are cocker spaniels bird dogs

Can A Cocker Hunt?

Noel Cacchio said, “We live in New York so we hunt the Adirondacks a lot for grouse,” in response to my question about whether her ACs could go hunting. They thrive in the thickets of grouse and woodcock and are ideal in thick cover. My brother and I started waterfowl hunting together because he is an avid duck hunter. Our ACs hunt and retrieve them without any problems too. They hunt everything. “.

Centuries ago, spaniels were bred and used for woodcock hunting. To this day, well-bred hunting American cockers excel in the tight cover that woodcock, grouse and other game birds call home.

Jim “Doc” Nelson, a resident of Nebraska, and his son Jared run Plumthicket Kennels, so I asked him the same question. Nelson is the owner of Tiger, a Dungarvan American cocker, and has decades of experience training dogs.

“I love hunting with cockers for a number of reasons, and they sure can hunt,” he remarked. “To start, they are a pleasant canine companion to go hunting with, as they hunt at a moderate pace and remain in close proximity.” There is no sprinting to catch up with them. Their heavy reliance on ground scent and identifying bird trails is the second reason. They are therefore excellent at tracking down cripples and ideal for heavy cover.

“I enjoy hunting with cockers for other reasons besides those, though. With an average weight of about thirty pounds, they can easily move through cover. This, I believe, explains why they hunt so successfully in the summer when other breeds struggle. It just takes less effort for the cockers to get through the brush. “.

Like any breed, cockers have some drawbacks in addition to their many positive attributes. They have a harder time handling large birds like geese, mallards, and pheasants because of their size. Just because they are small dogs and big birds doesn’t mean they can’t be trained to handle larger gamebirds.

It’s crucial to choose a field-bred dog over a bench-bred dog because of their coats, which can also be a problem when hunting in areas with sticktights and cockleburs. Apart from those two possible problems, American cockers are naturally inclined to have a very good nose and an innate desire to pursue their owner when hunting.

Many of those who dedicate their lives to rare or underappreciated breeds come across as somewhat unconventional and appear to take great pleasure in being unique. Sincerely, that’s what I anticipated when I began speaking with trainers and breeders for this piece. That is not what I found.

Indeed, people with knowledge of American cockers have told me repeatedly that these guys are not only bright and quick learners, but also a lot of fun to work with.

Field-bred American cockers can be trained to hunt just about anything from upland birds to waterfowl. They have a well-deserved repuation for hunting for their owners and being able to go hard all day long.

Although it might not seem like a big deal, this is Developing a puppy into a well-mannered two or three-year-old dog requires a lot of work, which is frequently not fun. While the daily drills can be repetitive and not enjoyable for many of us, that doesn’t mean it isn’t rewarding.

When I spoke with Pat Perry, owner of Massachusetts-based Hedgerow Kennel & Hunt Club, he stressed the joy-of-training aspect several times. “Here in New England a lot of my business comes from the pointing dog crowd, because we have such thick cover. I do get a fair number of American cockers each year, though, and they are so fun to work with.

“Even as adults, they still have a playful nature, but they are always focused on you.” They are also highly intelligent, but their heart is what I find most endearing about them. They dont have any quit in them. “.

The words would not have the same impact if they came from a trainer who only trained cockers or nothing at all, but Perry has thirty years of experience training dogs of all breeds, from flushers to pointers to retrievers of all kinds.

Almost everyone I spoke with for this piece agreed with Perry’s assessment of the heart of American cockers, though almost all of them also said it’s not a good idea to be overly strict when training. All sporting dogs should be trained via positive reinforcement and eventually confidence building, but American cockers will become somewhat shut down even though some dogs can tolerate a little bit more repetition and the odd raised voice.

Training with the goals of gaining self-assurance, fostering trust, and maintaining interest will produce a cocker who not only sees you as his hunting partner but also aspires to work for you nonstop.

The American cocker is a hunting breed that was once very popular but has suffered ever since due to excessive demand. Though disappointing given how beneficial they can be for upland or waterfowl hunters, there is still hope.

A group of committed American cocker spaniel breeders and owners can be found all over the nation. They are committed to preserving the hunting heritage by selective breeding and, more importantly, by going hunting with their cockers.

In the beginning, Airedales were hunting dogs. The breed was created by working-class people in the West Riding of Yorkshire, who needed a dog that could scent game, be large enough to handle larger animals, and be teachable to retrieve. The Airedale proved to be the solution to this need.

Prior to its reputation as the birthplace of the arts and the hub of the fashion industry, France was a fantastic place for upland hunting. The forests and mountains of the French countryside were brimming with wildlife, and the hills were covered in a variety of agricultural crops. In the farmlands, grouse, pheasants, and partridge were common, and wild birds were a main source of nutrition for many rural families.

A small group of French breeders set out to create a breed that would have the athleticism required to hunt hard all day and the instinct to point and retrieve birds at the same time that pointing dogs were growing in popularity throughout Europe. Using a variety of European hounds and Spanish pointers as their foundation stock, these breeders started producing dogs that had every trait they were looking for.

The result of their efforts was the Braque Francais. The Braque gained notoriety for its unwavering resolve and intense desire to please its master. A dog with a strong prey drive that could be trusted to hunt hard all day and obey commands in the field was the product of careful breeding. This dog could also be a family member, playing with the kids while keeping an eye on them at night.

The sleek build and textured curls of the curly-coated retriever frequently cause people to pause and look twice. From a distance, people frequently confuse the curly-coated retriever for a Labrador due to their similar conformation and shared enthusiasm for locating, flushing, and retrieving gamebirds. But surprisingly, the curly was not descended from the Lab. Instead, the curly is believed to have originated from the St. George English water spaniel. The retrieving setter, the poodle, and Johns Newfoundland, as per the American Kennel Club

From up close, the curly differs greatly from a Labrador in that its coat is composed of short, stiff hairs that are tightly wound into ringlets that cover the ears, top of the head, and main body.

Once upon a time, on the estates of the nobility, English gamekeepers held absolute power. To this end, they required a dog that could track down and retrieve birds that were possibly missed following a driven shoot. However, their fierce adversaries, poachers, also required a dog to locate and recover birds—only in their case, in the dead of night. In both situations, the flat-coated retriever was frequently the dog of choice for both law-abiding and law-breaking people.

Any task the dog was given required that exceptional sense of smell, extreme biddability, and, when working for the poachers, quick reflexes to avoid being caught by the bull mastiffs that the gamekeepers used to guard the estate at night. These characteristics, which the breed still possesses today, are a little-known fact about this comparatively uncommon retriever breed that has excelled in every AKC dog sport save retriever field trials. Of the 173 breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club, flat-coats ranked 90th on the popularity list in 2011.

When training pressure is applied, some French Brittanys can become drama queens, according to Jim Keller of Keller Gun Dog Kennels in the Lincoln, Nebraska area. When I say “drama queen,” I mean that this breed has a tendency to overreact and have frequent emotional outbursts when they are expected to exhibit a certain behavior.

For instance, some French Brittanys will squeal and wriggle when taught to force fetch in an attempt to get their trainer to stop. Additionally, according to Keller, some trainers will give in and let the dog have its way.

Ralph Fedele informed me that a whippet, not a Portuguese pointer, was his first preference. Before having children, he had been a bird hunter. Now that he had kids, he wanted a small, well-mannered dog that would not cause as much mess in the house. Then his wife got into the act.

Fedele remembers his wife saying, “Look at this dog I just happened to come across on the internet.” I looked at the pictures and said, Thats the dog. Lets call this guy and get that dog. Just by coincidence, my wife is Portuguese, even though she had never owned dogs before.

Europeans have viewed the standard poodle as a hunting dog since the Middle Ages. Emily Cain, a breed historian from Canada, claims that Europeans classified it as a spaniel. However, they have also categorized it as a retriever because the French breed name, caniche, is derived from chien canard, or duck dog.

The Irish Red and White Setter’s owner will almost always respond, “They are natural pointers,” when you ask what makes their dogs unique. Many claim that their dogs have achieved a junior hunter title with no training at all and no prior exposure to birds before they began competing in the tests.

German shorthaired pointers have been particularly popular in the U. S. with gamebird hunters looking for a do-it-all versatile gun dog. The American Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club register about 10,000 German shorthair dogs each year. Similarly, for the past few decades, shorthairs have been the most popular breed in the NAVHDA and have produced high results in tests for Versatile Champion, Natural Ability, and Utility.

One of the most popular dog breeds in various hunting competitions and field trials is the German shorthaired pointer. Furthermore, wherever there are gamebirds to be hunted in North America, the typical gamebird hunter uses shorthairs as their preferred pointing breed.

The Shannon spaniel, which eventually became known as the Irish water spaniel, was regarded by the ancient Gaelic hunters of Ireland as Beannaithe, or Blessed. The breed was created to hunt upland game and retrieve waterfowl, but it turned out to be incredibly adaptable, capable of almost anything save dancing Irish reels and jigs. However, some argue that an IWS could likely learn these complex step dances as well, given the right guidance and music.

Nothing is more iconic than seeing two gun dogs working a gamebird, with one dog leading and the other providing support.

In this instance, the dogs were two Llewellin setters from last fall’s South Dakota pheasant hunt. The two dogs struck a picture-perfect pose as they stood motionless, heads and tails high. Two hens and one rooster shot out of the prairie grass as one of the hunters approached to rouse the pointed bird. The long-tailed ringneck was taken down by a well-aimed shot, and a dog raced out to retrieve and bring it inside.

Give the dogs that are bred for that sort of thing—the pointing and retrieving breeds—the open country birds and serious waterfowling. For small-water ducking and thick-cover upland birds, such as bobwhite quail, woodcock, ruffed grouse, and, of course, pheasants, spaniels excel.

The springer spaniel is the dog breed that was most likely designed to hunt pheasants. I find it incomprehensible that the breed isn’t more common considering the large number of rooster hunters in the U.S. S. , but there you go. The truly exceptional ones—I once knew someone who was like that—can approach the game in a way that is almost wizard-like.

American water spaniels were created by market hunters in the Upper Midwest in the 19th century, and they have always been versatile dogs that are equally adept at upland gamebird and waterfowl hunting. From the start and up until now, AWS owners have been committed to preserving the dual resume of the breed. Ironically, their resolve has kept them from competing in the American Kennel Club (AKC) field events with the AWS versatility.

There are three different formats for these events: one is for retrievers, one is for pointing breeds, and one is for spaniels. Therefore, in order for a breed to be eligible, it needs to be registered with the AKC as a Sporting Group breed and fall into one of the three categories that the AKC offers: retriever, spaniel, or pointing breed. AKC doesnt allow dual classifications.

Since the breed’s inception over a century ago, the Weimaraner has been referred to as the Gray Ghost, an appropriate moniker for a gundog with a silvery coat and somewhat eerie yellow-amber eyes. The Weimaraner, named after the Weimar court in Germany, was originally bred to be a versatile hunter of big game, waterfowl, predators, and upland gamebirds.

Two functional dogs – Cocker Spaniel and Springer Spaniel – but which one fits your needs? We break down which breed is best for your hunting situation.

Photo Credit: Adam Tangsrud

As I’ve mentioned in earlier columns, Springer spaniels have always been the focal point of my relationship with dogs. My reputation is closely linked to the English springer breed, which includes both my trial and personal dogs. I’ve always admired the athleticism and drive of a quality English springer, as well as their ability to balance independence, prey drive, and the need to maintain a handler-dog bond. I adore how focused and tough they are, and how a good one charges into a retrieve. English springers are traditional and graceful, with centuries of hunting heritage among their finest bloodlines. Advertisement.

It goes without saying that, in my opinion, the English springer spaniel is the best breed when it comes to flushers.

My grandfather disagreed, and I think it was him who first piqued my interest in dogs. When that breed was still in use, he turned a lovely little American cocker into a field and show champion. However, I never found much use for cockers, and for years I dismissed them as inferior for competitive and useful hunting purposes.

I watched pointing dogs work bobwhite quail in the South Georgia Plantation Belt some twelve years ago. At the time, I had heard that handlers were increasingly running English cocks off wagons or at heel to flush and pick up birds. My observations in South Georgia truly got me thinking—those English cockers were such energetic, athletic, and busy little dogs. They had no trouble getting through the briars, they were able to get high, hard flushes from the birds, and they were extremely meticulous when it came to working out cripples or lay birds. I started to change the way I thought about cockers and started to see them as a reasonable, if not practical, option for a lot of hunters and trialers. Advertisement.

Some generalization is necessary when comparing the English cocker to the English springer. Individual members of every breed will undoubtedly appear and act differently from the general norms and standards, as is the case with everything. Let’s examine the situations in which one breed might perform better than the other and compare and contrast the two breeds. Naturally, these evaluations are based on my own experiences and opinions.

Cockers and springers once split apart as separate breeds due only to differences in size. Essentially, the smaller dogs in a litter of “land spaniels” were placed in the cocker breeding pool, while the larger dogs were placed in the springer breeding pool. The main distinction between the dogs was their size, but this also depended on how well the dogs hunted particular kinds of cover or for particular kinds of game.

With time and a little more purpose-driven breeding, we’ve seen a rise in breed-specific differentiation and, consequently, excellence in particular traits, skills, and temperaments.

English cockers have noticed that the bloodlines available in this nation have greatly improved. The modern English cocker has a sleek, low-slung body, short legs and ears, and weighs between 20 and 30 pounds. These dogs have a distinct behavior that I like to call “busy.” They are best described as “like hummingbirds on crack” in the field, as they work a small patch of cover with their heads down, periodically looking up to check in with the handler. Their size allows them to maneuver through low, prickly brush and they are eager to dive into and through thick cover. They are able to “dig out” birds that would sooner remain motionless than move. Their stature prevents them from moving swiftly over a large area. Their strength lies in their ability to work closely and thoroughly, to stop and start, and to check in, even though they can and do quarter in broad sweeps. They can catch a fluttering quail out of the air with incredible agility considering their size. Advertisement.

Because of their physical and behavioral traits, English cockers are excellent flushers for quail raised in pen settings and outstanding woodcock and grouse retrievers in smaller areas. Given the popularity and prevalence of pen-raised quail, cockers are an excellent way to improve the quality of the shooting experience. Cockers will cause quail to flush high and dynamically, enabling guides to retreat out of gunshot range. Additionally, they are low enough to avoid danger while boosting that flush. Hunters of grouse and woodcock will profit from the cocker’s ability to maneuver through dense, cramped cover. Woodcock will remain motionless long enough for a careful, head-down dog to root him out. A dog that works closely and checks in will be beneficial for grouse, especially the more timid ones, as a larger, faster dog may drive the grouse out of range.

English springers are similar to cockers in that they have a longer range and a more consistent quartering pace, but they are leggier. A 35 to 45-pound dog is the typical size; they are usually liver or black and white (sometimes tricolor). These dogs’ ears are typically longer than average, which also makes it harder for them to maneuver through tight spaces. Even in my hunting and guiding, I have mostly dealt with field-trial springers, and I have discovered that they are more independent than cockers, which undoubtedly enables them to cover more ground. Their greater legginess gives them greater speed and range, but it also makes it harder for them to maneuver through low-lying brush. They are strong and driven, and incredibly task-oriented. They tend to go faster during a retrieve, which can make their retrieving style a little more aggressive (generally in more open ground)

In my opinion, springers are the best when hunting pheasants, or any other flying bird. They are not as proficient at prairie hunting as an aggressive pointing dog, but they are very good on cattail bottoms and sloughs. They are especially useful for hunting ditch parrots because they are adept in the water, and they quarter to sever flying birds and flush them near the gun. They are extremely resourceful and motivated, which is helpful, and their capacity to locate fleeing victims makes them invaluable. In summary, they are the larger cousin of the cocker both physically and practically, consuming the nation with wider strokes and a slightly faster rhythm.

Overall, given the growing recognition cockers receive, their ability and caliber as working dogs in the U S. is growing, and there are some truly great ones available. On the other hand, outstanding springers have existed for a while, and while I worry that springer breeders may be leaning toward faster, longer-legged dogs, there are still some outstanding classic springers that compete and work in the United S. It comes down to personal preference and practical application. Choose a dog that you like and that will work well for you in the field, whether it’s an English springer or an English cocker.

Oh, and get a Lab if you want to go duck hunting.

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What is the best spaniel for a bird dog?

Breed: English Springer Spaniel Named for their propensity to flush – or “spring” – birds, English springer spaniels quarter well and bust into any cover they encounter. They are capable retrievers, too, whether it’s pheasants in the field, grouse in the woods, or ducks in smaller waters.

Do cocker spaniels catch birds?

They hunt everything.” Centuries ago, spaniels were bred and used for woodcock hunting. To this day, well-bred hunting American cockers excel in the tight cover that woodcock, grouse and other game birds call home.

What type of gun dog is a cocker spaniel?

Cocker spaniels are one of the smallest gundog breeds – weighing in the region of 14kg – with a slender and athletic build. They are renowned for their good looks and slightly feathered, silky coats that range in colour from black to lemon and liver to orange – often with several colours together.

Are Spaniels good hunting dogs?

They are versatile hunters traditionally being used for upland game birds, but are equally adept at hunting rabbits, waterfowl, rats, and mice. Whether hunting in open fields, woodlands, farm lands—in briars, along fencerows or marshlands, a spaniel can get the job done.