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Gun dog / family pet - what would you recommend?

(35 Posts)
eightytwenty Thu 17-Oct-13 17:30:12

I have agreed in principle to us getting a gun dog as my dh shoots during the season. However I would very much appreciate your advise about breed, timing and training...

About us - 3 dc, ds1 9 (scared of dogs), ds2 nearly 7 and dd1 nearly 3. I work from home most of the time so should be able to do do two short day time walls / 1 longer walk every day (the latter either over lunch or by dh before or after work). We have a large (for a city) garden and a park very close by.

What would you suggest in terms of:

- breed (dh thinking working cocker - but have read a few threads indicating they might not be the best breed for nervous kids & wonder whether they would need more exercise than we'd be looking to give)
- timing (I am saying not until dc3 is 4) - does that sound about right?
- training (dh wants it to be trained to the gun, which apparently takes a minimum of 12 weeks, so we'd miss the early puppy stage... But I'm not sure whether we'd get a dog that would then be house trained/ trained to the lead etc...

Neither of us have owned dogs before so want to do as much research as possible.


Owllady Thu 17-Oct-13 17:32:27

My friend has a Vizla and it's bloody gorgeous and wonderful with her children (one who is a baby) but they have trained her from the word go

they trained her as a family dog and then trained her for gun training afterwards, so she was with them from a pup

iseenodust Thu 17-Oct-13 17:47:21

Next doors have two labs trained to the gun. Amazes me that he can tell them to sit by his stick outside the village shop and they do not budge an inch even though no lead in sight. Our lab on the other hand gets tied to the bench and strains to hover up the merest hint of a crumb.

We had our dog before DS and there has never been a problem. A big lump of love and tolerance. He even learnt which balls he was allowed and which were DS's and not to be punctured. So my biased opinion is lab all the way.

Gingersstuff Thu 17-Oct-13 17:49:10

my friend got a Vizla at 8 months old, and while she is utterly gorgeous she is also very, very hard work. Has killed all her chickens and runs away a lot.
I would recommend a golden retriever or a lab (we have one of each, the lab is a working type). Fabulous family dogs, famously gentle with kids and very, very intelligent. Not quite as nutter-ish as spaniels either.

WitchOfEndor Thu 17-Oct-13 17:54:22

Spaniels are very high energy (had a springer) so will need lots of running every day. Have a lab now and he is a lot calmer and lovely with DS. I love Clumber Spaniels which are quite rare but really lovely. I think their breed club is very keen on keeping the breed as working dogs so you would find it easier to get a puppy than someone just looking for a pet. The Clumber is my retirement dog. What does your DH want the dog to do?

headlesslambrini Thu 17-Oct-13 17:57:29

we have a English springer spaniel and she is house pet and being trained to the gun as well. Do you house training first as they will learn commands sit, stay etc

I wouldn't necessarily go for this breed though if someone is nervous in the house. They pick up very easily on emotions and get very excitable. She needs a good run as well every day. Springer's are larger than cockers as well.

There are lots of good websites around and your DH needs to speak to the others on the shoot who will be able to point you in the right direction.

TotallyBursar Thu 17-Oct-13 17:59:19

If you want a duel purpose dog exercise will be a consideration due to fitness.
She'll need to work all day during the season so will need to be fit to do so. When it's over you'll have a dog that needs long walks to burn off the excess energy from being less stimulated in the house. So even if you get a dog that would be happy with shorter walks as a pet, you will be expecting more from them for some of the year.
That leaves you 2 options - you maintain fitness which may mean more exercise than you're planning on or you let them soften up and then get them into hard condition for when you will be working them, although you can still have boredom as an issue.
Working them unfit can cause injury or ill health and, particularly spaniels, will work all day whether they've got anything left to give or not - they don't stop when tired, just collapse at home.

So it depends what exactly you'll be doing and how often through the year he'll be out. Imo obviously.

WitchOfEndor Thu 17-Oct-13 17:59:49

Discover Dogs is at Earls Court in November, it would be a good opportunity to see lots of breeds and speak to breeders. Alternatively, if you can wait till spring, Crufts is worth a visit. Or try to get to gun dog shows near you, you'll get a much better idea of what a breed in general is like rather than individual animals.

Madondogs Thu 17-Oct-13 18:00:17

Golden retriever. Highly intelligent, easy to train, make amazing family pets and gorgeous to look at.

fishybits Thu 17-Oct-13 18:07:26

Can I suggest you get onto the working gundog forum and ask them. Mumsnet is not going to be a font of knowledge on this subject.

Can't link as I'm on my phone.

I would suggest a Labrador - they have the nicest natures of any dog I know (which could help with the ds who is nervous around dogs). Lab-pointer crosses are supposed to be very good working/gun dogs - they have the soft mouths and lovely nature of the lab, with the speed, agility and intelligence of pointers.

We have a lab and a lab-pointer cross (both pets, not gun dogs), and they are both lovely family pets. The lab is a brown lab, and therefore not very bright, so I think she would make a useless working dog!

BCBG Thu 17-Oct-13 18:12:38

Not sure a city garden and a dh who shoots in season is compatible with owning a trained gun dog (as opposed to a working breed like labrador, working cocker etc). TotallyBursar is spot on - the fitness regime in the winter is essential for the dog to be able to work without injury. But in any case - meant in the politest possible way - I think that you and your Dh need to learn a little more about what it means to work a dog before trying to take one on. For a start, 'training to the gun' will not start in earnest until the dog is fully grown so around a year old. The dog will then be taken on by an experienced trainer for a number of weeks before your Dh joins the trainer to learn how to work his dog. Thereafter, the dog can be taken to shoots but it will take a lot of practiced, steady handling before your dog can flush or retrieve reliably and is steady in company. It takes a long time to train a dog well; the early training is just the initial groundwork. Incidentally, my dogs are steady and reliable workers, but they would hate the environment of a large urban park as they are used to flushing and searching.

You have three DCs who are also time consuming, and a working breed puppy will be equally demanding, if not more so for the first few months. In terms of breed I would recommend a labrador but find the best breeder you can - don't just buy blind from small ads. Labradors are great family dogs, 100% with children, are good dual purpose (i.e pet/working) dogs, and rarely if ever hyper. Their downsides are a tendency to shed and to be greedy.

BCBG Thu 17-Oct-13 18:14:03

In my first sentence I meant 'as opposed to a working breed simply kept as a pet..' sorry for any confusion

GandalfsPointyHat Thu 17-Oct-13 18:19:15


We were/are looking into getting a GR, I have spoken to Dawn from Gaytonwood Gundogs (near Northampton) great advice, very friendly and approachable, give her a ring, google for their website.


CMOTDibbler Thu 17-Oct-13 18:20:28

Where we live currently, theres a lot of people with gun dogs. And I really don't think that living in the city, 3 children, and working is a good combination thats going to work for anyone.
A gun dog, by nature, needs a lot of mental stimulation and training plus a great deal of physical exercise. And those that don't get it develop a lot of issues

MissMarplesBloomers Thu 17-Oct-13 18:24:12

<Looks at Highly Intelligent Goldie>


Blonde, gorgeous,excellent family model, trains well (mostly) but she only has 2 brain cells & they only synapse occasionally.

I walk dogs (so no expert but have all sorts) & would say lab all the way if you want to train to the gun, if you can get them from puppy.

ihatethecold Thu 17-Oct-13 19:10:23

I have a vizsla who is 8 months old now, he was very easy to train and has a fantastic temperament but he is lively and needs lots of exercise
He gets 3 long walks a day. Spends a lot of it flushing out pheasants and rabbits.

You really do need the time.

Brilliant around kids, he is very popular when I take my dd10 to school everyday.

Ilovemydogandmydoglovesme Thu 17-Oct-13 19:25:39

I have a working cocker. He is a nice size for the house and a very clever little dog in the field.

All this waiting till they're older nonsense is not good though. I've seen too many lovely dogs spoiled by letting them pick up lazy habits and then expecting them to be able to train and work. In my experience they need to start the basics as soon as they're physically able. A little bit of walking to heel, staying put, waiting for the command, basic obedience really and them you can move onto retrieving by sight, then looking for the retrieve, and directed retrieves. Then you can move onto distance control etc. and getting them used to loud bangs!

Gun dog work is very disciplined. No one wants a loopy dog that won't sit still, runs about, picks up other guns birds and plays with them. There is actually quite a lot of work involved in owning and training a gun dog, and it is all year round. You can't have it as a pet for eight months of the year and then expect to be able to take it out occasionally and it obey your every command.

That said, it is a very rewarding hobby. I love watching the dogs work on the shoots. But it is all year round, you will have to find some way of working your dog and keep his training up all the time. Even if you can't work him you can still take him out for a couple of hours for some dummy retrieval.

I thoroughly recommend it if you've got the time. Just make sure you find a recommended trainer, they are worth their weight in gold.

TooOldForGlitter Thu 17-Oct-13 20:33:38

Can I ask what 'trained to the gun' means? No reason im just nosey interested.

daisydotandgertie Thu 17-Oct-13 20:55:55

In the nicest possible way, I don't think your DH has much of a clue about owning a dog which works.

I have Labradors and all are worked - we pick up during the shooting season. How much shooting does your DH do and what type? That will have a huge bearing on the breed of dog to choose.

A someone has said up thread, gundog training starts properly once rock solid obedience has been taught. Not a from puppyhood. You will have your dog at home from eight weeks old and you will have to train it to start with. Puppy training can be slanted towards the eventual skills a dog will need, but certainly obedience is the foundation stone of gundog work and is vital.

Many trainers will take your dog to teach it to work, but IME, the dog KNOWS what to do already. It has been bred for it after all. It's the owner who needs to learn how to operate the dog and the bond a handler develops with their dog while they train is invaluable. There is the option to buy a fully trained older dog, which means chucking money at it, and I don't think that is a terribly sensible route for a first time owner - a bit like a new driver buying a Ferrari.

In terms of a working dog living with a family and fitness levels I don't think that is such an issue. Mine have anywhere between one and two hours walking a day and I do build up their stamina for the season, but it's easy tbh.

adriennemole Thu 17-Oct-13 21:46:55

We picked up our gorgeous 8 week old flat coated retriever puppy this week smile Her mum is a working gun dog.

frogwatcher42 Thu 17-Oct-13 21:54:10

I think a working dog can also be a family dog - certainly in my experience they can be.

There just have to be rules in place such as no pulling on things from the mouth during play etc. Keeping discipline all of the time - even when being played with by children such as making sit and wait before picking up a ball and fetching to a defined command.

A calm sensible breed would be best - you don't need a high energy dog if it is a gun dog and not a beating dog. If the dog stands with you while you shoot and then just retrieves (and beaters do the flushing out!) then it doesn't need huge levels of fitness. Two or three decent walks a day for an hour or so would surely be fine.

Ilovemydogandmydoglovesme Thu 17-Oct-13 22:03:45

Some people say pet dogs don't make good gun dogs because they're too used to you and they don't have the same keen desire to please that outdoor dogs have.

In my experience this is rubbish. My dog lives indoors with us and he's great. grin

eightytwenty Thu 17-Oct-13 22:30:47

Gosh thanks for all the responses. Will need to print them out so I can digest fully.

I am a total ignoramus which is exactly why I want to do some research to make sure that the dog is right for us, that we are right for the dog and that we do the right thing by it.

Dh is on a syndicate for a walked up shoot - hence flushing birds out is important. But he also says that he would enjoy the working and training of the dog. He has some experience of working with friends dogs on shoots and has started his research into which trainers / how it works. Friends bought fully trained dogs but I didn't realise that they didn't start training immediately.

Being "trained to the gun" means (I think) a dog that obeys a set of specific whistles/ hand gestures to flush out birds from the ground cover or to retrieve them once shot.

We were offered a puppy from a perfect lab (with strong gun heritage) a few years ago but the timing wasn't right. We do want to be responsible.

Your points about exercising out of season is absolutely noted.

Don't think I've ever had so many responses to any of my posts before, and wasn't sure if I'd find anyone who even knew about this so am most grateful for all the suggestions!

And welcome more if anyone else has anything to add...

Vibbe Thu 17-Oct-13 22:36:14

My dad used to go hunting and has a working spaniel - she's 7 now.

My parents live in a city with large gardens - but the dog is hardly ever in the gardens. When she needs to go out, my parents will take her for a walk - to let her read the newspaper as my dad always said.

Exercise is and always has been a couple of hours a day. My dad goes to a local park to train retrieving. He takes her to the beach to retrieve in water. Cycles with her running next to the bike. Goes to different fields and areas where they do all kinds of training.
When my dad was hunting, there would be more due to the hunts.
She's been needing her walks every 6-8 hours, then the exercise on top.
On hunts, she'll be flushing and retrieving.

On top of the daily walks and exercise there's been the training and classes and all that. He got her as a puppy as that was what his hunting friends recommended. I think he enjoyed doing the training himself - he was so proud when he came home after the trials/tests.

She's a lovely dog who's always been treated as a family pet. She lives in the house and she wants to have her paw held when my dad's watching tv in the evening.
She's good with people, kids and other dogs.

She has run away once, but came back after 15-20 minutes. She's generally a velcro dog, so sticks to my dad's side.

Both of my parents work, and all kids have grown up and moved out. And they still find it hard to find time and energy for the dog. She will not just entertain herself in the garden and come in being ready for bed. If not exercised well, she'll find old newspapers and shred them into little pieces, take her food bowl, drag it into the living room and empty it on the floor, or just try to dig holes in the carpets. Or wander around the house like a ghost with nowhere to go.
My brother - who loves dogs and is used to having a dog - cannot dog sit her as he gets so stressed about her not being able to chill. I absolutely love the dog, but she is difficult, especially if not exercised enough.

I have a show cocker spaniel, and they've been dog sitting her for a couple of weeks. They were shocked that the energy levels of the two dogs are so different - my dog is much easier.
Personally, I wouldn't get a working dog unless I really had to - they really are a lot of work.

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