Q: In all your years answering queries from spaniel owners, what is the most common problem that novice trainers have difficulty correcting?
A: Not only with Shooting Times readers’ queries but also in my other role as a professional gundog trainer and instructor, perhaps the hardest problem for newcomers to deal with is getting their spaniel to quarter properly and well in range without constant commands. So many promising young spaniels go through training smoothly until they are taken out and worked on the real thing. The thrill of working on hot scent can cause the most obedient spaniel to switch off its ears and, with the extra adrenaline, it will begin to cover more ground than is comfortable for the Gun walking behind.
A spaniel should appear to be on an invisible piece of elastic and work automatically with its handler, without the need for constant reminder commands and whistles. During training, this should become well established to the point that if the handler stops walking, the spaniel should sense this and stop hunting, and if the handler veers off to the right or left, the dog should alter its pattern accordingly. If the spaniel is taught to turn on the whistle on every cast, it will become reliant on the whistle. This will lead to it pulling away if it is out of sight in cover and hits hot scent. Do this too many times and control will diminish, the whistle will become more frequent and the spaniel will be out of control. During training, the calm, quiet handlers gain more respect from their dogs. Noisy handlers will be ignored. PR