Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs
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At times the handler may need to quarter with the young dog in order to encourage him to complete his cast.
Photo by: Author
"At what point do we stop shaking birds and hooting and hollering in the field to get the spaniel to work between the guns?"
"It depends on the dog. If he seems to quarter naturally between the guns you may be able to stop shaking and stop the hooting and hollering altogether. But before you start phasing out the shaking and hooting and hollering make sure he is getting birds on the ground."
"As the young dog is going to one of the guns, have the other gun roll a pigeon into the grass in front of him, without the pup seeing gun do so. Then as the dog turns from the first gun and heads back to the gun that just rolled in the bird he is going to have to use his nose to find the bird. This makes it a bit more interesting to the dog and begins to teach the dog to use his nose to find the birds on the ground. That is the first step in the process. Then you can stop shaking the birds and eventually stop making noise in the field in order to get the dog to quarter naturally."
"There is no timeline for this process. It all depends on the dog’s level of maturity, intelligence, and desire. We have had dogs, in fact a whole litter, that pick this whole process up in three days and we were shooting over them by the end of the third day. But don’t expect that type of results with your own dog. Roy French, owner of Denalisunflo’s Kennels, who is 103 years old, said that was the first time he had ever seen an entire litter take to quartering so quickly. And he has been into dogs for many years."
"This method works. You’re going to tell within a few spaniel training session how interested the spaniel is in hitting the birds. Sometimes it may take a little more encouragement to get the dogs to run between the guns. I have had some dogs that I had to actually quarter back and forth with, in order to get them to work between the guns. What a workout! "
"Is there anything that you do to encourage the spaniel to work in front of you and not back-cast?"
"When we begin this process we usually want to work into a headwind. However, some puppies may scale with the wind and allow the wind to push them backwards and eventually they will start back-casting, or running behind the gunner. This is where it is important to start rolling-in birds in front of the guns. If you cannot get the young dog to quarter in front of the guns, change wind directions and run downwind. They will always run in front of the guns when working a downwind pattern. Do this for a while so he gets in the habit of working in front of the guns and finding birds in front of the gun. Eventually he will know that the birds are in front of the guns and quarter in front of the guns into a headwind. I would not worry about back-casting too much unless I had a 10-month-old dog continuing to back-cast. Then you would have to carefully evaluate what you were doing and determine if it’s your technique or the dog."
"How quickly would you move down the field when working a young spaniel compared to an older, seasoned spaniel?"
"The spaniel is going to dictate how fast we move down the field. We always want to be moving down the field. If you stay stationary or don’t move quick enough your bound to have a puppy that is just running back and forth between the guns and eventually will start back-casting on you. Some dogs will not want to cover the same ground twice so we will have to move down the field a little quicker with them, almost at the same pace you would with an older dog. However, let the dog dictate the pace. Initially, most dogs won’t mind covering the same ground twice so it’s not that important to move up the field, like you would with an older dog. Read your dog and he will tell you how quickly you need to move up the field. If he is looking around or pondering, he is probably telling you he is getting bored and wants to move up the field and find game."
"Now that we have the technique for establishing a pattern, what would you do to encourage a young dog to cover the ground completely and not leave any holes in the course?"
"When working with young dogs you may find that you do more movement side-to-side than forward. Don’t get concerned with this; eventually you will not have to go out toward the guns to get your young dog to complete a cast. Its important to do whatever it takes to get them to cover the ground completely. As the dog gets older and quartering more reliably you will want to the gunners to roll birds into the area where he failed to cover. If you can time this so that as the dog comes up short on a cast the gunner rolls a bird in and you stop the older dog and recast him into the area, the dog will eventually start to work the course without leaving any holes. Always be aware of wind direction and realize that a dog will tend to work shorter on the upwind side and run longer on the downwind side. Be patient and have fun with it."
We will be talk to David Lauber regarding the proper way to steady a spaniel. If you have specific questions you would like David to address, please email us at Gundogs Online.
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