Don’t be a dummy when it comes to gundog training

With the increasing emphasis on sustainability it’s more important than ever that our gundogs are fully prepared for their vital role. Julie Collins from Dog & Field details an innovative range of training dummies to help you out.

It’s November, the Guns have been slipped, the sloe gin is being poured and the last drive is over… but not for you.

You’re stood facing thick brambles and high nettles with your best dog by your side and the keeper has just asked you to pick the birds the last Gun dropped in there somewhere.

This is the moment you’ve been waiting for, a true test of your dog, your handling and your training.

But now the nerves kick in, you begin to question all the choices you made when training your dog. Have I done enough? Will it pick the birds from that cover? Will it leave them there? Where’s that gin when you need it?

Setting your dog up for success

Being invited to bring a dog on a shoot is truly a joy and something we look forward to throughout the close season. And if there’s a chance to pick a few birds, you’re definitely going to give it a go, aren’t you?

Those of us who get the chance to pick up are acutely aware of the need to deliver a bird fir for the table.

Retrieves need to be clean and ethical, so it is crucial that the training we

provide our dog mirrors reality in terms of the type and size of game and the environment as much as possible.

Gundog training has developed rapidly in recent years but the dummy still remains core to the whole enterprise.

By practicing long retrieves, jumps, hunting in cover, water and directional commands, we’ve all stood in a line and waited our turn to try and handle our dog into the right place, with varying degrees of success.

Yet we don’t tend to offer that tricky final retrieve on those training days.

The retrieves are all too often kept simple to encourage success, both for dog and handler.

But is that translatable to the shooting field and does that really set your

dog up for ultimate success in the long run?

Confidence-building dummies

With this question in mind the creative people at Dog & Field has created the Dead Bird range, for everything from basic garden training right through to advanced sessions.

This range adds an extra element of difficulty to ensure preparation for the trickiest of retrieves and general manager Julie Collins explained: “Whether they have a wing in their face or they are retrieving the bird by the head, working dogs need to know that it’s okay if they don’t carry bird in the middle of the body – just bringing it back is what is most important.

Pulling our dummies from those thick brambles is not easy and therefore mimics the unpredictability of the real thing perfectly.

“Furthermore, dogs today can be very soft with a delicate nature and temperament. Early encouragement in training these dogs is key to building trust and developing their belief that they can do the job.

“The Dead Pheasant or Dead Partridge dummies are real confidence builders for the handler as well as helping identify potential areas for development before you get into the field.”

The value of shooting

This season we have seen unprecedented high costs for providing and enjoying shooting, so sustainability has been brought into even sharper focus.

The shooting and gundog community already works tirelessly to educate – for example, with studies such as the Value of Shooting, we continuously build a picture of the economic, environmental and social value of shooting in the UK.

Chair of the Value of Shooting steering group and BASC executive director of conservation Caroline Bedell said: “All we aim to do is obtain independent and robust facts and figures that underpin the importance of shooting.”

Training for the reality

Dog & Field wholeheartedly supports this sentiment and subscribes to the ethos of the Aim To Sustain movement by practising ethical and sustainable values in our everyday lives.

Julie added: “It was entirely natural for us to develop a line of products that now as a purpose to focus more on the detail ourselves and reinforce the importance of training for every eventuality on the shooting field.

“Our Dead Bird range is tried and tested and helps to train dogs for the reality of the shooting field by making it as close to the real thing as possible, without sourcing cold game, which isn’t always easily accessible.

“We believe there is no better time to bring a range of products to the market that pushes the boundaries of training, providing the ability to set up real-life scenarios that help us train to sustain our shooting community.

“The more accomplished our dogs are, the more likely shot game will be retrieved, added to the bag and end up in the food chain, thus making our sport more ethical and accessible for generations to come. Train for reality, train for success, train to sustain.”

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