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It is a major mistake for a trainer to give a command and for a handler not to see that the command is obeyed. If the handler is not bothered that the dog follows a command whenever given, why should the dog be bothered to obey commands whenever he hears one given? It is a mistake I have seen more than one handler make over years of observation. So even in relaxed situations if you ask your dog to do something make sure he does it or else you may soon have a dog that seems to be hard of hearing and willful when, in fact, you, the handler, have taught the dog he does not have to respond to commands.

As with all other aspects of dog training, timing is of utmost importance - in teaching steadiness perhaps even more so. For this reason, the ability to read when a dog is about to flush game is also important so that the flush does not catch the handler unaware. A dog that is given the hup command after it has chased for ten yards is not going to easily learn he is supposed hup at the point of flush. If the command is given just before the flush, the dog may wonder if he is supposed to flush at all. If sometimes he hears the command before he flushes and sometimes a while after he flushes, he will not associate hupping with the act of flushing, very easily. The more precisely timed the handler gives the hup command to correspond to the moment of the flush, the quicker a young dog will learn to hup at the moment of the flush.

As a rule, I found the Saighton dogs of a very trainable nature. Although there were the occasional exceptions, for the most part training did not usually involve great battles of will. My training equipment was basic and simple: a whistle, a few dummies, slip lead, a small gun, and a shotgun. During my best years at Presaddfed, training on a variety of natural game on a variety of terrain and cover would have been the envy of many spaniel trainers. I certainly found the steadying process relatively easy and straightforward by steadying to flush before shooting any game for the young dog to retrieve. This method occasionally produced a reliably steady spaniel so easily that I hardly felt I had anything to do with the steadying process. Good marking probably took a little longer to develop than in North America, but the clever dogs could become quite resourceful at finding retrieves.

Anyone training a spaniel as a working gundog will find steadying their dog to flush and gun before shooting game for the dog a very sensible method to follow to produce a reliably steady working dog. I also feel this method has a lot to say for the novice trial trainer. To teach a dog to be unsteady to shot and fall - and then try to completely reverse this can be confusing for a young dog, especially when the handler is an inexperienced trainer. I think most novices would find the steadying process less problematic if they do not shoot birds for their dog before steadying to flush and shot.

Today, the electric collar is in much wider use than when I was training the Saighton dogs. In those days, the collar was a pretty crude training tool. It would have been too brutal for nearly all of the young dogs I was training, then. Today, the collar has been refined and improved so that it clearly is a generally useful training tool, which can produce great results when used intelligently. No doubt it can also be most helpful in steadying dogs. I always felt a significant part of the essence of a truly outstanding working spaniel, besides a tremendous desire and ability to find game, was a dog that is easy to train with a great willingness to please. Often I felt the main work involved in producing an outstanding working spaniel was the time taken to give the dog the experience it needed to bring out its inbred natural talent and working intelligence. The actual "training" was easy and straightforward. It seemed a minor part of the total development. Hopefully, the widespread use of the electric collar will not reduce the importance of "natural trainability" in the modern spaniel, so often found in great spaniels of the past.

John with the Saighton dogs.

John DeMott was brought from America, in 1975, to Talbot Radcliff's famed Saighton Kennel of Wales to train English Springer Spaniels for US and Canadian field trials. Previously, John had trained, handled, and titled springers in the US - as well as judged some field trials. Over the years, he bred and trained some of the most influential spaniels to reach American shores. Many of the American field champions and great hunting dogs are descended from the Saighton bloodline.

Although retired from training spaniels, John still resides in Wales.

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