A new puppy is not only a blank piece of paper, it’s a completely new, unknown entity. You can try and go for a pedigree that has a promising back ground and if you are lucky, you get a good pick of the litter. Picking the puppy out of the litter is difficult in itself, but if you are one of the first to pick, you will feel that you certainly had the chance. I had the chance to pick Gaia out of the litter and went to see the pups when they were six weeks old. Mum was lovely and she let me sit on one of her dog beds so I could play with all seven pups. My criteria was that the puppy should be looking at me, but when turned upside-down I didn’t want it to struggle till it got free, I wanted it to protest a little and then give in to my holding it on its tummy. This signifies a certain promise of trainability. These pups were German Wirehaired Pointers and they have quite a drive and self-determination without getting one that is totally self-employed. Lastly, I didn’t want a totally hairy one and I didn’t want one without at least a little beard.
Anyway, I ended up choosing Gaia and she is now 12 months old and I have done the basic training. She has also been out with me on grouse counting, but there are of course no shots being fired there. She came along to Scone Game Fair, where we sell our waterproof dog beds and I was rather worried about her reaction to all the turmoil and indeed that starter pistol noise at the gun dog scurry. She was shaking and walked around with me holding her tail between her legs all the time so I swore that I would make an effort to introduce her better to gun noises before the season started, but I never got round to it. The grouse season started on 12th August and in my effort to provide the best possible pointer work, I chose to leave Gaia at home and concentrate on the workers. Soon I returned home to a garden fully decorated with all the lining used to insulate the kennels indicating that I had one very bored young dog on my hands. I felt there was no other choice but to take her along to the next shoot. Being a very keen and energetic dog, not one to sleep on her dog beds all day, she exhibited the number one fault straight away: whining while on the lead. This rubbed me up the wrong way, but I just took her along and apologised to everyone for the noise. Then the first couple of shots were fired and she stopped whining in order to cower behind me instead. Christ almighty, it’s a sinking feeling to have this experience: a whining, yet gun nervous dog, UGH…
However, she is a wirehaired and I just persevered expecting things to improve and they certainly did. Having dragged her along for a couple of shooting over pointer days, she seemed to be a little more relaxed from time to time, especially if there was a little break in the activities. So I saw my moment and let her hunt. She came on point and I went for it and asked the guns to shoot a bird for her. It seems as if the shots are just no problem at all when it’s HER birds. She was happy as anything to see the birds come down and I sent Gollum to pick it up. That day she had four birds shot for her and she was perfectly happy.
What I tired little dog I have at the end of the day, though. She is not doing much physically as I don’t want to challenge her joints, but mentally she is wiped out each evening and just wants to choose one of the dog beds at home and go to sleep. Bless her.