What a Spaniel Should Be by Ben Martin
I was asked recently what are the characteristics I desire in a springer spaniel? I think first of all, I look for temperament. If the dog doesn't possess this, I'll probably never get along with him and it makes the training job much more difficult.
That is to say, you must first like the dog you are training or, at least, you must be able to get along with him or her. Some dogs, like people I suppose, have personality and some just don't. You cannot train this into a dog. If hunting is to be pleasurable, your hunting companion (the dog) must not be a source of any amount of aggravation.
"A dog's speed or lack of it is important but not the bottom line. I think hunting with desire, purpose and a dog that stays busy is the most desired characteristic."
Some examples of things that can really irritate me in my hunting dogs are:
- A hyper temperament or nervousness. This nervousness usually leads to other problems such as barking while waiting in a blind or other like situation. We even see this barking being tolerated to some degree in our field trials these days and, for once, I agree with the English trials where barking is not tolerated at all.
I heard a story of an English trial where the contestant came to the line and while the judge was giving his instructions to the contestant, the dog gave out a couple of barks. Without hesitation, but in the customary mannerly fashion of the English, the judge said to the contestant, "Thank you for coming," and excused him or disqualified him from the competition. I'm in agreement with this policy as I also believe this line barking or nevousness is hereditary. I've seen it passed to the offspring, so by tolerating this characteristic, we, in effect, perpetuate this in future spaniels.
- Some dogs just seem to want to please their master while others could care less if they hunt with you or hunt on their own. So, I usually look for people dogs--the ones that like to be around people; the ones that come up and want to be petted, as opposed in the ones that run recklessly about as young dogs and don't look to you for direction or affection.
- A handsome dog is nice to have but it really doesn't matter to me about the color or size of the dog (great performance is not determined by this) so don't get hung up on these things. We all have preference about size, color and markings, but ultimately performance and personality mean more.
- A dog's speed or lack of it is important but not the bottom line. I think hunting with desire, purpose and a dog that stays busy is the most desired characteristic.
These are just a few of the traits that I desire in a spaniel hunting companion, or, as I have stated before, the world's most versatile hunting dog.
So until next time, good hunting and good training and may God Bless You.
Ben Martin is a professional trainer and breeder of field bred English springer spaniels for over 40 years. He is the winner of four national championships in three different decades. Ben's Royal Kennels in Franklin, Ohio has whelped three national champions and he has titled approximately fifty field champions. He is a 2005 inductee into the Bird Dog Hall of Fame as well as is credited with many national placements and high point dogs.