Tell the average American hunter that you hunt with a flushing spaniel and it’s five to one his response will be something like this: “Gee, I envy you. I’ve always wanted to shoot over a springer.” Many use “springer” as a synonym for “flushing spaniel.” Springer means English Springer Spaniel to almost everyone who doesn’t own a Welshie. And while Springers do seem to dominate the field, there are several other flushing spaniel breeds that are still used as hunting dogs.
The English Spring Spaniel dominates field sports for flushing spaniels. Funny thing is, this appears to be two breeds, not one, for the breed has been split into two types: one for field and the other for show. Springers bubble with energy, the field-breds more so than the show-breds. A typical Springer may have a favorite person, but it is not a one-person dog. Anyone who can train a dog can train a Springer. They’re bright and want desperately to please. Field-bred Springers mature rapidly and normally demonstrate birdiness quite early.
The Welsh Springer Spaniel is attractive in a workaday manner. His movements are efficient rather than flashy. His size varies. Devoted to his family, and especially to the one special person he considers mistress or master, he is reserved with strangers. A good watchdog, he may become a problem barker if not properly trained early in life. Mentally, Welshies mature rather slowly, but require training fairly early in life. Most require a light touch and plenty of praise and encouragement. The Welshie hunts diligently, with laid-back determination. They are easy to train and handle and can hunt all day at the pace they set.
The English Cocker Spaniel breed also has both field and show types. They make excellent pets as well as hunting dogs. Good family dogs. Good house dogs. They mature early and learn what you want them to do afield without training. They work tight cover better than the English Springer. Most of them love water and have breathtaking entries. The English Cocker seems to have a better nose than the Springer. It also has amazing stamina. If you’re a hunter seeking an English Cocker, just search the pedigree for field titles (FC, AFC and Dual Ch) preceding the dog’s name, and hunting test titles ( JH, SH, MH) which follow the name.
The working American Cocker is, and has always been, a jack-of-all-trades hunter whose strongest suit is upland gamebirds, especially in small patches of particularly nasty cover. Like all flushing dogs they tend to point unless allowed to catch plenty of clip-wing birds in training. Field-breds have a sport coat, short and smooth with modest feathering. They are friendly with everyone, bright, attentive and eager to please. Working American Cockers are few and non-working or show Cockers are plentiful. So if you hanker for one of these handy little hustlers as a hunting buddy, you should select a breeder with consummate care. There are a few groups that still breed the old-style hunting American Cocker, such as the Great Lakes American Cocker Spaniel Hunting Enthusiasts (www.glacshe.com).
To be continued.
Excerpt from Hup! Training Flushing Spaniels the American Way by James B. Spencer.