Pushing out the peg dog
Once an integral part of shoot days, Peter Pennington Legh finds that a gun’s dog is now rarely welcome in the line
On Belle Isle, County Fermanagh, on a wooded hill overlooking Lough Erne, are ranks of headstones in a dogs’ graveyard, to which were emotionally assigned (if the tear-stained gamebooks for 100 years ago are an indication) the Duke of Abercorn’s hunting and shooting dogs. It is a moving place. As the 2015/16 season ended, I could not help but reflect on what fate many in the shooting fraternity would wish upon the dogs currently worked by guns.
Working peg dogs, in spite of the increasing numbers being trained and sold, are, in practice, becoming a rare sight. So are their owners.
nowadays, guns in a line with their own retrievers are at best indulged and at worst vilified. The habit of taking a dog to a shoot is being lost. Before I am engulfed by howls of “and it’s a good job, too” from the union of pickers-up, I must first vouchsafe that we are all aware days in the sporting field do not follow a singular paradigm. Whereas on corporate shoots and the big-name, bigbird days you rarely see a gun with a dog at heel, in contrast, many family, walked-up, walk-one-stand-one days and farm shoots are incomplete without a pack of gundogs bustling excitedly around their masters and mistresses.
My father and grandfather would recognise these shoots but not the lines of guns on corporate or let days denuded of dogs or, even worse, with dogs unsuitable or untrained to pick-up the wounded and fallen. Granted, many guns “arrive, shoot and leave”, are travelling, are new to the game or are too busy making oodles of dosh in London to keep a trained dog.