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This BOOK REVIEW, was done for Spaniels In The Field, (Issue Spring 1994 )
Copyright: Tom Radde
''HUP'' By James Spencer, ( Now Published By Alpine Publications )
When Art Rodger called and asked if I would do a review of ''Hup'', he asked me if I had read the book. I told him I had not read it because many Field Trialer's I spoke with had said it wasn't worth while. I promised I would give a honest, unbiased opinion of it once he sent me a copy.
Well, after just the first page of the Preface I knew I could not write an unbiased opinion of this book for the simple reason that any man who talks of Brigadoon, and Camelot while writing a treatise on dog training, just has to be a gentlemen. Spencer writes this book in a Renaissance concept, 'a little about all, a lot about one, (subject/s)'. After finishing the book I regret not reading it sooner.
Spencer may be relativity new to E.S.Spaniels, but he is not new to Hunting, Trialing, and Training dogs. In his 45 plus years with dogs he has been competitive with several breeds of Pointers and Retrievers. He has also written 3 well respected books on the Retriever Game. This is some of the 'different' knowledge Spencer brings to the Spaniel game. Perhaps the criticism of this book comes from the extensive information on retrieving, more so than any other Spaniel book I have read. Some may feel it's just not necessary. Well, if that is so, than just take from it what you need. That does not discredit the rest of the information.
Spencer's advice as to when to consult a Professional Trainer is worthwhile, some Pro Trainers may not agree for economic reasons, but his position is ''...You train your dog, but when you run into a particularly baffling problem, you confer with your Pro, (and pay him for his services, naturally)...you should feel no shame if you occasionally hit a snag you can't work out...''
All in all, this is perhaps the best book for the 'first time', and/or the 'choosing a flushing breed' person. The detail in explaining the basics will go a long way in helping the newcomer to Spaniels, especially Springers, learn the rudimentary facets of Springer training. While the experienced Trialer may find some of the basic chapters boring, there is plenty to learn in the retrieving chapters, for the newcomer and experienced trainer.
Spencer starts with a section on describing eight breeds of flushing Spaniels and seeks out experts on each for opinions. He ends this 'all breed' information with suggestions on sorting it all out. Keeping with his methodical method of arrangement, he helps the reader gather and group priorities. Again keeping the newcomer in mind, Spencer, without judgment on the 'which is better' argument, points out the 'differences' between the Show bred, and the Field bred Spaniel. The section on all the titles one could see in front or behind a dogs name, and exactly what they stand for, will go a long way in unraveling some of the confusion a newcomer may have on just what is what. This not only includes AKC, but UKC and NAHRA as well. Excellent chapters on what Field Trials, and Hunt Tests are all about. To the point of what to look at, what to, and not to do, where to stand and walk, and what is expected if you decide to compete. These chapters basically answer most of the questions a newcomer would have while attending his/her first Field Trial or Hunt Test.
The training portion contains eleven chapters in the standard order, and of the standard topics, Puppy, Obedience, Quartering, Steading, Brace, and Gentle Force Breaking. This standard of dog books is broken with no less than four chapters on the various levels of retrieving. Ending with blind multiple retrieves. Some of this work is quite sophisticated for Springers. Most of which I, or the training group I train with, don't regularly try with our Springers, but is certainly worth some looking into. A good reference to keep around, (by the way Art, I have lost the book you sent me and won't be able to get it back to you). Spencer also arranges his training chapters in a logical methodology. For example, What is it?, Why do it?, Prerequisites, Equipment, Facilities, Schedules, and Techniques. He details each facet of training, almost with a newspapers approach of, who, what, when, where, how. Yet he doesn't get stuck on one approach.
In an important chapter before the training chapters. Spencer lays out the relationship between the Dog and Man. He points out Dog training is not a continuous, predictable series of events. One does not do "step one" before "step two", and so on. Rather several items of training can, and in many times should be, taking place simultaneously. There is no time limit on training a Dog. Each chapter has an approximation of how long that phase may take, however, ''...No one will take your Dog away from you if you lag behind, and no one will give you a prize if you lap the field...''
''Hup'' is a worth while addition to any dog library. It is certainly a top choice for the start of a flushing dog library, if you sell pups you should give this book (with a copy of ''How To Raise A Puppy You Can Live With'' by Rutherford & Neil) to every first time Spaniel buyer. This book will give the new Spaniel owner an excellent start on a rewarding relationship with one of the most versatile, and affectionate hunting dogs around.
After finishing the book I regret not reading it sooner.
Tom Radde Copyright 1994
|This Preface, Is from
book, published in 1992.
It is not included in the New Printing.
I have called the Author, and have his permission to reprint this here.
James B. Spencer Copyright 1992
In early 1987 I sauntered unsuspectingly into the spaniel world --- after twenty years in retrievers, preceded by ten years in pointing breeds, preceded by three years in Obedience Trial competition. All through those years I was curious about spaniels, but no one in my area had a working spaniel. Mostly I read about them. For years, I looked for a spaniel Field Trial within a reasonable distance. No luck.
Then, in 1985, Jim Reid, the outdoor columnist for the Wichita Eagle, wrote a piece about a local young man named Chad Betts. Chad not only had working spaniels, he also ran them in Field Trials, and-best of all, he was starting a spaniel club right here in my hometown. I joined Chad's club, the Springer Spaniel Club of Central Kansas. Almost overnight, I was surrounded by working spaniels. But it was another two years before I had kennel space for one of my own. In the spring of 1987 I bought Flick, a field-bred English Springer, as a seven-week-old pup from Brenda Falkowski, who lives within three miles of my house. In 1990 I bought Rocky, another seven-week old field-bred English Springer, from Dr. David Kettleson of Omaha, Nebraska.
Going from the high-tech world of electronic retriever training (which I never bought, never practiced) to the enchanting, enchanted world of spaniel training, I felt like Gene Kelly in the movie version of the musical Brigadoon. (Even my tactful wife will admit, if pressed, that I neither look nor dance like Gene Kelly-but, hey, no analogy is perfect.)
How refreshing to watch people praise and encourage their dogs
as they did in my Camelot days among pointing dog and Obedience Trial
so many years ago.
I preferred Brigadoon. But then, so did Gene Kelly.
I have spent over four years there. Like Gene Kelly, I plan to stay for life. Brigadoon has been good to me, good for me. Now, in this book, I reciprocate. Most of what the Brigadooners have taught me about spaniel training came from word of mouth and example. They have written nothing down, at least not in book form. In gratitude for all their help, I am including in this book everything they have taught me about traditional spaniel training: quartering, steadying, brace work.
But I didn't enter Brigadoon empty-handed. I came bearing gifts, gifts that will appreciate in value as Brigadooners expand the horizons of their all-round hunting dogs.
In recent years, they have shown increasing interest in advanced retrieving. More and more of them are hunting doves and waterfowl with their spaniels. That means multiple marked retrieves, and blind retrieves. The new AKC hunting tests for spaniels require both water work arid blind retrieves. This requirement is more a result than a cause of the developing interest in advanced retrieving in Brigadoon.
Spaniels can do this work, and do it very well. My Flick, whose full name is Orion's Flicker MH, has proved this most dramatically. The MH after his name stands for "Master Hunter" the highest level AKC hunting test title. Flick does water work, multiple marks, and blind retrieves so well that my retriever friends have suggested that I spray paint him orange and run him as a Golden!
Yes, Flick has proved that spaniels can do advanced retrieving. But that's not the point. What's important is that he does it without having suffered through the heavy handed Midtown Manhattan training techniques. Flick doesn't "glow in the dark" from excessive use of the electronic collar. Flick doesn't tuck his tail between his legs and slink on blind retrieves. No, he bounces out there like . . . like. . . well, like a spaniel.
I formed my training attitudes long ago in my Camelot days among pointing dog and Obedience trainers. Twenty years in Midtown Manhattan couldn't change those attitudes. Not liking the way retriever trainers hammered the blind retrieve into their dogs, I looked for a kinder, gentler way. I picked up a technique here, a trick there, added a twist from somewhere else. I slowly assembled this hodgepodge into an integrated training program that keeps a dog's spirit up while conditioning him to run a true blind retrieve. Not the random run with a (surprise) happy ending that some Brigadooners accept as a blind retrieve. Not the plodding robot blind retrieve Midtown Manhattan retrieverites instill. In my approach, the dog learns to run happily to a "picture," not fearfully from the trainer.
There's more. Spaniel owners who do a lot of dove and waterfowl hunting are finding that force-breaking has some advantages. Not to teach spaniels to retrieve. No, they do that naturally. But force-breaking offers fringe benefits for water dogs, especially in the way it assures reliable delivery to hand. The dog comes ashore with a coatful of water. He may lay the bird down at the edge and shake. Then he may wander off, leaving the hunter the unpleasant job of slogging through deep mud to retrieve the abandoned bird. Force-breaking solves that problem.
In Midtown Manhattan, they force-break with the quick and rough 'Hell Week' technique. Most Brigadooners would rather wade in mud after their n ducks than put their spaniels through the misery of Hell Week. I agree. Even so, I force-broke Flick. I didn't use Hell Week. No, I used the very gentle David Sanborn technique, which I long ago brought to Midtown Manhattan from Camelot. The Sanborn method takes longer than Hell Week, but it's just as effective. More important, it's gentle enough for the most sensitive spaniel.
I do not claim that every spaniel should be force-broken. No, the spaniel that hunts only upland birds can get by nicely with natural retrieving. But the spaniel that does a lot of water work is another matter. However, even that spaniel doesn't deserve Hell Week. The Sanborn method I describe here is a, practical, sensible alternative.
So, as I said, I didn't enter Brigadoon empty-handed. I brought with me, gentle techniques for training spaniels to do things that Brigadooners are beginning to recognize as valuable: nonslip retrieving training techniques for both single and multiple marked retrieves; more important, blind retrieve training and force-breaking. All very gentle, very effective.
Maybe I brought a touch of Camelot with me to Brigadoon.
James B. Spencer Copyright 1992