|#1 Open All-Age Spaniel
Flushingwing Black Magic
English Springer Spaniel
Owner/Handler: John Mitchell
How long have you been training dogs? About 27 years. During this time, I have earned High Point Dog in Canada six times with my homebred Springers. I have also won two Nationals – Canada’s top event for Spaniels – and been runnerup twice.
List other events you participate in with your dogs. Just field trialling and hunting. Of course, basic obedience training is a must as a foundation for fieldwork.
Most memorable win/field event in 2016? The most memorable weekend was in the spring of 2016 when Flushingwing Black Magic earned back-to-back wins.
What is your dog’s greatest strength in the field? He has it all… a strong drive on birds, steady on the flush, retrieves to hand, follows hand signals and is good in the water. He knows his job!
What was the most challenging aspect of preparing your dog for field events? Preparation is a neverending process. I train a lot of dogs, and have to handle a lot of different personalities. They must all be trained to the same ability. It is important to know what pressures you can put on each dog and decide when they are ready to trial. It is crucial to do your homework on each dog. If there are any holes in your dog’s training, the judges will find them.
What do you like most about competing in field events? One of the most rewarding aspects of participating in field events is the joy of watching the dogs work; doing what they were bred to do. I also enjoy being a part of a ‘community’ that shares a common goal. No one is going to win all the time, but we all are just as happy when someone else wins. If you put in the work to train and prepare your dog, you will succeed.
Advice you would give someone new to spaniel field events? First and foremost, do your homework and go to a reputable breeder. For field work, you will need to find a biddable dog – a dog with the right personality, from healthy, sound bloodlines. Then find a great training partner – or group of enthusiasts – to help guide you through the training and trialling process. A good mentor is invaluable. Dr. Dave McCurdy, a legend in English Springers, became a lifelong friend and mentor not only to me but also to many breed and field enthusiasts, as well.
#1 Amateur All-Age Spaniel
Tuffy Of Ivanhoe
English Springer Spaniel
Owner/Handler: Bill Cosgrove
How long have you been training dogs? I trace my involvement back to my son’s first birthday. That day in June (Father's Day), he surprised me with a Springer pup, which got me started in the world of field trialling. Oh, my son Ben is 36… so it's been a while.
List other events you participate in with your dogs. I casually hunt with my dogs. Early on I hunted more, but as game diminished in our area, I found trialling dogs to be a great joy and excuse to turn my seasonal interest into a year-round pursuit.
Most memorable win/field event in 2016? My most memorable event was the Canadian National Amateur Championship. Hailing from the states, I always enjoy getting up to the Canadian countryside and have made some great friendships there through the years. My dogs performed well – particularly Tuffy, who garnered a second.
What is your dog’s greatest strength in the field? When we talk about the really exceptional dogs running trials, they pretty much have to be "a complete dog." That said, they will also have perhaps one area where they really excel that might distance themselves from the pack. In Tuffy's case, it would be her incredible nose, which leads to strong, positive, finds that even WOW me!
What was the most challenging aspect of preparing your dog for field events? If you want to be competitive, field trialling is a commitment. I have always enjoyed the competition. Each of my dogs will have an area that we are developing more fully. It varies from dog to dog. You might think of it as a balancing act where you want to see an exciting field dog working with a level head and under control. I would describe my methodology as always cycling in and out of striving for a peak performance followed by a cooling-off period.
What do you like most about competing in field events? In terms of what I like most about field trialling dogs, in retrospect I would have to say it has been living my adult life out doors, pursuing something that is always a little out of reach, making friends and enjoying the unique companionship that canines provide.
Advice you would give someone new to spaniel field events? My advice to newbies would be to acquire the most well bred dog you can find, and don't haggle over the price. Think about it terms of spreading the investment out over the next 13 years of your life. Develop your dog slowly, avoiding manmade problems wherever possible. There are some very good resources out there. I think one of the best is Gerry Babin’s step-by-step e-book. Don't become a ‘weekend warrior’ where you only interact with your dog on the weekend and inadvertently engage in overtraining. Try to get involved with people who share your interest – a club would be your best bet. Finally enjoy the beauty and wonderment of the outdoors.