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line. A dog chasing after a flushed bird could go on to produce a mass flush that would mean a ruined drive. The handler of such a dog would not only suffer the wrath of the gamekeeper in charge, but may also be told not to bring the misbehaved dog to the shoot again. Most shoots will have a separate team of dogs standing with the guns whose only job is to pick up birds shot by the guns. The beating dog’s only job is to flush game to the forward guns.

At Presaddfed, we did it a bit differently in that we picked up with the dogs we used for beating. Although the dogs got to flush and retrieve many birds, the retrieving and flushing were virtually two different things and marking was not involved at all - unless a dog was used for duck flighting or "walking up" rough shooting. "Dogging in", where the spaniel is used to flush wandering pheasants back to the covers where they belong, can give a spaniel a lot of flushing where no shooting is involved at all. It is all ideal for teaching steadiness to flush, but marking skills have to be developed in other ways. Dogs under U.K. conditions simply do not get the opportunity to mark as often as spaniels under North American trial conditions. In U.K. trials, it is not uncommon for a dog to be required to make a blind retrieve. Although dogs should mark retrieves where possible, sometimes circumstances do not allow this, so handling to retrieves is not frowned upon in the same way that it is in North American trials. In fact, sometimes in a trial a dog may be asked to retrieve game that it didn’t even flush. All in all, Spaniels working in the U.K. have more of an understanding when they flush game, it does not necessarily follow that they will get a retrieve. It does tend to give them a less frantic attitude towards steadiness to flushed game.
John with Saighton puppies

A good policy for dogs being used as gundogs is to pick up game yourself, if you can easily do so. Only use your dog for retrieves you would find difficult to make yourself. If a dog learns to assume every bird shot is for him to retrieve, there is the risk that he will not bother waiting to be sent and steadiness is lost. Also, if you are confident the game has been killed and will not be running, let your dog sit for 20 or 30 seconds, if circumstances allow. With trial dogs, it is also important not to allow anticipation of the retrieve. In training, a balance needs to be maintained between sharp marking and not anticipating being sent for retrieves - through holding the dog longer and not sending for all retrieves.

My first aim with a young spaniel was to develop their natural instincts to hunt and retrieve before any type of formal training was attempted. I always felt without these natural instincts developed there was no foundation to train from. More or less as soon as the puppy’s eyesight was good enough to follow an object, I would start them doing the simplest of retrieves - giving only a couple of retrieves at any one time. I found tennis balls a good object to start with. I started whistling the puppies at feeding times as soon as

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