Q: My 10-month-old springer bitch is coming on well in training. She is my first spaniel, so I am learning at the same time as her. She retrieves well and is responsive to my commands. I have not worked her in cover yet — I’ve given her the odd dummy thrown into cover, but she does not dive straight in. How do I get her to work brambles and so on?
A: The more naturally you introduce her to working different types of cover, the better. Throwing a dummy into cover can make the process confrontational. If she is caused any pain by the entry, this could seriously affect her progress and her desire to retrieve. Avoid nettles, thistles, gorse and other such prickly covers until she is more experienced.
All puppies are different but usually if cover contains fresh game scent, there is generally no hesitation and youngsters will freely enter it. Obviously success at flushing a rabbit or bird from the cover will soon switch on even the most cautious of puppies. White grass and other light cover is great to begin with, then as your spaniel’s drive develops allow her access gradually to denser types of cover — bracken, rushes and roots such as sugar beet are all suitable. Do not hunt her until she tires but keep each lesson short to keep her motivated. Make sure she has access to fresh game scent each time she hunts.
As she becomes more experienced at finding and flushing game you can work her in tougher situations. Take each stage gradually and her courage and drive will soon be fully awakened.