Gundogs are wonderful animals that have been bred generation after generation to work faithfully alongside man, flushing, pointing and retrieving. The main group of people who use Gundogs for working purposes are still very much gamekeepers. Once a year as with every other known Kennel Club registered breed, the Gundog Group take to the ring at Crufts. In fact Crufts is held during the month of March to allow for the working Gundogs who have been out in the shooting field time to get into tip top condition and recover after the long shooting season.
When choosing a Gundog serious consideration should be taken to any health problems that a breed is prone to and therefore the genetic health of both parents. Labradors, for example are prone to suffering from joint problems, fortunately through careful breeding these conditions can be relatively controlled by having Hip and Elbows x-rayed and scored and then carrying forward into the gene pool those dogs who have low acceptable scores. Progressive Retinal Atrophy is a condition of the eyes in many breeds, so again, ensure that both parents have been screened and are free of this condition. Without going to deeply into breeding and health during this article, I will say that these should not be taken lightly, so please look into your chosen breed’s health.
If you are wanting to try your hand at shooting, beating, tests or field trials then you would be wise to choose a puppy/dog from a trials pedigree. However, if you are just starting out in trials then a dog with a long line of FTCH in his pedigree would perhaps be an unwise decision as he will run rings round you due to your present inexperience.
If you are looking for a Gundog to own purely as a family pet then it is worth speaking to breeders and choosing a puppy from a litter that only one parents has been a working dog, again take the opportunity to enquire how previous puppies from either parents have turned out, what they excel at, or if they have been trained to flyball or Agility. You will get a good idea if this particular breeding is going to be suitable for your family and lifestyle.
There are 36 different breeds registered under the Gundog group within The Kennel Club, ranging from the well know pet Gundogs such as:
Spaniel (English Springer)
Spaniel (English Cocker)
to the breeds not as well known as:
Retriever (Nova Scotia Duck Tolling)
Spanish Water Dog
Spaniel (Working Cocker)
Many times I have heard people to go out and choose a Cocker Spaniel puppy to take home and become a much loved member of the family, however, as the puppy grows the family are beginning to struggle more and more with the high excess energy their dog now has, how he is always busy, trying to retrieve things, be it the kids shoes or the remote control. The dog is just ‘on the go’ constantly.
Unfortunately there are still a few backyard breeders or even uncaring people who claim that they are selling you a cocker spaniel puppy, yes that may be very true, however there is an English Cocker Spaniel and a Working Cocker Spaniel. Two completely different breeds!
Both breeds have the characteristic long heavily furnished ears, very similar head shape and are both merry dogs, in fact they can be difficult to tell apart if you haven’t seen both breeds before. But I can assure you that if you are looking for a calmer, family pet to take on family walks and slouch around on the sofa, then you will have a huge shock if you end up taking home a Working Cocker Spaniel thinking that it is an English Cocker Spaniel!