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Why won’t my springer spaniel deliver game to me?

What training needs to be done?

springer spaniels retrieving

Q: I have a 10-month-old springer out of a rescue kennel. He is obviously working stock, good looking, full of life and hunts like a demon. He was completely wild when I got him but after a year of hard work we are now enjoying shooting rabbits over the moors. He is steady and responsive but will not deliver the rabbits to hand — he circles round and lies down a yard away. What springer spaniel delivery training do you recommend?


  • Work on recall in the training environment without the retrieving element.
  • He should be encouraged using high-value rewards to come straight to you, then sit for a reward.
  • Working on his obedience and recall in this way will be the right foundation for achieving a good delivery later.

Separately from these lessons, teach him to hold a dummy, again using positive reinforcement. This may take many lessons to make it perfect but once he will hold a dummy you can teach him to sit and stay with it. Once he will sit and let you back away and then come back to him, you are then ready to link everything together.

Don’t rush it

  • Sit, stay, recall and deliver, but do not rush to take the dummy when he comes to you.
  • Instead, let him hold it for as long as possible while you give him constant praise.
  • If necessary, make sure you use an environment where he cannot circle, such as an alleyway.
  • With patient training over several weeks, he will be rushing in confidently to deliver properly.
  • Next, use a fresh cold rabbit instead and repeat the process until perfect. He will then be ready to reintroduce to retrieving freshly shot rabbits in the field, but you will now have full control of his delivery.