Keeping older dogs listening
For an older dog to continue to pay attention and act on our commands, we must continue to make time for them, too.
“You’ll never have a good young’un as long as you have your good old’un”, George Meldrum used to say. George was twice winner of the Retriever Championship and father of Bill who won it in 1963 handling his father’s FTCh Glenfarg Skid. He had a point. After all, we love our older dogs which have grown into our ways and probably developed a fair few endearing ones of their own. Provided we think of them as ‘older’ rather than ‘old’ there’s no reason why our...
Five common gundog training mistakes – Part 1
Author: Ben Randall
Highlighting the five most common gundog training mistakes and how to avoid them.
1. Too much freedom Too much freedom before you have established basic control (recall, sit and stay) can result in a dog that is inclined to hunt without you, and do as it pleases. Example: Many owners exercise their dogs by walking in straight lines and allowing the dog to run on in front. If a gundog is allowed to do this often, it will think that it has to entertain itself every time it is let off the lead – i.e. pick up a scent and pursue it, with no regard for any command from...
Five common gundog training mistakes – Part 2
Author: Ben Randall
Five more common gundog training mistakes and how we should aim to avoid them.
1. Loud and excessive handling Dogs have very good hearing – you don’t need to shout. Quiet, calm commands, that are not repeated or over-used, are often a sign of a good handler. Example: Dogs listen not only to words but also tone and volume when you give a command. If the dog is used to being told loudly to ‘sit’ when just a yard away from you – voice or whistle – it will expect the same volume and tone of command when it is 30 yards away. Loud commands in the training...
It is in a dog's nature to push the boundaries every now and then, says Fieldfare. So it's necessary to ensure that their steadiness is maintained.
(Photo credit: Ben Cole) Think of it as being like a length of elastic that gets stretched and stretched, often to breaking point, by the excitements of the season. However good the link between dog and handler - and there is no more critical element than steadiness - work in the field puts it under strain. And even the most trustworthy dogs can come to feel that they know best when a bird has been hit: and once they start managing themselves you no longer have an agreeable shooting...
Leave the gun at home
How to avoid heartbreak when introducing your dog to the shooting field.
You may think you have fully trained your gundog. In fact you know that it is the best dog you have ever owned. Now comes the test – your first day's shooting together. Many a game Shot will take his/her dog out when it is sill far too young, too inexperienced and without sufficient (or any!) picking up experience. These handlers suffer from two problems. Firstly, they believe that once a dog is properly trained it will do no wrong. To the contrary, only continued and consistent...
Picking-up on a grouse moor
Author: Jayne Coley
Expert advice for those who will be working a dog on the moors for the first time this season.
I’m not sure whether it’s because I live down in Gloucestershire, but I think there is something rather special about being up on a grouse moor with my dogs. Maybe it’s the solitude and the timeless scenery, which is an ever-changing picture according to the weather. Or perhaps it is because it’s so very different to what I am used to – picking-up on pheasant shoots in the Cotswolds where most of the day my dogs are sweeping-up in woodland and often working out of my sight....
How to impress field trial judges
The difference between silverware and an early finish in a field trial can be in the detail, says Field Editor Ben Randall, who highlights some of the key things field trial judges look for.
Field trials are gundog competitions run to assess the work of gundogs in the shooting field, with the dogs judged on how they deal with both live and unhandled shot game. There are numerous criteria against which field trial judges will assess competing dogs in both retriever and spaniel trials. Although the weight given to individual criteria will naturally differ between the two types of trial, I will try to provide a broad overview of both the credit points and faults that I have...
The seven sins of gundog training
It’s rare to make it through the shooting season without encountering at least a few poorly behaved gundogs, but some bad habits crop up more than others. Field Editor Ben Randall considers the most common issues and how to prevent or resolve them.
1. Whining and making noise This is a common issue, and one that can be very frustrating for both the dog’s handler and fellow Guns, pickers-up, beaters and keepers. Dogs that whine on the peg can be distracting and take away from the experience somewhat. The same goes for those that bark and whine when stood behind the Guns picking-up, or when in the dog-box in the car. Prevention: Generally, dogs whine when they are desperate to get to something; the problem stems from impatience....
Picking up, a Gun's view
Author: Nigel Birt-Llewellin
Poor picking-up practice can be the difference between a good, a bad and an ugly day’s shooting, says Nigel Birt-Llewellin.
On October 25, 2012, I was knocked over by a large yellow labrador at a commercial shoot in Kent. The dog had been sent to retrieve a redleg partridge that was lying, stone dead, on its back some 40 yards in front of me. The bird was the first kill of the day, flying right to left and parallel to the Guns. The dog took my left knee at a full gallop as I was addressing an oncoming covey. I managed to go down on my back, only just keeping control of the gun. The dog barged by my spaniel as it...
How to prepare your dog for the partridge season
Author: Allie Hogsbjerg
Whether it's you and your dog's first day in the field or you are a picking-up veteran, here's five ways to prepare for the partridge season.
(Photographs: Harry Lessman) 1. Fitness! If you don’t prepare your athlete, don’t expect them to be able to perform to their best. Make sure you have your dog fit enough to cope with what you will be asking of them. Retrieving runners is short burst of fast activity, so make sure you give your dogs plenty of speed work for short durations and see how they improve their recovery time between retrieves. Working them on hills will also help this process. Likewise, sweeping over the...
Time to Make a Plan
Author: Ben Randall
At the end of the shooting season, you might be forgiven for thinking that the busiest time of your gundog’s year has passed, says Field Editor Ben Randall, but in reality some of the most important ‘work’ happens during the spring and summer months
Without a doubt, October to February is the most exciting time to be out with our dogs in the field, but if we want to ensure our working companions continue to progress year on year, it is imperative that we make the most of that so-often-underused 6–8-month period when the breeks stay in the cupboard. One of the greatest errors I see as a professional trainer is this ‘until next season’ mentality amongst gundog owners. It’s a bit like putting your gun away in the cabinet on 1...
Is It Even Shooting Without A Dog?
Author: Robin Scott
Many game shooters are missing the best bit of shooting because they haven’t got a gundog, as Robin Scott explains.
Is it my imagination, or do fewer game shooters now have a gundog than 25 years ago? These days, whenever I look at the Gun line on a let day the number of folk with one sitting quietly at their peg (or tethered to it!) is noticeably down on how things used to be. Back before let days really caught on the few pickers-up who plied their trade ran a couple of dogs, three tops, and it was down to Guns to unleash their own mutt at the end of the drive to hoover up the slain before this ‘pro’...
Dogs for Grouse
Author: Andy Robinson
The moors provide a very different challenge from lowland picking-up. Here, Andy Robinson from Whaupley Gundogs explains how to prepare your young dog for this unique sporting environment.
On the face of it, grouse moors are an attractive and encouraging place for a young dog. Nice terrain, good weather, fairly easy cover where you can nearly always see your dog, and the retrieving of a small gamebird over short distances are all plus points. In reality, however, at times they can be quite an unforgiving place for a young and inexperienced dog. Heat, occasional poor scenting conditions, steep hills, heather and competition from numerous other dogs, are among the things that can...
Preparing for Next Season
We discuss how to prepare your gundog for next season.
Q: What’s the best way to get my dogs fit and ready for the season? Laura Hill: As summer progresses, and you have been able to get out and do more training with your dog, his overall fitness and stamina will gradually be increasing anyway. It is a mistake to do too much repetitive training though, as the dog will become bored and stale. Try to vary where you go and what you do, if you are getting out more regularly. Also, think about the type of ground you are working on at home, and what...
Author: Patrice Fellows
How old is too old, and what should we remember when working dogs in their twilight years?
Photographers / HEIDRUN HUMPHRIES AND OLIVER HOPKINSON One of the enigmas of life is that as the clock ticks on and our bodies age, our hearts and minds remain ‘forever young’, like in the Bob Dylan song. As I begin the journey of my sixth decade, I often have to remind myself that the voice talking in my head is actually the same age as the rest of me. This hazy sense of time must resonate even more for gundogs, given their relatively short time on earth. Living eternally in the...
High Spirits on Shoot Day
Gundog Journal answers your questions on managing your peg dogs on shoot day.
Q: My three-year-old lab bitch will be joining me on the peg this season. She does sometimes get a little excited when the shooting starts. She doesn’t get frantic but she does stand up and distract me. Any tips for calming her down? Laura Hill: It sounds like you are worried she is going to spoil your day’s shooting, rather than enhance it, at this stage. She may not be quite ready to spend a day on the peg. Is there a possibility for you to take her out on a shoot (without your gun)...
Mistakes Will Happen
Author: Michelle Oseman
Dogs and humans aren’t perfect but Michelle Oseman has some words of wisdom for other pickers-up as we move into the new season.
Photographers / LUCY CHARMAN AND HARRY LESSMAN After waiting seven months for the new shooting season to be upon us there is always a lot of excitement around the first few days out. The guns have been sharpening their skills on clays over the summer, the beaters’ bus is a bubbling mass of friends, old and new. Everyone is keen to get out there doing what they do best. Even the gamekeepers are showing their excitement in their own special way, which may sometimes be difficult to detect...
How to Take Great Gundog Images
We asked a select group of gundog photographers for their top tips on how to capture your beloved working gundogs in action, or just out posing in the field…
Harry Lessman Pick your surroundings A key part of capturing lovely images of any dog is for them to be in relaxed, comfortable surroundings, so an ideal place for a photoshoot is on their regular walk or in familiar place. I like to capture images of dogs being natural while exploring and being relaxed. Some of my favourite places to capture images are wild woodlands in autumn or a sprawling beach on a balmy summer evening. Always be aware of the background, as this can make or...
Patience on the Peg
Author: Ben Randall
How to make sure your dog stays on the right path during its first season on the peg, by Field Editor Ben Randall.
I want to make it clear the advice here is for peg dogs entering their first season. We will assume all the correct training has already been undertaken and you and your trainer (if you have one) believe the dog is now ready for its first forays into the game shooting field. If you have doubts about steadiness, retrieving or delivery you need to address them before you take your dog into the field, but for the purposes of this article we will assume the dog is to all intents and purposes ready...
Are You Competition Ready?
Author: Ben Randall
Field Editor Ben Randall offers advice on how to know if you and your dog are ready to enter a Field Trial, and how to prepare.
A question I am often asked by my clients is: “How do I know when my dog is ready for Field Trials, and how do I go about entering one?” But before we can even consider whether our dog is ready to enter a working test or trial it is important to know if one’s dog is in fact even eligible to enter. Only pure-bred gundogs – labrador, springer, cocker for example – that have been registered with the Kennel Club (KC) at birth can enter KC-affiliated trials or working tests such as the...
How Far will your Dog go for You?
What sort of distance do our dogs cover and how can we prepare them for the challenge? Simon West investigates.
The same conversation takes place on shoot days all around the country. Two pickers-up are watching their dogs working and wondering just how far their dogs go during the day of relentless work over the fields, in the woods and overthe hills. Until very recently that answer lay solely with the dog. Now with highly accurate wearable GPS trackers, it’s possible to answer the question. So that’s what we set out to do by tacking one picker-up and two springer spaniels during a shoot day....
Growing Old Gracefully
We answer your questions about common problems with aging gundogs.
Q: How can I stop my dog from crunching birds? Jayne Coley: If this is an older dog and it’s happening on a regular basis, there is very little you can do as this behaviour often becomes a habit. It may be caused by any one, or a combination, of the following factors: the dog being badly spurred by a wounded cock bird, anxiety, excitement/exuberance, having game snatched out of his mouth by another dog or possessiveness. However, if this is a young dog’s first season out shooting,...
Mud, glorious mud
Questions and Answers from Gundog Journal about training in muddy, wet conditions.
Photographer: MARY MURRAY Q: It was so wet and muddy last season have you got any insider tips on how to deal with all the mud the dogs inevitably cake themselves in? What’s your cleaning routine? Michelle Oseman: Last season was the wettest for a long time. Working six spaniels means every shoot day is a bath day. I’m convinced they could get muddy in a desert. When I built my kennel block I had an electric shower and raised bath built in and this has been a godsend. When I get home...
The element of surprise
We discover how the element if surprise when training your gundog can help embed teaching.
Q: My German shorthaired pointer (GSP) won’t always recall, especially when there are distractions. Is this a particular issue with HPRs and what can I do? Darryl Elliot: This is a very common problem but not just with HPRs. Some dogs are more difficult than others at achieving a reliable recall but if you have a problem it is usually not the dog that is at fault. Recall starts right at the beginning, a puppy will very quickly learn its name which you reward with a cuddle, a fuss, a...