Don't our working companions deserve something too?
A dog is for life not just for Christmas is a saying that will be familiar to most of us. But I’ve never met a working gundog that was a Christmas present. For most of us the acquisition of a working gundog puppy is carefully planned rather than a surprise present under the Christmas tree.
No puppies for Christmas
Though we may not give puppies at Christmas, most of us are likely to give our dog or dogs some sort of gift. A quick look the internet revealed a wide choice of gifts that might make you laugh, but are hardly likely to thrill your canine companion. I don’t think my spaniels would be too pleased with a luxury lined aviator-style black faux-leather and pearl plush dog coat, as sold by the RSPCA, but a quality dog coat is a sound idea.
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Barbour offers a waterproof, windproof and thornproof coat that is a practical proposition for a proper gundog — from about £30. I don’t recommend working a dog in such a coat but it’s just the job for putting on to keep it warm and dry when it’s not in action.
Coats for working gundogs have become big business in recent years. I’m all in favour of it because I’m convinced that the better we look after our dogs, the longer they are able to work. Wet dogs suffer from rheumatism in old age; cosset them as much as you can and they will stay fit much longer.
It’s now standard practice for trialling dogs to be rugged-up before and after a run, and it’s much more common for gundogs to be treated in similar manner during and after a day’s shooting. So if your dog doesn’t have a coat, it’s a practical present that’s worth considering.
Continuing on a dress theme, a new collar is always useful. Mine never used to wear collars, but they do now most of the time. I’ve tried nylon ones that are both hardwearing and practical, but nothing beats a top-quality, bridle leather collar.
Tony looks at ways of keeping a hard-working gun dog happy during the season.
Have you got any experience of neoprene coats for gundog training? Do they work?
Collars make perfect Christmas presents for working dogs
Last year I bought a rolled leather collar for my sprocker, Emma, from Bellman and Flint, a small firm that specialises in fine-quality leatherwork for sporting dogs. It looks as good as when I bought it, a reminder that premium products not only look great but they last, too. Prices start at £14.
Another acquisition last year was an Orvis folding dog crate. Made from a heavy-duty Oxford weave on a sturdy metal frame, it is light and easily portable. Unlike my previous dog crate, it doesn’t rattle. I’ve found it invaluable both in my car and when travelling, as you can leave your dog safely in a friend’s kitchen or a hotel room and know that it won’t get up to mischief.
It has the added advantage that it collapses for easy storage, but it isn’t recommended for puppies or dogs that chew. The medium crate is roomy enough for a couple of cockers, weighs 19lb and costs £119.
Orvis, the sponsor of Dog of the Week offers one of the widest ranges of dog products of any manufacturer. If you are stuck for an idea, a browse through the Orvis website is bound to give you some good ideas. It has a terrific range of dog beds, for all shapes and sizes. I’ve never owned an Orvis bed, but visitors with dogs have brought their Orvis beds with them when they have come to stay and I have always been impressed.
Built to last
Orvis beds are not cheap, especially compared with the bargain beds available in your local pet store, but they are practical and built to last. Orvis recruited a fine selection of gundogs, from springers to Labradors, setters to pointers, to model the beds for its website.
When it comes to gundog dummies, Sporting Saint offers as large a range as any gundog supplier. An interesting option is the cock pheasant pelt dummy at £14.99: it’s a cured pheasant skin on a half-pound dummy and the most realistic one you can buy.
The only disadvantage is that it’s almost too good to use, and you certainly wouldn’t want to throw it.
Rather more durable is a dummy covered in rabbit skin, with prices starting at £11.99 for the half-pounder, rising to £19.98 for the 3lb version. Both my dogs and I have always liked the bird-shaped dummies from the Working Gundog Company — prices start at £9.99 for the woodcock or £17.99 for the pheasant.
Not forgetting the gundog handler
Presents for the dog are one thing, but how about the handler? I’ve always used an Acme 210.5 dog whistle, so would be thrilled to receive a sterling silver version. At £184.99 it is something of a luxury, so it would be best to think of it as a practical piece of jewellery that can be used every day.
For the gundog handler who has everything, it has to be the ultimate present.