A reader wants to know what to do with a thieving gundog
Q: I thought I was doing a brilliant job on my woodland shoot where I pick-up. I always seemed to have more birds than all the others after each drive, but I did not realise my dog was pinching most of them off other dogs or stealing from the gamecart until I got a brace tied together. This is very annoying for everyone. How can I stop him? He is now four and is a working Labrador-golden retriever first cross.
A: You need to remove the temptation and that means avoiding the situations that allow him to steal. Work him on his own for the immediate future and do not allow him access to other dogs that are busy doing their own job. You obviously cannot tell him off once he has stolen a bird, but he needs to be made aware that watching or going near other dogs carrying game will not be tolerated.
Begin away from the shooting field in the training environment and with other handlers and dogs that are under very good control. Set up the picking-up scenario and allow the other dogs to work together. Give yours lots of reward when he is concentrating on you and ignoring the other dogs — high-value treats may work. Keep him at heel and let him get bored with watching the other dogs working. This will take several lessons, but he must learn that being at your side and ignoring the other dogs really is a pleasure. Only once he has switched off should you gradually introduce him to hunting for retrieves alongside the others. Let him have an occasional retrieve and get him used to working as part of the team in close proximity. You will have all summer to practise and improve his manners ready for the next gameshooting season.