Shoots are exciting for dogs. Ellena Swift advises a Shooting Times reader.
Q: I own a rather excitable dog, an exuberant German shorthaired pointer (GSP) that I take beating on several driven shoots. He works well once the drives start and always gets compliments. However, my problems occur at the start of the day and in between drives. He has rather a frustrating habit of jumping up at people. He is friendly, but obviously is a big dog and not everyone appreciates his muddy pawprints.
I’m dreading the day he does it to a Gun or the keeper, so keep him on a lead most of the time. How can I get him to settle enough that he can wander around without knocking everyone flying?
Excitable dog shouldn’t be on shoots
A: I am a great believer that if a dog is on a shoot, it is there for a purpose — not to socialise or learn social skills. These are skills that should have been learned long before attending a shoot. This includes how to be calm around people and dogs. Sadly, far too many believe it’s somewhere for their dog to have a jolly.
For now, keeping your dog on a lead in between drives is the best you can do to prevent the undesirable behaviours. On non-shoot days, begin training loose-lead walking and calmness around strange people and dogs.
Begin by putting your GSP on a lead and having one person stand nearby. If your GSP pulls or shows overexcitement towards the person, stop and bring the dog back to your side. When in the correct position and calm, reward him with a treat or praise. Slowly move closer. Repeat this until you can approach the person without your dog lungeing, jumping or getting overexcited. Slowly increase the number of people you train around.
When you are confident that he can cope, take him in public and continue training on a lead. On his first shoot day next season, repeat these exercises to ensure he associates all people and environments with being calm. It will take time and consistency on your part, but he can easily learn enough self-control to eventually be off lead around lots of people.