As working dogs go the English Springer spaniel is a difficult one to better. With masses of energy and a drive that puts many of the other working breeds to shame, not only is this a fit breed but an intelligent one too.
The Springer spaniel is used for a variety of roles but do Springer spaniels point? They can be trained to point but this is not the true role of the Springer. The Springer spaniel is a hunting dog that is normally used to find, flush and retrieve game.
Are Springer spaniels pointers or flushers?
Springer spaniels are most definitely flushers. This breed of dog is a natural hunter that possesses a very strong drive to seek out and flush game and this is the normal role for most of the spaniel breeds.
Breeds that point are generally the setters, pointers and some other breeds which are bred specifically for the purposes of finding and indicating the presence of game through pointing.
What are Springer spaniels used for?
The classic role of all of the spaniel breeds, including the Springer is that of a dog that hunts and flushed game, which is then either shot or captured.
There are normally two types of activity that a dog, such as a Springer, will undertake:
- Walked up shooting – where the dog is in front of the gun hunting
- Driven shooting – where the spaniel works game towards a team of guns
Walked up shooting with a Springer spaniel
Also known as ‘rough shooting’ walked up shooting is a common activity for many spaniel owners and the Springer spaniel is a great dog for this type of work.
The spaniel will work his ground using the wind to get the greatest levels of scent to help him to find game.
The dog quarters the ground ahead of the handler who will generally be carrying be using a shotgun to shoot the game.
Working around 30 to 35 yards ahead of the ‘gun’ the spaniel will work the ground to find game and, when he does, he will flush the game and stop, he won’t chase.
If the gun is a good shot then the game will be killed and the dog will be sent to retrieve the game back to the handler.
In the event of the game being injured, the Springer will be expected to scent and find the game, tracking it if necessary to fetch ot back to the handler.
Springer spaniel grouse hunting
Grouse hunting is normally carried out using ‘bird dogs’ – dogs from the Pointer and Setter breeds which are specifically bred for the purpose of seeking out moorland birds, such as grouse, and then indicating by pointing, before being commanded to flush.
They perform a similar role to spaniels in their hunting ability but tend to cast out a lot further from their handlers, whereas a Springer spaniel would be very close.
Springer spaniels and spaniels of other breeds are a common site on grouse moors where driven shooting is carried out.
The line of dogs and beaters will advance across the moorland, through heather typically, with the grouse being flushed towards the guns who are stationed some distance away in grouse butts.
When used in this environment it can be common to see Springers worked alongside bird dogs such as Pointers, the spaniels will often be used to work through thicker cover where birds could hide, while the Pointers would work more open moorland areas.
Working in the beating line with a Springer spaniel
Springer spaniels are often put to work in the beating line of a driven game shoot.
This is different to the rough shooting described above as the handler does not shoot. Instead the dog handlers work their dogs, through the cover on areas called ‘drives’.
Each drive is set in a way that ensures that the ‘beaters’ push game towards a line of ‘guns’ who are normally located in an area that makes shooting challenging and difficult.
The beaters line out and work their way through the cover and, their dogs, Springers, Cockers and other breeds, flush the game out over the guns for them to try and shoot.
There will be other dogs located near to the guns which will be static and their job is to retrieve the shot game.
These dogs are normally retrievers and are typically Labradors.
Do Springer spaniels point? In reality no, Springer spaniels are not normally used as pointing dogs when hunting.
They can be trained to point but this would be a real waste of the Springer’s natural talent as a hunter and retriever.