"Under certain circumstances," Brent said, "hunting two or even more spaniels at a time makes sense, but under other circumstances it makes no sense. For example, if several hunters are spread out in a field, it takes multiple spaniels to hunt all the cover for them. Of course, this assumes that all the spaniels involved are well-trained, steady to wing and shot, and honor the retrieves of other dogs. Lacking this level of training, chaos can and probably will result."
Some of the potential problems that can result from hunting a partially-trained spaniel with a well-trained one are: "dual retrieving," which leads to playing tug-of-war with birds as well as dog fights; frustration of the well-trained spaniel, leading to disobedience, breaking, and even punching out too far to beat the other dog to the birds. No one with a well-trained spaniel should allow another less-well-trained dog to undo the training that has taken months to instill.
Even some well-trained spaniels won't hunt well together. For example, if one dog is significantly faster than the other, it would be difficult to keep the two dogs abreast of one another on parallel beats. The faster dog would keep getting too far ahead, forcing his owner to stop him frequently to let the slower dog catch up. This can be frustrating for all the hunters involved.
Brent stressed that dogs hunted together should get along well with each other. If you know yours is a fighter, or even a bluffer, you should hunt him alone. No matter how friendly a group of dogs seems, before hunting them together, it's a good idea to put each dog on lead and let them mingle awhile. Any dog that seems less kindly than expected in this group therapy session should be "cut from the team."
Brent feels that a spaniel should not be hunted together with a pointing dog because the spaniel, being a flusher, wouldn't honor the other dog's points but would blow past the dog on point and flush the birds. It wouldn't take many repetitions of this to convince the pointing dog that he should flush his own birds instead of letting this uppity spaniel do it. The pointing dog might also decide that the "erring" spaniel needs a trip to the woodshed.
Brent said that a spaniel can be successfully hunted with a retriever that flushes. "My only concern here," he said, "would be for the stamina of the retriever. He may wear out sooner than the spaniel."
Under anything less than ideal circumstances, Brent feels you should hunt multiple dogs one at a time, rotating them often enough to keep a fresh dog in front of you all the time.
"You have better control over one dog," he said, 'than you do over two or more. You'll hunt a lot quieter, and with a fresh dog every so often, you can hunt longer without a break."
Brent stressed that you should use common sense in deciding how long to hunt your spaniel before putting him up for a rest. If the weather is hot, or if he's out of shape, you shouldn't let him hunt very long. Don't ever "push" your dog beyond his endurance, or even close to it.
"Extending the hunt a little," he said, "is not worth killing your dog for!" As a final point, Brent added this: Before hunting season, you should take your spaniel to a pro for a tune-up. Your dog will come back to you very sharp on his commands and in better physical condition.
This tip is from Brent LeMaster of Guadaira Kennels, 10395 Cincinnati-Zansvillen Road, Amanda, Ohio 43102; (614) 778-4702; Website www.guadairakennels.com; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brent has been training all sporting breeds professionally for nine years. He trains all breeds for hunting and spaniels for field trials, hunting tests, and hunting. He participates in spaniel field trials and breeds English springer spaniels.