Transform your dog from ugly duckling to swan with the right club and training.
By Janet Menzies
Monday, 19 November 2007
Janet Menzies ponders all of the things she wishes she'd known before setting out to train gun dogs.
During my days as a tabloid hackette, I used to write a feature called Things I wish I'd known at the altar, in which celebrities were interviewed about marriage.
Inevitably the subjects were already on their fourth marriage or filing the divorce papers at the time of going to press. But just because you are incapable of following good advice doesn't mean you are unable to give it.
Much-married Richard Harris (and locked in the gaze of those blue eyes it was understandable) told me: "The secret of a good marriage is separate bathrooms" - notice he said good rather than long, the two not necessarily being the same thing at all.
In gun dog terms this translates to, don't have working dogs in the sitting-room, which is pretty good advice. It set me thinking about all the things I wish I'd known when I first started training and working gun dogs.
Unlike all those wonderful golden wedding anniversary couples who cite 'give and take' as the secret of their success, this motto didn't spring to mind in terms of gun dogs.
In fact, I wish I'd known that if you give a young dog an inch you'll soon find he takes yards out of you with every stride.
Things I wish I'd known at the beginning
- Cockers are not busy or merry, they are nuts. So, when someone tells you that they are demented bumblebees, listen.
- Gundog manuals only go so far. No matter how many you read they never seem to cover the exact issues raised by your particular dog. They can be useful, though, for flinging at a dog that is running-in.
- Be aware of the difference between the hunting and retrieving breeds. Try as hard as you can to hold off buying a puppy until you have a good idea of how the different breeds work and which will suit you.
- Ask for advice. It will probably be years before you actually start taking it, but getting help is an essential first step towards learning.
- Try not to get too serious. The first sign you are becoming a gundog anorak will be when your dog starts taking the mickey. Be aware and beware.
- Even if you get to the stage of competing with or being paid to work dogs, keep hold of how much fun it is. Your day may be wet and tiring, but there will always be a nugget of pleasure in there.
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