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Waterfowl hunting is a great way to work on your spaniel's retrieve.
Photo by: R. Michael DiLullo
How can we prepare our spaniels and ourselves to prevent this disease from happening? There are several things that we can do. However, it all must start months before the opening day of bird season! Many common training techniques can be applied here. One of the basics is a good solid retrieving drill. Give the dog lots and lots of retrieving before lots and lots of field work. Our objective here is to make and keep the spaniel’s retrieving instinct as the primary instinct, throughout the complete unfolding scenario that takes place when they find, flush and retrieve game. Many novice feel that their time during the schooling of a young spaniel should concentrate on teaching the finding and flushing of game, rather than maintaining the primary instinct in their spaniel, which is retrieving. This is a grave mistake, retrieving should be the first and most important desire in your spaniel’s behavior.

"Keep it simple", is the golden rule of dog training, correct? Building and maintaining your spaniel’s retrieving instincts are fore most. Naturally, we must monitor their retrieving skills as we progress from bumpers to live birds. There is a statement that has been stated many times, "It is very well possible to give your spaniel too many birds!" Many spaniel owners would have a difficult time understanding this realm of things. But, the facts speak for themselves. Some spaniels that are given a lot of birds can fall into the pitfall of this disease, especially in regards to those of us who have a young spaniel.

What tends to occur is that retrieving will become the second most important instinct and finding game is the foremost. It is all down hill from there. Take your time on giving your spaniel birds to flush. Plant a field with only one or two fliers for them to find. This will help in the early stages of actual shooting game over your dog, balancing the find between the retrieve. Naturally, as confidence builds and retrieves are remaining solid, you can start to plant more fliers to develop the other instincts to complete the scenario of upland game hunting!

If you start to see this disease immerge, catch it at its earliest signs. Hopefully, the very first time you see it starting. Foremost, should the spaniel decide to only bring the bird half the way back or blatantly refuses to retrieve, then stop the training session for the day right there. We must send a clear message to the dog that if he is not going to retrieve and or deliver the first bird shot then he will not get another bird to find. However, if he retrieves the first bird cleanly then we will reward our spaniel by continuing on to find a second bird. This type of method will work very quickly with most spaniels.

Once the dog figures out that all he has to do is deliver the first shot bird and he will get another bird, you can bet your bottom dollar he will deliver. Make sure that he always delivers his birds to hand. "Hup" him down for several seconds before casting him on to hunt for another bird. Enjoy your upland season and keep your spaniel in balance!
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