Interview: June Laing
There can be few who have shot with Eskdale Shooting Services in the Scottish Borders over the years, who haven’t noticed, or been impressed by, ‘the lady with the GSPs’. The lady in question is June Laing. We asked her a few questions…
How long have you had German Shorthaired Pointers?
What was your introduction to the breed?
I was 15 when I saw my first GSP. It was when the Game Fair was held in Scotland. It looked like an enormous Jack Russell.
We always had dogs at home. My father was a sheep farmer on the Glenmoriston estate, so collies were a must. Of course, we had to train them. The GSP just appealed to me.
Where did you get that first dog?
After seeing the dog at the Game Fair, I went home and scoured adverts in the local paper and bought a bitch called Heidi from someone who had a litter for sale in Inverness.
It is said that they are difficult to train?
I didn’t know what to expect, and basically I learned everything from that one dog. We taught each other. In hindsight, I now realise that I was very lucky in that she was a very good dog, and not at all difficult to train. And when I was at college, I started working her on the grouse moors.
Is it true that you were one of the first in the UK to own a German Shorthaired Pointer?
Looking back I guess, yes maybe, I was – not by design, they just appealed.
Is it difficult to find a good one?
Much more difficult now, particularly since tail docking was banned. Show lines are now dominating, and that is how the breed has developed a reputation for not being a particularly good working dog.
Are they best suited to working over grouse?
It’s wonderful to work them over grouse and their ability to hunt, point and retrieve really comes into its own. But, generally, they are very good on the beating line and will never run in.
Where do you work them?
When Wilson Young started his Eskdale shoot letting business, I introduced myself and have been picking up with them ever since. In fact I am out with them six days a week.
Do Guns comment on your dogs when you are out picking up?
They are often clearly surprised to see my dogs work. But mostly they say nice things!
Do you compete in field trials?
No. I used to enter trials and I particularly enjoyed the grouse trial at Drumochter. I feel the water test in the shooting season is not fair on the dogs. They are left to wait, still very wet, at the end of the day. It would be better to have the water test separate in the summer.
You work two or three pointers and also a labrador – what dogs do you have?
At the moment I have five GSPs, three Braccos, two cockers and a lab. When I’m picking up, I will have three or four GSPs and either a lab or a cocker.
Do you train any other breeds?
Bracco Italianos, a dog which is hugely popular in Italy – a Hunt, Point & Retrieve breed, rather like a bloodhound.
Have you seen Braccos working in Italy?
Yes, they work really well and are very obedient – they are also great on grouse. In fact good all-rounders.
What kind of work are GSPs best suited to?
A German shorthaired pointer is suited to most gundog work. But be very careful of becoming an owner of a dog from a show line. Finding a GSP from a good working line is becoming increasingly difficult.
It is said that GSPs are Jacks of all trades but masters of none – is this true?
As above, it’s the show line dogs that give the breed a bad name. A well bred dog from a working line will invariably be dependable.
How similar are Bracco Italianos to our own HPR breeds?
Are they suited to work in the shooting field here in the UK?
Most certainly, and there are far more Braccos being used as working dogs in the UK than you might think.
Does your husband have working dogs?
No, Hugh is a haulage contractor and a busy man.
If looking to buy a HPR dog, which breed would you recommend as a first time owner?
Most definitely a GSP, but be sure of the line.
You also paint and sculpt – what are your subjects?
I have got into sculpting with wax, and I am presently working on a partridge life-size. I see thousands of them on the shoot, but they are such a beautiful bird.