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Urban Gun Dogs: Training Flushing Dogs for Home and Field
by Tony Roettger and Chip Schleider

The title, to me, conjures up images of home-boy spaniels with baggy shorts and ball caps on backwards. Not exactly what the authors had in mind, I'm sure.

Tony Roettger is a professional trainer and breeder who hails from North Branch, Minnesota. Chip Schleider is and amateur trainer and hunt test enthusiast who lives in the Washington, D.C. area. Their unique relationship (Chip purchased his first spaniel from Tony) is perhaps the reason the book has done such a good job of covering the basics. For many pros, the basics are such a "given" that they are never even mentioned.

"This new breed of gun dog owners is characterized by its zest for the sporting life, love of their dogs, and absence of rural property". -Urban Gun Dogs

The premise of the book is that the scarcity of suitable land, coupled with a more urban lifestyle, has brought forth the need for a different approach to training. Aside from this unique premise, the book is interesting simply because it is the first comprehensive training manual for flushing dogs to be published in a good while. This, coupled with up-to-date commentary on the contemporary American field trial and hunt test scene, makes it an interested read for anyone.

Interested? Here is a chapter-by-chapter summary:

Chapter One: The Right Dog for Your Situation

The book starts out, as these books are prone to do, with a chapter on selecting your pup. Urban Gun Dog focuses in on the choice of breed and breeder. The authors suggest that you locate a good breeder/trainer, if possible, as the necessity of a mentor for the purchaser is part of their training regimen.

Information concerning various health checks and certifications is also presented.

Chapter Two: Where, When and How to Train in the City

The authors state: "One of the underlying assumptions of this book is that the urban flushing dog owner has extremely limited space and time in which to train his or her dog." Here we see the premise expanded to include the dimension of time as well as space. Within the space domain the authors introduce the concept of the location of training areas as "a series of concentric circle starting within your home and radiating outward in increasing distance measured in travel time (not actual distance) from your home." Obviously, in urban gun dog training, the home training areas is most critical.

Chapter Three: Essential Equipment for the Urban Trainers

Questions that are typical for the newcomer are answered in this chapter. The authors do lean heavily on checkcord training, as urban (and suburban) training drills take into account the inherent dangers of training near road or public places. Whistles, dummies and other training aids are also discussed.

Chapter Four: Obedience begins in the home

The Three H's: Hup, Here and Heel. Well, make that the Four H's, as they also discuss housebreaking. Basic retrieving drills are also discussed.

Chapter Five: The Basics: Moving from Indoor to Outdoor Training

Quartering, recall, and introduction to gunfire are discussed. Introduction to water and the "place" command. Also line steadying. Note that the drills do not eliminate the need for birds, but they are de-emphasized.

I was glad to see the "place" command, a drill borrowed from the non-slip retriever clan, and best explained by Pam Kadlec, in her book Retriever Training for Spaniels. This drill is not mentioned in more vintage training manuals but is gaining acceptance as a very useful tool for spaniel training.

Chapter Six: Advanced Urban Gun Dog Training

Baseball and cone drills, borrowing from Jim Spencer and others. I actually like the way this book works, bringing in some of these techniques that have gained wide-spread acceptance with spaniel folk.

Chapter Seven: The Professional: Asking for Help and Making it Worthwhile

The authors go to great lengths to explain that more often than not, it is the trainer (owner) that needs training. Therefore, what is important to the trainer is to get help from someone who can work with him.

Chapter Eight: Hunt Tests, Field Trails, and Handling for the Field

This chapter explains some of the nuances of the various AKC, NAHRA and UKC hunting tests as well as AKC field trails (or as I call them: "spaniel games"). The basic rules are discussed, as are some real-life scenarios. I enjoyed those especially because I know Chip's bitches Dixie and Arwen and have attended the venues, if not the actual events, under discussion. They are effective because the scenarios show the reader what they can actually expect if they decide to participate in Hunt Tests.

Some basic information about hunting with spaniels is also included.

Chapter Nine: Flushing Dogs and their Problems

Problems need to be addressed in training before they occur. Of course, with a novice, this is not always so easy to communicate; the novice trainer may not recognize that damage is occurring until it is too late.

"If you followed the approach we have outlines throughout this book, you will find that selecting the right dog at the outset combined with consistency, patience, reading your dog, not pressing a dog to move to another level before he is ready, praise, reward and a lot of unadulterated love goes a long way toward preventing problems in spaniels or retrievers." -Urban Gun Dogs

This chapter deals with retrieiving and delivery problems, hard mouth, marking, handling and quartering. Steadyness and fear of water are also addressed. Most ofthe problems can be avoided if training is done in a methodical manner, never rushing the results.

The use of the e-collar is briefly addressed, however the authors do not believe it should be used "as a primary method" for training of flushing dogs. They attribute the "new" phenomenon of soft flush to the "use of the e-collar in steadying to flush and shot." While I disagree (it may be attributed to the incorrect use of the e-collar), the point in mentioning this is to say that this is not a book that utilizes the e-collar in its program.

Chapter Ten: Concluding Thoughts and Parting Shots

I guess this would be a good time for me to list a few reactions and then take a parting shot or two, myself. I have been aware that Chip and Tony have been working on this book for perhaps a year or so; its publication has been eagerly awaited. I've seen some of Tony's writing in the spaniel press. My impression of Chip has been that he possess some good organizational and communications skill, and these have been used to great advantage by this writing team. It seems to work.

Sucessful trainers have long used certain techniques to sneak a training moment in whenever they can. Yards drills and schoolyard baseball drills are nothing new. Tony and Chip have taken some of these bits and pieces and presented them in a systematic regime that, I think, could have a profound effect on the next generation of trainers. Given a chance, it might even help some of us who are already stuck in our ways.

There are no earth-shattering techniques in this book, and really nothing new. The package is new; the concept of "limited space and time" is one that has never been presented as a complete program.

As mentioned before, it has been a good while since the publication of a good spaniel training manual. This boook will be helpful to its intended target audience, but also to any novice irrespective of venue.

Copies of this book are available from:
Spaniel Journal Bookstore

Bill Fawcett resides in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with his wife, Cindy, and his Springer, Jenna. He is a hunter, field trialer and member of the M-AHSC. He also maintains a public FB ESS pedigree database at

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