The emotional roller coaster of dog ownership

Ethical hunter and founder of Tuffies Dog Beds Luise Janniche reflects on the loss of two of her dogs, the training of a puppy and how this year’s grouse numbers have been severely affected by poor weather…

The tally of my working pointers (German Wirehaired Pointers) a few months ago was three. I had Gaia, Gollum and Pontus. Well, things can change so very quickly. Sadly I had to take a very hard decision to put Gaia down. She was my open field trial winner and she was the most impressive dog to shoot over, BUT she had developed an increasing sharpness.

She had been “nipping” people in the leg now and then, but she also attacked a friend front on (no damage as I had put a muzzle on her to be safe). She was my little honey and a real mummy’s girl, but this could now turn in to a situation I would regret for the rest of my life, so I had to put responsible dog ownership first and put her down. I cried my tears and did it. There was no other way. You may say I could just muzzle her, but I know that there would be unguarded moments with risk. She also had a bad habit of nipping other dogs and you can’t hunt a dog with a muzzle on, so I was in an impossible situation.

Then a shocking event happened only a few months later: Pontus, my five year old died. Take note of Haemorrhagic Gastroenteritis! I had been away for five days and when I got home on a Monday afternoon, the welcome was as vigorous as always and Pontus was in fine form. As I let them in for food early evening I just noticed that he was a bit “fatter” and thought he had been fed a little generously while I was away, so I gave him a little less food, which he hoovered up enthusiastically.

However, he was trying to be sick that evening and I suspected I would see a mess in their room Tuesday morning, but everything was fine. He was his own happy, tail wagging self.

Happy days out with Pontus

Only three hours later he was clearly unwell and his tummy was swollen. I knew he had bloat (contorted stomach) and rushed him to the vet, where he had the operation for bloat. The operation went well, but they now knew he also had HG. He was stable over night, but he slowly deteriorated during Wednesday. My excellent vet wanted to put him to sleep, but when I came to see him, he perked up a bit and convinced us all that he should have an extra night on his drip. It was a case of hoping for a miracle Thursday, but by Thursday evening he had now got gut content leaking in to his abdominal cavity and it was the end. I went back to the vet to be with him at the saddest of sad occasions of putting my beloved Pontus of five years old to sleep. He is now also buried in our woodland garden.

Gollum, 12 years old

Good old Gollum is 12 and has lung cancer, but still soldiers on. He can’t run the moors anymore, but he is a great (and only) companion to Smeagol. He won’t be here for that much longer though.

Who is Smeagol?

Oh, but I didn’t mention Smeagol till now. She arrived late April and is a Hungarian Wirehaired Vizsla (HWV) destined for the grouse moors when her time comes.

Having lost Gaia, I was searching for just any good HPR (Hunt, Point and Retrieve) puppy and a nice HWV litter came along. I was treated to pick the one I wanted and I was after a good, short coat on a lively, tail wagging puppy. She was born, one of 11(!) beginning of February.

She is quite amazing in her progress. I haven’t seen her point yet, but I am not worried the slightest. She will when she gets the opportunity and she simply hasn’t got much stamina yet to really quarter the moor anyway, so there is no rush. I have a good place for snipe, so she will be there in the autumn to train before she will be shot over next August.

She retrieves happily and I can’t get over how forward she is in her swimming. She goes straight in and swims with little splashing and a fantastic sense of marking where the dummy has fallen.

Delivering the dummy is not quite developed, so I now concentrate on the controlled retrieve, which is a thing that normally takes the puppies several weeks (easily 4-6 weeks) to master, but she got the hang of it in 10 days. It is a great way to connect and get eye contact with the puppy.  Here is how:

Get your treats ready and sit the puppy in front of you wearing a lead. Now try and put the dummy in her mouth and say “hold”. She will try all she can to avoid it and as soon as you manage to put it in her mouth for a split second, you take it out again and give her a treat.

Make sure you don’t trap her lips on the dummy as that would be uncomfortable.

The treat should come immediately you take out the dummy.


One day puppy will hold the dummy and you should praise all you can. You then say “drop” and take the dummy, replacing it with a great treat.

You can now progress and give her lots of different objects to hold. Even the TV remote, a hair brush, your purse…. Anything you can find that is reasonable.

After this you can go on to cold game and do not forget to also train this outside with all the distractions added.

Grouse numbers

Somehow I am forced to see a positive side to all this and as I have no dog to work on grouse his year, I can console myself by the fact that there are not many grouse anyway and shooting will be severely restricted this coming season.

Last year was JUST the beginning of a grouse recovery after a couple of bad years. The Scottish moors had just enough stock for this year to create a really good crop if the weather permitted. But it did not go that way.

We, in Scotland, had a long, cold spell early on before the hens would be laying, which meant that the heather was not growing well. This was so bad that the breeding hens would have struggled to get in good enough condition for good egg laying. This meant possibly fewer eggs and more unfertilised eggs.

To add insult to injury, the sitting hens were hit by snow at the end of April and beginning of May. At that time of year the hens can cope with snow that melts after a day as they will just keep sitting on the eggs in/under the snow till it has gone. But this year the snow stayed thick for 5-6 days. In the end the hens had to get off and many would have lost their eggs.

As always, these birds will try a second brood and we may see chicks too young to shoot in August, but there might be some to shoot, hopefully nicely over pointers, in September. The best thing to do in years like this is to pick out the old cocks for shooting and my great friend Anne, has promised to take her pointer dog out for me for a day if we can find a day’s shooting. This will be a day of only shooting the old cocks, but that is great and challenging too.

This year I suspect I will be concentrating on my rifle and ArdMoor has kindly asked me to trial their rifle back packs. This is exciting as I prefer to carry my own 7mm for stags and hinds.

I am writing from Tuffies headquarters and we first and foremost make fabulous dog beds. Click here to see our full range of dog beds


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