Spaniel Training Articles
It was off the county of Norfolk, Great Britain, for this year’s British Cocker Spaniel National Field Trial Championship. Norfolk is one of the most sparsely populated of all English counties, with a size of 2,069 square miles and a population of 740,000. Probably the most famous estate to be found in the county is that of Sandringham, the home of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, and the home of the 2000 British Cocker National Field Trial Championship.
The first English Springer Spaniel in North America was imported from England to Canada in 1913. In little more than a decade, the breed had risen in popularity to become one of the breeds eligible for American Kennel Club registration. Early breeders were thorough and cautious when developing and expanding their breeding programs. Some breeders had different interests with their growth of their Springer Spaniel programs. Many decided to fine-tune their hunting companions for field trailing competitions while others enjoyed exhibiting their Springers in conformation competition.
If you really want your puppy to get the proper start in retrieving and bird handling, you must establish a solid foundation. To do this he must learn how to handle tender game birds properly. If you just go right into the retrieving of dummies, on to dead birds, then live game your pup will more than likely pick up some very bad habits. The only way to insure a good delivery and proper handling of game is to teach him right from wrong very early on. Table training is so simple and helpful, yet many well-meaning trainers skip right over this step in their training program. Question:
I am training a couple of spaniels for Hunt Tests and Field Trials and want to setup some bird pens for training. What are some things I should consider for my training birds?
Whether you are training a first class hunting partner or the next field champion/master hunter, you will need to train at some point on pen raised birds during the off season. We spend a lot of time and money acquiring a good dog, taking care of their needs such as housing, veterinary care, food etc.
Would like to see an article about teaching quartering with no assistants? Also, maybe incorporate how to get a dog to turn "down the course" when quartering and not backwards towards the handler. Also, maybe on how to get a dog that is a little sticky to range out a little farther. My young little ball of fire sometimes goes behind me in our quartering training. I am having trouble with a young pup that is doing some of these things.
You have finally made it through the dog days of summer with your spaniel. Maybe you have a young pupil who you have worked all summer with preparing him for fall bird season. Or perhaps you have a seasoned veteran who you have brushed up his skills. Now is the moment of truth, hunting wild birds in wild bird places. Let's face it. Bird hunting trips are only as fun as the dogs and people we are with. A dog soon separates when it is training and hunting and a disobedient dog can make a hunting trip just downright miserable. They are worse than bad company.
Last issue I promised to detail some of the situations where I find wild birds particularly helpful. Hunting and training on wild birds speeds up the experience process, no doubt, but it is definitely a two edged sword. A famous field trial trainer told me of the e-collar, “it won’t make a good trainer out of a bad one”. Certainly this is the case with wild birds-in fact; a half trained dog that might sneak through a field trial will be a raving lunatic after 30 seconds in a CRP field full of wild birds and the wrong handler.
Here in North Dakota we have 3.5 million acres of CRP. CRP, for anyone unfamiliar, stands for Conservation Reserve Program. Through CRP, the Federal Agriculture Dept. contracts with farmers to place highly erodable cropland into a set aside program. CRP acres are planted to grass and left out of production for a minimum of ten years. This has created a boon to wildlife of all kinds, especially pheasants. Imagine hundreds of thousands of acres of knee to waist high grass-crawling with wild pheasants, sharp-tail grouse and Hungarian Partridge. Sounds like a dog trainer’s/field trialer’s/hunter’s dream? Well, it is, most of the time.
Over the last two issues David Lauber has walked us through the process of steadying a dog to wing and shot. This month David addresses how to combat the "steadying blues", which faces many dogs during the steadying process.
One of the most important factors in hunting or field competition is the use of the wind. The natural hunting ability of the dog is essential in finding game, and no one set pattern will apply to all conditions. In the early 1980’s, when my husband Jerry and I first started to train our springers for hunting, we were fortunate to train with a group of “old timers” who knew the value of a natural hunting style.