Getting Started

For new buyers – I believe there are many good breeders whose stock can be bought with confidence as healthy and typical, with good trainable temperaments, and where at least the dam, and often sire too, may be seen. Obviously evidence of working experience or trainability in parents is preferable.

For current owners – my advice to owners of dogs, whatever the age, interested in training, and to potential owners, is:

  1. Join two breed clubs – the national WSSC for unrivalled information in its publications, and your regional club. All run training classes and tests where you will be made welcome, to observe, learn and later take part when your dog is old enough. (Contact list below). If breed classes aren’t practical, try show spaniel or Minor Breeds classes. Get advice; don’t risk incompatible groups/trainers.
  2. Do your homework, by finding out as much as possible about the breed, the process and psychology of training, and about the shooting and country sports scene. Use your public library and the many periodicals available with excellent professional advice columns. It’s a lifetime’s study but so much easily available information exists. See my starter list below..
  3. While waiting to develop your breed contacts, begin play training, with praise rewards, early. Plenty of good kind nursery training classes are run at vets’ surgeries etc, for socialization and owner training, using modern proven techniques popularized by Dr Ian Dunbar’s books and TV seminars.
  4. A few general tips – make haste slowly, at the dog’s pace not yours. Don’t be in a hurry. Use your brains and develop your own judgement. Keep praising the right response and ignoring, as far as possible, the wrong one. If you have to scold, just do that but never over-punish. As the wise Derry Argue wrote about setters, all they need is a shake and a rough word. Above all, let nobody else chastise your dog!

Further Reading

  1. “The Complete Book of Gundogs in Britain” [ed.T.Jackson, pub Barry & Jenkins 1974 ] has a superb breed portrait, with details of field trial achievements up to ‘73, in Hal Leopard’s chapter on the breed..
  2. My own volume on the breed, “The Essential Welsh Springer Spaniel” [pub. author, 2nd ed.1990] now o/p but available via libraries contains 3 chapters on working training and history, with details of trials and major test success up to 1990, together with a comprehensive book list, including many on general gundog training.
  3. ” Welsh Springer Spaniel”, by Anne Walton [pub TFH Kingdom ’99 ] a beautiful book & a must for owners, 2 excellent working contributions by experts Eileen Falconer and Julie Revill.
  4. “The Complete Gundog” comp.& ed. John Humphreys [David & Charles 1990] – excellent compendium, all you need to know on breeding, training, field work & trials, plus editor’s pen portrait of Simon, his first (Welsh Springer) dog.

Useful phone numbers

WSSC Working Secretary: Sharon Barkley 01233 712661
South Eastern WSSC W.Sec: Charles Dixon 01420-83726
North of England WSSC W.Sec: Susanne Backhouse 01642-957420
WSSC of South Wales W.Sec: Jan Rees 02920 891253 
United Spaniel Assn W.Sec: Shula Shipton 01283-530408

©John Phillips

Related Working Pages:

Working Sub Committee
Working with a WSS
Working Directory and Articles
Working Results