moves into summer, the coming months offer the perfect opportunity to
prepare new gundogs for a first shooting season. Four times winner of the
British Spaniel Championship, Ian Openshaw, offers some tips on bringing on
a potential shooting companion.
Reproduced from "Shooting &
dog faces its first full shooting season in a few months, the chances are
that when reading this article, the basic obedience training has already
been done. There are several exercises to ensure that the dog can sit, stay
and remain to heel, but before any further progression can be made, the dog
must he able to carry out these
comfortable with the sound of gunfire, a dog can improve its steadiness -
and even retrieving, if ready - by accompanying you on pigeon shooting
outings. Most people find it difficult to remain still in a hide, so it's
good practice for a dog! Beware of standing corn and barley. Though, as
parts of the crop easily find their way into the ears When you feel ready to
give the dog retrieves over water, the same principle applies - start slowly
and build up gradually. Encourage the dog over the tiniest of gaps in dykes
and then progress from there. We use a small river, eight yards across, and
move to wider waterways - 30 and 70 yards respectively. The important point
here is to get him over to the other side. Too many dummies thrown in the
middle of the river at this stage will lead to problems in the field if a
bird comes down on the far bank. Don't worry about those that do fall in the
water - the dog will be in like a flash!
We are fortunate to have the nearby River Severn at our simple tasks on
instruction. If it is competent and responsive to your commands, further
training exercises and water work can begin.
With more daylight hours at our disposal come May, June and July we can use
it to our advantage. Owners of local clay shoots across the country are
putting on more evening events, particularly practice sessions. There is one
near the kennels which operates every Tuesday, attracting a few regulars.
take the dog along to the shoot, making sure that you are not interfering
with proceeding, and keep your distance. By keeping 200 yards from the:
shooters with the dog, you will be able to watch for the response. If there
is no sign of nerves, then move of a dog.
When it comes to retrieving exercises, find out what your dog prefers. Is it
a canvas dummy? Rabbit skin? Tennis ball? It's surprising how fussy some
dogs can be early on. A tennis ball thrown in long grass encourages the dog
to actually hunt for it, unlike a huge cumbersome dummy hurled where even
you can see it from a distance. Start with short seen retrieves, though, and
gradually progress to unseens, while extending the distance of each exercise
gradually and according to the dog's abilities. The most crucial point is
that the dog must be kept keen. Six well completed and varied retrieves is a
full training session. Better to do half-a-dozen well than 20 poor disposal.
The young dogs sit and wait whilst dummies are thrown downstream. When each
one is sent, the dummy has drifted on the slight current which means the dog
must be keen and swim to collect, rather than heading straight there. Don't
forget, water work is great exercise for the older dog as well. Dummies
thrown upstream will encourage hard swimming and improve fitness.
These are a few ideas which help my dogs but the over-riding factor is
simply to use common sense. Keep it interesting for the dog and gauge this
by the dog's reactions. Stop if you are boring him. Put the whole scenario
into a human perspective: if you work the same hours in the same job, day
in, day out, with the same people in the same place with not a hint of a
change, you get bored. With variety and interesting activities, like humans,
dogs become more responsive and they will work better.
closer to the
guns (or wait until the next event to do this).
Keep your dog amused by pottering around still keeping your distance
throwing the occasional dummy or ball for the dog to collect. Carried out
properly, this will acclimatise 99% of dogs with the sound of gunfire.
Should the dog show any sign of nerves, remember next time to take something
he feels comfortable with - his food is an obvious example! Such evenings
provide cheap and efficient training.
When following this course of action, you do have to beware that the dog
doesn't start at a single shot. He may be fine with several shots (as at day
shoots) but become nervous at the odd bang.
A solution to this, to be applied, if ones, where the dog has already got
bored. How would you like it if I told you to run up and down the same hill
in the same direction, time and time again? The first couple of times would
be all right but on the twentieth? I think you'd probably tell me where to
go! And remember that between nine and 12 months old, dogs are not fully
mature and their muscles have yet to develop properly.
Dogs can be introduced to water no matter what their age - whether 12 weeks
or nine months. All you need is nice weather and of course with summer
coming it is the perfect time. Use common sense: even think like a dog.
Would you like to be encouraged into a stream on a cold February necessary
alongside those clay shoot evenings, is to have a friend fire single shots
for the benefit of the dog. If you like, throw a canvas or rabbit-skin dummy
for him to retrieve. He will then associate the shot with something
rewarding -hopefully! (If your aim is no good, you will discover whether the
early obedience training on steadiness has worked!) Incidentally, do not
introduce a dog to gunfire in wooded areas, because of the echo, which can
prove disconcerting for a youngster. morning? The outing should consist of a
gentle stroll on a nice, hot day - if you feel like jumping in, your dog
Treat it like a game initially, if you have more than one dog. take them
both or all along. They love playing together, and if a youngster is water
shy, that will soon change if older dogs are splashing around nearby. A
small stream is ideal for a first meeting between dog and water - if there
is a wider pool further along then move along and use it.