Dog’s First Shoot Day

Dog in Countryside on Shootday

Planning to take Rover on his first day in the field? GLYNN EVANS has some tips on ensuring everything goes smoothly.

There is a saying that the quickest way to spoil a trained gundog is to take it shooting. This may be a sweeping statement but the introduction of a dog to the shooting field needs to be carefully managed to prevent problems. The excitement of the day is going to intensify any deficiencies in training. For instance, if your dog isn’t steady to dummies or cold game it isn’t going to suddenly become so on the real thing. So if your dog isn’t actually trained and ready for its first day, then delay until it is. Once satisfied your dog is ready, there are other considerations and plans to put in place before the first day.

Prior Planning

Carefully choose the shoot day and what role you will have. Diving straight into the thick of things is only going to give you problems. Like much of the training you have done to date, build up slowly in small steps. Explain to the shoot keeper or captain that you have a new dog you want to start. They will all have had to introduce a new dog at some point so will do their best to help; the key is give plenty of notice rather than just turn up and expect this. Well before the big day consider all the aspects that might affect your dog.

For instance, you might use your own vehicle to get around the shoot – but what if you give another Gun and their dog a lift? How will your dog react to a stranger jumping into his car? It is worth having a dry run in advance beforehand away from the shoot. What about beaters, sticks and flags? Again, easily addressed by a little preparation. Take a stick or flag with you on an exercise walk. What is familiar to a dog is not likely to cause an issue. There is a long list but don’t get too hung up, just consider the ‘what ifs’ and how to address them.

Hunting Dog Running and Jumping Barbed Wire Fence

On The Day

Try to keep your dog’s routine as normal as possible. If you usually take him for a 30-minute walk first thing, followed by a little feed, keep to this. You might want to make the meal slightly smaller and always ensure there is time for him to digest it before he starts working. Arrive at the shoot in plenty of time to give your dog the chance to have another run and relieve himself.

Take poo bags – your host is unlikely to appreciate a mess in the middle of their yard. Leave your gun at home. You need to focus on your dog 100 per cent so you can deal with any problems that arise; there will be other shooting opportunities in the future. Tell the other shoot members you have a young dog.

This will allow them to help you. For instance, you might be able to stand with the pickers-up, who will cover for any difficult birds, such as runners. They can allow you the opportunity to take ‘selected’ retrieves such as nice marks to give your dog chance to succeed. Remember not to overdo this, and if things are going well don’t be tempted to push your luck. You might want to leave before the end of the day but check with the host well beforehand that this is OK. Consider your dog’s comfort and welfare at all times, such as ensuring he has regular access to water. Hopefully, with proper planning, your first day out together will go well and be the start of a great partnership in the field.

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BASC: The British Association for Shooting & Conservation