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Any working Springer worth its salt should be born with two great desires: firstly, to hunt for game and secondly, to pick up or retrieve things in general - and game in particular.

To shoot the game that a young Spaniel is chasing and to allow the dog to retrieve it is a tremendous reward for chasing. I shouldn’t think there is a better way of reinforcing the natural inclination to chase than to do this. One of the benefits of shooting game that is being chased is that when the young dog flushes a bird, he soon learns not to take his eye off the bird, which helps makes for good marking. As marking is such an important part of North American trials, this seems to be at least partly why birds are shot for young dogs before steadying to flush and shot. The problem is steadying the dog once it is taught and highly rewarded to be unsteady. Steadying a young dog at this stage can be very confusing to the dog, especially if the trainer is inexperienced. I don’t believe it is necessary to use this method to have an outstanding marking dog. Some dogs are naturally talented markers no matter what method of steadying is used; others can have this talent developed after having been steadied first.

Another of the first dogs I steadied at Saighton kennels was FTCH Saighton’s Stat. At first, when given the command to hup, he would run back to me and sit by my side. It was not until after he was having game that he flushed shot, that he started to sit at the point of flush and watch where the game he flushed went. Before that, he never followed where game went. He boldly flushed and upon hearing the hup command, immediately ran back to me and sat down without having a clue if what he flushed had been shot or where it went. He quickly learned to watch game after the flush and to sit at the point of flush. He soon became an excellent marker and went on to win something like eight open stakes and placed in the U.S. Open Championship during his trial career in the USA.
Early steadying to a dummy

I believe that in order to have an excellent marking dog, it is far more important to have a dog with an intense desire to find and retrieve game - rather than whether or not the dog’s early experience is retrieving game that is shot while chasing.

One of the first adjustments I made handling dogs at Presaddfed was to wait much longer to send a dog on a retrieve than I did while training in the USA. One sometimes gets the impression watching Spaniels worked in North America that steadiness after a flush is on a knife-edge. Dogs are sent so quickly after a fall it appears that if they are not sent quickly, they will go on their own. I know some of the reasoning behind this is so the dog does not loose its concentration on the fall. But unless guarded against, can lead to the dog to anticipating being sent - leading to breaking. In the U.K., Spaniels do seem to have a more measured attitude towards steadiness. In the U.K., Spaniels learn to accept that flushing does not necessarily lead to a retrieve.

On beating days, dogs may get numerous flushes with no retrieves following the flush. While beating, it is most important that a dog does not break. There could be literally hundreds of pheasants moving in front of the beating

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