A reader asks: I go rabbit and pigeon shooting and now intend to get a gundog. A friend says Labradors are born half-trained but I'm also considering a spaniel. Can you advise?

There are several things to consider here. One breeder is always amazed at being asked for a particular colour of dog, or for a Labrador or springer spaniel – when there big differences between the two. 

The question you need to ask yourself is whether you will use the dog for beating, picking up or shooting? Labradors and spaniels each have their own talents in this department.

You also need to think about personality. A spaniel puppy is very lively! Do you have the time to work and train your chosen dog? Because there’s nothing much worse than a badly trained dog.

English springer spaniels

An English springer spaniel from good working stock is an ideal choice for the one-dog roughshooter.

These dogs can be trained as competent shooting companions; to sit steadily in a pigeon shooter’s hide, as well as to hunt to flush game and retrieve from all sorts of prickly, thick cover.

Your friend is obviously a Labrador supporter and has probably never had the pleasure of owning a good English Springer spaniel.

What about Labradors?

Labradors can, and do, make good roughshooting dogs, but they are not always placid companions and many of the top strains can be fast and need expert handling.

The Labrador is a retreiving breed, which means that in most cases it will be used for either driven or walked-up shooting or picking up. However Labs can be trained for roughshooting, although they will never match a spaniel’s prowess in this discipline.  By contrast, spaniels have been bred for hunting excellence

The Labrador breed has been developed for its retrieving expertise first and foremost, whereas spaniels have been bred for hunting excellence and as the roughshooter’s companion.

Whichever breed you choose, seek sound advice to make sure the animal is fully trained for life.