As countryside enthusiasts, many of us love dogs, but have you always wondered just what ‘job’ a gun dog does? Peter Fishpool looks at a working dog’s life.Gun dogs are essentially breeds which have been developed and bred to assist man in hunting activities such as finding and retrieving game; typically birds. Gun dogs are divided into three main types: (1) retrievers, (2) flushing dogs and (3) pointing breeds.
There are a wide variety of breeds that are classed in the gun dog category, such as the Labrador, Springer Spaniel and English Pointer, to name a few. According to caninecoaching.co.uk, retriever dogs like the Labrador and working Golden Retrievers are generally known as the ‘picker’s up dog’ and are used to watch and retrieve game. Flushing dogs are often spaniels, and the dog is generally known as the ‘beater’s dog’, flushing out game such as pheasants and partridges. Pointing dogs will ‘freeze’ or ‘set’ (hence the name ‘setter’) and find the location of birds without chasing, stopping within a few steps of the game using a ‘pointing stance’. There is a fourth sub-group (consisting of sixteen continental breeds of dogs) known as hunt, point and retrieve (HPR) dogs, used for hunting, pointing and retrieving, in sports such as grouse hunting. They include breeds such as the Hungarian vizsla, German shorthaired pointer and Weimaraner. There’s also a popular gun dog showing scene! And of course, many gun dog breeds make wonderful pets, including Labradors.
Trials and tests
In the competitive gun dog environment, there are ‘field trials’ and ‘working tests’ which measure the ability of a gundog in a competitive arena; they are designed to resemble a day’s shooting as closely as possible, to fairly compare the various gun dogs taking part.
Gun dogs provide a fantastic service to their owners, helping to gather and provide food for our consumption, and field sports provide a fun hobby for those interested in such an activity. Working as a gun dog is actually natural to the canine; despite the fact that training is required to harness some instincts, the working dog gets to utilise their natural hunting, retrieving and pointing behaviours in a task which provides an ethically supportable food source. Luckily the dogs that work as gun dogs all think that it is great fun, rather than hard work!
Gun dog work can be incredibly physical for the canine however, including running, jumping and carrying, not to mention trawling through undergrowth and bracken. Therefore protecting the body and the joints of the gundog is an essential part of care for the diligent dog owner. A balanced, nutritious diet is essential and a joint supplement which supports the joint cartilage and soothes aching joints can be highly beneficial for the gun dog of any breed. Look out for a supplement that contains optimum levels of Glucosamine, Chondroitin, MSM, Hyaluronic Acid and Omega 3, as these compounds promote joint health to improve mobility and comfort. (Canine Joint Right is a good example).
If you are interested in gun dog training for your four-legged friend, he must be at least eight months of age, and already socialised with other dogs. There are various organisations to join and train with, including the UK’s Gun Dog Club; all groups will expect your dog to be fully vaccinated and wormed. In order to protect your canine’s joints and muscles, it is wise not to take your dog on a shoot more often than twice a week.
Peter Fishpool represents http://www.horsesupplementsdirect.co.uk