Yes your right, its that time of year again, the shooting season is once more upon us and I'm really looking forward to this year for I have some young dogs who will be out with me for the first time. Both Labradors and Spaniels they will be joining the working pack and I will be anxious as to how they shape up in the real world. The first outings as I have said previously are so important to a young dog. I have often come across people who brag about how they had Fido out shooting with them at so many months old! I cringe inwardly when I hear this for experience has taught me that they are certainly treading on thin ice. Young shooting dogs are in danger of becoming over excited leading to all sorts of problems which giving tongue (making a noise) is one. I am paranoid about this for there is nothing worse than having a dog on the shooting field which is vocal. Even a slight whinge drives me to distraction and of course in Field Trialling it is an eliminating fault. I am a great believer in letting dogs have their puppy hood.
Noise is a strange phenomena in gundogs. Dogs can be quiet around the kennel but give tongue while working and quiet while working but then noisy around the kennel.
I have a friend - lets call him John. I have known John for about eight years, he currently has 4 spaniels all from different breeding and all make a noise whilst working! His Labradors (he has 3) are also very whiney. Now John is an intelligent man university educated who runs his own very successful business - obviously the noise from his dogs has been handler induced and is not due to any genetic fault. So what has gone wrong I have watched John with a new pup where everything starts well with some play training to begin with but by the time the pup is eight to ten months old more pressure has been put upon the youngster until tension builds within the young mind and sure enough the noise begins. I have tried repeatedly to tell him to ease off with his regimented approach. Noise whilst working is due to internal conflict building up to such a level that the release comes in the form of noise. Cockers are notorious for this as they are very precocious in their learning and the inexperienced handler is therefore tempted to push on with the training gradually and sometimes inadvertently putting more and more pressure on the young dogs mind which sooner rather than later will react. Just because you can do something doesn't mean to say you should!
When you think that the average gundog will give eight to ten years faithful service it is really quite prudent to take your time and gradually introduce them to their working environment. The young dogs that I shall have out for the first time this year will be no younger than eighteen months old. Some will be slightly older and I shall be watching them most carefully for signs of tension and their ability to cope with it.