The man who can teach any dog new tricks
Country Life UK|September 29, 2021
For many, owning a well-behaved gundog is a goal we never quite achieve, but Ben Randall’s methods and training app look set to change all that, finds Paula Lester, as she watches him put her labrador through his paces
Paula Lester
WOULD you like a dog that sits and stays, comes back when it’s called, greets people nicely without jumping up and doesn’t bark or chew its bedding?’ asks award-winning gundog trainer Ben Randall. ‘Well, I can help you get that.’

This might seem like a bold statement, but it’s an incredibly attractive proposition, because for those of us who own a dog, especially a gundog, there’s no greater source of pride than a companion that excels rather than embarrasses in the field.

It’s an aspiration that I’ve tried to reach with previous dogs and a goal that, when I got my labrador puppy Nimrod three years ago, I was determined to achieve. However, despite my best intentions, life—not least a very busy job on this magazine and a lack of confidence in my own ability (although I’m a gamekeeper’s daughter and am married to a retired keeper, my dogs have always been somewhat unruly)—soon got in the way.

At first, I was fortunate to have help from family, friends and a talented local trainer. Nonetheless, I struggled to attain the steadiness required in a reliable retriever and, somewhere between last year’s various lockdowns, I almost gave up. Then pictures and videos posted by a Herefordshire-based dog trainer kept popping up on my Instagram feed. I’d heard of Mr Randall, who made field-trial history when winning the Cocker Championship back-to-back for the first time in 39 years with Field Trial Champion (FTCh) Heolybwlch Fatty in 2011 and 2012. Yet, I’d never seen his positive, reward-based training methods—which use meal times to teach dogs patience, steadiness and drive— in action before. There was something that caught my eye about the way his dogs were allowed on the sofa at night, but, when out training the next day, ignored all distractions to bring retrieves straight back to him. And, in April, when Mr Randall launched the Gundog app (see box), featuring videos of short, easy-to-follow lessons, I knew this was the training regime for me.

‘I know that, at times, dog owners feel under pressure,’ empathises Mr Randall. ‘You feel stressed that all the lessons you’ve had aren’t working, but these methods will work, because I’ve proven they work with thousands of clients with all sorts of dogs all over the world.’

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