(Dedicated to Welshies in the field)
Many people ask me why I have a Welsh Springer Spaniel (WSS or Welshie). I usually reply that I got a WSS because I wanted a medium sized dog that I would be able to take waterfowl and upland game hunting. I used to own a Brittany, but now that I'm primarily waterfowling I wanted a dog which liked the water and had a desire to retrieve. I also wanted a dog that I could take with me in my canoe or kayak without tipping it over, and still have some room for decoys.
Of course, sometimes I answer the question: "I'm from Nebraska, I like the red and white colors." :-)
When I started my search for a dog in 2002, I really didn't know where to start. I first consulted with my girlfriend, Christina, who has an excellent knowledge of dog breeds and she pointed me down the path of spaniels. After reading about various breeds, I decided to look further into the WSS. Of course, I did the appropriate internet search for WSS breeders and sent many e-mails. The response I got was a bit surprising!!! Several of the people (not all) I contacted basically shunned me because I was a hunter and I wanted a WSS for hunting. Hmm?? I wanted to use a hunting breed for hunting. What's wrong with that?!? Apparently, to a few WSS breeders I was in contact with, that was an unacceptable use of this breed. However, a few breeders gave me positive responses that kept me on my quest for a WSS. However, they weren't expecting any available litters in the near future.
Undaunted by the negative feedback from a couple of confirmation people, I started posting on a couple of hunting forums to get information from people who may actually be using WSS's in the field. I only got responses from a couple of guys. Both guys shared similiar experiences with some WSS breeders in their personal search for a hunting WSS. I got some great feedback about the Welshie hunting style and personality. Here's a quote taken from one of the e-mails I received:
"My former English Springer was a firecracker when quartering -- all flash, flare and speed. My Welsh, however, quarters at a methodical, comfortable pace -- and will find every last feather in our path. He doesn't miss a thing in the field, he flushes more birds per hunt than any other dog I've hunted over (his nose is incredible) and I've never had a screaming event because he busted out of range. It's weird getting used to a slower paced working dog, but I've become accustomed to his methodical pace and enjoy a nice upland walk where I never get winded from a quick pace."
I continued to look into Welshies. Christina happened to find that the WSS national speciality was being held in nearby Virginia in late October 2002. We drove out to the show and watched the Welshies in the ring. I loved their style and flare in the ring, but I was hesitant to get drummed off the show grounds for making an inquiry about obtaining a WSS for hunting. I managed to find a local woman, Beth Wasserman, who breeds WSS and is active in the the Maryland Sporting Dog Association. After talking with her for a while about the use of the breed, she offered to put me on the list if any puppies in her next litter were available. In December I got the call that one male puppy was available. I jumped at the chance and in January 2003 I picked up my first Welshie puppy: UH SHR CH Greenwood's Angus MH SH JH CGC WDX. Henceforth, known as Angus. (Click here for pedigree.) Angus was the top rated show quality puppy of the litter, so the breeder asked to co-own so she could show him. With Christina's talent at grooming, Beth was able to earn Angus his CH title when he wasn't hunting.
Living with a Welsh Springer Spaniel is like living with a shadow. WSS's are always by your side checking up on what you are doing and looking for an opportunity to "help". I have commonly heard WSS's referred to as "Velcro dogs" because they are strongly attached to their owners. My girlfriend recently called a WSS we dog sat for the "VISA dog" because she was "everywhere you wanted to be." This is not necessarily a bad trait because it'll save you a lot of time trying to find your WSS.
Besides being "sticky", the WSS is a mild mannered dog. He'll gladly lay around the house with you all day without complaining a bit. Likewise, he'll tirelessly run through the woods all day with you exploring logs, creeks, and finding any animal in his path. Whatever activity you like to do, the Welshie will also be happy doing it, as long as he's with you. The WSS is also good with children, but can be a little tentative with strangers when he first meets them. The WSS is also a good 'alarm' dog. He'll let you know when the mailman is coming up the walk or if the squirrels are raiding your birdfeeders again.
Exercise is an important part of owning a WSS. If given the chance the WSS will gladly just hang out with you in front of the TV, but if you want to see you WSS show his colors, get him involved in an activity. Throw the ball for him, take him swimming (WSS love the water!), hide things in the backyard for him to find, let him tree squirrels in the park and sound his discovery, or find another WSS and watch them play!! (They seem to be strongly aware of members of their own breed.)
Once you accept a WSS into your life, you'll never regret the decision.
Before I talk about my experiences with hunting with Angus, I would first like to say a few words about training a Welshie. Welsh Springer Spaniels are very "soft". They do much better with positive reforcement style training and with a patient handler. I have found a electronic collar to be a very useful tool in training, but I use it VERY sparingly to correct unwanted behavior when the "loud voice" doesn't do the trick. As with any dog breed, some dogs are quick learners and some dogs learn more slowly. Make training fun and your dog will enjoy it and actually LEARN what you are trying to teach him.
My first hunting experience with Angus was when he was only 10 months old. We went hunting for teal in September 2003. He behaved wonderfully in the blind and was more interested in watching the marsh wrens than looking in the sky for incoming teal. When the first birds were shot, he immediately forgot about the wrens and rushed to the water's edge. Hopeful, I sent him out on his first retrieve. He swam out to the teal, circled it, and then returned back without it. With a little guidance back to the bird, he delicately grabbed it by the wing tip and brought it back to the shore. That got him interested! With a little help he retrieved the rest of the birds taken that day. More importantly he got experience with live birds and the hunting senerio.
In October 2003, we had our first hunt for 'real' ducks. Again Angus behaved wonderfully in the blind, but was a little unsure with handling the bigger ducks (Mallards and Widgeon). With a little help he made a couple of retrieves, but we had a more experienced dog do most of the work. Then we dropped a duck in some dense cover. The other dog lost the scent and couldn't find it. Knowing the bird was down, I took Angus over to help with the search. He immediately found the scent trail and followed it to the bird. WOW! This was my first indication of how well he can use his incredible nose. We got a couple more waterfowl hunts in that first year before it got too cold.
In the spring of 2004, I signed him up to run in The Welsh Spinger Club of America working dog (WD) test. The test consisted of two parts: field and water and is designed to assess the dog's natural abilities in the field. (Click here for the rules) He had never actually worked birds in the field before, so I contacted someone with birds and got him some exposure before the test. Long story short, he preformed well in the field and in the water and earned a WD certificate. We just missed the excellent certificate because he stopped short on his retrieve and didn't deliver the bird to hand. Oh well, I was still mightly proud of him. With this first 'title', I got encouraged to work with him towards the next step in testing program: AKC Spaniel Hunting Tests. For various reasons, we didn't get entered into any tests in 2004. But we did get in several more duck hunts that fall and some upland hunting in Nebraska.
During the 2004-5 hunting season I met a guy that directed me to the Mid-Atlantic Hunting Spaniel Club. I made contact with a couple of the members and participated in a club training. I joined the club and trained once more with them before entering Angus in the Junior Hunt Test in the Spring of 2005. Angus passed four straight legs and got his JH title! I had real good time at the tests and decided to take Angus at least through his Senior Hunt title. We almost finished his SH in 2006, but kept having trouble with delivery to hand. He'd deliver in practice, but not at the hunt tests. Frustrated and facing a busy work schedule in the summer of 2006, I sent Angus to Kim Parkman at Pocotaligo Kennels to be force fetched. With Kim's expert dog knowledge and some patience, she got Angus through the force fetch and his last leg of Senior Hunt title. After convincing me to keep Angus with her, Kim kept Angus for a total of six months. In that time, she earned two passes towards his HRC Started Hunter title, three passes towards his UKC Upland Hunter title, and one pass towards his AKC Master Hunter title. After picking Angus up from Kim in Jan 2007, I have finished his UKC Upland hunter title (the first WSS to earn this title), finished his UKC Started Hunter title, and most importantly earned his AKC Master Hunter title in Oct 2007.
Okay, I have to admit that I mostly have photos of my own dog, Angus, in this gallery, but I encourage you to send me photos of your own Welshie working in the field, looking cute, or just being a Welshie. Please send photos to webmaster[at]brdemkr.com
- Welsh Springer Spaniel Club of America
- Riverside Welsh Springer Spaniels
- Heaven's Welsh (with Pedigree search engine)
- Statesman Welsh Springer Spaniel
- Ky-Bryn Welsh Springers