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De-Bugging Your Gun Dog [Back to Monthly Pro Staff Articles]


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Bugging is the act in which a gun dog refuses to look straight ahead when they're being lined up for a blind retrieve. Their head will swing from left to right or up and down. The dog avoids looking straight ahead where your hand is directing them to go.


Debugging is when the handler notices this behavior and takes action to stop it. I got together with Pro Staff team member, Dave Dahlberg, and together we organized some information on why bugging occurs and methods to solve the issue. Dave owns and operates Colorado Gun Dogs and Rolida Kennels, which is located just outside Denver, Colorado. Dave has been training retrievers for over 25 years, which has given him a lot of experience with a variety of personalities in dogs. Dave and I agree that some gun dogs are naturals that seem to be born to hunt, some take fine tuning and hard work, and occasionally, he'll get one that just won't make the cut. A client of Dave's observed that his dogs were returning to the line with wagging tails, whereas some other people's dogs ran back to the line timid and had their tails between their legs. This got Dave and I thinking that a good attitude can make all the difference when training a gun dog and why some may be less likely to develop a bugging habit. A good attitude=less bugging!


Dave explains that "bugging can be caused by waiting too long while lining up to send the dog on a blind retrieve. The dog starts to feel pressure and becomes unsure. This can lead the dog to not want to perform. If a handler constantly calls their dog back from a poorly lined blind, the dog may become disheartened. If your dog is unsure, feels the pressure, or is continually being called back, you can break the dogs' confidence and create a bugging habit." Dave and I agree that confidence is imperative. If the dog is confident in you and their prior training, then they won't start bugging. They'll look right down your hand and fire off the line.

It is best to avoid bugging all together by following these steps.


If you notice a lack of confidence in the dog, take a step backwards and simplify the blind. Build the dog's confidence back up before progressing again.



If you are still having bugging problems seek out a professional trainer to help you.


If you follow these steps, seek help when you need it, and make the training experience rewarding for all involved, you are well on your way preventing a bugging issue with your gun dog. Good luck, and enjoy training with your hunting companion!


For more information on debugging your gun dog, email

Or contact Dave Dahlberg at