Cavalier King Charles spaniels are often thought of as a type of lapdog, one which is only suitable for use as a form of doggy footwarmer or a pet to cuddle on a cold winter’s day.
But is this accurate?
Given that the Cavalier is a spaniel, is the breed suitable for outdoor work and can they hunt game just like the other breeds of spaniels?
Cavalier King Charles spaniels can hunt and a fit and well trained Cavalier will make a good job of a day in the field. After all, they are a type of spaniel and these dogs were bred for hunting rodents and small game birds. Nevertheless, there are some things you should consider before taking your Cavalier out.
So, can cavalier king charles spaniels hunt?
The answer is yes, they can but it’s not as simple as just taking them out into the field and letting them off the lead.
You need to make sure that your Cavalier is fit and healthy enough for a day of hunting, something which many pet Cavaliers are not.
You will also need to do some training with your Cavalier to ensure that they are able to follow commands and stay safe whilst out hunting.
However, if you are willing to put in the time and effort, then a Cavalier can make a great hunting companion.
Do Cavalier King Charles spaniels make good shooting or beating dogs?
While Cavaliers are not traditionally thought of as shooting or beating dogs, they can be trained to do this type of work.
Cavaliers are intelligent dogs and they have a good nose, so with the right training they could make good shooting or beating dogs.
The main thing to consider if you want to use your Cavalier for this type of work is their size.
Cavaliers are small dogs and they are well suited for working in areas of thick cover where a smaller dog has the advantage of being able to get under cover to work it out efficiently.
In more open areas, such as a grouse moor, where dogs tend to get out further, a Cavalier may struggle to maintain the pace, but, for rough shooting or beating on a shoot, a Cavalier could be a useful dog.
Training a Cavalier King Charles to hunt
Training a Cavalier to hunt can be a lot of fun and it can also be very rewarding.
The key to success is to start with basic obedience training.
Make sure your Cavalier knows how to sit, stay, come and heel.
Once they have mastered these basic commands, you can start teaching them some specific hunting commands.
One of the most important commands for a hunting dog is sitting at a distance.
This tells them to stop and stay where they are until they are given further instruction.
You will need to spend a lot of time practicing this command until your Cavalier responds reliably.
Teaching a Cavalier King Charles or, for that matter, any breed of spaniel, to hunt, is a fun activity for both handler and dog and one in which both of you will learn a great deal, about the wind, scent, types of cover and how to work the ground effectively.
This is a subject in it’s own right and the principles and techniques are the same for all of the spaniel breeds.
I’ve put together an article here about training a Cocker spaniel to hunt – the strategies and techniques are the same for a Cavalier King Charles spaniel.
You’ll find it helpful and it will provide you with a good foundation on which to build.
The benefits of hunting with a Cavalier King Charles
There are many benefits to hunting with a Cavalier.
Firstly, it is a great way to exercise your Cavalier and to let them use their natural abilities.
Hunting is an activity that Cavaliers were bred for and it is something that they really enjoy.
It provides them with a way to use their senses to their fullest and to get out and be a dog for the day.
It is also a great way to bond with your Cavalier.
Hunting is a team sport and when you are out in the field with your Cavalier, you will quickly develop a strong bond with them.
You may also not realise it but working Cavaliers are rare.
The breed has suffered from ‘cute dog syndrome’ for many years resulting in a real deficiency of examples of the breed that are capable of doing what spaniels should do.
By training and working your Cavalier King Charles you will be following in the footsteps of the first Duke of Marlborough who, at his home and estate at Blenheim Palace, kept small red and white spaniels for shooting.
He described them as “excellent and indefatigable, being in great estimation with those sportsmen who can become possessed of the breed”.
These spaniels became known as the Blenheim spaniels and their chestnut and white colours are one of the recognised Cavalier colours.
Tips for hunting with a Cavalier King Charles spaniel
Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of hunting with your cavalier king charles spaniel:
Start with basic obedience training and make sure your Cavalier knows how to sit, stay, come and heel.
Teach them the ‘sit at a distance’ command and practice it often.
Spend time bonding with your Cavalier before taking them out hunting.
Be aware that Cavaliers may not have the same stamina levels as other spaniels so don’t overdo it
Use positive reinforcement when training and avoid using punishment.
Keep your hunts short at first and gradually increase the length as your Cavalier builds his fitness and gains more experience.
Be patient and have fun. Hunting with a Cavalier can be a great experience for both you and your dog.
If you do have a Cavalier King Charles, or are thinking of getting one and you wish to go working with your dog, then don’t be put off by the dog’s traditional lapdog image.
With patience, good training and some understanding of how to work with your dog’s natural abilities, you will soon have a hunting partner that you can be proud of.
You’ll also be among a small but dedicated group of people that are working hard to return many of the spaniel breeds to their original working status – so well done.
Remember Cavaliers are great fun to work and, like all spaniels, they have real personality.
They are also very loyal dogs, they love training and will enjoy their sessions with you.
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