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As a general rule, I think most would agree that when training a dog it is not a good idea to teach a dog what you donít want it to do, before teaching it what you want it to do. Certainly teaching a dog to be steady before shooting birds for the dog to retrieve seems a logical progression - if one wants a steady dog.

When I first arrived at Saighton kennels, I was given three dogs that were hunting well and quartering to the whistle - but not steady to the flush. I was asked to steady these dogs to flush as one of my first jobs. It didnít take long to see the benefits of steadying to the flush before shooting birds for the dogs. After teaching the meaning of the hup command, everyday I quartered these dogs along stubble fields and in the marsh found along the estate lake near the kennels. During these outings, they might flush pheasants, partridge, and hares. I didnít carry a gun.

One of the dogs, called Stylo, soon caught on to the idea. As soon as he learned that I wanted him to hup when he put up game he started doing this without the need for any command. Very quickly he was so good at this that I need not worry even when he pushed a hare off its seat in open pasture. I found the hare the greatest temptation for a spaniel to forget his training and give chase. Not many hard going Spaniels could automatically be relied on to hup and watch a 6-8 lb hare run off across open pasture if the handler was caught napping. With Stylo, it was all 100% reliable and automatic. I saw him sit spitting fur from a hare that was a bit slow moving off its seat. I also saw Stylo sit and watch three or four other spaniels chasing a hare across open pasture as if they thought they were greyhounds coursing. Stylo would do this without the need of a reminder whistle or command. It was virtually a reflex action for him to hup when he put game up. He learned this quickly and easily without a lot of work on my part. My first thought on seeing Stylo perform in this manner was, "what a pity it would have been to teach this dog to be unsteady to game before trying to teach him to be steady". I would doubt that it would have been so easy to steady Stylo had I began by shooting what he flushed before teaching him to be steady to the flush. I wondered how easy he would have developed such a reliably automatic reflex action to the flush had I shot game for him before steadying him. Some of the virtues of the U.K. method were immediately apparent to me.

"If a dog learns to assume every bird shot is for him to retrieve, there is the risk that he will not bother waiting to be sent and steadiness is lost."

I didnít often see dogs like Stylo. Hard hunting dogs, which nearly steadied themselves, and automatically sat to any game put up thereafter. They were a treasure when they appeared. Most took more work to be reliably steady. Two of Styloís littermates were the same. FTCH Saightonís Start trained by the local schoolmaster, O.C. Jones, and Spitfire who became my personal dog had this same inclination. Spitfireís son NFTCH, NAFTCH Saightonís Scout II had this wonderful trait, also. They learned steadiness so easily it almost seemed they were naturally steady. This was not really the case. These dogs were never rewarded for chasing game by giving them a retrieve at the end of the chase. As young dogs they were allowed to chase after flushed game, but it never did them any good as they never caught anything or had anything shot for them. Most young dogs learned there was no point in chasing game a long way and they were not encouraged to do so. The desire to chase was never encouraged or developed, so when steadiness was wanted, it naturally was much easier to reverse the natural inclination to chase.

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