Two different readers, two different problems. One breed of dog. Springer spaniel.
Dog won’t leave cover to hunt
Q: My springer spaniel’s training is coming along well but I can’t get her to leave hedgerows and cover to hunt open ground for retrieves. Any advice?
A: You don’t say how old your dog is. Because when all’s said and done this lesson comes under the category of advanced training and it might be you are expecting too much if she’s still a young pup.
However, I will assume here that it’s a more mature animal.
The main problem is that cover is usually full of lovely scent and open ground isn’t. This, then, is always going to make it harder to persuade a dog to leave the cover alone, and venture outside.
First step is to go back to open ground and make sure the dog responds to your whistle, voice commands and hand signals. Next, work the dog along an open hedge so that it can see you throw the dummy a few yards out into an open field, as well as see your signal and command to leave cover.
Stick to one dummy thrown a short distance until the dog has got full confidence in finding something on command, then introduce a few others a little further out to encourage the dog to hunt. Take your time, be patient and you will succeed.
Springer spaniels and hunting without orders
Q: My springer has become a real problem. I now have to watch him all the the time now when he is off the lead, otherwise he will set off hunting for game without orders. He was fine up to last season then gradually got worse with each outing. He is coming up to four now and I need to have him by me when we go shooting without having to have him on the lead all the time.
A: Peter Rawlings advises …
His prey drive has obviously increased with more exposure to working on live game each season. This natural urge is a strong desire for any working-bred spaniel and as his nose switches onto live scent so his sense of hearing is probably switching off, hence why he is not listening to you. I have owned several spaniels over the years that at two years old were absolutely under perfect control, but after a couple of seasons of intense work in the shooting field they became very difficult dogs to handle and control when live game was encountered.
Avoid having a confrontion with the dog – just because he used to walk at heel off-lead does not mean that he will continue for life. Therefore when he is not require to hunt, slip the lead on and take the pressure off you both. You can then relax as he cannot disobey and you will not have to keep reminding him or nag him as will happen. Nagging will cause any dog to ignore their handler eventually.
When he is on the lead and behaving, make sure he knows how pleased you are, with fuss, treats and praise. Just because he is under control do not ignore him, but make being on the lead very special and enjoyable so that the lead becomes his cue for pleasure and to focus more on you.