Q: For some unknown reason, my cocker spaniel has started to give a short ‘yip’ when he flushes a pheasant or rabbit. Can I do anything to stop it?
A: This sort of behaviour is usually a sign of a dog getting too excited through continually flushing live game. Sadly there’s no cure but there are a couple of things you might like to try to ease it.
For a start always blow the stop whistle whenever it flushes a bird or bolts a rabbit and do NOT let him get ‘steamed up’ by running from one flush to another. The act of blowing the whistle will ensure the dog pays attention to you, not just the quarry. You can make doubly sure this happens by also making him stand steadily for a few moments after a bird has been flushed.
Another ploy is to walk the dog to heel in the beating line from time to time so that he gets a break from hunting and comes under your complete control. Walking to heel imparts a great deal of steadiness and it should be done as a matter of course when birds have been pushed into the flushing zone. At this stage it’s best to stand back and let the gamekeeper or one or two other beaters move forward and tap out the birds. Doing it this way means you can control the dog’s excitement.