The all-rounder is a common concept in the shooting world and a hotly debated topic by anyone involved in gundogs. But what does it mean?
To me, it applies to the dog that is as much at home sitting on a peg as it is flushing game for its handler when rough shooting. One that will happily retrieve a pigeon back to a hide, a partridge out of thick cover and a Canada goose offwater.
It is also the dog that can genuinely and happily turn its paw to each task the handler requires. It is a tall ask, certainly, but is possible and there are many examples. I see a few most seasons.
Breed is the first thing we take into consideration. You cannot write offany gundog breed because there will always be one example that surprises you and performs in every area. However, if the all-round gundog is required, there are some breeds I would avoid.
Cocker spaniels are renowned as good shooting companions for flushing and hunting dense cover. Their size means they can get into almost anything with relative ease and most can learn to quarter with great effect. This makes them ideal for beating and rough shooting alike.
Many cockers are used in picking up teams and possess plenty of drive and ability to hunt and find wounded game. Fewer cockers are used on peg; something many of these little dogs can lack is a bit of patience. So sitting for the vast majority of the day and waiting for one or two retrieves is not normally one of their strengths. Though a fantastic little all-rounder, due to its size, the cocker can struggle on bigger game and the vast majority genuinely cannot pick a goose.
Their size can also limit their strength in water and a lot of them do not fare as well in cold weather. So, sitting in the cold, shallow water for flighting is not for a lot of cockers.
Their size can often be a benefit for those wishing to have a companion and working dog. Cocker spaniels have mastered the art of being an excellent working dog and a lap-sized pet. Many can work one day, but then make perfect tractor companions the next.
The labrador or golden retriever often seems a sensible choice. They are much more at home wildfowling, as the cold is kept at bay by a double coat, and any good labrador or goldie should make short work of tough swimming and retrieving geese.
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