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Why would you get a working spaniel?

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If you are thinking of getting a gundog or a good pet that will take well to training, then there are several choices of breeds that you can consider.

Among these are the spaniel breeds, such as the English Cocker, the English Springer spaniel and the less well known minor breed spaniels such as Clumber and others.

But why would you even consider a spaniel when other breeds such as Labradors are more common and, probably, much easier to train?

There is little doubt, among those that work dogs in shooting environments, that spaniels are the most capable and complete all rounders of the gundog world. Unlike the retrievers who just sit and wait to do their jobs, a working spaniel possesses a massive skill set and range of abilities that enable him to perform in any shooting environment.

What will a trained working spaniel do that other breeds cannot?

A good, well bred and trained working spaniel will undertake every activity that you need him to do on a shoot day or during a competition.

With careful and considered training your spaniel will be a total and complete all rounder able to take on all of the jobs that the other gundog breeds perform while adding his own abilities and intelligence to the mix.

Hunting and quartering

Your working spaniel will hunt the ground in front of him to find game.

He will stay within gunshot range while using the wind to his best advantage to help him to work the cover correctly.

Bushes, brambes, fallen trees, bracken and all other forms of cover will be explored and subject to the scrutiny of his nose and his ability and power will enable him to get into all manner of vegetation to find rabbits, pheasants and other wild animals.

Flushing game

While your spaniel is covering his ground he will come across game. He will not chase it but will flush it and then remain still while the game is either shot or ignored.

This is known as ‘dropping to flush’ and is a key skill that will require lots of work.

Dropping to flush and not chasing keeps your spaniel safe and significantly reduces the risk of being shot.

Many guns get carried away during shoots and, if they do not shoot regularly then they can potentially unsafe – particularly where dogs and their handlers are concerned and both have been shot in the past by over zealous individuals.

So. dropping to the flush is an important spaniel skill.

Retrieving or ignoring the game

When game has been shot you’ll need your spaniel to retrieve it, quickly and safely.

Often shot game is instantly killed by the shotgun but there are instances where game is injured and may run away – known as a ‘runner’.

In these cases your spaniel will get to the area where the game fell ( the fall ) and using the power of his nose, will track the game down and then retrieve the game to hand.

It may be that you miss the game and that it escapes uninjured, and this happens more often than not.

In this case yor spaniel will ignore the game when told and carry on hunting the ground, looking for the next opportunity.

Dropping to shot

In the same way that your spaniel drops to the flush, he will also drop to shot when he hears it.

This may occur when game is flushed by another dog or by yourself or someone else nearby.

Your spaniel will stop and either stand or sit down and, again this serves a very useful purpose.

Firstly it helps to stop your dog from ‘running in’ going after the game without being told to which could be dangerous as more shooting could occur, or, it could interfere with another dog’s retrieve which may have been sent.

Marking where game has fallen

Your spaniel will be able to ‘mark’ or see and remember where shot game has fallen.

This is an important skill that is common among all working gundogs although some breeds ( such as Labradors ) can mark the fall over a larger distance than other breeds.

Your spaniel will then go and ‘fetch’ the game from the area and, if he has marked it well, will require little, if any help from you to do so.

Taking directions, stopping to the whistle

Your spaniel will be able to take directions from you, either verbal commands or hand signals.

You’ll be able to stop him on the whistle, get him to look at you and then direct him to the left, right, back or towards you.

This is a great skill and vital when you are trying to help him to find game that he has not marked or seen and often all you need to do is to help him to get his nose into the wind and he’ll finish the job off nicely himself.

Working with the wind

Your spaniel will become an expert at using the wind to his advantage so that he gets the maximum amount of scent up his nose.

Whether the breeze is coming straight towards you blowing in your faces or is hitting you in the back, or even coming from the left or right – your working spaniel will adapt his hunting to suit the wind conditions.

This will be the case when he is hunting and often when he retrieves and watching a spaniel turn into the wind when he scents his retrieve is often a sight to behold.

This use of the wind will be an educational process for you as you begin to understand and appreciate the power of your spaniel’s sense of smell.

why would you get a working spaniel

Working as a team

Working spaniels are great a teamwork and an experienced team of spaniels will cover more ground than any number of humans or retrievers.

Whether you get more spaniels or your dog joins the others on a shoot day – a working spaniel is simply at the top of the list when to comes to teamwork.

Only Border Collies – which perform very different work are comparable.

I’ve frequently worked a small team of working English Springers and, once they became famiiar with each other, they were a pleasure to be out with.

The thought of having more than one spaniel ‘running around ahead of you’ may be formidable to many handlers but, trust me, with experience comes confidence and your ability as a handler will grow.

Once you have one working spaniel, you’ll soon be on the road to another.

Having a team of working spaniels is simply the best – if you like spaniels.

Final Words

I’ve been around working spaniels for over 30 years and I’m still learning about these great dogs.

If you are looking for a dog that makes a great all rounder, that is capable of hunting, flushing and retrieving from all manner of situations, including water – then I recommend a working spaniel.

Don’t forget too that working spaniels are also great family members and are able to switch easily between their working roles and that of pet and faithful companion and, the advantage of this is that you’ll learn so much more about him if you can treat him this way.

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Last update on 2022-12-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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