The incident happened very quickly and the aggressor ran off back to the line of guns. I have no idea whose animal was responsible but my own gundog was traumatised and needed treatment for bite marks to his neck. I am new to picking-up. Is this a common problem and what’s the solution?
Jeremy Hunt says: Thankfully these incidents are rare. Most gundogs working on shoots have rock-solid temperaments and are very tolerant of one another – although when a new member of a picking-up team arrives, their gundog/s are often given the once over by other canines – usually the dominant-type males.
You were clearly in an impossible position. If you had been able to identify the gundog you could have approached the owner or at least done so via the shoot captain or keeper. The incident probably occurred out of sight of the owner and there would have been umpteen other gundogs on the scene at the time, so proving which one was the culprit would have been almost impossible.
Although bad-tempered gundogs are not the norm, we all tend to know those who need watching and are best given a wide berth. Their reputation goes before them and you soon learn not to get too close to them either in the field or in any shared transport.
There are some picking-up gundogs as well as guns’ gundogs who are best avoided but it’s rare that the owners ever come clean and admit they have a fighter on their hands – and the situation is made all the more risky by the fact that these gundogs are often allowed to roam among other gundogs between drives. Insurance against such incidents could prove difficult either on the part of the shoot or the owners of the gundogs involved. However, being on the receiving end of a vicious attack could prove extremely expensive not only in terms of veterinary treatment required but also in the psychological toll it may take on the injured gundog.
Perhaps we need to avail ourselves of the simple but effective warning system that seems to work well in the hunting field? As many readers will know, horses out hunting are often in close proximity to one another and yet these creatures, like gundogs, are not always benevolent towards their own kind. The rider of a horse that is known to kick out if others get too close simply wraps a red tail bandage on his mount as a clear warning sign. Maybe we should adopt the same principle in the shooting field. A red collar or neckerchief would be ideal as a warning that a gundog is best left to his own devices, although it would obviously increase the risk of getting snagged in cover.