Q: My one-year-old lab walks slightly in front of me when I’m trying to get her to walk to heel. How can I get her to stay behind me?

Jayne Coley: It’s a waste of time nagging her by constantly pulling her on the lead. You will have to re-train her by going back to the beginning, teaching her to walk to heel with you. On a slack lead, walk a few steps to start with, very slowly, keeping her focused on you with her head level with your leg. Sit her up. Praise. Repeat. You must concentrate on her, keeping her focused on you. Treats can be useful in the early stages to achieve this. You cannot rush making progress. Ideally, do two or three sessions a day of no more than five minutes each so she does not get bored. Make the sessions fun and interesting by walking at different speeds, changing direction, mainly to the left so you are walking around her. Every time you put the lead on, she must walk to heel correctly. If someone else walks her during the day, you are going to have to teach them to do the same. It is going to take a lot of patience, perseverance and consistency on your part, so always ensure you give yourself the time to do it properly.

Q: Is the stop whistle the key to training as people say?

Laura Hill: The main purpose of any gundog is gamefinding, either hunting for game to be shot or retrieving injured or dead quarry. This should be done quickly and efficiently. Natural ability is of primary importance, but we also need to be able to control our dog in the area.

At the end of the shooting season, it’s not unusual for the stop whistle to have become somewhat less effective. Spring is a great time to revisit your basics, including close control work. I like to teach the stop whistle in a positive way, so that it comes to mean “Stop; look at me; something great is about to happen,” rather than the dog seeing the whistle as an unwanted or unnecessary intrusion, preventing it from doing what it wanted. If you preface your directional commands or hunting with the stop whistle, your dog will soon be looking at you in keen anticipation to find out what he’ll be doing next.

Q: How can I train my eight- month-old spaniel to sit and wait when I walk on?

Jeremy Organ: Sitting whilst you walk off from a puppy is always difficult for any puppy as they don’t want to be left behind. Up to now all the training has been about recall and staying close and now we are completely contradicting ourselves in their eyes.

One way you can gain good results is by sitting the puppy in front of you whilst still on a lead. Step back from the puppy to the length of the lead (holding the lead in an outstretched arm) and slowly, step-by-step, move to one side creating a semi circle in front of the puppy, always reassuring and reminding it with a soft sit command and by putting your hand up in the air.

Once you have been able to move left and right in front of the puppy without it wanting to creep in then try the same exercise with no lead. If this is successful then gradually gain more distance from the puppy but still not doing any more than a semi circle. Repeat several times throughout the week until you are able to gain 10m or so from the puppy. When the puppy has accepted this, try to complete the circle but at close range to start with.

If at any time the puppy creeps into you, put it back where it was and calmly ask it to sit and start all over again.