Hunting with Spaniels: Training Your Flushing Dog (Country Dog)

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These Are Five of the South's Best Gundog Trainers

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Country Dog: Hunting with Spaniels : Training Your Flushing Dog by Paul Morrison (2009, Hardcover)

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Toni Morrison Literature, Modern Books. A JH retrieve test involves two retrieves on land and two in the water at distances up to yards, with distractions typical of an average hunting day. At the MH level, dogs may have to retrieve multiple birds, at distances of hundreds of yards, and in very difficult terrain. They also must find "blind retrieves," locating birds that they have not seen fall by following the directions of the handler.

The progression of difficulty is similar for flushing, pointing, and versatile breed hunt tests. Most of the national breed clubs for sporting dogs also award working certificates. These certifications indicate that the dog has reached at least a minimal level of hunting ability. For example, the working certificate for a golden retriever requires the dog to make two "double retrieves" picking up two birds in the order indicated by the handler at distances of about 50 yards on land and in the water.

A common characteristic of field trials, hunt tests, and working certificates is that the dog is required to work with live or "formerly live" birds. In most of these activities, birds are shot during the tests. This is a turnoff for many dog owners, and undoubtedly limits the participation of family dogs in these sports. There are, however, two programs that families can pursue that involve gun dog tasks, but without the guns. One such program is run by the Gundog Club, a UK-based club centered around the interests of gun dog owners www. One of the objectives of the founder, Pippa Mattinson, was to provide options for non-hunters to participate in field activities.

The club mission includes as a goal: "To raise standards of skill and behaviour amongst working and pet gundogs. For every gundog fulfilling his potential in the field there are many who fail to do so.

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Every dog in the field deserves the chance to be a capable member of the team, every pet dog deserves the chance to experience the joys of fieldwork. In pursuit of this goal, the club has developed a six-level award system, with categories for retrievers, spaniels, and versatile dogs which the British call HPRs, for hunter-pointer-retriever.


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The first three award levels can be achieved by working with retrieving dummies rather than actual game. Another advantage of this system is that it begins with relatively simple tasks, with the degree of difficulty increasing in small steps that most handlers can manage with due diligence.

This makes the awards more accessible than those of the AKC and other hunt tests in which the " criteria jumps" are much greater. For example, in the Gundog Club program, a Beginner Retriever must:. This step up is much more manageable than that in the AKC retriever programs, where the advancement from Junior to Senior levels requires the dog to master longer distances, blind retrieves, directional control from the handler, and steadiness throughout the test.

The more closely spaced levels of the Gundog Club program make it well suited for clicker training and other positive methods that depend on shaping behavior by rewarding small increments of behavior. These four dogs, with a little help from their handlers, recently passed the Gundog Club's Beginner Retriever test after a short clicker training course.

RI Dog Guy has begun to organize weekend training programs that culminate in the Beginner, Junior, and Intermediate tests, so the owners can proudly display their ribbons and certificates to mark their accomplishments. Another way to work with a dog in the field if you are not a hunter is an individual activity that I dub "non-hunting. Essentially, the dog is trained to carry out hunting tasks, but the training occurs without anything actually being shot.

Sporting dogs can be trained to find, point, and retrieve dummies in the backyard. By investing in some equipment, such as dummy launchers or remote bird releasers, the handler can extend the distance and incorporate other tasks such as flushing and steadiness under simulated field conditions.

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The pinnacle of non-hunting is to don camouflage or upland hunting garb and take a dog into an area where it would be likely to encounter game. The handler encourages the dog to perform all of the tasks appropriate to its breed and the conditions, but uses reinforcers other than actual prey to reward the dog. Pointers can hunt bird fields for pheasants, hold steady on point, and be rewarded with a treat or a retrieving dummy. Spaniels can flush a bird and chase a "happy bumper. The "non-hunter" can carry a gun or not, as best suits his or her style and values, and can load the gun with blanks, or "poppers," rather than shot.

It may seem silly to hunters, but the experience of taking a sporting dog into the field or marsh at sunrise and collaborating on a challenging task is not to be missed. And, the dog is very likely to be happier and better behaved as a result. Starting out in field sports is much easier now that there are positive alternatives for training. The first steps are to work on basic obedience, especially heeling, stay with distractions, and recalls. Next, there are some specific gun dog skills that can be taught with a clicker or reward marker , by capturing, shaping, and luring.

Susan Smith, Mary Emmen, and I recently published Positive Gun Dogs: Clicker Training for Sporting Breeds , which includes comprehensive sections on learning theory, obedience tasks, record keeping, retrieving, and upland hunting. There are two Yahoo Group online discussion lists related to the book and clicker training principles in general: clicker gundog and PositiveGunDogs. Both are active lists. Training for field sports will provide endless opportunities to engage your dog's skills and talents.

Any one of the following tasks would be a good starting point:. Why bother with all of this training? There are three simple reasons: It's fun, the teamwork that field sports requires deepens the bond between dog and handler, and it's a great way to help resolve those knotty behavior problems that result from lack of exercise, boredom, and inappropriate attention. Try it—you, and especially your dog, will love it! Jim conducts private and group field training programs using positive methods. His website is www. Very exciting to learn that there is a positive training alternative for field sports!

It's great to know that we can teach our puppy field sports as a " clicker -ed" extension of his current training! Now i am really excited to learn more about this method of training. Sign up for our newsletters and get articles, new products, events, and exclusive deals sent directly to your inbox!

Have Questions? Toby and Jim work on "non-hunting" skills. About the author. Post new comment Subject:. Glossary terms will be automatically marked with links to their descriptions. If there are certain phrases or sections of text that should be excluded from glossary marking and linking, use the special markup, [no-glossary]