How to become a gundog training instructor.

How to become a gundog training instructor.

If you’re considering a career in gundog training, you might be wondering where to start.

There is currently no legislation around the dog training profession in the UK.

Someone who has never owned a dog before can buy a domain, publish a website, set up social media channels, and start offering one-to-one training sessions and group classes in their back garden if they want to.

However, just because this is legally possible doesn’t mean it should be your approach.

If you are serious about a career in gundog training, you should be willing to put in the work. Before launching your business, be prepared to learn as much about science and theory as possible while also gaining hands-on training experience with dogs and humans.

Traditionally, professional gundog trainers have been deemed qualified based on how effectively they worked their dogs in the field, their decades of experience, and the number of working tests and field trials they have won.

Owners looking for advice on what to do with their dogs would seek out trainers who were well-known by fellow hunting and shooting folk and had a reputation for always having cracking dogs in their kennels.

While this approach is still the norm for many, there are also an enormous number of gundog owners who do not have connections in the field sports world, who don’t know what field trials are, and who are simply looking for a trainer who understands their breed and something fun and productive to do with their dog.

Changes in how society approaches dog training also mean that more people seek out gundog trainers who only use modern, science-backed training methods. They want to work with trainers who use force-free, positive reinforcement techniques that don’t require punishment, coercion, or harsh handling.

This means that while experience and the ability to train gundogs to an excellent working standard are still key, a lot more goes into starting a career in gundog training.

In this article, we will examine the difference between working with dogs and humans, how to gain that much-needed experience and knowledge, and what it’s like to become an accredited gundog training instructor with the Gundog Trainers Academy.

Do you want to be a professional gundog trainer or a professional gundog training instructor?

There is a significant difference between becoming a professional gundog trainer and a professional gundog training instructor.

If you are looking to head down a new gundog-shaped career path, one of the first things you will need to consider is: do you want to train gundogs or their humans?

If you want to be a professional gundog trainer who only trains dogs, you might want to focus on generating income through media appearances, paid influencer partnerships, and sponsorship deals with brands from gundog equipment suppliers, pet food manufacturers, and clothing companies.

You might also be able to breed responsibly from your proven, award-winning, and health-tested dogs, offering puppies and part- and fully-trained dogs for sale. You can also provide residential training services for those who have limited time.

In these scenarios, you will want to focus more on your dogs to gain recognition in the sport. As well as competing in working tests and field trials, you may also look to achieve advanced level certificates, like the Kennel Club Working Gundog Certificate on Game, or the Gundog Club Level 5 field test.

However, if you’re reading this article, you probably want to be a professional gundog training instructor who teaches gundog owners how to train their dogs.

You may still want to explore responsible breeding, residential training and sponsorship deals. Still, your main day-to-day work will involve one-to-one training sessions, group classes and workshops, and even assessment days.

While it is important to demonstrate your gundog training prowess, your main job in this capacity involves working with the human part of the equation.

This requires a different skill set, and to be successful, it is just as vital to learn how to teach people with different learning styles, how to manage different personalities, and the other sometimes dull but practical and necessary aspects of running a public-facing business, such as health and safety and risk assessments.

How to become an accredited gundog training instructor with the Gundog Trainers Academy?

Before you embark on your career as a professional gundog training instructor, you must know how to train a gundog.

This might seem like a given, especially if you have been drawn down this path because you own a working, or pet, gundog and want to transform your hobby into a job.

Nevertheless, we are seeing an increasing number of dog trainers with a high number of clients with gundog breeds who want to specialise in this area of training but need more experience and knowledge of field sports.

And that is okay - we all have to start somewhere! This is why, to qualify for our teacher’s course, all students must first complete our handler’s course.

The GTA Handler’s Course

The handler’s course is open to anyone looking to improve their gundog training and handling skills, not just those who want to make it their career.

The handler's course, divided into four three-day modules over a year, teaches the theory and practical skills needed to train a gundog to work in the field, compete, or be a well-rounded family pet.

The last module on the Handler’s Course is held at the Clicker Gundog training centre in Worcestershire. One day is spent on the specialised gundog training shoot, which allows all students and their dogs to experience and participate in a shooting day with live game.

Students learn how shoot days in the UK are run, the etiquette, and how to prepare game meat for the table. Everyone involved, including the Guns, is there solely for training purposes, so there is no pressure. There is also the option to go beating or picking up, depending on the dog’s breed and the handler’s preferences.

Real-life gundog training experience and understanding of the world of field sports are invaluable to all professional trainers. Even if your clientele are exclusively pet gundog owners, it is vital you understand what our gundogs were bred for, their roles on a shoot, and the ethics surrounding the management of game.

The GTA Teacher’s Course

While experience is the all-important foundation on which you’ll build your business, it does not guarantee that you will be good at teaching your gundog handling skills to someone else.

Working with the human end of the lead is, therefore, a large focus of our Teacher’s Course. This course is split into four four-day modules spread over the year. There is plenty of practical work, but it also includes classroom-based learning to cover the theory of dog training as well as looking at people’s different styles of learning, and other important aspects of running a training business like health and safety and risk assessments.

Those on the Teacher’s Course can eventually become accredited gundog training instructors with the Gundog Trainers Academy. To achieve this, students need to complete various assignments that demonstrate their ability to work with gundog owners and dogs.

Our Teacher’s Course and full assessment process have been awarded accreditation by the ABTC (Animal Behaviour Training Council), having met the industry-agreed criteria for welfare and ethics, teaching and training dogs and people, professional conduct, and underpinning knowledge.

To date, we remain the only gundog training organisation in the country to be accredited by the ABTC.

The GTA Accredited Instructors

After completing the GTA Teacher’s Course, submitting their assignments and passing the theory and practical tests, students will be awarded their accreditation on dummies.

Our accredited instructors can use the suffix GTA-Ad and will be listed on our website database, provided they continue to adhere to our code of practice and complete the annual continuous professional development requirements.

GTA-Ad instructors can also progress further to become accredited on game. To achieve this, they need to attend various live game training days, both as a handler with their dog and as a teacher.

To ensure they can help owners with all breeds, they are asked to teach both beating and picking up dogs on the shoot training days to demonstrate they could coach clients looking to work gundogs in both scenarios.

Finally, they need to deliver a presentation on shooting to show they understand field sports. They should also have proof that they have coached clients on health and safety, the equipment needed, etiquette, and what to expect on a shoot day.

After becoming accredited on game, instructors will be fully accredited with the Gundog Trainers Academy and can then use the suffix GTA.

What’s it like to work with the GTA to become an accredited gundog training instructor?

We caught up with two of our fully accredited GTA instructors, Becky Oldfield and Lynsey Moss, to learn more about what it’s really like to become an accredited gundog training instructor.

Both Becky and Lynsey have passed their accreditation on dummies, having completed the GTA Teacher’s Course, the assignments, the theory test and practical assessments.

They are also the first GTA instructors to become accredited on game, having attended with their beating dogs and taught beating and picking up groups at various shoot over days at the Clicker Gundog training centre shoot. Becky and Lynsey also taught and presented shoot-related content on the 2023 GTA Graduate Handler’s course.

Becky Oldfield, GTA 009, Contented Gundogs

Q: Why did you want to become a GTA-accredited gundog training instructor? 

I had always wanted to be a dog trainer, and having worked my dog on shoots for years, the gundog side of things interested me more than general pet dog training.

I had heard many great things about Helen Phillips and Jules Morgan, so I knew I wanted to work with them. The GTA also stood out to me as it is accredited by the ABTC and force-free. I don't think any other courses were accredited or used these methods.

It was also important that the course I chose would provide me with a qualification that gundog owners could trust. The GTA ensures all its accredited instructors follow a code of conduct, and I know that would reassure me as a dog owner if I were in their shoes and looking for someone to train with.

Q: You recently became a fully qualified GTA instructor. Why did you want to qualify on game, not just dummies? 

I work my dogs on shoots, in the beating line, and I wanted to be able to teach and help other owners get to the stage where they could do the same with their dogs if they wanted to.

I love teaching people with pet gundogs, but I especially love helping gundog owners discover how it feels to work with their dog on a shoot and watch them do what they were bred for. You just can't beat that feeling!

Being qualified on dummies was fantastic, but I knew if I wanted to teach people to work their gundogs, I needed to further my learning and go through the thorough assessment process. Working with live game is quite a bit more challenging, and I felt it was important that my teaching skills were assessed.

Q: What impact has becoming accredited with the GTA had on you? 

I can struggle with imposter syndrome sometimes. Having passed the assessments and being able to say that I am fully qualified on both dummies and game has made me feel so much more confident in my abilities, both with teaching others and training my dogs. I feel I am more able to offer help and advice for all types of gundog owners, whether they plan to work their dog or not.

In terms of my business, I find that the GTA name carries a lot of weight as an organisation, especially with those looking for kind, ethical gundog training. This helps a lot as it means the right clients find their way to me.

Q: What advice would you give to others looking to become professional gundog training instructors? 

To start with, I would absolutely recommend that they look at the Gundog Trainers Academy courses. I know there are other providers out there, but they do not have a patch on the GTA!

You need to start with the handler's course and then the teacher's course. I would also recommend the graduate handler's courses. I feel that all of these combined give you such a thorough and solid education in both training your dogs for gundog work and in teaching others.

There is a lot of work involved, including written work, hands-on training with your dogs and other people’s dogs, and practical assessments, but I think this is a good thing! It makes the qualification mean more once you’ve achieved it, and if potential clients know you have been thoroughly assessed, they can have more confidence in your abilities.

Lynsey Moss, GTA 018, Canine Training & Fitness Academy

Q: Why did you want to become a GTA-accredited gundog training instructor? 

I was already delivering gundog training and using the positive reinforcement methods that GTA aligns with. I thought it was really important to complement my practical knowledge with a gundog-specific qualification.

Q: You recently became a fully qualified GTA instructor. Why did you want to qualify on game, not just dummies? 

When we involve ourselves in the sport of shooting and working with our dogs, we have very clear responsibilities and obligations. I enjoy introducing these to people who are new to it, and it feels like such a privilege to be part of this learning experience with them. I also feel it's important for the longevity of working dogs on shoots.

There is so much that goes into it, and it is not just about the handlers and dogs, either. You have to understand the logistics of a shoot, the aims of each drive, how the weather or ground conditions may affect what the birds will do on the day, how to work with all the other key personnel on the shoot, and then teach the importance of this to those working their dogs.

I have been training clients on shoots for a couple of years and working with my dogs for decades. For my development, I thought gaining the accreditation on game would be a nice way to solidify my learning and the experience I’ve gained over the last 16 years.

Q: What impact has becoming accredited with the GTA had on you?

Overall, it was a massive personal achievement for me as I completed five years of back-to-back study: three years working on a veterinary physiotherapy degree, followed by two years training with GTA to become accredited on dummies and then progressing to achieve my full qualification to teach on game.

Everything I’ve learned through the GTA has also made me more comfortable with presenting lots of different training solutions to support handlers and their dogs in this environment. From a personal development point of view, it has also allowed me to take a step back, examine my knowledge, and gain a better understanding of some areas.

Being accredited and adhering to the GTA code of practice also proves that my training is delivered ethically. This has allowed new clients to contact me with confidence, feeling assured of the techniques we will be using in our training sessions.

Q: What advice would you give to others looking to become professional gundog training instructors?

I would thoroughly recommend that people thoroughly immerse themselves in the discipline. Work through the course curriculum that the GTA offers, but also build your knowledge of gundogs by training and working with your dogs in this environment.

If you would like to become an accredited gundog training instructor with the Gundog Trainers Academy, our 2025 handler’s course is now open for enrollment. For more information, click here.





📸 Photographs 1 and 2 credit to Alice Loder Photography

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