Competitive spaniels: For example, as the drive sets off and the other gun dogs are working well out in front, my two spaniels feel they have to be in front of the other gun dogs, and I seem to do a lot of shouting and recalling over the course of the day. The competitive spirit of my spaniels can be embarrassing. What do you advise?
Mark Whitehouse says: There are lots of distractions and pressure to keep the beating line under control.
As you have mentioned, most gun dogs are well out in front looking to find and flush the birds and when your gun dogs notice this they too want a piece of the action, and before you realise it they can soon become out of control.
As the distance increases, so does the resistance and your stop whistle will be less effective.
You then resort to shouting and whistling.
This, as you say, becomes embarrassing as your gun dogs’ next move would be to chase forward and possibly spoil the drive.
Work one gun dog at a time and alternate gun dogs between drives or swap and change as you feel the need to do so.
If you feel comfortable fastening one of your gun dogs to your belt or game bag with a lead this will then allow you to concentrate on one gun dog at a time and take away the fact they are competing with each other.
Between shoot days do some extra work, quartering and stopping your gun dogs on the whistle close to you, not allowing them to pull forward.
On shoot days, if the middle of the line is intense, move to the outside where there is a lot less pressure and distractions and here you will be able to keep better contact with your gun dog.