Gundog Mixtures – Special Mixtures for Gun Dog Training

Following years of working with gun dog trials teams across the UK and Europe, we have put together some information about what we believe is ideal advice for gun dog mixtures.

What is a gun dog mix?

Put simply, a gundog mix is something that can be used to train gundogs out of the season and then be used as cover for gamebirds during the season – however it is not as straight forward as it may sound, and considerations should be made before purchasing and planting a mix for gundogs.

For example, it is important to use a mixture that stays roughly the same height, ideally knee height, for as long as possible as this gives perfect training conditions for the dogs. The density of a gundog mix is also essential to achieve the best results. The key is to have a crop that is thick enough to see what the dogs can work in, but thin enough so the trainer can observe areas where the dog needs to improve.

With regards to species, Brassicas are often favoured as they can be broadcasted, and perennials are used regularly because they provide cover for years to come.

Ultimately, the aim of a gundog mix is to create an environment as close to the shooting field as possible without actually being there.

An abundance of benefits

Depending on the species within that mix, there are many benefits to planting gundog mixtures. Aside from the training, these mixes condition dogs to keep away from habitats in the wider environment and disturbing other wildlife.

One advantage of many gundog mixes, depending on species and when planted, is that they remain into the season and can provide cover for nesting birds or flushing – making them more cost-effective in the long run. Likewise, they can add value to the environment depending on when they flower. Phacelia, for example, can be used for colour and to benefit pollinators. Although pollinators can benefit from some of the flowers in gundog mixes, it is important to take care if training dogs in a stewardship crop as there could be nesting birds that should not be disturbed.

If using perennials, such as chicory or canary grass, with basic management these can last anywhere between five to 10 years, meaning they can be re-used for the same purpose over time.

What makes a good gun dog mix?

First and foremost a good gundog mix requires good communication and knowledge from both the people providing the mix and the people who will be using it.

It is often the case that areas for gundog mixes and gundog training are limited. Therefore, a good mix should suit the area, particularly with regards to accessibility. There is no point using a mix that needs drilling when the equipment or the access is not available – and due to this it is often the simpler, the better. Many are drawn to Brassicas that you can broadcast. Another option is to plant at different times, some in Spring and some later for a staggered rate of growth. This gives a varied canopy height to work the dogs for a longer period of time.

Thought must also go into the pattern and layout when planting gundog mixes. Many stagger the planting, as previously mentioned, to get a varied canopy height and flowering times. Gundog mixes are often planted in blocks on a grid formation, which creates grass pathways in the middle and blocks of cover either side; this way dogs can be worked from side to side right in front of the trainer.

We have already mentioned the preferred species within the mixtures, but one important point is that gundog mixes tend to avoid using heavy seed-bearing crops as smaller dogs can end up swallowing or inhaling them and picking up seed – such as cereals.

The quality of a gundog mix also depends on the breed of dog that needs training in the crop. If training a small dog, such as a Cocker Spaniel, then low lying cover is needed. However, if training a dog to point, like a HPR, more sporadic cover is better to get the dog to give a clear point. Whereas if training a retriever (Labrador), it is necessary to create a cover that has clear channels to get them using a channel back to the trainer more naturally. So, it is vital to know what is needed from a mix and the breed of the dog for a gundog mix to be deemed successful.

Bespoke gun dog mixtures

At Bright Seeds we have the ability to put together bespoke mixtures to meet the demand and need of the customer. We find that this is the best approach when dealing with gundog mixes – due to the high number of variables.

A mix that we put together last year could be seen at The Game Fair 2019.

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