Q: On the advice of my syndicate friends, I spent a lot of money on a trained gundog - a Labrador - for driven shooting. I work all week and my partner looks after him at home. He is obedient with her but when I took him shooting he barely took any notice of me. He left the peg and ran around picking-up others’ birds and no matter what I said, he did not respond. When my partner joined me he was perfect with her. Surely a trained gundog, costing a lot of money, should work for anyone?
A: The dog may be trained to a very high standard but it is not mechanical and you, the handler, must form a strong bond with it and be trained how to handle your dog using commands delivered in a way in which the dog is familiar. Dog-to-human communication is not simple and you need to be able to communicate clearly with your dog. Being out at work all week will not have allowed you the time and opportunity to build a close relationship before you went out to the shooting field with it and therefore it would have been confused and felt isolated. You may have been distracted by shooting and shouted when the dog went wrong, which would have exacerbated the situation.
Now you will have to work on being your dog’s best friend at all times. I would suggest that instead of putting yourselves in this awkward situation again, you should get advice from the dog’s trainer and learn how to handle your dog away from the field. You must also commit to forming a close relationship with it at home so that it will look to you for help and guidance as well as your partner. Be its friend and it will serve you well in the future as a trained gundog.