Spaniel Journal

"Like all good spaniels, the AWS is as interested in hunting fur as it is feather."

dog the ability to find, flush, and retrieve the game really helps the dog to focus on its instincts and fine tune those wonderful qualities.

As an upland dog I think that the American Water Spaniel more closely exhibits the attributes of an English Springer Spaniel (ESS) having more flash and dash than a show bred dog but not quite the intensity of the field bred. It quarters through the field or wood in the deliberate manner necessary to produce game for the gun. Its nose is second to none and the more experienced dogs will often identify game well away from its resting place. For this reason having an AWS that can be controlled in the field is a big help to the weekend warrior because the uncontrolled dog is going to put game up well out ahead of the gun and cause a great deal of frustration for dog and hunter alike. While the breed is a flushing dog it does not normally flush in the hard manner ascribed to by ESS field trial enthusiasts. In most cases, the AWS has a soft flush that some have described as a flash point. I have heard many bemoan this tendency and I must say that I am not happy with it either, however, I do not often see this exhibited on wild birds. Perhaps that is because the wild birds are smart enough to get moving rather than hang around like the planted birds used in training sessions or found at the shooting preserves. Or perhaps it is the American Water Spaniel's ability to tell when it is hunting wild birds and when it is training or working on a shooting preserve. Regardless of the reason, the soft flush is something to try guarding against when training the AWS.

Like all good spaniels, the AWS is as interested in hunting fur as it is feather. Perhaps a little unlike many spaniels some in the breed have a tendency to 'give tongue' or bark as they chase a rabbit, woodchuck, or squirrel. Late last year I took in a four and a half year old AWS. In September of last year she showed that she had little field experience, would not retrieve a bumper, and had little interest in birds. I gave her six months to get her act together or she would be placed in a nice home as a companion pet. In March of this year, following months of nice easy training, I took her out to the field to flush up a couple of planted Hungarian partridge. She hit the field with great enthusiasm quartering nicely, responding to the whistle and demonstrating good use of nose. After flushing one bird, which I promptly missed, she turned to work back toward me and 'flushed' a rabbit. She chased the rabbit across my path and to my left giving me a clear open shot. The rabbit tumbled with the rapport of the gun and the dog slid through the rabbit as she put on the brakes to make the pickup. She snatched the rabbit up quickly in her mouth and brought it straight to me. I was beaming with delight, gave her a big thank-you and sent her on for the other bird which was flushed, shot, and retrieved a short while later. Needless to say she is not going to a pet home and, yes, I will be working on steadying her to flush and shot.

If there is an AWS characteristic that can cause a bit of dismay for the upland hunter it is the coat. The coat works well in protecting the breed from a variety of maladies in the field but it also works to aide one of those and that is the attraction of burrs. One former friend of mine used to always refer to the AWS as a 'burr magnet.' There is a bit of truth in that but I have never found the burrs that difficult to remove from the coat so I have never been overly concerned with the problem. There have been some occasions though when I wished I had a portable electric clipper with me so that I could shave that hair right off! Still I will take this thick curly-coat over a thin smooth coat any day; especially when cold water work is in order.

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