Where the dog is used solely for the purpose of retrieving, you will not need to study the hunting sections, and instead will concentrate on improving the dog’s performance on retrieving. This will involve building a relationship of trust, where the dog believes you when you tell it that there really is a bird down, even when she has not seen it. This will involve handling the dog out to both seen and unseen retrieves, giving the dog exposure to following blood trails, improving the dog’s memory by building up the numbers of dummies thrown.
The hunting breeds need careful consideration. Although both the Spaniels and the Pointers need to cover their ground in similar fashion, working across the wind, turning at the end of their beat and crossing in front of the shooter until game is found, there are still fundamental differences.
The spaniels work very much closer, generally with a beat of 20-25 yards either side of the gun. They will barely pause once the game is located, crashing through the undergrowth to flush immediately. This is the reason they have to work so close, to allow the gun an opportunity to take a snap shot before the quarry is out of range, which is normally between 35-40 yards of the gun. For this reason, the dog’s beat has to be well taught – once the dog encounters game it will invariably hot up, and this will result in it stretching the beat somewhat.
Once a spaniel has successfully flushed game that has been shot, it will generally these days be expected to retrieve the game, whether it is killed cleanly or is a runner. In thick cover, this may involve handling the dog out to a blind retrieve, or onto a blind blood trail. There was a time when spaniels were not expected to retrieve, but generally speaking it is now fairly standard to use a spaniel for both purpsoes.
Now onto my personal favourite, the HPR breeds, those that hunt, point and retrieve.
Although these breeds are used for hunting, their style is not normally as bustling and exciting as spaniel work in close cover; rather their style is graceful and looks deceptively slow; they actually cover the ground very quickly, but because of the distance they often work at, the excitement is in their grace rather than their speed.