How do Spaniels hunt?

Spaniel breed specific questions. Kennel information requests, etc.

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How do Spaniels hunt?

Postby thunderchicken » Sat Apr 26, 2003 7:41 pm

As stated before I know little to nothing about Spaniels. I want to know how they hunt. Do they run head high searching for body scent or do they hunt like a hound with the head down searching for ground scent. Or perhaps they hunt like my GSP head high, but if she cuts hot ground scent she will put her head down and track the bird. How versatile are they?
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Postby Rick Hall » Sun Apr 27, 2003 7:50 am

My spaniel experience (all springer) is too limited to generalise from, but I'm guessing you're going to draw a "depends on the dog" response.

I seem to recall your expressing some interest in clumbers a while back, and I've subsiquently noticed a poster on www.shootingsportsman.com 's "Dogs and Hunting" board going by his/her's kennel name of "Butteview" and including clumbers among the breeds offered. Could be a lead to pursue, if you're so inclined.
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Postby thunderchicken » Sun Apr 27, 2003 4:18 pm

Thanks for the reply Rick, the Clumber was recommended for me to try. I'm sticking with my GSP for now, but I am very curious about the Spaniels.
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Postby Rick Hall » Mon Apr 28, 2003 7:54 am

TC - I'd pretty much gathered from your other posts that the Clumbers were a passing thought but wasn't certain.

Think you'll find that the spaniels can be great fun or a royal pain - just like pointing dogs. Surprise, surprise. I've been both much impressed by the sparkling performance of a couple impeccably mannered trial winning springers and driven to distraction by others whose handlers clamped whistles between their teeth as we got out of the truck and never quit tooting the dang things - as though their charges might suddenly decide to pay some attention to the racket.
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Postby Chuck » Mon Apr 28, 2003 10:16 am

TC,
I agree with Rick - that it will vary by dog. My Boykin keeps his head pretty high until he gets birdy - he tends to put his nose to the ground the hotter he gets. He has a natural desire to quarter in the field and has a very strong prey drive. What is your definition of versatile? My Boykin is a strong waterfowl retriever, will find/track/retrieve fur, blood trail deer and find/flush any type of bird I put him on. I personally have never used one dog to hunt more types of game so I feel spaniels can be very versatile.
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Postby thunderchicken » Mon Apr 28, 2003 2:38 pm

Chuck,

As far as versatility I am referring to adaptable to various birds, non slip retrieving, will produce a rabbit, and cold trail blood. I've got a brother that seems to like hitting deer a little high, makes for a long track job. So if I could have one cold track blood it would be nice, though not necessary. What spaniel breeds do you have experience with? I'm a pointer man, GWP and GSP. And one ES that lasted all of four weeks, that is another story for another day, but lets just say that a broke dog, should at least know its name, and respond to a whistle. With my mobility problems I'm thinking that a slower breed will be the ticket, and I am currently looking at one slowing my GSP down, replacing her with a Gordon or a Brittany, or maybe even a spaniel. Seems like they are more adaptable to non-slip retrieving than some of the other long tail breeds i.e. English, Gordon, and Irish Setters, also include Pointer in there.
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Postby Chuck » Tue Apr 29, 2003 3:12 pm

TC,

I’m not so sure your going to get an unbiased opinion from me or anyone else out here on the Internet. My grandfather had English pointers and Brittany’s that I hunted quail over as a youth. Back then we always referred to our Brittany's as spaniels and the ones he had were little balls of fire. As far as "spaniels" go - I've hunted over ESS and Boykin’s - currently have a Boykin. I wouldn't say the spaniels I've hunted over were slow but I feel they don't typically range as far as most of the pointing breeds. Only hunted quail and dove over ESS so I can’t speak to their adaptability on other birds/fur but in my experience I feel a Boykin can adapt to hunt just about anything. I would recommend finding someone who has spaniels and tagging along on a hunt/training session so you can see them work. Talk to some breeders – the good ones will want to place their dogs with the owner who’s lifestyle best fits the dog. I enjoy hunting over both pointers and flushers but in the end it comes down to personal preference. Good luck in your search.

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Postby stephen brown » Tue Apr 29, 2003 3:28 pm

TC,

My experiences are with ESS's and ECS's. I find that they run high head and test for ground scent. Once they find ground scent they'll keep there noses to the ground until they get close enough to pick up body scent and then the head comes up.

Versatility. I've hunted woodcock, pheasant , ruff grouse, turkey, cottontails, hares, squirrel, duck(blacks,wood,mallards,teal), and Can. goose. I've used them in duck blinds and pheasant tower shoots - nonslip stuff. They are flushing dogs, not hounds. They have a habit of sight chasing rabbits. And I've never trained one for trailing, but I understand they do well in the AKC tracking test.

Weaknesses. I don't think they are cold water dogs or water dogs, best to leave long waits in freezing cold and lots of water work to Chessies and Labs. However, you can use them is freezing cold if you're shooting the morning flight. They do a good job retrieving in small waters (or big waters if you're a patient shot). Warning some spaniels don't take to the water naturally.

Spaniel coats are burr magnetics!!!

Noise is always a problem hunting. As Rick has pointed out, some spaniel guys live with a whistle between their teeth. The Acme 210 1/2 is the offending noise maker of choice and should be tooted just loud enough that the dog can hear it. It's used to control the actions and range of the dog. (I've developed my jaw muscles such that I can carry a 210 1/2 between my teeth for hours. And you learn to drop the thing from you mouth before you shoot. Funny thing is the tooting doesn't bother the tooter.)
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Tooting

Postby slistoe » Wed Apr 30, 2003 2:13 am

I was hunting once in a public release area when a local ESS Club showed up for the day. I swear the club bought whistles by the box and shared them around. There were about 20 guys and almost as many dogs, and 100 whistle blasts per minute. I can't imagine any one of those dogs having any idea at all which one was meant for them :D I got quite a chuckle out of it anyway :wink: before I left them to their own devices.
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Postby stephen brown » Fri May 02, 2003 12:25 pm

20 people = 40 whistles. You carry a spare in case you bite through one. I don't think you could wear out a pealess whistle!?!?!?

A friend of mine doesn't use a whistle. He bells his three dogs with a different sounding bell when hunting pheasants. What a racket but he shoots a lot of birds. We hunt pretty thick places and the dogs are mostly working out of sight so we track them by sound. My hearing is pretty good and rarely bell my dogs.
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Postby thunderchicken » Fri May 02, 2003 12:42 pm

Why whistle so much. If you have to constantly do that with a pointing breeding it is considered "hacking". Won't the dogs just quarter on their own?

Also are these dogs mouths really dry or do they slobber alot when exercised. The only reason I ask is my neighbor has a Golden Retriever and the stupid thing slobbers so bad when playing fetch that the ball, dummy, whatever is soaked or slick from slobber within five minutes.
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Springers

Postby Shawn » Fri May 02, 2003 5:37 pm

To answer how Spaniels hunt, well they are expected to hunt very much like a bird dog, while questing they should move with a high head until they come upon scent. If conditions require (running bird) they should be capable of trailing they bird using foot scent, quickly tracking and producing the bird.

As for versatility they are IMHO unmatched, in regards to a previous posters comments I have never had any problems with Spaniels and water, all have been early and strong swimmers. I have seen Spaniels that did not appear to like water (very few) but then I've seen Labs and just about every major pointing breed refuse water as well. They are excellent markers, and strong retrievers. They will not handle as crisply as a retriever ( I lost my last Lab last April) but they will handle by whistle, Hand and voice. They are not the ultimate bid water / Frigid water dogs but with a good neoprene vest they are quite happy to perform cold water work. If I wanted to hunt ducks all the time then a retriever (Lab or Chessie) would be the choice but for most practical waterfowl situations they are adequate dogs. In the uplands they are superior to any retrievers I've ever hunted with.

Whistle problems, well nothing can be more annoying then listening to the non-stop Acme Thunder whistles of the Retriever trial/testers. When it comes to pointing dogs (in the past 4 years I've attended a fair number of trials) I have had the pleasure to hear lot's and lot's of loud whistles, loud singing and outright hollaring including Championship stakes so IMHO people who live in glass houses shouldn't though stones. I dare anyone to attend a springer trail and a pointing dog trial and tell me how much louder a Spaniel trial is, it simply ain't going to happen.

And the worst offenders are the Britt folks, betwen trials at Flarhety Fields, Hunt Test at Swift River they seem to enjoy whistles more then anyone. :twisted:

Sincerely

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Postby thunderchicken » Fri May 02, 2003 7:49 pm

Thanks to all who have replied I appreciate your candor. I have ordered James Spencer's book HUP, as well as Roebuck on spaniel training. I want to learn to more about what all goes on in training, hunting, etc. Keep posting your information I am enjoying learning about these breeds. I've always had the pointing dog is the only bird dog attitude, but thanks to alot of high strung dogs I'm starting to look for a dog that hunts with me and not alone.
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Postby Rick Hall » Sat May 03, 2003 8:41 am

Shawn, when you find me hunting with a whistle hanging from my lip, we'll talk about those glass houses.
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Postby stephen brown » Sat May 03, 2003 10:15 am

TC, hacking, noise, and whistles.

Pointers (generic) well they're supposed to point and not flush game. They aren't required to 'sweep' a field questing game but do go from objective to objective. They're an independed lot. Whistle usage is limited to changing a dogs hunting line and to recall.

Spaniels on the other hand are a very different animal. They don't point and if allowed to hunt from objective to objective they can and will cover lots of ground in a hurry. Most likely in a wavy line straight from the handler. Not a good thing if you like to shoot. So you have to spend some time teaching the dog to quarter within shooting range. So it makes sense to teach a dog to turn on 2 pips of a soft whistle. Shooting ranges varies. Forty yard cast (20 yards to each side of the handler) may be appropriate in open areas whereas twenty hard cast what appropriate for tight cover.

Hacking occurs when the dog is not responsive to the handler.

The first spaniel FT I attended had a couple of participants that we using Fox 40's and you could hear every ear drum splitting blast 30 yards to the rear in the gallery. The other handlers where pretty much silent because they where using Acme 210 1/2 whistles. The dogs where responded to their handlers but some handlers are not quiet.

The Acme 210 1/2 whistle is used so much is because it has the volume control to be used in close to medium ranges. You can give it a soft pip that will sound like a bird chirp, a shrill blast, or something in between. The Acme Thunderer (pea) and Fox 40 are more appropriate long range communications.

Rick,

Noisy handlers and nonresponsive dogs make a long day. It takes a bit of training to run a spaniel in stealth mode. Personally, I can't stand the sound of bells but don't mind the pip of a whistle. Don't think I could stand the constant beep of collar except when the there is a point.
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