Diary of a Gundog: Episode 4 – Oscar’s First Shoot
Here is the fourth episode in our Oscar series, Oscar attends his first shoot, albeit mostly as an observer, rather than a retriever. He still has a lot to learn before he will be deemed mature enough and obedient enough to take part fully in a shoot. Let’s find out how Oscar’s retrieval skills are developing and how he found his first experiences of a shoot.
The day has finally arrived – Oscar has attended his first shoot! It’s a bit like sending a child off to school, almost. Mr and Mrs R are very aware that the recommended age for taking a dog out on a shoot is 12-18 months, so at six months old, Oscar is still too young to participate in a large organised shoot, which would expect too much of his behaviour. However, on a small scale shoot with friends, Oscar can learn a lot from being around the other ‘guns’, watching their more mature dogs and being involved in the day’s events.
As preparation, over the last few weeks, Oscar has been gradually encouraged to get used to the feel of fur and feather in his mouth. Whilst out on a walk one day, Mr and Mrs R discovered a freshly dead rabbit, which they proceeded to use as a ‘toy’ for Oscar for some training. Oscar seemed at home with the feel of the furry body in his mouth, picking it up out of the river as well and even managing to carry it around for a while. On the same walk, he also did a great job of flushing some pheasants out, though they had a lucky escape that time! Oscar’s ability to walk to heel has also improved dramatically in recent weeks, which is of course vitally important as a gun dog.
So how did he perform on the actual shoot? Well, despite Mr R’s understandable concerns that young Oscar might harass other dogs, run off in enthusiasm every time a shot was fired, fail to retrieve or be disobedient, he did very well. After a few stern words and a tap over his natural puppy exuberance, Oscar calmed down and behaved very well and was rewarded with praise from the other ‘guns’ as well as Mr R. He sat as ‘peg dog’ obediently even though the weather was foul and the day was wet. The highlight came when Mr R, the shoot captain and Oscar set out to do a retrieve, and no one was more proud than Mr R when Oscar managed to find a thoroughly hidden hen pheasant that two well-seasoned dogs couldn’t.
In day to day life Oscar receives a lot of praise from everyone he meets for his behaviour and obedience, but Mr R is all too aware that on a shoot the bar is incredibly high. Oscar’s success at his first shoot, despite his young age, is encouraging and has shown the benefits of the training that has already taken place and has given him the impetus to continue with it. Mr R aims to carry on with training in the fun and friendly way that it has begun, gradually increasing discipline as Oscar goes through the ‘teenage’ phase and can take a stricter approach. With Oscar growing well and becoming more settled as each month goes by, basic obedience skills will be reinforced and his gundog skills will become more refined, giving Oscar the best chance of success and a fulfilling role in the family.
Oscar’s View – His First Shoot
Life is pretty exciting lately, I can tell you. I still get taken out for lots of long walks and play lots of games, but I’ve also been out on my first shoot. There were lots of other dogs, who were all very busy working. I was a bit overexcited at first and had a telling off, but after that they were all really pleased with me. They all seemed especially pleased when I found a bird that two older dogs had missed. What a great moment for me on my first shoot!