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Some Thoughts on Steadying Spaniels to Flush and Gun
by John DeMott
- Photos courtesy of the Author

Begining to steady to a thrown dummy

During my entire experience of training spaniels in the USA during the 60ís and 70ís, I always let my dogs chase and retrieve shot pigeons before any attempt was made to steady the dog to flush and fall. I never recall ever seeing a young spaniel trained any differently from this - and I saw quite a number of spaniels trained and steadied by a number of trainers. Letting a young spaniel flush a bird, chase it, and shooting the bird while the youngster is chasing has been a standard practise in North America for as long as I know.

During my fourteen years of training the Saighton dogs, I always taught steadiness before shooting any game for the young prospect. Traditionally, in the U.K., dogs are not allowed to retrieve shot game until they are steadied. I should think if one suggested to a spaniel trainer in the U.K. that he should shoot birds for a young spaniel while he was chasing, the trainer would think one was completely insane.

Certainly many of the most successful trial spaniels in North America have been steadied by the U.K. method, and many have been steadied by the American method. Trial and working conditions in the U.K. are much different from those in North America. It would probably be more difficult to adapt the American method to U.K conditions with good results than to adapt the U.K method to American conditions. It has been shown that either path to steadiness can ultimately produce outstanding working and trial Spaniels in North America.

"These dogs were never rewarded for chasing game by giving them a retrieve at the end of the chase."

I do not intend to write a detailed step-by-step instruction on how to steady and introduce to the gun a young spaniel, as many articles already have given a most satisfactory basis for this. What I would like to do is relate some of the things I observed when changing from training spaniels by American methods with planted birds - to training in the U.K., completely on natural game. I am sure that some of the things I learned training the Saighton dogs can easily be adapted to planted game methods.

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