Provided by the Hunting Committee of the ESSFTA
Each instructor will give a 10-15 minute talk in front of all participants after the welcome. Following the talks and some brief discussion, CENTERS OF INSTRUCTION will be set up in the field so that each instructor has plenty of room to demonstrate their assigned subject matter with a "polished" dog. Spectators and their dogs will be in each Center of Instruction to observe as well as participate.
It is the basic responsibility of the instructor to determine that participants in their center are at the proper center for the training level of their dog. This means that an owner with a 6-month-old puppy waiting to run the pup in the "steadying" center is, obviously, not ready for this level. The instructor must be astutely aware of the level of each dog participating in their center and each participant should be questioned by the instructor as to the suitability of each dog at the particular center and gently steer the individual to the correct center of instruction.
Bird husbandry will cover the care of birds before being presented in the field. How to ensure good strong fliers. How to keep birds fresh in the field before planting. How to plant the birds and why. Proper care of birds after being dispatched in the field. Bird husbandry will inter-relate to other areas, both in the classroom and in the field.
Gun safety will cover the basic elements of field safety - how a gunner carries the gun, when to open and close the breach, when to load and unload. How to determine a safe shot with reference to the dog's safety and the safety of the gallery and bird planters. How to move "quickly" and safely when following a dog. The full range of hunter safety, ethics and gunning at training sessions, Hunt Tests, and Field Trials.
SCENTING & INTRODUCTION TO BIRDS
The key to a hunting dog's success is in the ability of the dog to find birds once the hunter has the dog in the correct habitat. The vital link is to be sure that the dog is introduced to birds so that the dog learns what he is looking for. Proper introduction of scent by the trainer will teach the dog what to focus on.
The purpose of a hunting spaniel is to find and flush birds into the air. Once the scent of a bird is detected by a dog, the bird is apt to begin its defensive measures. Because most game birds' predators attack from above, a bird's first reaction is to run. While the bird is running, scent will swirl, raise, lower and/or become entrapped in surrounding vegetation. It is the dog who has to sort this out to produce the flush. Training the dog to respond to these scents is what trailing involves.
As a bird is flushed, it is vital that a shot can be made which does not endanger the dog. Thus, the dog is commanded to sit and stay as the bird is flushed. If the shot is successful, then the retrieve can be made. If the bird is missed, the dog should NOT give chase. In its doctrine of hot pursuit on a running bird, a dog is apt to outrun his gun. At this point the dog must be stopped, giving the hunter a chance to safely bring the dog back into gun range (steady to wing and shot).
The entire purpose of pattern is to cover designated areas to pick up the scent of birds. There is no single way that this pattern can be defined because a questing spaniel will make use of wind and terrain to determine the most efficient method where the bird is and get it in the air.
HANDLING AND INTRODUCTION TO YARD WORK
This subject will form the foundation of all field work for your dog. It is vital to learn the basics with a positive attitude and to perform these tasks with your dog enthusiastically and with fun. This will set the stage for all of your training work.
Photos taken by Sue Meyer and provided by Ron & Bev Haag. The two-day AKC Spaniel Hunting Test Seminar for Judges & Handlers, was co-sponsored by the Wisconsin English Springer Spaniel Association (WESSA) and the West Allis Training Kennel Club (WATKC), April 19-20 1997.