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gundogsGundogs, or sporting dogs as they are sometimes known, were originally bred and trained to locate, track, flush out or retrieve live, dead or wounded game. These intelligent, active dogs which include Retrievers, Setters, Spaniels and Pointers, thrive on physical and mental stimulation. These dogs are not content to lounge about on the couch. They want to be outside running and playing. Full of energy the sporting breeds truly live up to their group’s name.

retrieversRetrievers do just as their name suggests, that is to say, they retrieve game that has been shot down and bring it back to their owner. Retrievers developed to work with water fowl have coats that are naturally water repellent and in some Labradors webbing of the toes allow for better swimming.

Retrievers were bred primarily to retrieve birds or other prey and return them to the hunter without damage. Although spaniels and some pointing breeds routinely retrieve game, and many retrievers are skilled in finding game, retrievers are distinguished in that non-slip retrieval is their primary function. As a result, retriever breeds are bred for soft mouths and a great willingness to please, learn, and obey. A soft mouth refers to the willingness of the dog to carry game in its mouth without biting into it.

Retrievers are highly athletic and well-balanced dogs. The special density and hair type of their coat that allows them to repel water, and their seemingly limitless energy enables them to quickly adapt to working in both the water and on land. They have webbed feet that propels them powerfully through water.

In addition to their excellent hunting skills, the versatility and personality of the Labrador and Golden Retrievers has made these breeds popular as a family dog. Adaptability, willingness to please and acceptance of the unknown has made the Retriever breeds indispensable for use as guide and service dogs.

flushing gundog breedsSmall and swift dogs such as Spaniels are experts at flushing out game. They are often used to rouse game birds into the air which allowing the hunters a chance to take aim. Spaniels are also great at flushing small mammals like rabbits.  

Flushing dogs differ from other gundog types such as pointers and setters, dogs which remain still after locating the game, or retrievers, dogs that fetch the game after it has been shot.

Spaniels were especially bred to flush game out of dense brush. By the late 17th century spaniels had become specialized into water and land breeds.

Springer Spaniels probably demonstrate the greatest divergence between working and show lines of any breed of dog. A field-bred dog and a show-bred dog appear to be different breeds, but are registered together. Field-bred dogs tend to have shorter, coarser coats than the show-bred dogs. Their ears are less pendulous.

The term springer comes from their historic hunting role, where the dogs would "spring" or "flush" birds into the air.

The largest and heaviest of the spaniel breeds is the Clumber Spaniel, currently recognised as a vulnerable native breed in the UK.

Happy-go-lucky hunters, enthusiastic and loyal and companions, spaniels have something for every dog lover.

irish red setterSetters and Pointers are typically grouped together. They provide the same function but just go about it differently. Both types locate the prey and alert their owners to it either by sitting near it or standing rigidly near it.

A setter silently searches for game by scent. When prey is encountered the dog freezes rather than chasing after the game. Setters get their name from their distinctive stance; a sort of crouch or "set" upon finding their quarry.

The oldest setter known today, the English Setter is likely descended from crossbreeding between the Spanish Pointer, Springer Spaniel, and other water spaniels. The English Setter has been used as a hunting dog for a very long time, perhaps as far back as the 13th century.

The Irish Red and White Setter is another very ancient breed, native of Ireland, it's origins going back to the Spanish Pointer, to the days of the Tudors, if oil paintings of the time are to be believed.

Like many breeds, the history of the Pointer is not entirely clear. The name pointer comes from the dog's instinct to point, by stopping and aiming its muzzle towards game. This demonstrates to the hunter the location of his or her quarry.

In the past they were sometimes used in combination with a retriever, to point out game for the hunter. Pointers were also used as falconer's dogs. As early as the 17th century, sportsmen used Pointers to locate hares and then employed Greyhounds to chase them.