I always tell our clients that the most common mistake gundog owners tend to make is trying to do too much too soon with their dogs. In particular, it is generally accepted that a gundog doesn’t have the mental maturity to be immersed in the excitement of a day’s shooting until they are about 18 months of age. Any earlier, and you run the risk of encouraging manic behaviour, whining, running in, pulling and all the other symptoms of over-excitement. You end up with a dog that has to be tethered or kept on a lead, which is no fun for dog or handler – and it’s all preventable if you take your time, do all the groundwork and cement in the basics before enjoying years of shooting together.
So, imagine my shock when a couple appeared on a shoot day with a 13 week old puppy! I know the couple, so when they came to show me the little bundle and told me that he was coming along “just to see and hear what a day’s shooting is all about”, I asked them if they didn’t think he was far too young to be out. “Oh no, he was fine last week when we took him shooting!”. 😯
I just wanted to shake them and tell them that this wasn’t fair on the little lad, that he would most likely be ruined by the time he was 6 months of age and that a young pup should be home sleeping rather than spending 6 hours watching a day’s shooting.
I didn’t do any of the above, mainly because my good friend pulled me aside and said “it’s nothing to do with you – it’s their dog, you’ve expressed an opinion, now it’s up to them”.
But should I have been more insistent? I’m just concerned for the dog, for them and I want to prevent a train wreck. Mind you, this is exactly the sort of case that ensures people will be seeking training advice in a few months time, so perhaps I shouldn’t be too insistent. Seriously though, I’d rather not have people spoil their dogs and then want them fixed: I’d rather they get it right from the outset, for everybody’s sake.