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) and either sit her up behind the line with the pickers-up or on the peg while a friend shoots? This way you can give her your full attention, monitoring her reactions and rewarding her if she behaves calmly.
When you do decide she is ready to join you on the peg while you shoot, perhaps pick a drive where you are at the end of the line, rather than being in the centre of the action, and think about giving her just a couple of drives before exposing her to a full day.
Q: I have been told that cocker spaniels don’t make peg dogs? Is that true?
Jeremy Organ: I have seen a lot of cockers at the peg over the years, some that were very well behaved and doing an excellent job but others being an absolute menace. If you want to have one of the former then you have to spend the early training mainly based on patience and steadiness (all the boring stuff). This will help to teach the dog to wait throughout the drive without making noise and running in.
The foundation is the most important part of the dogs training.
Don’t over face the dog during its first few days on the peg, maybe one or two drives and then only picking one or two birds. I would never send the dog for any retrieves during the drive and then only let the dog pick an easy bird where you can manage pickup and delivery. Then I would put the dog away. Take it easy and you will reap the rewards.
Q: My labrador is steady and sensible on the peg and works well for me. However, when I first arrive at the shoot he can be a pain, rushing round to see everyone, not taking a blind bit of notice of me. What should I do?
Jayne Coley: At the beginning of a shoot day, the air is full of anticipation, and this can rub off on to the dogs. Also, if he is a house dog and has been allowed to rush up to welcome everyone who comes to the door, he does not know any different.
You will already have had your dog out to be clean before you left home, so why not leave him in your vehicle until you pick up your gun? Also never be too proud to put him on a lead, making sure you always have one in your pocket, as well as a couple of spare ones in your vehicle. If you like having him with you when you greet your friends at the beginning of a shoot day then keep him on the lead at first and then you will know exactly where he is, and your day will get off to a good start.