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Turning your body will teach a spaniel to cast past you as you begin pattern work.
Photo by: Marcia Krassler
Ground cover in the field should be only high enough to hide pigeons from plain sight. We do not want the cover so high that the spaniels will have to work very hard at finding birds. This will deplete our objective of establishing a good fast running pattern in the beginning stages. The find should not be so difficult as to interrupt the dog’s focus on the pattern work being taught. Let’s look for a smooth and quick find, not a difficult and lengthily find in the field during the beginning stages. We want to teach the dog in the early stages of training that if the ground is equally covered on both sides, there are birds found quickly.

The one-man drill for the solo trainer can become very limited yet interesting as time goes on and your spaniel becomes experienced in pattern work! Let’s get started into the one-man drill techniques. In the beginning stages, you will want to have the wind in you face when you begin schooling pattern work. This will give your youngster every possible advantage at making easy and quick finds. In addition, the pup will start off on the right foot and realize to stay close to the handler and the birds will be close at hand.

During the first few weeks, attempt to go to the exact same spot in the field when running this drill (more so for the one-man drill than the three-man drill). This will help the pup to remember what he is expected to do. Once he has the general idea other cues will tell him that you are asking him to quarter.

Now, in both the one-man and the three-man drills, we are going to use all clipped winged pigeons and or dead pigeon to start. Use which ever your spaniel is most comfortable with in the beginning stages. You can slowly add clipped wing birds as your dog becomes accustomed to pattern work. We want to keep the birds on the ground until the dog has a consistent pattern developed of quartering back and forth. Fliers will tend to disturb the pattern too much in the beginning stage, taking the focus off of pattern schooling and directing it on flushing, chasing and, of course, retrieving.

Take your spaniel to the field and “hup” him in front facing you. Attempt to cast him off to one side of you to start the pattern. Some may go, others will look at you and say “what”? In this case, toss a dead pigeon off in the direction that you have asked him to travel. Let him mark and chase it for a retrieve. Try to throw the birds the same distance every time, approximately 10 yards when rolling pigeons in for your pup.

Once the dog has returned with the retrieve, cast him off in the same direction as before. This will help to pull him back to the previous fall area. While your pup is heading off to the last fall area, toss a pigeon off to the opposite side. Give your pup a toot (on the whistle) with the verbal command “come round”. When your pup turns in your direction, turn your body and start to walk in the direction of the tossed bird. This will help to cast the spaniel past you into another find. Continue this drill for only a few days, tossing a pigeon for him to see and retrieve only if he should refuse to make the initial cast. Once your pup has learned to cast past you for another find in a windshield wiper pattern, you can start to walk straightforward giving a hand motion for your spaniel to cast past you from side to side.

Now we are not too concerned about moving in a fast forward movement at this point. However, you do want to try to get ahead of any old scent put down from the previous cast. This can tend to cause the pup to spend too much time attempting to distinguish the real fresh body scent, which once again will take his focus off of pattern work. Once the spaniel has established a good sound pattern, the older scent is not too much of an issue!
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