At the time I never gave it much thought as it happened on the last shoot day of last season, but I was picking-up with her recently and noticed she was very hard on the partridges. When retrieving a live partridge I noticed she was reluctant to release it and this concerns me. Is this classed as being hard-mouthed?

Mark Whitehouse says: There is no doubt in my mind that a dog can become hard-mouthed as a consequence of an accident or some type of mishandling. Is there any way back at this stage? Probably not, but I can think of several training exercises I would try to see if it was possible to overcome the problem.

First, I would steer clear of any live game at this stage. This means no runners or flappers. Second, when picking-up I would keep retrieves short and simple; nothing complicated and make sure you see her pick-up and deliver to hand. Don’t lose sight of her for one second.

Once she has lifted the retrieve, recall her, and as she delivers, teach her the ‘dead’ command. This should prevent her from wanting to hold on to the retrieve. Make sure you work her as often as possible and give her lots of retrieves. This will hopefully push the squirrel incident to the back of her mind. Give her lots of praise if all is well when she retrieves with no complications.

If you feel things are improving and there are no concerns with the short retrieves after a few outings, you could then increase the distance, but don’t allow her any runners or flappers for this season. Remember to give her lots of short retrieves and plenty of praise at the beginning and only increase the distance if you feel things are improving.

Related stories

Advice on how to bond with your gundog

Are you a strict trainer?

Is distance training hard to master?

More gundog training advice