A letter from David Beckenham to Shooting Gazette about Lez's training methods, books and training days.
A few years ago my wife started attending the gun dog training with our cocker spaniel Percy as a result of a recommendation. At the start Percy couldn't even walk on a loose lead, but after working through the training every two weeks and making sure that we did our home work, Percy not only passed his bronze and silver gun dog certificates but became a truly fantastic picking up working cocker. Intrigued to know more and initially as a Christmas present, last year I took Percy on four of Lez's whole training days, where I learned first hand how to continue his training and to interact with and understand Percy.
I have now started on the fortnightly training with our new cocker, Sidney, who is just 8 months old. We are already so far ahead of where we were with Percy because we have worked right through the Pet Gundog Puppy with Sidney. Lez not only brings answers to all the different problems you can face training a puppy, but she brings so much more, explaining why you do something in a particular way, what the dog is thinking, and how not to react like a human, but as a pack leader. In fact Lez trains us, the human beings, providing you with the knowledge, confidence and toolkit to react and manage all sorts of situations because you start to understand things from the dog's point of view.
We have learnt so much from our training, and can't recommend Lez highly enough to anyone thinking of buying any gundog breed puppy. It doesn't matter whether you just want to have a very happy, well-trained pet, or whether, like us, you want to have a wonderful pet who can also work all day picking up with steadiness and control.
Lez creates a relaxed learning environment in her training classes, this undoubtedly enables both dogs and handlers to absorb the excellent training advice and techniques that are offered. Having watched Lez’s clients in action I would be the first to recommend her training classes to dog owners.
Howard Kirby, Lains Shooting School
Following Lez’s visit, I immediately felt more relaxed and confident around Fudge. Lez made me see that Fudge wasn’t an evil dog – just one that had stepped up to fill the vacancy of leader – the role that I wasn’t filling. I have been amazed at how just a few seemingly small changes have made a big difference to Fudge’s behaviour. Overall he seems more relaxed and much more biddable. I no longer feel nervous around Fudge – the discs were brilliant in giving me, as Lez put it ‘a set of teeth’ with which to remind Fudge that I was in charge, not him, but without forcing a confrontation. The first time he displayed his possessive aggressive behaviour I used the discs and they worked. it felt so good to be back in control. We still have a long way to go but the small victories really do mean a lot and with every one I feel more relaxed and confident with Fudge, which in turn creates a positive cycle instead of the negative one we had got stuck in.
Lez’s calm, friendly manner really put me at ease and she explained her methods in a clear and easy to understand way. When she said she was always at the end of the phone or email for questions I knew she meant it. Thank you Lez!
Firstly many thanks for your help with raine on wednesday I could not believe how much that needed addressing and how simple you put it across. I am very pleased that I brought her to you and didnt leave it any longer. The most amazing thing was she slept when we got home until we went for a 10 min walk around the block that night and I only had to correct her 3 times, the rest of the walk was sheer bliss and not the usual fight. Hopefully you will see the difference on our next visit.
When I first started Grade 1 training with Lez, I brought with me what can only be decribed as a very scatty and badly behaved 9-month old working Cocker Spaniel, who 8-weeks later went on to pass the grade with flying colours. This is all thanks to Lez’s simple techniques that have helped me to completely transform my dog into something I can be proud of, rather than avoiding other dogs and people at all costs! I am currently half way through Grade 2 and can see no reason why he won’t also pass this grade and go on to become a well trained and obedient gun dog. I have no hesitation in recommending Lez to anyone who wants help with understanding the basics (and advanced techniques) of how to train their Labrador or Spaniel into becoming a well disciplined pet or working dog.
Thank you so much for all your help in guiding Khita and I to a wonderful high today – wow I still cannot believe it 100%. These last few weeks Khita has shown me she loves to learn and she so enjoys her Gundog lessons, so do I, especially your throwing technique of the dummy through the air!
I have thoroughly enjoyed gundog training with Lez Graham. The programme is excellent and very focused. Despite having a scatty Cocker the lessons have proved most rewarding, my dog has come on in leaps and bounds as have I - despite being an OAP! She tailors the lessons to the owners as well as the dogs which I think is extremely important because if the handlers cannot understand the orders the dogs never will either. I would not hesitate to recommend Lez to anyone seeking a gundog trainer.
Margaret Armand Smith
When I started training my 12 month old Springer Spaniel was a little head strong. She had basic training, but I wanted to tap in to her natural breed instincts, she wasn’t going to be used for shooting but a family pet. Classes are small and friendly and don’t feel intimidating. We have just passed the grade one Gundog Club grading which was great because it is not a competition and you are judged on you own ability. I would highly recommend classes to anyone who wants to have fun and enjoy their dog to its full capabilities.
Lez has made a tremendous difference to how my Springer behaves towards me and the impact he has at home. Her teaching, guidance and counsel throughout has been instrumental in helping a five year old Rescue dog settle into a new environment. Gun Dog training has proved a revelation with training to command and the dummy proving that ‘Pete’ has the potential to be a working dog as well.
I was given a Christmas present by my wife to take Percy our Working Cocker to one of Lez’s training days, Upping the Ante. My wife had previously taken Percy to Lez’s fortnightly gun dog training for a number of months, now it was my turn! The first thing I learnt on Upping the Ante, was that my dog knew exactly what to do, it was me that needed training! I enjoyed the day so much and really “connected" with Percy, all of sudden we could communicate. I had read The Pet Gundog, but I was missing the little things and clearly sending confusing messages to the dog. Despite there being about 6 dogs in the class, Lez always took the time to explain and ensure that everyone understood all of the exercises before moving on. Watching and listening to the other handlers and their issues just added more value to the experience. By the end of the day, I was hooked and went on to attend three more of Lez’s training days, Adding Finesse, The Cold Game Day and Messing about in the Water. These "whole day" training days are a fantastic way to gain practical knowledge bringing Lez’s books to life. I would strongly recommend the whole series of days to anyone who wants to take their dog to another level.
On the cold game day, Lez introduced the starting pistol and dummy launcher, as well as finding and retrieving cold game from the forest. This took the dogs as close as possible to a real shoot. The messing about in the Water, starts off doing a simple retrieve in shallow water, and by the end of the day, all the dogs where swimming and retrieving out of deep water.
All the days are very friendly, practical and have a fantastic lunch and tea! Great value, great fun and very informative.
Lez is a brilliant teacher for both the owner and the dog. I deliberately mention the owner first because it is us who largely impact on the dog may it be in a good or bad way.
I own a very lively Golden Retriever from working strain who is lovely but very wilful at the same time. Having owned Golden Retriever before I thought I knew it all but there are always new things to discover and Lez definitely tells you how to handle your dog the right way.
Her approach is perfect for all people may it be somebody who works their gun- or working dog or those who just keep these types of dog as a pet. At the end of the day the dog should be trained for what it was bred for and this is what Lez will teach.
So far I have attended three days of training. It all started with “Back to Basics” and despite I thought I never get my dog to walk to heel properly – he now does. The next time we were “Upping the Ante” and we did indeed. Lefts and rights and of course Lez famous “Clock” which is a brilliant exercise to train four commands in on sequence. I thought I never get my dog to be steady and focused enough to go for the dummy I want him to go – but now he does.
So far the latest training day was to “Add Finesse” and it really makes you feel that the jigsaw you were working on for so long is slowly turning into the picture you want. The biggest challenge of this course is to achieve “Go Back” and exercise the “Clock” with four different commands in a follow up sequence. For myself the most valuable success at the end of that third day – my dog is finally off the lead at all times, is steady, walks to heel off the lead while other dogs exercise around him and dummies going in all directions. Looking forward to day four in a couple of weeks’ time when we will carry on with the 'Finishing Touches'."
Another excellent training day, this time concentrating on Water Retrieving.
We began by doing simple water retrieves in very shallow waterand gradually increasing the complexity till we were confidently sending our dogs for split retrieves in the deep water. The exercises in the water were broken up by different retrieving exercises in the surrounding fields making use of tracks, paths and fallen trees. All through the day we were given lots of encouragement, tips and advice on how to get the best from our partnership with our dog.
Because the training was in a small group it had the advantage that once you'd completed one exercise (and watched your fellow handlers take their turn) it was time to do the next one so neither the handler or the dog was bored. I learnt as much from watching the others and listening to Lez's comments as I did from taking my own go.
The fact that we spent the training day in the countryside ( rather than a purpose built training ground), showed just how many training opportunities there are around when we're on our daily walks. As Lez said 'The only limiting factor is our own imagination'.
It was a very worthwhile training day, bieng informative,constructive and a lot of fun for both handlers and dogs (and Lez too I hope!).
It was a great day - Many thanks.
Having attended now 5 training days with Lez I definitely feel a huge difference in the way my dog and I work and live together. Following ‘Back to Basics’, ‘Upping the ante’ and ‘Adding Finesse’ my dog Charlie and I went for ‘The Finishing Touches’ and it shows for sure how far you can get with the right knowledge and trainer. Lez is just brilliant the way she communicates even difficult exercises and makes it very easy to follow and achieve success no matter how relaxed or difficult your dog responds. And once again as soon as you as the handler got it right the dog is much easier to work through the training.
Obviously there is always a challenge left and if you think your dog is happily sorted out on land go for the next step with ‘Water Training’ and you’ll learn very quickly that your dog can revert back to beyond especially if he is a ‘water mad’ dog like mine. Anyway after a day’s training with Lez around water and all the exercises you can apply around it Charlie paid more attention to what he was supposed to do and we finished the day happy and tired.
I can only highly recommend Lez’ training days because you focus an entire day on your dog and it leaves you with great joy to see the good result of a hard day’s work at the end.
Lez Graham’s ‘The Finishing Touch’ Training Day
The Finishing Touch is the fourth part in Lez’s series of training days and aims to start bringing all the pieces together. It calls on the skills learnt in the previous training days, adds to them and then starts polishing them.
The dogs (and owners) are unrecognisable to when they attended the first class fourth months ago, and to say that everyone has come on in leaps and bounds is an understatement. And clearly, every body is thrilled with the progress they have been making.
Having said that, it’s also important to note that we had a new joiner to our class and due to the fabulous way that the training is structured, they were still able to jump right in, and pick up those skills that they were seeing for the first time, and the rest of us were ‘finessing’.
We spent some time working on directional control, and then moved onto Hunting in Cover with whistle. The dogs were having a fantastic time, although they did always appear a bit bemused that the humans always seemed to know where the ball was!
After the usual delicious lunch and gundog-related discussions we ventured into the forest and took it in turns to perform a series of blind retrieves. With four dummies down, and in the ultimate distracting environment of exciting noises and smells, the dogs did really well, and performed as they were asked.
The final exercise of the day ramped the excitement up to eleven. I had thought that introducing the dogs to shot, would be a mixed affair with some dogs being unsure of the sharp reports associated with blank firing pistols. This was certainly not the experience here. Every dog was hugely interested and keen as mustard to get out after the dummies that fell in synchronisation with the shot.
This certainly made for an extremely positive conclusion to they day’s training session, and was particularly evident during the final discussions (and welcome tea) as we summarised and recapped the day’s progress.
Another fantastic day stuffed with practical advice, and demonstrable results. What could be better? Oh yes, Water Work; the subject of the next training day. Counting down the days already.
Lez Graham’s ‘Adding Finesse’ Training Day
This is the third Gundog training day of the year and builds on the skills learnt in the previous two sessions; ‘Back to Basics’ and ‘Upping The Ante’.
As with the previous training sessions, the day starts with a general chat where you are encouraged to highlight any areas where you have been struggling with your own training, and Lez addresses each issue in turn, offering valuable insight and useful suggestions in overcoming any difficulties. There is then a quick run through of the day’s itinerary.
After that it’s straight down to business starting, as always with a quick recap of the key skills, and in particular loose lead walking. That old favourite. Then it was onto some new skills, including hunting in cover which was hugely entertaining. This was followed by some more directional retrieves, before introducing the ‘Go Back’ command.
This is a really important directional command and, as Lez explained, it’s important to send the dog the right way, i.e. Back over his left shoulder or back over this right. Lez talked about the mechanics of movement, and the importance of not stressing the dogs musculature system, and also how to recognise from how the dog is sitting which ‘way’ back he is favouring. then through subtle movements control the dogs position and whether his weight’s to the left or right, this of course, determining whether you send him back to the left or back to the right.
Following the first adder sighting of the year we avoided going into the forest as Lez explained that this particular area was renowned for it’s particularly high density of the UK’s only poisonous snake. The adder is responsible for a great number of dog deaths each year.
Instead we continued the afternoon on the field, concentrating on steadiness exercises and introducing more whistle commands, and ever more exciting dummies, which the dogs just loved to retrieve. Lez also introduced the concept of longer retrieves, pushing the dogs further away and building their confidence.
As always, the day concludes with a recap of the items covered, and another opportunity to ask questions and clarify anything. All with a very civilised and welcome cup of tea. This is a great way to end the day, and always ensures that the day finishes on a very exciting and encouraging note, that leaves you waiting for the next training day.
Lez Graham’s ‘Upping The Ante’ Training Day
It certainly didn’t seem like a month had passed, but yet I found myself fighting my way through the early morning traffic to Lez’s second gundog training day of the year. Today’s session entitled “Upping The Ante” builds directly on the skills learnt on the “Basic to Basics” day four weeks ago.
Arriving a few minutes late, thanks to the traffic, we started straight away with that ‘everyday’ skill; loose lead walking. This is how Lez starts all her training days, emphasising the importance of control and correct positioning of the dog at your side. And then quietly dropping the lead and all of a sudden, we’re ‘off lead walking’ and the dog doesn’t even realise - which is, of course, the idea.
As the morning progressed we tried a number of exercises. We spent some more time complicating the retrieves with splits and then started to work on direction control. As always each exercise was demonstrated and then we had the opportunity to practice the exercise with Lez spending some time with each person, giving tips and pointers; this one to one element is fantastically useful, and I think crucial in getting things right. After all, every partnership of handler and dog is unique, each pair have the own nuances and perhaps find certain aspects more challenging than others. Lez is easily able to assist, tweaking here and there as necessary ensuring that everyone can achieve success.
Once again, lunch offered the opportunity of an informal question and answer session with Lez, as always, giving generously from her detailed knowledge of canine psychology and years of experience. Her enthusiasm is infectious.
After lunch a few more exercises before the highlight of the day; trying some retrieves in the forest. This adds a myriad of doggy distractions. New smells and new sounds, wildlife and masses of leaves, bushes and trees.
The next few retrieves, again demonstrated then instructed on a one to one basis were still essentially what we had already been doing over and over, but with the dog having to deal with a whole heap of new stimuli.
Once again, this highlighted the need to get the basics right, and to build on that steadiness... slowly. It seems to me that that the slower you make this journey the easier and more successful it becomes.
Having said that, what’s next?
Lez Graham’s ‘Back to Basics’ Training Day
I have been looking forward to Lez Graham’s first training day of the year with great excitement, and for good reason.
We started selling Lez’s two books (The Pet Gundog and The Advanced Pet Gundog) late last year and since then they have out-sold all our other gundog training books by more than ten times! The books are a joy to read; written in an infectious, informative style, full of good humour and incisive observations of dog behaviour. Indeed, it’s Lez’s background in canine psychology that set these books apart and her advocation not only of training the dog, but also teaching the dog self control inspires enthusiasm to ‘get out there’ and put it to the test. And what better opportunity than on Lez’s own training course.
The course started with an informal chat over a welcome cup of tea. Lez detailed the content and format of the day, and the attendees introduced themselves and provided a brief summary of any training they had done with their dog, what they had achieved and any problems encountered. Lez likes to keep her training groups small with a maximum of 6 attendees - on this course there were 5 of us. The small numbers work very effectively making the group feel intimate yet at the same time not so small that you feel everyone is watching you the whole time.
The morning progressed through ‘Basic obedience’ and ‘Loose lead walking’ to ‘Whistle sits’ and ‘Recalling to heel’. Lez proceeded each exercise by explaining it’s purpose and technique before demonstrating with one of the dogs. This in itself induced more confidence in the handlers as they had already seen a dog (often their own) do that very exercise successfully. I wondered on more than one occasions whether the dog was showing me the exercise or vice versa!
Lez’s energetic teaching style is as compelling as her writing style. With a clear wealth of knowledge and experience, sorely tested by a question and answer session during the lunch break, she was easily able to provide suggestions and advice to whole host of training, health and other gundog-related issues.
The afternoon focused on ‘Marked retrieves’, ‘Memory retrieves’ and ‘Delivery to hand’. Progress of the group was clear and obvious and Lez’s encouragement seemed boundless. Clearly everyone; dogs and handlers alike were having a great day, and learning tremendous amounts.
In essence, what this training course does is breathe life into Lez’s books. It takes the written words and manifests something tangible, results you can actually see. It is already evident that by following the principles of this course and content of the books I am going to have a reliable and steady dog who will just love to work. Who could ask for more? I’m already looking forward to the next training day in the series.
Avis, Ashleygrove Gundogs
As a Gundog Trainer in Hertfordshire I like to offer my clients exposure to other trainers who I feel match my style of training, that will inspire them to keep up the good work, and maybe give us a few new tips and tricks of the trade. I invited Lez Graham to come and spend a day with us and help with some problem solving and give us some new exercises to try with our experienced dogs and handlers. We had a lovely day!
Lez is a great teacher and communicator. She showed us many useful methods to gently get our dogs smartened up and everyone took inspiration from her happy outlook on training. Lez is very well qualified and experienced in dog handling at all levels and in many disciplines. One of those people whose knowledge we envy!
I will look forward to our next day in the Autumn and am excited to see what else we can learn from her.
'Adding Finesse' Training Day.
The course gave us opportunities to practice retrieving and hunting skills in increasing degrees of difficulty, under the watchful eyes of an extremely professional trainer. By learning about the mechanics behind the handling, made us appreciate what we are asking our dogs to do, and therefore we were able to be more considerate in our handling and get better results.
It was a very enjoyable day, and both the dog and I learned a great deal.
Great full day of training , I learnt things that you can never know or learn from a book.
The day was set at a good level for my young lab and me, I look forward to the next training day.
I was very impressed with my training day. Even though it was a back to basics, I learnt new skills which I am able to work with my more experienced dog and a lot of skills to impart on my newer dog. I can thoroughly recommend Lez Graham as an instructor. The day presented excellent value for money.