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Bill Fawcett Reviews
Professional Gundog Training: The Trade Secrets by Joe Irving

This is quite an interesting book, and I'm not yet sure what to make of it. Joe Irving is quite good at teaching structured training, and has done so with his book, Gundogs: Their Learning Chain. As such, he developed "The 'Macsiccar' Training Plan" back in the 70's. (Macsiccar being his kennel prefix). Irving lives in southwest Scotland, and his techniques are a reflection of the UK trial scene and training with rabbits.

This book attempts to explain his training plan, but does so in an unusual format. After briefly presenting the element of his training plan with two pages of text and a two-page grid showing the pups age along with the tasks the pup should be working on, he then discusses each of those tasks in a separate section (this would be real neat in an HTML format with hyper-links).

Chapters 1 (A) through 24 (Z) then contain sections on each task alphabetically. And that's it for the book.

"Game Sense:
This is an aptitude born from the individual dog's accumulated experiences in the shooting field and makes its presence known in a variety of ways. It usually begins to manifest itself during the dog's second or third season. As it is an acquired sense it cannot be taught. I have noticed that in some cases depending on each individual dog's experience, an almost uncanny expertise in game sense coupled with a level of adroitness, far beyond anything taught by me, was displayed in the dog."

I think that it makes for some interesting pick up reading - a bit here and a bit there - but would totally befuddle the novice. Perhaps one of his other books should be suggested as a companion.

Irving is now retired from the gun dog world, and I suspect this is his last hurrah. I'm glad he put down his thoughts on training tasks and problems "A to Z". Because his many years as a professional trainer taught him all the tricks... tricks he used and tricks used by others. And within the chapters are also sections on other aspects of gun-doggery: breeding, buying, trialing, and husbandry.

Irving is a story-teller and almost every topic is laced with anecdotes gleaned from his many years of training and trialing. This books makes for some interesting casual reading and especially so to the intermediate or advanced spaniel enthusiast.

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Professional Gundog Training: The Trade Secrets
Copyright © 2006 Joe Irving
Swan Hill Press, an imprint of Quiller Publishing Ltd - UK
Stackpole Books - US

ISBN 0-8117-0224-3

Bill Fawcett resides in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with his wife, Cindy, and his Smythwicks Springers: Jenna, Beebe, Chip and Dottie. He is a hunter, field trialer, breeder and member of the M-AHSC and the ESSFTA. He maintains a public FB ESS pedigree database at

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Spaniel Journal - your source for flushing spaniel training, hunt test, field trial & hunting information