Competitors in Sporting Spaniel events will typically compete with field bred
English Springer Spaniels or field bred English Cocker Spaniels.
English Springer Spaniel
The English Springer Spaniel is a breed of gun dog in the Spaniel family traditionally used for flushing and retrieving game. It is an affectionate, energetic breed with an average lifespan of twelve to fourteen years. Descended from the Norfolk or Shropshire Spaniels of the mid-19th century, the breed has diverged into separate show and working lines. The English Springer Spaniel is very closely related to the English Cocker Spaniel. Less than a century ago, springers and cockers would come from the same litter. The smaller cockers hunted woodcock while the larger littermates were used to flush, or "spring" game. In 1902, the Kennel Club of England recognized the English Springer Spaniel as a distinct breed. The term springer comes from the historic hunting role, where the dog would "spring" (flush) birds into the air. The typical springer is friendly, eager to please, quick to learn and willing to obey. An affectionate and easy-going family dog, its alertness and attentiveness make it the ideal hunting companion.
English Cocker Spaniel
The English Cocker Spaniel is a breed of gun dog in the Spaniel family that is used for flushing and retrieving game. The English Cocker Spaniel is an active, good-natured, sporting dog, standing well up at the withers and compactly built. There are "field" or "working" cockers and "show" cockers. The English Cocker Spaniel is closely related to the working-dog form of the Field Spaniel and the English Springer Spaniel.
The English Cocker Spaniel is similar to the English Springer Spaniel and at first glance the only major difference is the larger size of the Springer. However, English Cocker Spaniels also tend to have longer, and lower-set ears than English Springer Spaniels. In addition English Springer Spaniels also tend to have a longer muzzle, their eyes are not as prominent and the coat is less abundant. The English Cocker Spaniel has a cheerful nature and due to the breed's happy disposition and continuously wagging tail, it has been given the nickname "merry cocker".
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
English Springer Spaniels and English Cocker Spaniels ("sporting spaniels") are upland flushing dogs. There are a number of skills, as follows, that owners train their dogs to perform for both hunting and competition:
Scenting: Having the ability to scent game is of vital importance to the hunter and competitor. A sporting spaniel should have a good nose in both wet and dry conditions. A dog with a good nose will learn to use the wind as it quests for game, ever adjusting its pattern according to the nuances of the wind.
Flushing: The sporting spaniel should have a positive flush. It should not hesitate or point when encountering game. Some field trial dogs will often get airborne during a flush. This is exciting to watch, but is not necessary to win. Most hunters prefer that their dog not flush in that style, as it can present a risk to the dog.
Retrieve to Hand: Most hunters and all hunt test or field trial judges require that a dog deliver a bird to hand, meaning that a dog will hold the bird until told to give it to the hunter directly.
Hup: This is the traditional command to sit and stay. When hupped the dog can be given direction called to the handler. The ability to hup a dog actively working a running bird allow the handler and any gunners to keep up without having to run.
Steady: When hunting upland birds, the sporting spaniel should be steady to wing and shot, meaning that he sits when a bird rises or a gun is fired. He does this in order to mark the fall and to avoid flushing other birds when pursuing a missed bird.
Quarter: A sporting spaniel's primary role is often as an upland flushing dog. Dogs must work in a zig-zag pattern in front of the hunter seeking upland game birds. The dog is taught to stay within gun range to avoid flushing a bird outside shooting distance. This pattern is one of the criteria used to judge a dog in a field trial.
Soft Mouth: Sporting spaniels are taught to deliver game with a soft mouth, meaning he does not puncture it with his teeth. The game should always be fit for the table. If a dog damages the bird, it may be hard mouthed. This is a serious fault, but it can be difficult to determine whether it may have been genetic or caused by poor training methods. Breeders generally avoid using any spaniels that are hard mouthed.
Follow Hand Signals: Upland hunting involves pursuing wild game in its native habitat. Gun dogs must investigate likely covers for upland game birds. The dog must be responsive to hand signals in order for the hunter to be able to direct the dog into areas of particular interest.
Blind Retrieve: An adequately trained and experienced working spaniel can be expected to use all of the aforementioned attributes to be conducted by hand, whistle and command to a position whereby an unmarked lost game bird can be picked up and retrieved to hand.