I've come to the conclusion that both the pack and I must improve our fitness levels if we are to arrive on the Grouse moor next month ready and raring to go! That time of year yet again. I'm really looking forward to this year for I have some great young dogs to bring on. Only one Labrador now who will be along with six or seven Cockers in the pack. I will be keen to see how they all 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 bragging about how Fido was out shooting with them at so many months old doing this and that! I cringe inwardly when I hear this for experience has taught me they are certainly building up trouble for themselves in the future. Away from the relatively static, sterile world of dummy training , young dogs in real life are in great danger of becoming over excited leading to all sorts of problems of which giving tongue (making a noise) can be one. I am paranoid about this for there is nothing worse than having a dog who is vocal out shooting. Even a slight whinge is unacceptable and of course in Field Trialling it is a cardinal sin and an eliminating fault. I am a great believer in dogs having their puppy hood and letting them develop mentally.
Noise is a strange phenomena in gundogs. Dogs can be mute around the kennel but vocal while working and quiet while working but then noisy around the kennel.
I have a old friend - lets call him John. I have known John for about twelve years and he currently has 6 well bred spaniels all from different bloodlines and all make a noise whilst working! His Labradors, he has 5, also from good varying bloodlines, are also very whiney. Now John is an intelligent man, well educated and a successful businessman - obviously the noise problem in his dogs has been handler induced and not due to a weakness in their breeding. So what is going on here I have watched John with a new pup where everything starts off well. By the time the pup is a year old (irrespective of breed) more pressure (and he really doesn't realise he's doing this) has inadvertently been put upon the dog until sure enough the noise begins. It is worth bearing in mind that training a gundog is an ART not a science.
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 on the moor this year will have their foundation training in place, had some exposure to live game and will have had some rabbits shot to them. However I shall still be very watchful and careful giving them just limited work to do.