dogs in beating line

Rescue gundogs prove their sporting worth

Most fieldsports enthusiasts heed the advice of acquiring animals from proven working stock, whether they be gundogs, terriers or even ferrets. This is because knowledge of an animal’s ancestry provides an invaluable insight into its sporting potential and behavioural traits. However, I know of certain circumstances that resulted in this time-…

Bobbery pack

Will cross-breeds ever rule in the field?

While I appreciate the wealth of pure-bred working gundog breeds, I would not hesitate to use a cross-breed working dog if it gave me an extra edge for a particular job. It takes months to train a gundog properly and minutes to ruin one, so it often pays to create a…

Clumber spaniel retrieving pheasant

Clumber spaniels – a genuine gundog breed

During 2015 there were 217 Clumber spaniel puppies registered in Britain. Compare this with 10,500 springer spaniels and 22,500 cocker spaniels registered and you will realise that this is not a common breed. Historic theory The breed’s history is uncertain before the middle of the 19th century. One theory is…

Microchipping

10 things you need to know about dog microchipping

Approximately one in five dogs have not been microchipped, according to DEFRA. The estimated dog population in the UK is 8.5 million – 86 per cent of which (7.34 million) of which have been microchipped. The remaining 14 per cent need to have a microchip by 6th April 2016 when it…

pointing dog

Spotlight on continental HPR breeds

One of the founding fathers of modern electric blues music was a man known as Muddy Waters. A fellow black musician, bemoaning what he perceived to be the hijacking of their music — mainly by the American middle class — once voiced his concern. Muddy, far simply agreeing, responded: “Black, white;…

dog with injured tail

Dog tail docking

What can you do quite legally in England which could cost you a fine of up to £5,000 or even six months in jail if you repeated it in Scotland? Celebrate a famous World Cup win? No. Not wear a kilt to a wedding? Wrong again. The answer is docking…

Gundog breed Labrador

Which gundog breed would suit all of my needs best?

A: First, find a gundog club by visiting The Kennel Club. This will have details of location, area of operation and what the club in question has to offer. Not all gundog clubs run training classes but most will be able to put you in touch with a good gundog trainer. Your…

curly-coated retriever

Pedigree dogs in peril

Previously I looked at the winners and losers in the annual registrations of pedigree dogs. The winners included the Bracco Italiano and the cocker spaniel, plus the Hungarian vizsla and its wirehaired cousin, while the losers included several of our traditional favourites, ranging from the Labrador to the English springer spaniel. There…

puppy with ball

An insider’s guide to training gundog puppies

It’s going to be a busy summer at the Twistmount Kennels as I have a few youngsters that are ready to start their more formal training. I have two home-bred young springer spaniels that are showing real potential, a little liver-and-white bitch called Dolly and a black-and-white dog called Logan.…

Amy Bates gundog writer

Can you put a price on well-behaved gundogs?

Whilst writing about British gundogs, an American gundog trainer was extolling the virtues of how “these extraordinary gundogs perform with such style and drive yet remain absolutely calm and under control on extremely long shoots” – meaning some drives involving 200 to 500 birds. It’s interesting how ‘English Labs’ (sorry Scotland…

microchipping dogs

Microchipping dogs becomes law on 6 April

Breeders will be required to microchip puppies before they are rehomed and anyone who fails to get their dogs chipped could face a fine of up to £500. The process involves injecting a chip the size of a grain of rice under a dog’s skin. This chip contains a code…

Korthals griffon

Popular gundog breeds – what’s on the rise?

Has the pedigree dog had its day? While it might be much too early to predict its eventual extinction, figures from the Kennel Club (KC) show compelling evidence of its decline. In 2006, a total of 103,773 gundogs were registered with the Club in the UK. Numbers held steady for the next…

Professional gundog trainer

Professional gundog trainers and amateur gundog trainers

Field trials are, by any reckoning, a very distinctive sporting activity. Nobody pretends they are not a sport in their own right, but neither would anybody be reluctant to acknowledge they derive their ultimate rationale from another sport, namely game shooting, and thanks for that community’s perennial generosity are anything…

jumping Labrador

Hip dysplasia in dogs

It’s many years since the dangers of hip dysplasia in dogs were first recognised. The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the Kennel Club (KC) established their joint Hip Dysplasia Scheme in 1984 in a bid to try to understand the disease better, and to eradicate it from pedigree dogs. The scheme can…

flat coat retriever

Why is the flatcoated retriever so rarely seen in the field now?

Last month I dined at Holkham’s Victoria hotel in North Norfolk. Holkham has long been one of the premier sporting estates in England, covering 25,000 acres of saltings, marsh and farmland; its gamekeepers still wear their traditional bowler hats. On the back of the Victoria’s menu was a picture of a…

German wirehaired pointer

Bitch or dog – what makes the best gundog?

SEX, WHETHER WE like to admit it or not, dominates our lives in many ways, not least when we come to choose our future shooting companion. For more than 30 years I’ve only owned bitches, which you might think indicates a strong preference for females, but really it’s just that, as…

spaniel in brambles

Are dogs really colour-blind?

ONE OF THE extraordinary things about dogs is that they may be able to mark a falling bird 200 yards away, but they will run straight past a dead bird lying in the open without seeing it. It’s a reminder that a dog’s eyesight is very different from our own.…

Bill Meldrum

Bill Meldrum: The Queen’s former headkeeper talks gundogs

Bill Meldrum may have lived down south for more than 50 years but he is a Scottish gamekeeper through and through. In 1958 he won his first open stake and back then 70 per cent of the dogs running in any stake in Scotland were keepers’ dogs. A few landowners…