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reviews by Bill Fawcett

Working Springers and Cockers
by Mike Smith

Working Springers and Cockers

I like this book.

That's the short review, but perhaps you would like to know more. Mike Smith originally published this book in 1998. This extremely ambitious project went to a second printing recently and is once more available. If you are serious about your Spaniel library it should be on your bookshelf. Hmmm... something to do with that Christmas Money!

Smith has been involved with Spaniels since 1970, as a hunter, trialer and judge. Not missing any of the picture, he also has an interest in the background and pedigrees of our Spaniels.

Perhaps this book is best described as three books in one. The first section is written as a training manual. The second section looks at the personalities of the UK field trial world. The third section is a pedigree gold mine.

Training Manual

Naturally the book looks at training from a British perspective. It contains methods that you might never be able to duplicate (you do have a 2 acre rabbit pen, don't you?). However, I found it very refreshing, as techniques in American books seem always to be borrowed from other American books; many borrowed from pointing breed techniques or retrievers. Most of the techniques in this book are pure spaniel techniques, tried and proven over many years. However, Smith does not seem to be closed to other ideas. He even has a chapter on "Bench work for poor/non-retrievers."

I think this book offers the best discussion I have ever seen on "Linking Commands", something that Spaniels, with their ever-active mind, seem prone to do. Linking can create problems, but also can be exploited by doing a series of tasks repetitively. It's an important concept to understand.

What is most enjoyable about the training section is the depth of explanation that is given. Whereas some manuals might discuss a topic for a paragraph or two, these same topics are given an entire chapter in this book. In fact, there is a chapter on "Stopping Instantaneously to Command," another on "Stopping to the Thrown Dummy" and yet another entitled "Stopping to the gun." Wait- one more: "Stopping to Game." Altogether 36 rather-densely typeset pages on this topic.

There are similarities and differences in the methods used for Cockers vs. Springers. The book does an excellent job explaining both, and certainly fills a need for Cocker training material. One does not feel that either breed is being slighted in the book.

Smith does note that Springers today seem to be "softer" than in days gone by. These soft dogs require a "long time to mature mentally " and an "inordinate amount of contact with game," according to Smith. He states that he is not "for one moment an advocate of an extremely hard dog that understands the most brutal of treatment," yet he does "like them to have some devilment about them that fully challenges" his skills.

Two Sides of the Atlantic

Before digesting this book you should understand the target audience. The book is about training Spaniels in the British way. You will not find any chapters on building a bold flush, nor will you find information on the use of clip-

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