Taking your gundog out to the beating line depends on both the dog and the trainer’s ability, but every owner should be asking themselves if their dog is ready to go beating. Of everyone on the shoot, the beater and their dog have the greatest risk of ruining a drive, so it is vital the dog is well trained and the handler aware of what could go wrong.
Get the gundog steady
The main job of a dog on the beating line is to find and flush out the game. The number of birds on the ground varies from shoot to shoot, but a dog must be steady when faced with running or flying birds. As part of the dogs training, get them to be steady when throwing tennis balls and dummies, or even on a practice rabbit pen. This helps the dog to remain sitting despite all the scents and movements around them. They also need to learn to obey the stop whistle at all times too. If your dog needs some retraining, it is best to take them back to basics.
Falling behind the line
This often depends on the speed of the beaters walking at the line. If they are going too fast, the dogs will often push on too quickly. You want the dog to have time to work the cover, especially thick bramble patches. If you walk too quick the dog will avoid any cover and run around it. Don’t be afraid to slow down the line to give the dogs time to hunt out the birds, especially on smaller shoots.
Out of control dogs
You are guaranteed to come across out of control dogs at some point, more likely on smaller shoots, and they can affect how your own dog works. As naturally competitive animals, if another dog starts to hunt out in front of your dog, your own dog can quickly pull on towards it. The best solution is to pull your dog back into heel and keep it there until the others have cleared off. It is vital to maintain your dog’s discipline.
Covercrops can create problems
Covercrops can be great to work dogs in, but can also be their undoing as they lose their bearing and become disorientated. Watch out that dogs may push to the outside of the crop then work back to the beating line. Also be aware of crops growing in lines, as birds will use this as a motorway and novice dogs will follow. A good rule for this is to keep your dog at heel or on a lead.
At the flushing points
Things can easily go wrong at the flushing point, this is because when you reach the end of the covercrops there may be a large build-up of birds that can result in a ‘free for all’ among the dogs. To prevent this from happening, especially with younger dogs, allow your dog to hunt earlier in the drive, and put a lead on halfway through. The next time, try putting on the lead a bit later and progress that way.
Seeing the guns
When you reach the end of the drive, a dog can hear and see the guns, and along with the birds falling from the sky, this can be too much and encourage the dog to run. The best way to prevent this is to train your dog before heading out on a shoot and get them to associate the gunshot as a stop signal.
Get off to a good start
For novice dogs, the start of the day can create the most excitement, as they are meeting new people and dogs. Keep the dog on the lead, and introduce it slowly to other dogs so it can be as comfortable as possible before heading out on the drive. Be prepared yourself when heading out on a shoot with shooting accessories and all your clothing needs ready for you at Fur Feather & Fin.
Image by: Paul Morse available under Creative Commons