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Gundogs; Training and Field Trials by P.R.A. Moxon, 16th Editon

First published in 1952, this sixteenth edition was published in 1996 and is in its fifth printing. Obviously the demand for this classic has not slackened. Moxon is to be commended for the longevity of this book - equaled by few.

Moxon's appeal, in part, has to do with his underlying theme of humane treatment of the dogs. Of course, a book advocating cruel treatment would never have such longevity. And so, Moxon takes great pains to dispel the need for 'breaking' a dog. Granted, back in 1952, he was undoubtedly marching to a different drummer.

This book also combines practical care and feeding advice, and as such has required constant revision, as the state of veterinary science has advanced. This is part of the appeal of such a book: a comprehensive manual for the novice, but it brings with it the requirement of constant revision. With Moxon's passing, I wonder if this task will be attempted by an editor?

Interestingly, one section talks of a raw meat diet (paunches) whereas another has been updated and speaks well of kibble.


Most training books lean one way or the other - too general or too specific. This book is hard to categorize. On one hand, because the book addresses both flushing and pointing breeds - as well as retrievers, it is rather general. On the other hand, Moxon's observations of the field trial scene is specific and quite interesting. All in all, the tone of the book leads one to think that spaniels held a special place in his heart. To quote Moxon, "Of all branches of gundog work I think I like spaniel training best."

"It was just one of those things that illustrates the truth that trails are largely a matter of luck."

Make no mistake about it, the book is about the UK shooting scene. If you are curious about "picking up at shoots", ferreting, and rabbit pens, this is a good resource. The appendix to the book even includes the 1995 Kennel Club Field Trial Regulations and Guide to Conduct of Field Trials, as well as a listing of (UK) Field Trial Societies.

Target Audience

This book has long been considered a good introduction to the sport in the UK, perhaps held in the same esteem as Jim Spencer's HUP! in the United States. Hence, its longevity. Because it covers pointers and retrievers as well as spaniels, it perhaps is aimed at those who have not even decided which breed suits them best.

As a caution to the novice, at least here in the States, the whistle sequences in the book are not the same as employed by most American trialers. If you are even considering trialing in the states, you should use the locally standard commands so that your dog could easily adapt to a pro trainer should that be required and so that the judges don't think your dog is mishandling commands.

Training Methods

Moxon's spaniel training methods are fairly typical and time-tested. They do not seem to clash with a lot of methods in the manner that Joe Irving's or Bill Tarrant's seem to do. Be aware that the book does not present a good sequential methodology in the manner of Spencer, or more recently, Roettger and Schleider's books do.

"Some men contend that it is the dogs which should be judged, not the handlers, but I do not see how one can really separate the two. The aim of a Trial is to find the best dogs and the best handlers, and though the dog is the main consideration handling cannot be entirely ignored."

Trials and Training

Where this book really shines is when Moxon makes personal observations about the nature of field trails. Although there are many differences between field trails in the UK and the US, the basic nature of these competitive events remains the same everywhere. And Moxon seems to bring a good attitude, brought on no doubt by his many years of experience in the game. He offers good advice on nerves, judging, and some of the tricks that handlers try to play on judges. His chapter on the Business of a training kennel is also very insightful, offering advice to those considering the services of a pro.

I find it very interesting that some of the trial issues discussed by Moxon, such as handling on runners, or moving up with the judge on a retrieve, are issues that I've discussed in the last few weeks with others. It is the timelessness of Moxon's advice which had kept the book going for sixteen editions.

Copies of this book are available from:
Spaniel Journal Bookstore

Gundogs; Training and Field Trials
by P.R.A. Moxon
Copyright © 1996, 16th Edition
Swan Hill Press
Shrewsbury, England
ISBN 1 85310 585 6

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

In his other life, he is an electronics manager for the Commonwealth of Virginia and has been active in the field of radio communications for over thirty years. He is anxiously awaiting retirement so that he can play with dogs full time and leave those stupid radios behind.

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