Renowned gundog trainer Jason Mayhew is putting on a very special main arena display at The Game Fair this July with two special guests set to join him. He will be ably assisted by TV chef James Martin and former England cricketer Matt Prior as he puts their gundog handling skills on show. James will be working his five-year-old blue roan cocker spaniel Cooper, and Matt will be bringing his 18-month black lab Maxi. 

Jason explained that the lighthearted 40-minute demo will offer visitors something a bit different: “We will go through the usual drills to demonstrate steadiness, blind retrieves and marking, but there’ll also be interviews with James and Matt about their own personal gundog training journeys. Both of them are at the top of their professions and have transferrable skills from working in professional sport that have meant they’ve become highly competent gundog handlers. They understand how to stay calm under pressure which their dogs feed off. They have incredible relationships with their dogs and could compete in trials at a high level if they wanted to.”

The demo will take place on the Friday afternoon after James has finished hosting lunch service in ‘The Enclosure’ restaurant, where he has devised the game-based menu. His spaniel Cooper has been in training with Jason since he was a pup. James explained: “I’ve always been fascinated by man’s ability to train dogs. When I was a young kid, there was a gamekeeper in my village who used to look after the Castle Howard estate and he used to have an immaculately trained gundog called Jett. I was always so impressed by him. He would just sit there, without a lead and just wait for his owner to return. Now I finally understand what it takes for that bond to happen. I love picking-up on local shoots with Cooper. His special move is a 400-yard blind retrieve. He’ll also sit on a riverbank all day long watching me bother fish. He’s everything I ever wanted from a dog. Last year we took part in ITV’s The Pet Show which saw Cooper compete in an agility course, and he is still top of the leaderboard. I hope Copper behaves at The Game Fair demo – he works better for Jason than me!”

Matt added: “Maxi is my first gundog so it’s been an incredible experience. There’s nothing quite like having a dog work with me on the shooting field as part of a team to help provide food for my plate. When I set out on this dog training journey I didn’t realise just how much of a time investment it would be but dog work is at the forefront of any time I now spend in the field. I live fairly close to Jason so I’ve been having a one-to-one lessons on a Monday afternoon every week for the past year. I call him ‘The Legend’ – his way with gundogs is just magical. I am looking forward to The Game Fair – but it’s an alien environment with lots of distractions and I really want Maxi to do well - but I am fully prepared for it to go wrong which I am sure the crowd will love!”