Gundog Q & A
Answers to some of your questions

Q - I have spent some time training my labrador and there have been no problems up until now. She lifts pheasants happily but when I sent her for a woodcock, she only sniffed it and would have nothing more to do with it. I want to use her for picking-up at big shoots but if she won't pick a woodcock, it looks like I've got a problem.

A - Lots of dogs baulk at retrieving certain species, woodcock included, the first time they come into contact with them. We assume that this is to do with the smell of the problem retrieve but, since none of us can look on the world like a dog, we'll never really know. At any rate, our old friends patience, perseverance and praise have always worked for me whenever a dog refused to lift a new species. Try the following - hang a newly shot hen pheasant and a woodcock together in contact for 24 hours. Give the lab a retrieve of the pheasant then, as soon as she has delivered it, throw the woodcock and send her. I would be very surprised if she refused to lift it. The likelihood is that once she has seen a few 'cock, the problem will disappear of its own accord.

Q - I have more or less booked a pup from a spaniel bitch of good working breeding that belongs to my friend. I now learn from a different source that the bitch damaged some birds on a shoot last season and brought them back with flesh tears. I understand that hard mouth is hereditary and I am very worried that the pup might turn out likewise but I can't very well back out of the deal now.

A - Although hard mouth is said to "run in the family", I take the view that far more cases are induced by faulty training and handling and, that if a dog is from proven working stock, genetic hard mouth is unlikely to be encountered. A carefully structured training course, the avoidance of "hard" treatment, especially associated with retrieving game, and plenty of patience will all play their part in avoiding the problem. Superficial skin damage is not evidence of hard mouth; the hard mouthed dog tends to crush the rib cage.

Q - I am having one or two problems in getting my young (10 months) springer to mark the fall of a training dummy. He is reluctant to take his eyes off me and, as a result, does not watch the dummy's flight when I throw it. Have you any suggestions?

A - Some young dogs have this quirk and, although it tends to disappear as time passes and they get experience of the real thing, it can be frustrating for the trainer. Assuming that he is absolutely steady, put the dog on the drop, walk off a little way, attract his attention and throw the dummy, trying to let him "get the picture" of the dummy's flight as you do so by pointing in the direction of the fall as you release the dummy. Return to the dog before you send him to retrieve. Alternatively, it is helpful to enlist an assistant to do the throwing for you and get the assistant to make a noise (a shout perhaps) as he throws the dummy.

Q - Most people seem to spell "labrador" when it is the name of dog breed, with a lower case "L" but I have sometimes seen capitals used. Which is correct?

A - If you want to be strictly correct "Labrador" is a region of Canada and "labrador" is a breed of dog. But there is no need to be over-pedantic about this; the context will usually tell you whether the reference is geographic or canine.

(Gundog Q & A has been adapted by a series originally produced by the late Tennant Brownlee in Wildfowling Magazine)

 


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