It is a truth universally acknowledged that a gentleman in possession of a newly trained gun dog must be in want of an opportunity to work it on a shoot. Janet Menzies advises on your gundog's first shoot day

The start of new a season is especially thrilling when you have a young dog to take out for the first time. But no matter how well behaved a young dog is at home, they can be ruined when they enter the field. So Janet Menzies highlights the main pitfalls to avoid on your gundog’s first shoot day.

The perfect peg dog is made, not born. If you don’t feel confident enough to train your gundog at home then call in the professionals. Read gundog schools: private education for pups for the canine answer to the Good Schools Guide.


A young dog can be ruined in many ways. Here, in order of likelihood, are the main instances where you might run into trouble on your gundog’s first shoot day.

On the peg
With birds and cartridges raining down in front of him, an inexperienced dog will run-in. If you screw him down he may start making a noise. Apart from very small days, keep your youngster away from the peg if you are shooting.

Other badly behaved dogs will lead your well brought-up novice astray. If you ask the line to wait while you get your dog back you are likely to be beaten by the beaters.

Most commercial shoots give no priority to dogwork. Unless you own the shoot, the chances of working your dog in a controlled way are nil.

Heavy cover gives your dog a chance to play up where you can’t get at him. The presence in the line of inexperienced guns and disobedient dogs can make your day not just disappointing but dangerous.

Ask the keeper to let you stand back from the line and go for birds falling away from the main action. Avoid getting involved in runner-coursing, where two pickers-up send their dogs for the same runner.

If you know the right keepers and estates, this is the best bet for finding good dogwork, but even so the difficulty of the terrain and demanding nature of the work pose problems for young dogs.

Fowling and flighting
Wonderful as you don’t have to get your dog involved until the very end. Whether it is an evening’s duck-flighting or an afternoon in the pigeon hide, the dog can relax in the back of the vehicle until you have finished shooting, and then you can concentrate on working him.