Dougie started piping at primary school in Barrhead, where his head teacher was Iain MacFadyen's brother John. After a successful career in junior competition, he became involved in the traditional music scene in 1979 when he joined the Glasgow band Kentigern. This led to a 7 year stretch with leading traditional group Battlefield Band, during which time he expanded his instrumental abilities to include whistle, flute, saxophone and percussion.
Dougie left the band in 1990 and spent the 1990s learning how to teach and playing on other people's albums. He worked at various times for the National Piping Centre, the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and the Easterhouse Arts Project, and the Fèis movement, and on other projects throughout Scotland. He was appointed the first Director of the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music in May 2000.