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The Balanced Spaniel

by David Krassler

W ell folks, out here on the East Coast it’s getting close to be that time of year! Time for us to head out afield for opening day of bird season. Many enthusiasts are looking forward to making this season a memorable one. Every new season brings new folks to the sport of small game hunting and the world of Spanieling. As with any new sport, there also come many pitfalls and obstacles for the newcomer to endure. Newcomers with spaniels should be very cautious as to how they handle themselves and their spaniel during the first season of upland game hunting. Wary of the early warning signs of an infectious disease called "The out of balance spaniel."

Many novice spaniel owners seem to get so mesmerized and excited by the flushing and shooting of game that they tend to forget, or possibly from the lack of proper education, how very important the retrieving end of things are while using a spaniel for hunting upland game. Missing the early signs of this foul disease is easy as things start to deteriorate rapidly with the spaniel’s retrieving.

The beginning of the season started out fine. Junior found and retrieved all his birds clean and to hand. However, as time progressed and this spaniel became more intent on finding game he started to deliver the bird back within a few steps of the hunter rather than all the way to hand, making the hunter take a step or two to get the bird. No big deal, right?

Well, as time progresses and more birds are flushed and shot, this situation is progressively getting worst. Now junior is bringing the game only half the distance to the handler, spitting out the shot bird as he runs back into the field in search of more game to flush! Eventually, we find the final stage of this disease! The flush and shot of game, now junior runs over to the shot bird, looks at you as if to say, "Here it is. You come and get it, I’ll go find another bird." And off he goes in search for another flush, leaving the hunter to retrieve his own birds.

Wonder why this spaniel has started to refuse on retrieving and delivery? This is a spaniel that now is out of balance! What is a balanced spaniel, you ask? Well, a spaniel that is well balanced will seek out game forcing it into flight, thus giving the hunter an opportunity to shoot. Finally, the spaniel will get it’s reward by making a retrieve on the shot game and delivering it to hand. This is a balanced spaniel! "The spaniel seeks and flushes game for the ultimate reward of retrieving."

Being a professional trainer, I would have to say that this disease probably is one of the most common sins gun dog owners commit. Many times a spaniel comes into my facility for retrieving training, which is necessary to bring the spaniel back into balance.
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