Irish Water Spaniels were developed specifically to assist hunters with guns. And while the people in the British Isles generally have a bit more restrained attitude towards firearms than those of us in the U.S., they are uninhibited in acknowledging that this whole group of working dogs are classified as “Gundogs”.
From the Kennel Club web site:
The Gundog Breed Group: Dogs that were originally trained to find live game and/or to retrieve game that had been shot and wounded.
Some folks in the U.S. are exuberant promoting our second amendment rights, but we are also too politically correct at times, so the AKC refers to this group as “Sporting Dogs”. Other than chasing tennis balls, Cooper doesn’t do sports. He is bred to be a gun dog. He is a gun dog.
That being said, not only is he trained to find and retrieve birds, he is trained to work around shotguns. He responds to the direction they are pointed (at birds) and respond to the big noise they make (time to go get birds). He is even moderately good at recognizing people handling guns and knowing when to turn in the field and work within the range of the gunners. He is a gun dog. Sporting dogs chase frisbees.
Owning and training gun dogs is not cheap. Among other things, a well trained gundog likes the status of working with nice ($$) shotguns. If the dog is not flushing birds quick enough, finding downed birds, and delivering promptly to hand, then the problem may be that the gunner is using an inferior firearm. While this is a subtle distinction, many gundog trainers are constantly trying to find the perfect shotgun for their dog just like a show handler goes through jeweled show leads.
In the quest for perfection, Cooper is on his 4th shotgun. Being an IWS who does waterfowl retrieving and upland hunting, he requires a different gun for ducks, pheasant, partridge, quail, etc . . . . (so far he does not know about geese, grouse, or doves).
Friday, he got to field test a Benelli 686 and a Ruger Red Label. Both seem acceptable at this point and he located the birds and delivered the pheasants to hand. To date he has worked with Benellis, Berettas, Brownings, Rugers, Remingtons and Stoegers.
Preferences? Nothing definitive yet, as the list of shotguns Cooper hasn’t tried is still quite long.
Tooey did mention that she would look good working with a B.Rizzini 28 gauge. (She just earned her AKC Junior Hunter title, and so I may have to reward her for her success.)
It’s all about the dogs and our effort to make them happy.