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reviews by Bill Fawcett

Hup! Training Flushing Spaniels the American Way
by James B. Spencer
- second edition


A frequent complaint among spanielers has been about the recent unavailability of Hup! One of my breeder friends has always included a copy of Hup! with every puppy purchased (something that James Spencer would surely like to see). Why the interest?

Well, Hup! is a well written guide to the basics of spanieldom. It is one thing to understand how to train, it is yet another thing to know how to write about it in a manner that can be understood. Spencer apparently has had practice doing both. In fact, Spencer has written seven books and over 500 magazine articles. Originally published in 1992, and out of print for several years, Hup! has been updated by the author and republished in paperback.

"Since working American Cockers are so few and non-working Cockers so plentiful, if you hanker for one of these hardy little hustlers as a hunting buddy, you should select a breeder with consummate care."
- James B. Spencer in Hup!

The book is divided into three sections: Acquiring, Training and Enjoying your spaniel. In the first section, Spencer devotes a chapter to each breed of flushing spaniel. The chapters present a short summary of the hunting characteristics of each breed, and does so in a positive manner. A major revision to the book concerns the presentation of the field-bred American Cocker. Apparently Spencer caught all sorts off grief from his chapter on the American Cocker in the first edition; he now conceeds that there is a small group of American Cocker enthusiasts of the hunting persuasion.

Spencer does a good job explaining the differences between show-bred and field-bred English Springer Spaniels, without being offensive. This, of course, is essential information for any prospective buyer who must understand that they are "two breeds". Spencer says "choosing between them is like choosing between any other two breeds."

The real meat of the book is contained in the second section, which concerns training. The book is subtitled "Training Flushing Spaniels the American Way." Spencer explains the difference between the American and British methods: "We can train with planted birds. Thus we can set up artificial training situations to accomplish certain specific goals. Most importantly, we can use clip-winged birds that our dogs can catch on the ground. That encourages a "hard" fly-or-die flush that eliminates the bird's option to run."

"Sometime in the early 1950's, retriever trainers discovered that force-breaking had fringe benefits which helped even dogs with natural retrieving instincts: reliable delivery to hand, smooth between-birds handling in multiple marks, and a framework for curing hardmouth and stickiness. Since then most retriever trainers have routinely force-broken all of their dogs."
- James B. Spencer in Hup!

Roughly a quarter of the book is devoted to the spaniel basics. Spencer presents the information in a clear, concise manner, using techniques that are fairly standard. The book does not address the use of the e-collar. Says Spencer: "This book explains how to train a spaniel to the Master Hunter level without one."

Once past the basics, Spencer gets into steadying and retrieving. One chapter, "Force-Breaking--Gently", contains instructions for force-breaking that is especially adapted to spaniels. Spencer, like so many others, recommends force-breaking

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