is a gorgeous book that could double as a coffee table book with its beautiful photographs, but it also gets into the philosophy and history of training bird dogs. The techniques are taken from the Smith Kennels, which have been training hundreds of bird dogs over generations.
The book takes you from picking the right puppy to starting formal training and finally to training your bird dog. It’s expensive, though, which is partly due to only being available in hardcover. Plus, the actual training techniques are a little skimpy.
- Beautiful photography
- Can make a lovely coffee table book
- Training techniques come from generations of the Smith Kennels
- Starts with picking a puppy and goes to training adults
- Expensive and only available in hardcover
- Not enough training techniques
4. How to Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves, Taking Advantage of Early Conditioned Learning — Best for Puppies
|Publication Date:||March 1, 2008|
In conjunction with other puppy training books, “How to Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves” would be an excellent addition to your book collection for training your bird dog while they’re still a puppy. The book has a common-sense approach that’s easy to read. It features techniques that include socializing your puppy and using conditioning training.
The author uses a step-by-step approach that will start your puppy off the right way, including practical exercises and easy-to-follow training techniques. Unfortunately, it’s only available in paperback, and it was published in 2008, so you might find some of the content a little dated.
- Great for socializing and training puppies up to 12 months
- Easy-to-follow training tips
- Common-sense approach with step-by-step instructions
- Practical exercises
- Only available in paperback
- Information is a little dated
5. Force-Free Gundog Training: The Fundamentals for Success
|Publication Date:||September 10, 2019|
“Force-Free Gundog Training: The Fundamentals for Success” is perfect for bird dog owners who prefer to train their dogs without any use of force. This book includes basic obedience training in addition to gundog training, and the author has clear explanations for everything.
The book also features problem-solving and detailed yet easy-to-read instructions that stress building a relationship with your dog. There’s also an optional workbook that you can purchase alongside this book.
The main problems are that it’s only available in paperback and it’s fairly expensive and that while the author covers a few advanced training tips, some experienced dog owners might want a book with a more intermediate and advanced training methodology.
- Force-free training that uses operant conditioning
- Starts with obedience and gets into gundog training
- Includes problem-solving and detailed instructions
- Stresses the relationship between owner and dog
- Pricey for a paperback
- Not enough intermediate and advanced training methods
6. Tom Dokken’s Retriever Training: The Complete Guide to Developing Your Hunting Dog
|Publication Date:||July 14, 2009|
If you’re planning on using your retriever for hunting, this book could be what you’re looking for. “Tom Dokken’s Retriever Training: The Complete Guide to Developing Your Hunting Dog” gives you instructions that are step by step and have helpful illustrations. The author takes an approach that places the dog as a family pet first and foremost and second as a hunting dog.
It’s easy to read, and the training is broken down by the dog’s age. It’s also great for beginners. However, this book is ideal for training retrievers, and it’s not really for other breeds. It doesn’t include obedience training, so your puppy must be trained before you start using this book. Lastly, some owners might find the training techniques dated.
- Step-by-step instructions with illustrations
- Family pet-first approach
- Easy to read
- Great for beginners
- Only for retrievers
- Some might find techniques dated
- Doesn’t include obedience training
7. Sporting Dog and Retriever Training: The Wildrose Way: Raising a Gentleman’s Gundog for Home and Field
|Publication Date:||September 11, 2012|
“Sporting Dog and Retriever Training: The Wildrose Way: Raising a Gentleman’s Gundog for Home and Field” uses positive training methods that are low force. There’s a great chapter based on training yourself before you start training your dog, which is excellent advice! The book focuses on retriever training, is well written and easy to follow, and provides instructions that allow for versatility.
It’s physically a high-quality book with plenty of diagrams and photographs and is super sturdy. But it’s only available as a hardcover, which makes it pricey. While the author does use positive reinforcement, there is also correction-based training.
- Positive, low-force training
- Chapter on training yourself before your dog
- Well-written and easy to follow
- Allows for versatile training
- Hardcover is a little pricey
- Uses some correction training
8. Training Your Pointing Dog for Hunting & Home
|Formats:||Kindle, Hardcover, Paperback|
|Publication Date:||April 1, 2019|
“Training Your Pointing Dog for Hunting & Home” takes you from choosing the right puppy to formal puppy training and up to appropriately training your dog in the field. It’s well-priced and is a concise and easy-to-read book organized by the dog’s age. This book should help anyone who hasn’t trained a bird dog before, and it stresses the importance of the companionship of a family pet. In the author’s eyes, companionship is the most important thing between a dog and their family.
However, what makes it concise is also a flaw, as some of the training details don’t go in-depth enough. Also, while there are nice photos, there aren’t many diagrams to help with the training process.
- Helps you pick the right puppy and basic obedience
- Short and easy to read
- Organized by dog’s age
- Great for beginners
- Not many in-depth instructions
- Could use more diagrams
9. Pointing Dogs: How to Train, Nurture, and Appreciate Your Bird Dog
|Publication Date:||May 7, 2014|
If you have a pointer, this book might work well for you. “Pointing Dogs: How to Train, Nurture, and Appreciate Your Bird Dog” starts with information on how to pick a puppy and basic obedience and training. It’s a humorous and easy read that will help you train your dog in the field. It’s also full of stories with a great deal of information on the different pointer breeds.
However, there isn’t enough training. It’s more of a “how to treat your dog” and doesn’t have much about training your pointer. Some people might also find the information dated, and it’s only available in paperback.
- Topics on picking a puppy and basic training
- Humorous and easy to read
- Takes each individual dog’s temperaments in mind
- Plenty of information on pointer breeds
- Not enough training included
- Only available in paperback
- A bit dated
10. Game Dog: The Hunter’s Retriever for Upland Birds and Waterfowl
|Publication Date:||January 1, 1995|
“Game Dog: The Hunter’s Retriever for Upland Birds and Waterfowl” is written by Richard Wolters, a well-known dog trainer. He concisely presents the information with easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions. In fact, some dog owners can still benefit from this book even if they aren’t using their dogs for hunting or don’t have retrievers, book. Dogs can become disciplined and well-mannered when trained using the information in this book.
The training methods are a bit dated, though. To benefit from this book the most, you should get it while your puppy is young enough (or even better, before you have a puppy). The illustrations are dated too.
- Easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions
- Benefits all different kinds of dogs
- Dogs can be trained to be disciplined and well-mannered
- Training methods are dated
- Works best starting with young puppies
- Illustrations are also dated
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose The Best Bird Dog Training Books
How well training your bird dog goes completely depends on your training methods. There’s no question that training a gundog is challenging, but when you do it the right way, it can completely transform your hunting experience. Here, we go over a few points for you to consider before you settle on which book to buy.
Many of these books only cater to specific breeds. One book might be just about training pointers, while another will focus on retrievers. Remember to read the book’s description and customer reviews carefully. Some dog owners can use a pointer training book for their retriever and make it work, but for the most part, you should stick with breed-specific books.
A dog’s personality and temperament can also impact their training. The dog that you choose for hunting depends entirely on the kind of hunting that you are interested in, which likely has to do with your location and terrain.
You can back up the bird dog training with other books designed for basic training but with your dog’s temperament in mind. Regardless of your dog’s temperament, training works best with positive reinforcement. The sooner that you can train your dog, the better. It’s best to instill these skills while they’re young.
“Tips and Tales: On Training Your Bird Dog” is our overall favorite book for training your bird dog. It contains excellent instructions and funny and inspiring stories that truly showcase the author’s love for dogs.
Robert Milne’s “Absolutely Positively Gundog Training: Positive Training for Your Retriever Gundog” is quite affordable, and the author uses his years of experience in addition to scientific research to help you train your dog with positive reinforcement.
Finally, “Training Bird Dogs with Ronnie Smith Kennels: Proven Techniques and an Upland Tradition” is a gorgeous book that uses techniques from people who have trained hundreds of bird dogs over generations.
We hope that these reviews have helped you find the right book for you and your bird dog. Remember to start with one training method, and stick with it. Also, always show your dog love — you’ll definitely get it right back.
Featured Image Credit: Steve Oehlenschlager, Shutterstock