Being a gundog, Field Spaniels are used to working beside people and so seem to be at home when doing stuff with their people. Most have great drive and enthusiasm and are wicked smart! They are easy to train and keen to learn as long as you keep the training interesting and use positive reinforcement.
Unfortuntely you don't see a lot of Field Spaniels out competing in dog sports but that is beginning to change. Currently we have Fields in Australia competing in (and titled in) the performance sports of Obedience, Rally, Tracking, Lure Coursing, Scentwork, Endurance and Backpacking. They are also well suited to Agility and Dances With Dogs (yes, that is a sport!) It is all about finding what you and your dog like to do. Even if you don't want to compete, the training is a lot of fun and remember the dog trainer's motto "a tired dog is a good dog"!
Here at Fayemor, we are mostly involved in Obedience, Rally, Tracking and Scentwork. More information about these and other dog sports can be found here.
Basic obedience is a must for all dogs. You may wish to take it that next step further and participate in Obedience and / or Rally trials. Obedience Trials demonstrate the dog and handler’s ability to work together with precision, willingness and enjoyment. Levels are designed to be progressive, allowing the dog and handler to grow in skill and experience as titles are earned.
The objective of Rally is to provide a fast-moving and motivational sport for both Handler and dog that demonstrates competency in basic Obedience exercises without the precision of the formal Obedience Classes. Dogs in Rally events should demonstrate willingness and enjoyment. To that end, Handlers may use verbal praise and encouragement of the dog on the Rally course. Rally is a great sport for new handlers to try.
Fergus was the first Field Spaniel in Australia to have a Rally title and now has his Novice and Advanced titles. He also has his first obedience title and id on his way to his second.
Tracking uses the dog's natural abilities of scenting in a challenging and enjoyable way. Conducted in bush or paddock settings, the dog must follow the trail of scent left by the tracklayer, find articles along the way and then find the tracklayer at the end of the track. There is nothing quite like the joy you experience when your dog finds the tracklayer. The tracks start off at 400m and the tracklayer is someone known to your dog. By the final track to earn the Tracking Champion title, the tracks are 1200m and the tracklayer is unknown. And of course, you as the handler have no idea which way the tracklayer has walked.
Even though this is a natural sport and people say you dont actually teach your dog, don't be fooled. This sport requires you and your dog to work together as team. You need to be able to read your dog's body language as to when he is on the track or is just distracted by the smell of a rabbit or kangaroo and on that scent.
Fergus was a real challenge (and I was clueless) when we started but he taught me so much. The day he got his final pass to become a Tracking Champion (and so become the first Field Spaniel in Australia to have a Tracking Championship) was one of the proudest moments in my 20 years of working with dogs.
Scentwork (or Nosework) is one of the newest dog sports. Like tracking it uses the dog's natural ability to scent but instead of trying to find a person, the dog is trying to find a specific odour - birch, anise or clove. It is based on the task of working detection dogs. The dogs locate the odour and by their body language, they indicate to their handler that the odour has been found. Of course it is up to the handler to be able to determine when the dog is actually "on odour".
Scentwork is a great sport for dogs and handlers of all ages, sizes (dog sizes that is) and abilities as it is not physically demanding. Handlers take their dogs through a small defined search area which could be containers (as Harriet is working in the photo), a room, an external environment or a vehicle. They have only a few minutes to find the odour and alert their handler.
Scentwork has just become officially recognised as a sport by the Australian National Kennel Council so hopefully we will see trials commencing in 2021.