Traning Archives

The Cocker Spaniel Grouse and Woodcock Specialist, or General Purpose Gun Dog?

Training Am – Thomas Ness

Here in North Dakota we are blessed with abundant and varied wild game. We hunt Pheasant, Hungarian Partridge, 4 species of grouse (although sharp tail are far and away the most common) and waterfowl of all types. Over three million acres of ND land are enrolled in the CRP program in fields ranging from 20 to over a thousand acres. There are many creeks, drainage and the prairie potholes, all of which are magnets to wildlife. Many offer opportunities for gun dogs of all types to strut their stuff – I own Cockers, Springers, Labs and an Irish setter. However the reality for most folks is one dog, a jack of all trades gundog and family companion.

For most of what I do I find spaniels, either Cockers or Springers to be ideal. When hunting I use them interchangeably without regard to cover or terrain. Springers usually take in more ground, but in open grassland I expect either to cover enough ground to find me some game. In Scotland, where there might be a rabbit lurking in every bush, a dog that never gets more than 7 or 8 yards from the handler may be just the ticket, but on the prairie it is basically useless. Likewise, when working a shelter belt of scrub elm and deadfall a big running dog that is forever pushing the edge of range will destroy more opportunity than it creates. Adaptability therefore, is the key. A dog that will get out and go in open grass but tighten up and hunt thoroughly in thick stuff will have many fans. I find no remarkable difference between Cockers and Springers, given proper training. I do prefer the temperament of a Cocker but can see where some would like that of a Springer. Although it somewhat defies the laws of physics, I have found that my Cockers have had better stamina than any of my Springers. Having said that I must also say that my buddy Ralph Mowder’s old springer bitch Daisy could run any spaniel I ever saw into the ground. The English Cocker is becoming very popular out here for very good reason. It fits the bill nicely for the avid hunter who enjoys the variety we have to offer and wants his gundog to be a family pet.

I find the English Cockers to be very versatile, able to hunt any type of cover. Try to pigeonhole it as a shoe polishing Ruffed Grouse and woodcock specialist will be to condemn it to a trip back down the road to oblivion from whence it came.

Thomas Ness

Oahe Kennels
6400 158th Street SE
Menoken, North Dakota
(701) 673-3322