Why have I got such competitive spaniels?
What can this reader do? Mark Whitehouse offers some tips.
Q: I have two competitive spaniels that are very headstrong with one another. For example, as the drive sets off and the other gundogs are working well out in front, my two spaniels feel they have to be in front of the other gundogs. As a result 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. Is there anything I can do about it? What would be your advice?
Pressure and distractions
A: There are lots of distractions and pressure to keep the beating line under control.
As you have noticed, most gundogs are well out in front looking to find and flush the birds. When your own gundogs 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 between you and them increases, so does their resistance and your stop whistle will be less effective.
So the next thing is that you resort to shouting and whistling. Just about anything to get the dogs back. As you say this is embarassing because your dogs’ next move is almost certainly going to be to chase forward and maybe spoil the drive.
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So what’s the answer?
You’re going to have to start working one gundog at a time. Alternate the dogs between drives or swap and change as you feel appropriate.
If you feel comfortable doing it, then fasten one of your gun dogs to your belt or game bag with a lead. You can then focus on one dog at a time and remove the competitive element between them.
Between shoot days some extra work with the dogs will pay dividends. Practise quartering and stopping your gundogs on the whistle close to you. Don’t allow 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 gundogs.