We have a select few cocker spaniels. They are from fantastic lines that we purchased through a couple of the top cocker breeders and trainers in the world. They make excellent members of the family and are excellent hunting companions.
At Dublem we have been working with and training spaniels for 24 years. Our English Cocker Spaniels are "World Class" and you will be pleased with a puppy, started or trained cocker from Dublem Gundogs.
We have the opportunity to import an exemplary cocker bitch for someone interested in owning an impeccably bred and phenomenally trained cocker. She is just turning 2 years of age. If you have interest please contact me for details. If you live in the Omaha region and would like to enter the field trial game this is an opportunity and the price will be reduced based on agreements if desired. Serious inquires only.
Nice cocker pup males available through two associtiates. These will be awesome gundogs! They reside on the east coast and MN and are ready to go home. I am looking for a started dog client who wants me to train one up ready for fall. Let me know if you want a pup direct from them or started dog. Contact me via phone or email. ~ Bud Clouse
Below is an example of a young started dog.
Cockers are clearly to me the most underrated breed in the US. Their counterpart the American Cocker quite well known, quite different is what is visualized by the non-knowing. The English Cocker may be the best dog for the average american sportsman that exists today. Average is quickly changing as our population and lifestyles change... English Cocker Spaniels are compact and can adapt quite readily to city, suburbia or apartment living. They are durable and energetic enough for the active family with children. Finally, their hunt drive and ability is quite amazing.
In the UK the cocker is the mainstay of the beating corps. They are used in the densest of cover to root out burrowed in birds and rabbits. They are used in the harvest to find and put in the air bird after bird. They work with desire and diligence. Because of their abundance and popularity in the UK the availability of a well bred cocker in the UK exists. As with the springer spaniels there are some differences with the format of trials. And, for trial purposes a cocker in the UK works a bit different seeking to investigate every clump for a likely bird. That is ok there because in every clump there likely could be a bird. The populations are high because the pheasants are reared for harvest. In the US we are looking for diligence and coverage of ground using the wind. The pattern is opened up a bit. Our abundance of game is less and to put a bird in the bag we are looking to cover ground. In South Dakota and North Dakota where pheasant populations have high density in some areas cockers excel. The are able to work thick cover, in control and produce game with style for the handler.
At Dublem Gundogs our knowledge of cockers is based on a few short courses. First off, I spent a lot of time with Tom Ness and some time with Paul McGagh while living in ND. Also, training with Joe Daily in Minot and hunting with Tom Hartman. What was clear is these dogs are dynamite, trainable and love to work.
My next experience was watching cockers work on hunt and in trials in the UK. In the trials the cockers actually performed quite similar to our US format dogs as the trial was in woodlands and the dogs were working at a range that I thought was bold yet reasonable. They didn't delay to check thickets and clumps as there were few areas to investigate.
I have judged gunned several cocker trials and judged cocker trials. Both, very enjoyable.
My experience breeding and training cockers is limited to a few. They have trained much like springers using my current program. They do much better with positive training and once they get the idea and think it is their idea the dogs excel. The ones with natural talent are fairly easy as they sort the field work out fast...it is the obedience that needs to be done carefully and with a positive attitude. Our breeding program is limitted and our philosophy was simple purchase a couple great ones and get started. We were lucky enough to get one from Tom Ness and to import a great one from the UK. Plus, Chris Dart referred us to Mark Merci and Sabre...that produced some great pups and now dogs.
We will have 2 litters in spring 2011. If you desire a started cocker, let us know and we will start one to your specifications. Our desire is to train a few cockers for started dogs and field trial dogs every year out of our litters.
Below are extracts from the American Kennel Club, ESSFTA Parent Club and the Kennel Club (UK).
Kennel Club Rules
Dogs shall be required to quarter ground hunting for game and other quarry
species (hereafter game), to be steady to flush, shot and fall and to retrieve
tenderly to hand on command.
Any dog which does not fulfil these basic requirements shall not receive an
award or a Certificate of Merit.
Natural game finding ability. Marking ability.
Control. Quiet handling.
Clean quick retrieving and good delivery.
Hard mouth. Whining or barking.
Missing game on the beat. Running in or chasing.
Failing to enter water. Refusal to retrieve.
Out of control. Picking wrong retrieve.
Being eye wiped.
Changing game whilst retrieving.
Disturbing ground. Poor control.
Catching healthy game. Not stopping to flush.
Noisy handling. Not quartering or making ground good.
Not stopping to shot and game.
Failing to find dead or wounded game (subject to J(A)4.h.).
A Spaniel’s first job is to hunt and find game and flush it within range of the
handler. A Spaniel should at all times work within range with good treatment of
ground and must not miss game on the beat it is working. During this period, the
Judge(s) can assess the game-finding ability, pace, drive, and, possibly, courage.
A dog should have drive and face cover well, but at the same time, should be
lively and biddable. In short it should be exciting and a pleasure to watch. It
should show good treatment of ground with a minimum of help from its handler.
All things being equal, the stylish dog should be given credit. However, Judge(s)
should be satisfied that the fast stylish dog is also the best gamefinder.
The direction of the wind has a considerable influence on the way a dog
will work ground. With a head-on wind the dog should quarter the ground
systematically, left to right and vice versa, making good all likely game-holding
cover, but keeping within gunshot distance of the handler. With a following wind
it could be very different. The dog will often want to pull well out, then work
back towards the handler. Judge(s) must regulate the pace of the line to allow the
dog to do this and make good its ground.
When hunting, lines and foot scents should be ignored. Persistent pulling on
foot scents is unprofitable and can result in game being missed. However, the
ability to take the line to a shot rabbit or hare and birds which have run should
A run without a find should not automatically bar a dog from the final
Any game caught by a dog whilst hunting must be retrieved to its handler
and handed to the Judge(s) for despatch. After examination the Judge(s) may
discard the dog unless there are extenuating circumstances.
It is a refinement if a dog indicates the presence of game before flushing the
A dog should stop to flush, game and shot, but if it moves in order to mark
the fall, if this is obscured, this shows intelligence and should be credited.
A Spaniel should pick up cleanly, return quickly and deliver tenderly to hand.
Such a retrieve is desirable; but too much should not be made of a momentary
check if the dog has had a long gruelling hunt up to the time of flushing, thus
making the retrieve possible. This should be allowed for. Whenever possible, and
always bearing the conditions in mind, a dog should not be sent on a long unseen
retrieve, but should be taken to within a reasonable distance of the fall. Normally,
it is unwise to try more than two dogs on one retrieve. If both dogs are tried and
fail to complete the retrieve and the Judges have satisfactorily searched the area, 24
J(C) the line will continue to move forward. Should any subsequent dog find dead or
wounded game, however, this will not necessarily be considered to be an eyewipe.
Judges should refrain from holding a conversation with anyone whilst
a dog is actively competing. From the moment the dog starts working, Judges
should make every effort to keep the dog in view. When the dog is sent out for a
retrieve, the Judges should also, where possible, observe the dogs’ every move
until the game is delivered to hand.
Judges are under an obligation never to waste game and if a spare retrieve
becomes available it must be offered in the first instance to the dog on the other
side, if this dog has not yet had a retrieve. The Judges may subsequently offer a
spare retrieve to a dog that has already had a satisfactory run without a retrieve
in sequence starting with the lowest number.
It is desirable to place the dogs on their work in the body of the Stake. If the
Judges are unable to do this then the dogs may be further assessed by running
them side by side.
The main consideration now should be style, pace, ground treatment and
each dog’s response to its handler. Judges must ensure that competitors do not
interfere with the other handler or dog (Regulation J9.b(5)). In this run-off stage
dogs will only be discarded if they commit eliminating faults.
ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION OF THE STANDARD PROCEDURE
FOR SPANIEL FIELD TRIALS (ESSFTA using AKC)
QUALITIES OF A HUNTING SPANIEL
What then are the qualities to be emphasized?
A spaniel is a hunting dog who is also a retriever. His first job is to seek, find and
flush game. This he should do with great desire, eagerness and the necessary drive.
His second job is to bring the game to bag. Hence, he should be able to mark well the
fall of game, to persevere on wounded game, and to retrieve promptly to hand.
Thus hunting and game finding are his primary requisites. To do this within gun
range is an absolute requirement. This and the change from a hunting dog to a
retriever demands discipline of a high order. Hence, those qualities instilled by
training - control, steadiness and responsiveness - are of great importance.
However, if hunting and game finding are primary, natural ability is clearly the most
important quality - and this includes nose and brains - if the breed is going to
improve. This plus training produces the capable dog.
In a stake judges, while seeking the information with which to make their
placements, must balance all factors of differing terrain, varying cover and wind. It is
a difficult job. There are judges who would like to reproduce as nearly as possible
the same conditions and tests for each dog since that indeed would simplify their job.
But this is in the nature of things impossible, and if attempted would result in
artificial rather than natural conditions.
THE PERFORMANCE BEFORE YOU
It, therefore, depends on the judge to make such comparisons as he can. He can
judge only by what occurs before him on that day and under those conditions. He
must obliterate from his mind all past performances, all factors of what might-havebeen and base his decision on what he saw and can testify to in discussion with his fellow judge to whom he is beholden for a clear report.
He should not seek the advice of handlers or guns or others, but reach his
conclusions solely on his own. Truly he can ask a gun to indicate the point of fall of
a bird, but he should be slow to accept the evidence of others on any questions such
as whether a bird was a dead bird or a runner. He is free to move to any position that
he feels is warranted; he can search the ground for a fallen bird; he may, in his
discretion, disregard any evidence not conclusive to him and proceed to a further test
of the dog. It is, however, his own judgment and his duty to his fellow judge which
SECOND AND OTHER SERIES
On the completion of the first series judges consult and each selects the dogs he
wishes to bring back for a second series under the other judge. Dogs which have
committed an unforgivable fault such as breaking or chasing are obviously out of
consideration for any award and are, therefore, eliminated. If time permits and the
number of spaniels are not too great, all can be brought back that have shown merit
and have not disqualified themselves. When in doubt, it is not out of order to give the
dog the benefit of that doubt since there will be opportunity to demonstrate ability or
the lack of it in the next and if desired in subsequent series.
However, when the number of dogs is large, a more difficult problem arises, for both
judges should insofar as possible follow the same standards of selection. One should
not condemn for the faults the other overlooks. There will be occasions when better
performances seem to be all on one side and poorer performances occur under the
other judge. Under such conditions an unbalanced second series cannot be helped in
a stake with a small entry, but with a large entry some equitable basis of selection
can usually be agreed upon by the judges.
Owners have often come long distances, spent months in training their dogs and all
have paid the same entry fee. It helps an owner to accept the result if his dog is given
ample opportunity to demonstrate clearly, his good or weak qualities.
Nevertheless, it were better to spend the time testing thoroughly the abilities of the
better dogs in successive series than to dwell overlong out of a kind heart on a dog
that cannot possibly enter in the final placing.
BALANCING OF TIME AND DISTANCE
In this connection it is to be noted that some judges feel equal opportunity has been
given a series if, say, each dog has the opportunity to complete two retrieves. When a
long, birdless beat is encountered, they will in this effort keep one dog down for a far
greater time than the others and thus place a greater burden on his strength.
Granted that under such circumstances the dog that keeps trying should receive
credit therefore, it were, nevertheless, better to attempt a balance of time and
distance. Guns will miss, birds will flush back toward the gallery, and birds will run
off the course. These troubles sometimes seem to happen all at once to the one poor
victim of mischance. A judge should bear in mind that there will be further
opportunities to test the dog in later series when, because of the reduced number of
dogs, each may be given more time and attention and more retrieves.
Taking a dog up too quickly is another error into which judges occasionally fall. A
dog may quickly demonstrate to a judge all the qualities he is looking for, have the
good fortune to promptly flush game and retrieve the fall. Nevertheless, it is well to
carry on a ways to see if the ground work continues well and to study the dog's
responses. If this results in one or even more additional finds, the judge has
additional evidence on which to base his judgment. At any moment suitable to the
judge the testing may be ended by taking the dog up though it were better not to do
so at a moment when the dog gives evidence that game is in the immediate vicinity.
Paragraph 2. The function of a hunting spaniel is to seek, find and flush game in an
eager, brisk, quiet manner and when game is shot, to mark the fall or direction
thereof and retrieve to hand. The dog should walk at heel or on a leash until ordered
to seek game and should then thoroughly hunt the designated cover, within gunshot,
in line of quest, without unnecessarily covering the ground twice, and should flush
game boldly and without urging. When game is flushed, a dog should be steady to
flush or command, and, if game is shot should retrieve at command only, but not
until the judge has instructed the handler. Dogs should retrieve quickly when
ordered to do so and deliver tenderly to hand. They should then sit or 'hup' until
given further orders. Spaniels which bark and give tongue while questing are
objectionable and should be severely penalized.
There are differences of view between judges on the meaning of this paragraph but
they arise largely from the different kinds of terrain in different parts of the country.
THE ARTIFICIAL PATTERN
When flat, level fields abound and a handler can observe his dog at all times,
there is a tendency to make quartering of the ground in a regular pattern like a
'windshield-wiper' the criterion. This includes exactness of response to the whistle at
the end of the beat. As discussed later, such a pattern is not a fault if it is dictated by
the direction of the wind. On the other hand, if the progress forward of each traverse
of the course is limited to a few feet regardless of wind and terrain, a dog can hardly
fail to flush game in his course and there is less evidence of 'bird-sense,' scenting
ability and use of wind.
Where terrain is irregular and there is much cover of varied character, there are
frequent occasions when a dog and handler cannot see each other. Under such
conditions the dog must be constantly relating himself to the handler. In addition he
must work his cover out on a somewhat irregular pattern seeking always to pass
downwind of likely cover in the line of quest. Resourcefulness in search is clearly
more important than exactness in performance.
For if it is the function of a spaniel to hunt out game, the manner in which he does
should be directed to the finding of game rather than to pleasing the eye. In other
words, the effectiveness of his search is a combination of thoroughness and bird
sense rather than pattern, provided only he does not neglect any area that might be
Judges will have to decide what they are looking for in a dog. Certainly one that can
be effective only in one type of cover or the other is of less value than a dog that can
take the terrain as it comes and solve all problems even when his handler can give
him little help. Hence a tendency on the part of the handler to over direct or over
handle should be looked upon as evidence of weakness in the dog no matter how
perfect the result, and correspondingly greater value should be placed on the
performance of a dog that requires a minimum of handling and direction.
EFFECT OF THE WIND
The manner of ground covering will depend not alone on the terrain and the cover,
but as well on the direction and force of the wind. A dog working upwind may cast
right and left to the limit of his range in a fairly regular manner without risk of
missing game. Downwind a dog will of necessity range out ahead of his handler at
times to the limit of range, turning back to test out cover since he cannot well scent
game until downwind to it unless perchance he strikes a trail.
A crosswind presents another variation to the problem, and a dog that is using the
wind and hunting out his cover will vary his method accordingly. Judges should look
with some doubt on the dog which follows a set pattern regardless of the variations
in such conditions. Natural hunting ability in a dog is evidenced by adaptation to
conditions and the automaton by the maintenance of a set pattern regardless of such
variations. It is as essential to use the wind in hunting as it is in locating shot game,
and the dog is less able to 'read' the evidence when the scent is blown away rather
than toward him, except as it is left on the ground or hangs in the air in the cover
over which he is searching, as when wet, heavy scenting conditions exist.
THE JUDGE'S VOICE
Both in this paragraph and in several other portions of the Standard Procedure
emphasis is placed on the necessity for steadiness to flush and command. The whole
basis of training and control is involved, and without control the best qualities in the
world avail little.
Steadiness means, of course, that the dog be governed only by his handler regardless
of other distractions or sounds. For example, dogs have in the tension of a field trial
been known to go on the sound of the judge's voice. This is a fault subject to penalty.
Hence, handlers prefer a judge to issue instructions to retrieve merely by speaking
the number of the dog, saying "send" or tapping the handler on the back.
THE 'POINTING' SPANIEL
The words 'flush game boldly and without urging’ were included to clarify the
problem of the 'pointing spaniel'. Unless care is taken in training with planted birds a
spaniel can form the habit of hesitating on game, which is only one step from
'blinking', hence undesirable and to be discouraged. Were all training carried out on
wild birds and all trials run on game roaming the fields at will, as in the earlier days,
this problem would seldom arise. The only caution to the judge is that he should
recognize the poorness of the scent given out by a deeply planted bird that has not
moved and the difficulty of quickly locating it and hence make allowances as his
judgment dictates. The brief pause when a dog that has located a bird by nose
attempts to verify its position in order to pick it up or force it into the air cannot be
described as pointing, but such hesitation should not be prolonged.
Paragraph 3. If a dog, following the line of a bird, is getting too far out he should
be called off the line and later he should again be cast back on it. A dog which
causes his handler and gun to run after him while line running is out of control.
Handlers may control their dogs by hand, voice or whistle, but only in the quiet
manner that would be used in the field. Any loud shouting or whistling is evidence
that the dog is hard to handle, and, in addition, is disturbing to the game.
THE POSITIVE ATTITUDE IN JUDGING
A summation of the important qualifications of a hunting spaniel will be found
Under Paragraph 7Here it is well to emphasize that good judging requires a positive
attitude - a search for the good qualities of every dog - in contrast to a negative
attitude in which the judge could, if he were so inclined, be primarily interested in
emphasizing those faults which penalize or disqualify contestants.
Field trials were designed as a test to discover the best dogs, not as contests to
discover individuals that have made no mistakes. A negative approach will not
necessarily eliminate all the good dogs, but there is no trial in which fine, energetic
dogs will not have committed some fault of perhaps only minor proportion. Judging
on faults rather than positive qualities can result in a set of placements that fail to
possess class and hunting drive so necessary if the breed is to improve - or even hold
Nevertheless, all good qualities are useless if control is lacking. The above paragraph
of the Standard Procedure is so clear that it requires no interpretation except perhaps
to point out that the spaniel "in touch" with his handler requires a minimum of
handling. A dog's hearing is ordinarily highly acute and the whistle or voice should
be no louder than the dog can hear.
Paragraph 4. A dog should work to his handler and gun at all times. A dog which
marks the fall of a bird, uses the wind, follows a strong runner which has been
wounded, and will take direction from his handler is of great value.
WORKING TO THE HANDLER
Even at the danger of reiteration it cannot be stated too often that the dog is expected
not only to work to his handler but to keep some sort of track of him. The handler
can aid him in this by keeping as much in the open as possible and moving up when
a dog is obviously on a strong scent and likely to flush game. This should not be
penalized unless it results in leaving some part of the course unsearched.
Working downwind a dog will naturally reach out and work back upwind on
occasion. This can be faulted only if it results in game flushed out of range or ground
The second sentence of Paragraph 4 is a statement of four positive qualifications to
be look for: marking the fall, use of wind, effectiveness on a runner, and willingness
to take direction. Obviously the reference here is to the job of retrieving shot game.
MARKING AND RETRIEVING
Marking the fall or the direction thereof is one of the essential qualities of a good
spaniel. However, the eye level of a dog is but a short distance above the ground and
some four or five feet lower than that of the handler, gun and judge. Often all the dog
can observe, even if heavy cover does not intervene, is the line of flight of the bird.
Only under favorable conditions can he be expected to see the actual fall itself.
Hence, the importance of the use of the wind cannot be overestimated. If the dog
shall go somewhat downwind to the fall whether it be a crosswind or behind him, he
assures himself the best opportunity to locate the bird promptly. Certainly under such
circumstances a dog cannot be penalized for failure to instantly locate the exact spot.
SEARCHING AND HAND SIGNALS
Should he miss the fall entirely, he should continue his search in the area until
successful. If a bird shall have turned in its flight beyond the observation of the dog,
it can of course only be located by searching a gradually widening area of ground.
When his search becomes aimless and it is evident it cannot be fruitful, he must of
necessity be taken up, provided it can be determined that the bird actually fell in the
Should, on the other hand, a dog be unable to observe either the line of flight or the
bird falling in the air, that is, have a blind fall, the handler should direct the dog
thereto by hand, voice or whistle, as quietly as possible. A dog should be credited for
willingness, ability and speed in accepting such directions.
If a bird proves to be a runner, acknowledgment of the fall is the first requirement
from whence the dog should be able to seek out and follow the line to a successful
conclusion. More difficult is the problem when a dog misses the fall and in his
search may even bring in another bud. The obvious answer is that the dog should be
sent out again, as would be done in the field, and if he then fails to bring in the bird,
and its presence can be verified, his failure is a fault of very real proportion.
Paragraph 5. When the judge gives a line to a handler and dog to follow, this must
be followed and the dog not allowed to interfere with the other contestant running
parallel to him.
THE HANDLER AND THE BEAT
Poaching on the other beat is a difficult subject, especially when there is a cross
wind. It has the very grave objection of upsetting the other dog. Yet the line between
courses is often a varying line of poor definition that the dog himself cannot observe
and the handler is not always sure of. Minor infractions are not important and should
be overlooked. The primary fault is the interference with the other dog's work which
is out of order whether it is the fault of the dog or of the handler. There will,
nevertheless, be difficulties when a bird from one beat has obviously moved over
onto the other and the dog has followed on the line of scent. No one can advise a
judge in advance how to appraise such a situation, but a dog that responds when
called off such a line should receive full credit therefore. A dog that is constantly and
recurrently over on the other beat and fails to respond to his handler's commands
must be considered out of control.
A word of caution is here in order. Handlers intent on their dogs vary in their ability
to keep to a line even when it is clearly marked. When working on planted birds,
wandering around the course can be wasteful and reduce the chances of promptly
finding game. Obviously a judge should from time to time warn a handler who strays
from the course and reacquaint him if necessary.
However, a judge who constantly directs the handler and instructs him to put his dog
'in here' or 'in there' can cause a handler to 'hack' his dog and upset both dog and
handler. The general practice is to give the handler the fullest instructions at the start,
to assume he knows what he is doing and, aside from obvious and unintended
departures from those instructions, to let the handler run his dog his own way. Only
when this way is unproductive over a long beat and the judge has knowledge of the
presence of game in a neglected area is it wise to interfere.
Paragraph 6. The judges must judge their dogs for game finding ability, steadiness
and retrieving. In game finding the dog should cover all his ground on the beat,
leaving no game in his territory and showing courage in facing cover. Dogs must be
steady to wing and shot and obey all commands. When ordered to retrieve they
should do this tenderly and with speed. No trials for spaniels can possibly be run
without retrieving, as that is one of the main purposes for which a spaniel is used.
The words 'be steady' are interpreted to mean that a dog will either sit or 'hup' to
wing and shot or at the very least will cease all forward motion. Occasionally a dog
will stand on its hind legs, better to mark the line and see the fall. If he does this and
remains in position, or if he merely stands rather than sits, it is not considered a fault.
The old English word 'hup' is presumed to have meant 'the bird is up' and that the
dog should remain in place, presumably in a sitting or 'hupped' position.
BRINGING GAME TO THE BAG
A failure to retrieve is a serious fault. And yet many times conditions exists which
make decisive judgment difficult. The recollection of many trials is full of incidents
that could not be explained by the limited evidence available.
Granted that a judge feels that a failure to retrieve is not wholly the dog's fault, he
can hardly overlook the fact that game was not brought to hand. Nevertheless, judges
may well be a shade more tolerant when some special conditions are encountered.
For example, heavy green grass recently exposed to a hard frost gives out a rank
odor that kills scent; dry leaves in woods will hold little scent and make trailing
difficult; people off the course and behind a hill have been known to interfere with a
dog which was trailing a runner. Handlers of long experience have noted that
occasionally a bird will be instantly killed, fall in the open perhaps in a slight
depression, wings and feathers closely held, head upwind and prove a difficult bird
to locate. This appears to happen more frequently with a hen than a cock and some
observers who have watched a dog with a known good nose actually step on such a
bird have wondered whether a particular condition was created such as quick
paralysis of all functions so that the hen gave out little scent much as a setting hen
pheasant is known to do on the nest.
No matter what the cause, the purpose of a dog afield is to bring game to the bag and
a failure is a fault that can hardly be overlooked except in the most unusual
circumstances. A judge under such conditions would be well advised to make the
minutest inspection of the ground at the point of fall. Certainly, if the game is found
there, all excuses are of no avail. A dog that failed to 'honor' the fall can, of course,
have no defense of any kind unless the bird be lodged in a tree or fall beyond an
impossible barrier such as a closely meshed wire fence; or if the fall be honored and
the bird have made good his escape through a fence that denies passage to the dog.
Game finding ability is an interesting quality and difficult to define except in terms
of results. It is a combination of nose, bird sense, thoroughness and intelligence.
Some dogs seldom have a long, blank beat; they appear to be able to convert such a
beat into a productive one. Such dogs seem to find more game in a given territory
than others and to find more quickly. Where there is recurrent evidence of this in a
trial judges cannot fail to place this to the credit of the dog.
On the other hand, a dog that on a considerable beat covers thoroughly territory
where game is known to have been and who fails to give evidence that game has
recently been there must be looked upon as deficient in nose, at least on that day.
Under those circumstances a judge is justified in consulting with the Steward of the
Beat. Should he confirm the presence of game such a dog can be taken up and much
time saved that could be better spent on those dogs that are still under consideration.
Most trials today are run over a set course with planted birds. Delays occur and this ,
on occasion, permits birds to move off the course. Under such circumstances if a dog
trails a strong-running bird to the right or left, it is up to the judge to decide how far
off course a dog should be permitted to work. If a bird is followed off course for a
long distance - even though a flush and fall be eventually accomplished - this can
unnecessarily delay the trial. Hence if the judge decides further pursuit is not
necessary, the dog should not be penalized if he has failed to flush the bird, provided
he has exhibited drive and nose, and he should be given credit for being under
control when ordered to leave the line.
WHAT IS A 'BREAK'?
Steadiness is a term of varying meaning to different people, including judges, and
has been the cause of much discussion. Those who expect exact performance feel
that a dog should instantly sit to wing and shot and will have no less. Others
recognize that though a dog may instantly sit or 'hup' to shot (unless himself in the
very act of flushing game) it is his duty in flushing to push game out and into full
flight. They are, therefore, less prone to criticize a dog that traveling at full speed, or
driving in to flush, is less exact in sitting to flush provided he gives equally prompt
indication that he is prepared to stop as soon as the bird is in flight .
There is the equally difficult problem of the dog that moves to the edge of cover or
around a bush or up a slope to verify the flight, observe the line and see the fall. It
may be a highly intelligent thing to do if observation is the sole 'intent' of the dog. If
the dog has to be stopped by whistle or voice, the judge can only assume the handler
believed he was in process of breaking and score it accordingly.
The problem can, therefore, best be resolved by the judge if he be guided in his
appraisal by the way the handler dealt with it. If the handler ordered the dog to stop
and the dog didn't stop, it is a break. Once stopped, any vigorous forward movement
without command is equally a break.
WHAT IS 'CHASING'?
All of this changes when the dog is sent on retrieve. Then his sole duty is to
complete the retrieve as promptly and as expeditiously as possible, disregarding all
other sights and scents that are not related to the duty as signed to him. This is
expecting a good deal. The ability to distinguis h between a fresh scent and that of a
wounded bird is the result of considerable experience, and it is his duty to be sure he
is not passing up the bird he was sent for. If while on retrieve a dog flushes a bird in
the direction or area of the fall, it is but natural for the dog to determine whether it is
the bird he was sent for before turning away. If the bird fly off low, he could well
assume that it could be wounded game, at least until it assumes full winged flight
when he should turn away and continue his search in the area of the fall.
When another bird is thus flushed during a retrieve, many handlers prefer a dog to
stop or hup in accord with his training. This presents no problem if the dog be where
the handler can see him since the dog may then be directed by voice, whistle or hand
signal to continue his search for the dead bird.
However, the ideal conduct on the part of the dog would be to disregard the newlyflushed bud and continue his search of the wounded or dead bird which is his duty to
recover. A moment's reflection will disclose the reasons for this. If the fall be a long
way off or in heavy cover, the handler cannot see his dog. Shall the dog remain
hupped or leave his hupped position without command? To leave would be a
violation of the first principles of discipline and training. For the handler to attempt
to whistle at or give commands to an unseen dog may upset the dog's whole
endeavor, particularly if he shall be following a vigorous runner.
The same general principle applies to a dog that is retrieving with a bird in his
mouth. If the dog flushes game and in surprise, or in accordance with his training
temporarily stops, he cannot be criticized. In either case, however, a dog should be
given credit if he disregard entirely the flushed bird or, having stopped momentarily,
continue his search or in the case of a retrieve continue on in to deliver the one in his
Paragraph 7. In judging a spaniel's work judges should give attention to the
following points, taking them as a whole throughout the entire performance rather
than giving too much credit to a flashy bit of work;
Control at all times, and under all conditions.
Scenting ability and use of wind.
Manner of covering ground and briskness of questing.
Perseverance and courage in facing cover.
Steadiness to flush, shot and command.
Aptitude in marking fall of game and ability to find it.
Ability and willingness to take hand signals.
Promptness and style of retrieve and delivery.
Proof of tender mouth.
Where facilities exist and water tests are held in conjunction with a stake, the
manner and quality of the performance therein shall be given consideration by the
judges in making their awards. Such tests should not exceed in their requirements
the conditions met in an ordinary day's rough shoot adjoining water.
Land work is the primary function of a spaniel, but where a water test is given, any
dog that does not complete the water test shall not be entitled to any award .
This paragraph is a recapitulation. There are ten points. All are not of equal value,
but all are to be considered in a well-rounded performance. Again the judge will
have to strike a balance. It has been truly said no dog is perfect in all departments.
Few dogs excel all others in the stake in every phase of the work - at least such is
very rare, indeed.
Hunting and game finding are the first and basic functions of a spaniel in the field.
These should be done with sufficient speed to get the game into the air. Keenness,
enthusiasm, and eagerness and that indefinable thing called class all contribute to it.
The hunting should be productive, and the game should be brought to hand.
Hence, by positive qualities are meant: intelligent ground covering, a 'positive' nose,
use of wind, concentration on marking, directness in going to a well observed fall,
perseverance in search, self-confidence on a runner, drive and pace despite difficult
cover, a prompt and attractive retrieve, a good carry and, as a matter of course,
control, steadiness and willingness to take direction from his handler.
Probably no subject has caused more discussion than the question of what constitutes
a 'tender mouth'. With a dead bird the best carry is preferably by the back, weight of
bird on lower jaw, dog's head up so that the bud is carried easily and is not readily
caught by briers or low cover. Yet birds do not fall in a way that enables dogs to pick
them up promptly and still have an ideal hold. The result is either a less perfect hold
or a less prompt pickup.
However, the real problem arises on a hard runner or a flapping bird that requires the
dog to seize the bird, sometimes in mid-air, sometimes even dragging it from briers
or heavy cover, and hold it with sufficient grip to prevent its escape. If the skin be
20 21broken at times, it is not surprising, or can the dog be wholly blamed if he is doing
his duty by making a prompt retrieve.
The rule of long-standing endorsement by experienced judges is that 'any doubt must
be resolved in favor of the dog.’ Judges would do well to be guided by this rule.
THE CRUSHED BIRD
When birds are weak, have been crated for several days, are carried in burlap bags
and are planted with head under wing, they will occasionally smother. Some times a
closely-shot bird will be damaged by the force of the charge or even the manner of
fall on hard ground. All these considerations suggest that judges should be slow to
mark a dog for minor damage.
Occasionally during a stake a dog will have the misfortune to pick up one or more
live birds which may have failed to flush for any one of several reasons and deliver
them dead or dying. This is occasionally the result of finding previously wounded or
damaged birds. The repeated recurrence with the same dog or the evidence provided
by a damaged bird is the criteria by which the judge will have to be guided.
Certainly a badly crushed bird is undeniable evidence of hard mouth and warrant for
elimination of the dog from further consideration.
THE WATER TEST
The water test is a subject of much discussion. A spaniel, as the Standard Procedure
states, is primarily a land dog. However, in many parts of the country he is used to
retrieve water fowl, and in an ordinary day's shoot there are occasions when the only
way of gathering shot game is after a swim or from a stream, pond or lake.
Any dog that warrants the title of Field Champion should be at home in the water,
should swim willingly and adequately, and if necessary, take directions to game
fallen in water or across it. There has been much discussion of the type and
conformation of a dog that swims easily and thus has confidence in the water. Since
Field Champions are much sought after as stud and as brood bitches they should
possess these qualities or the breed will not continue to develop as it should.
Therefore, the successful completion of a water test is not only a very logical
essential but a positive requirement. Because adequate facilities do not always exist
near a field trial ground, the water tests can be held at a separate location and time. If
held with a trial, dogs competing must, if required by the judges to do so, take such a
test and refusal by an owner or handler to let his dog take a water test disqualifies the
dog in the stake in which he is competing.
Judges in making their awards are required to give due weight to the manner and
quality of the performance in the water tests (no "pass/fail"). It is specifically
provided that such tests should not exceed in their requirements the conditions
ordinarily met in a day's rough shoot adjoining water.
Since a fall in water or a series of such falls is difficult to obtain with game without
elaborate preparations, it is customary to place the dog several strides back from the
shoreline and have a gun and man placed at a point where, upon the discharge of the
gun, the dog may observe the fall of a single thrown dead pheasant or mallard duck
at a distance from the dog and handler not exceeding an ordinary fall, but sufficiently
long for the dog to demonstrate his ability in the water. The current test consists of
two, back to back, open water, 30-40 yard retrieves with the dog backed up 10 to 15
yards from the bank. Use of a boat is permissible if it is necessary to get the desired
length of retrieve.
Conditions of light and background should be taken into consideration, particularly
at the eye level of the dog, and it were better to send the dog away rather then toward
the group of spectators.
EVALUATING THE WATER PERFORMANCE
There has been much discussion of the weight to be given to the performance of the
dog in the water test. Since only a portion of the above ten points are displayed in the
water test--it is an act of marking and retrieving only--it is generally held that the test
should not be called another "series" and that it should play a far lesser part than any
of the land series in the evaluation of the judges, presumably only such a part as the
points relating to steadiness, marking and retrieving a single fall play in relation to
the whole performance of the dog in the field.
The very artificiality of the test also supports this. It has to be borne in mind that the
spaniel is primarily a hunting dog that is expected also to retrieve the game shot over
him. Though retrieving is an essential part of his dudes, he is not trained solely as a
retriever as are some of the larger breeds and can hardly be expected to develop
along with his other abilities the perfection of work found or developed in those used
for retrieving only.
Nevertheless, the dog should in a water test be staunch to shot, be sent only on the
instruction of the judge, mark well the fall of game, enter the water willingly, take
direction when necessary and deliver promptly to hand as on land. A dog which
repeatedly "runs the bank" in an effort to avoid entering the water should be severely
penalized even if he eventually retrieves the bird.
Paragraph 8. The guns should shoot their game in a sportsmanlike manner, as they
would in a day's shoot. The proper functioning of the official guns is of the utmost
importance. The guns are supposed to represent the handler up to the time the game
is shot, although not interfering in any manner with his work or that of the down
dogs. They are supposed if possible, unless otherwise directed, to kill cleanly and
consistently, the game flushed by the spaniels at a point most advantageous to a fair
22 23trial of the dogs' abilities, with due regard to the dogs, handlers, judges, gallery and
GOOD GUNNING ESSENTIAL
Judges should not hesitate to assemble the guns at the beginning of a trial or a stake
and give them any instructions the judges feel appropriate or interpret to them the
above paragraph or either of the two succeeding paragraphs relating to the guns. If
preferred, such instructions may be given to the Gun Captain to be transmitted by
him to the others. In addition there should be no hesitation on the part of a judge to
give further counsel or advice to a gun during the course of a stake. Such
clarification will help provide 'a fair trial of the dogs' abilities.'
The safety of all concerned - the handlers, the judges themselves, the dogs, the
gallery and spectators - is involved. It is customary to instruct guns not to shoot at
buds that fly back over the gallery. In addition to the danger involved, a bird that
falls among or beyond the crowd provides confusing conditions for a retrieve.
Guns should, therefore, feel that they will not be criticized for passing up shots that
entail the slightest element of danger or those shots which would be in conflict in any
way with the provisions of these paragraphs or the instructions of the judges.
Paragraph 9. Care should be taken not to shoot so that the game falls too close to
the dog. If this is done it does not afford a chance for the dog to show any good
retrieving ability and often results in a bird being destroyed. The guns should stand
perfectly quiet after the shot, for otherwise they may interfere with the dog and
handler. When a dog makes a retrieve no other birds or game should be shot unless
o rdered by the judge for special reasons. The gun must also keep himself in the
correct position to the handler and others.
Paragraph 10. It has been repeatedly proven that the most efficient gun and load for
this work, in all fairness to the dogs, handlers and those responsible for the trial, is a
well-choked twelve gauge double gun, and a load of not less than three and one
fourth drams of smokeless powder or equivalent, and one and one-eighth ounces of
No. 5, No. 6, No. 7 or No. 7-1/2 shot. In 'steel shot only' areas a comparable size and
load of steel or other permissible shot shall be used.
THE GUN IS THE 'SILENT' PARTNER
What should be the position of the gun? If he is the 'good right arm' of the handler,
he should be reasonably close to him, though not so close that he interferes with him
or the dog. The gun should not crowd after the dog, which only encourages the latter
to move out, but should guide on the handler alone. Nor should wing guns be placed
too far out on a flank. This is unnatural and often affects the dog in his beat and the
type of fall he receives.
After a fall, the gun should stand quietly until the dog has been sent on retrieve when
the gunner may break his gun and step quietly aside to leave a clear and unobstructed
view of the handler. Needless to say, guns are to be seen and not heard except their
shots. They should volunteer nothing to handler or judge, speak only when spoken to
by the judge and give aid to the handler only as the judge authorizes it. They are the
silent partner of the judge in providing the test required - and of the handler in
producing the result
Paragraph 11. All field trial-giving clubs should clearly recognize that
Championship Stakes are of the first importance and that all other stakes are of
relatively lesser importance and that an entire day should be reserved for the
running of a Championship Stake unless there is a very small entry.
KEEP THE TRIAL MOVING
This paragraph obviously needs no clarification except to point out that judges have
often wished in vain for more time and more daylight toward the end of a trial. It
were well, therefore, when the entry is large, and even when it is not too large, to
avoid spending too much time on early series that might later be devoted to more
thorough testing of those dogs that warrant considering for awards.
Many such situations can be avoided if judges will plan their time and keep 'on top'
of the trial, forcing its progress in accord with their schedules. The benefits are
many. All dogs will receive more nearly equal attention and much embarrassment
will be avoided as the remaining daylight wanes far sooner than anyone expected.
However, even this is not possible unless the Field Trial Committee shall have set
the time early enough, assured the early arrival of strong, full-winged birds in good
condition, provided for the presence of bird carriers, planters and guns at the time
specified; in other words, had everything in order for a prompt start at an early hour.
Three or more series are usually essential to disclose the abilities of good dogs in an
all-age stake. Two series are required by the rule that each dog should be down at
least once under each judge. Final determination is in the hands of the judges.
It is, however, to be borne in mind that with a large entry it is difficult to complete
even a two- or three-series stake without these few tests being hurried and
inadequate. Since it is better to test eighteen dogs well than thirty or forty skimpily,
the Qualified Open was established. Time and experience alone will tell whether this
will help solve the problem.
24 25 25A FEW WORDS IN CONCLUSION
Few judges can remember every performance without making adequate notes for
reference in conference with a fellow judge. This is more particularly true in stakes
with large entries. Some judges have found it valuable to rate the performance of
each dog on some simple scale; others have developed a check system based on the
Standard Procedure. Each must develop his own system. Nevertheless, the retention
of notes for a reasonable time after the trial provides a ready and quick reference in
case any questions arise and is less fallible than memory.
THE CONDUCT OF THE HANDLER
What should a judge require of a handler? It is generally considered that a handler
should run his dog as appears most likely to provide a display of his abilities. When
game is flushed by either dog, the handler should in hupping his dog remain in such
position as he finds himself unless otherwise instructed by the judge. He should, of
cour s e s end his dog on retrieves only when so instructed and the judge may wish to
assure himself that the dog is steady. In doing so the judge should move quietly and
make every effort not to make any sudden movement which the dog might mistake
for a command of his handler to retrieve.
STEADINESS WHILE HUPPED
Handlers who assume the privilege of calling their dog to them without instructions
from the judge (when the dog on the other beat is retrieving) run the risk of having
the judge assume, with some justice, that the handler lacks confidence that the dog is
perfectly steady. The same thing applies to a handler who moves closer to his dog
without orders to do so. This differs from the case of a dog that is in the general area
of a fall or the line of retrieve when a judge may well use his discretion in instructing
the handler to move his dog away in order not to interfere with the work of the brace
A properly trained spaniel will remain where hupped until called off, and a dog
which gives evidence of such control is entitled to a higher rating than one which the
handler feels he must call back to him. At least in championship stakes it were well
for judges not to be in a great hurry to deprive themselves of the evidence of
steadiness thus obtained, provided only the dog is not in a position to interfere with
the other dog's work or retrieve.
THE LONG FALL
Inasmuch as a championship stake is completed in one day, or at most a day and a
half, judges should seize every opportunity to learn all they can about a dog.
Because of shortage of time, judges are reluctant at times to send a dog for a long fall
or one well off the course. If information about the dog is sought, this is a lost
opportunity. Probably the best rule in a championship stake is that any practical
retrieve should be attempted which will not unduly disturb game planted ahead on
either course. In a minor stake such falls may well be disregarded since a
young or inexperienced dog may miss the fall badly, encounter and flush other bird
and generally disturb game on the course for a considerable distance ahead.
OWNERS AND OTHERS - KEEP BACK
In an advisory resolution passed a number of years ago it was pointed out that no one
except the judges (and an apprentice judge, if any), the handlers and the guns should
be forward of the Field Steward. This gives a better opportunity for the gallery to see
and makes it easier to keep them in order. This applies equally to owners eager to
watch their dogs, to guns not in line, stewards not presently charged with a duty and
to all other officials. Any conversation, no matter how trivial, of owners with judges,
handlers and guns should be avoided if only for the sake of appearance.
THE JUDGE - LIKE CAESAR'S WIFE
What about the judge at a trial? During the course of a trial he is probably better off
to keep his own counsel, thus avoiding even the appearance of being influenced by
the views, the opinions or even the knowledge of others. Certainly any discussion
with owners or others (except his fellow judge) of the performance of a dog still
under judgment would be in shocking bad taste on the part of both.
The judge must base his awards on what he has himself observed of the performance
on that particular day. When he was invited to judge, it was because the committee
had confidence in his judgment, his powers of observation and his capacity to be
objective, which is another way of saying he is expected to put his emotions and his
sentiments under lock and key. He has a personal responsibility to his fellow judge to
inform him clearly and to appraise jointly with him the several performances. Each
has an obligation to render fair judgment.
PROVIDE STRONG BIRDS
One word about the problem created by the inability to run trials on natural game as
in former years; birds recently removed from pens vary somewhat from wild birds in
the character and strength of the scent they give out. When closely planted in a grass
bed or clump of cover without opportunity to move, there is a greatly reduced
opportunity for the wind to carry their scent on the surrounding ground or cover.
When in addition they show a reluctance to fly or are weak-winged and incapable of
prompt escape, trials are run under an additional disadvantage. Birds are retrieved
from their 'beds' or are pulled from heavy cover by force. If weak, they sometimes
suffocate from being carried in bags or from the manner of planting or the dog's grip
required to hold them, or from a combination of all three.
26 27Hence field trial committees should make every effort to provide strong-winged,
healthy, vigorous birds, and employ skilled planters. Too great an anxiety not to
waste birds can in effect be wasteful since deeply planted birds will be more readily
caught by the dogs. Birds planted well ahead of the dogs, even if they move off the
course will at least give the judge an opportunity to observe the ability of the dog on
a recent scent.
There are a number of breeders throughout the country who raise birds on the 'open
range' procedure. Others who buy young birds continue to keep them in large pens
and exercise them daily. Some even use dogs to make them fly so that they develop
some fear of people and dogs. Such birds, if strong and full winged, will provide a
far better trial than the run-of-the-mill. There is no real excuse for not providing such
birds in a licensed or member trial in stakes that require game birds even if the
regulations prescribe only that they be full-winged. They should as well be fulltailed, healthy, vigorous and eager to escape by flight.
In conclusion certain points can well be repeated and some additional observations
added to the discussion of field trials.
The purpose of field trials is to emphasize the qualities of breeding and of training
that produce the best dog afield. Certain qualities such as scenting ability, game
finding, stamina, and responsiveness to the handler are highly to be desired along
with that eagerness and spaniel quality which is so attractive and adds so much to the
pleasure of a day in the open.
Tendencies in these and other directions are inheritable traits. If the breed is to
improve, bad tendencies should not be rewarded. These include barking while
questing, hard mouth, extreme willfulness and others that will occur to each reader.
The degree of training is a matter of both the ability of the dog and of the trainer.
Training cannot put into a dog the natural qualities; it can take them out. And yet
natural qualities are not useful unless accompanied by a degree of control that makes
a team of dog and man.
Therefore, the purpose of training is to produce control while at the same time
fostering and encouraging the natural qualities of the hunting do