Shooting and fishing: If you watch the experts you realise just how much time goes into training a gun dog

I HAVE promised to take Crumpet, our cocker spaniel, to the game fair at Scone on Friday. She seems very keen, so I wouldn’t want to disappoint her.

I HAVE promised to take Crumpet, our cocker spaniel, to the game fair at Scone on Friday. She seems very keen, so I wouldn’t want to disappoint her.

The advantage of going on the Friday is that there are fewer people than on the Saturday and Sunday and consequently less chance of us getting lost.

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“God, it’s like having another child,” my wife snapped after a particularly fraught day at Scone when, like an undertrained gundog, I had run in at the first sound of a shot and disappeared into the thicket of trade stands, not to be seen again for several hours. And I had the mobile switched off. And we were meant to be somewhere else by 6.30pm.

I don’t think I shall take Mango, the ageing golden retriever, this year. She is going rather dotty and has a worried look, so 30,000 people, not to speak of dogs, are probably best avoided. She can stay at home with the three-legged cat and bantams which, with a good dog under their bottoms, would make very sporting shots going over the garden wall between the beech trees. I never realised, until we got them in the spring, that they could fly so well.

Anyway, Crumpet shall go to the game fair and, although I have complete trust in her, I don’t think it would be sensible to expect her to walk to heel through a forest of legs and doggy distractions. You just don’t know who she would go off with. She has been off with the postie twice. He found her in the back of the van after delivering a parcel here and leaving the doors open. And I lost her on a shoot only to discover she had hitched a lift in a superior vehicle full of marquesses and then sat with a rather good, but mystified, gun who gave her plenty to do.

I would like to put her into the gun dog scurry at Scone and we spent half an hour in front of a scurry on YouTube – she went to sleep in front of the computer. Marvellous as she is, as a team we are not really up to the scurry. You have to direct the dog to different dummies close, far out and to left and right. We’d get them – eventually. But if you watch the experts you realise how much time and patience goes into training a gun dog. It requires single-mindedness and application – that dreaded word from schooldays – that Crumpet may have but I certainly haven’t. Still, we rub along in our own way. Just as long as we don’t go missing on Friday or it’s an early basket and no supper for us.