“Our shoot, being a petite one, prides itself on the quality of presented birds rather than sheer quantity. The cornerstone of our success on shoot days is the team of beaters and pickers-up, and we rely heavily on the beaters’ dogs being disciplined and organised to hit cover and find game at the right time. We have a mixture of cockers, springers, the odd Labrador and some excellent golden retrievers. This kaleidoscope of trustworthy canine characters is what makes shoot days so enjoyable.
Among the collective is Steve Taylor, accompanied by his mature cocker spaniel, Pip (Ghostwood Tawny). Unfortunately, Pip is now approaching eight years of age and is worked only sparingly. Her brain continues to work as if her body and fitness are still at their peak. We all like to think our dogs will go on for ever but sadly they don’t. Recognising this, Steve has been bringing on Pip’s replacement, Tilly (Ghostwood Pop).
You couldn’t find two more different dogs. Tilly is a magisterial dog and physically stronger than Pip. She also has a pin-sharp brain between those floppy ears — a potentially dangerous combination for a layman trainer. This imposing black bitch has provided Steve with a testing 14 months. As a result, he has nurtured her carefully to avoid entering her before she is ready.
Steve is an archetypal town Gun with a nine-to-five job, so to fit in with his lifestyle the bulk of Tilly’s training has been done in public places on a one-to-one basis, usually in isolation. This has been good for avoiding unwanted distractions early on, but Steve now wanted to see if she was ready for the next phase in her training. We organised a small training day at a friend’s farm to see how Tilly would cope with a few added distractions orchestrated to reveal if she was ready to work a drive on a shoot day.”