Q: I have started shooting and need a gundog for beating, pigeon and roughshooting, ferreting and for wildfowling. I need a dog that will flush and retrieve game and is a confident swimmer. I have always fancied a Labrador or a cocker spaniel. What gundog breed would you recommend? How do I find a gundog training club to join?
A: First, find a gundog club by visiting The Kennel Club. This will have details of location, area of operation and what the club in question has to offer. Not all gundog clubs run training classes but most will be able to put you in touch with a good gundog trainer.
Your sporting interests cover quite a wide range of gundog skills. A good cocker spaniel from working stock will make an excellent beating and roughshooting dog and it will have the ability, if correctly trained, to retrieve all types of quarry including geese, though a lively cripple could cause some difficulty.
I live in the Fens and there are probably as many Labradors used for flushing in the beating line as spaniels, so don’t rule them out as all-rounders. The English springer has traditionally been described as the “maid of all work”, reputed to be larger than its smaller cousin the cocker, though in the modern day this is not always true. If your heart is set on a particular breed and it can fulfil the requirements of your sport, go with your instinct. It is much easier to train a breed of dog that you have a liking for and affinity with, than one you have been persuaded by others to get.