Bill Fawcett Reviews
Gundog Sense and Sensibility by Wilson Stephens
"If we analyse the inner reason why we do what we do
in training a dog, we have much more change of
correctly solving the problem of how to do it."
This book was originally published in 1982 by Wilson
Stephens, a longtime contributor to The Field. In
fact, the basis of this book was from articles in that
Getting into a dogs mind is always an entertaining
subject. At breakfast this morning, Cindy and I were
discussing how differently I would raise children if
we had to do it all over again. Iím not sure the
welfare people would appreciate me picking them up by
the ears and telling them to "hup!"
"In a well-trained young dog still gaining experience,
gun sense (which is an acquired skill - feeds upon game
sense (which is largely inherited). Beginning from the
realisation that the best place for pheasant is in the
air, and for a rabbit on open ground, there comes an
awareness that the gun must also be given its best
possible chance. In this respect Ďworking to the guní
is no mere picturesque phrase."
But Wilson brings out the differences between dog and
human behaviour. He ranks the effect of the five
senses on a dogís mind. "At commencement of training
they rank in descending order of importance as
follows, Hearing, Smell, Sight, Touch, Taste."
I thought Wilsonís observation on the use of hands (we
"handle" our dogs) to be most enlightening. Says
Wilson: "A crisp clap on the muscles of the neck, firm
enough to give it a healthy sound, has the opposite
effect - cocked ears, eyes turned towards a visitor
worth knowing the blown nostrils that indicate
pleasure. So with a dog, it is the touch of hands that
proclaim themselves competent by their firmness, which
makes a dog feel in better company."
"A quick dog is likely to be a keen dog, the kind of
dog which turns on a sixpence at a single whistle pip.
And a dog which reacts instantly to a single whistle
pip will do likewise to a single touch of scent,
making something of a clue which a more solid dog
might fail to exploit."
Finally, as the owner of two turbo-charged springers,
I found the chapter on The Paradox of Speed to be
quite relevant to my situation. Itís also interesting
fodder for those who are called to judge AKC hunt
tests, where varied spaniel breeds are considered.
This is a well written book; something that is not
always the case with dog training literature. Although
targeted at all gundog breeds, it seems to have an
emphasis on English springers. It is most suitable for
the advanced trainer, as it covers the workings of the
dogís mind more than actual training routines.
Order your copy of this book from:
Spaniel Journal Bookstore
Gundog Sense and Sensibility
Copyright © 1982 Wilson Stephens
2001 edition, Swan Hill Press, an imprint of Airlife Publishing Ltd - UK
Bill Fawcett resides in the Shenandoah Valley of
Virginia with his wife, Cindy, and his Smythwicks
Springers: Jenna, Beebe, Chip and Dottie. He is a
hunter, field trialer, breeder and member of the
the ESSFTA. He maintains a public FB ESS
pedigree database at smythwicks.org.