top of page
Search

IDENTITY CRISIS FOR CLUMBERS

(published with thanks to THE GUNDOG JOURNAL)



A key feature of gundog training is that the dog must not be confused. And yet the Clumber Spaniel is beset by a severe identity crisis. Its meagre birthrate of around 200 pups per year uneasily embraces show breeders, those who see the dog as a shooting peg ornament and pet Clumbers whose work was done from home on a comfy sofa. The truly working Clumber is still fighting for its very survival.

Not that you’d know it. For some years now the Clumber brand has punched above its often-considerable weight. By steering towards the ‘working’ type, owners could obtain a broadly healthy dog with the eye, hip, weight, and temperament problems behind it. The pet market, assisted by the pandemic, drove puppy prices to stratospheric levels. Hardly the climate to attract the naturally sceptical who see no alternative to Springers or Cockers.


IMPORTANCE OF FIELD TRIALS

And yet the leading kennels competing in field trials were having increasing success. An AV Novice win against 15 Springers by the iconic Midori Diamond Huddlestone (Rigg) handled by Roy Ellershaw set the ball rolling. To a mixture of admiration and horror from the mainline spaniel world the Kennel Club was forced to allow all minority breed spaniels a route to the Championships. Just for g


ood measure Rigg gained an award in the newly expanded open class. The door was open. Success for Parkforth Clumbers (Andrew and Vicky Parker) followed and finally Clumbers were, and are, attracting the right sort of attention.

With Parkforth and Huddlestone in friendly competition for domination of the Minority Breed Spaniel Trials the joint decision was made to put the breed first and form a grouping of like-minded individuals keen to exploit the attention trialling dogs had pulled to the breed.

RAPID GROWTH

And so, The Clumber Spaniel Gundog Club was born. CSGC Chairman Andrew Parker of Parkforth Working Clumbers comments “We have been heartened by the rapid growth of the club. Our membership criteria require a demonstrable commitment to securing the future of properly work-bred lines through training which demands the best performance from the best dogs. The fact that we have been able to accept applications from over 40 UK handlers is good news for the breed”.

HUNTING IS KEY

CSGC is clear that, to move Clumbers forward, there was to be a realisation that a spaniel is primarily a hunting dog. A spa


niel which does not hunt is a singularly pointless animal. Spaniels do not earn their keep by trying to emulate retrievers. Of course, recovery and delivery of undamaged game to hand is still an essential part of the job description. But hunting is its raison d’être.

Field Trials are often thought of as relevant only to a minority of handlers, sometimes ignorantly branded as extremists attempting to push a dog beyond its limits. Nothing could be further from the truth. A breed’s working qualities are developed, maintained, and judged by its field trialling stock. CSGC recognises that this essential base is even now very thin for Clumbers. The Club’s clear desire to expand the trialling ability of its dogs and its members is existential if the Clumber spaniel is to achieve its potential, increasingly obvious in truly work bred lines.

Far from requiring every CSGC member to trial, the Club simply encourages an understanding and support for how field triallers can create a positive effect on the capabilities of every Clumber working in the field. How? By developing the lines which should form the core of breeding, ensuring that working ability remains to the fore with every breeding decision.


BREEDING INFLUENCE

In such a small population, every breeder has a direct effect on the quality of work expected from a Clumber. A huge responsibility. Surprising then that some breeders design their litter purely driven by health test results – the ever-increasing amount of which reduces breeding choices to eliminate all but the ‘perfect’ Clumbers (find one!) before working ability is even a consideration.

Our best working dogs were not designed on a computer. They are the result of first looking at the work rate of proposed partners and making the inevitable compromises on health as risk free as possible. Then monitoring the litter. Science yes but sprinkled with the essential art of intelligent breeding. There is no easy way to build such a scarce breed into something those in the original Clumber House Kennels would recognise. CSGC maintains that its well worth the effort of supporting and advising those who dare to breed exclusively from dogs proven in the field.

AMBITIONS


Pragmatism underlies the CSGC strategy. The membership is well aware of a challenge which may shape shift from year to year. For this reason, the Club purposefully limits its membership numbers to


those genuinely able to support its efforts. That said, the initial membership is likely to come up against the 50-person limit very shortly.


Andrew Parker is undaunted by the task ahead. This aim is highly achievable he says. “Our members have bred carefully over


a number of years before the formation of CSGC. At the same time, they have raised the


ir handling skills to match the drive and ability of the dogs. Most of the successful handlers in competition are now in CSGC membership. The time was right to create a supportive environment in which they can flourish and advance the breed’s workers.”

RIGHT TIME

Indeed, the element of carpe diem is well understood by the CSGC committee. With close season training taking place on ground owned by Parkforth in North Yorkshire and Huddlestone Clumbers in Derbyshire, members have shown themselves willing to travel for high quality training and the chance to work with like-minded Clumber handlers( and some notable figures with other minority breed spaniels), Tuition is provided by Andrew ( who reached the Spaniel Championships last year with his Springers) Roy Ellershaw ( Championship and A Panel Judge) and Paul Matthews (A Panel judge). Each has a passion and belief in the Clumber evidenced by the vast amount of time they give freely to the breed.

The coming season will see a considerable extension of last year’s very successful opportunities for training on game. Its invaluable to have expert guidance in real life shoot overs when the situation gets hot!



CSGC PRESIDENT

It was on one such shoot day last season that the club had the opportunity to show some of our leading dogs to Sir Johnny Scott, a truly renowned sportsman, writer, broadcaster and influential figure in field sports and conservation. The alignment led to Sir Johnny accepting CSGC’s invitation to become its President. Sir Johnny Scott has an active interest in the preservation of our rare breeds, aligning exactly with the Club’s philosophy that a working dog must be able to excel in doing its job.




GREAT EXPECTATIONS

Low expectations are a part of the problem. Thankfully, those who see the latest Parkforth boys, Elvis, and Gino, in action realise that the bar has been raised. Training this pair alongside Springers aiming for the spaniel championships demands more from the Clumber. And the Clumbers, from a line of field trial awards, respond. Roy Ellershaw had his momentous success with Huddlestone dogs Rigg and Millie because they were brought up with Roy’s prominent Fern Moss cocker kennel. Unless shown a mirror, these dogs did not know they were actually not cockers!

Roy is keen to help enthusiastic CSGC members demand more from their dogs. He points out that dogs vary in quality, even within litters at the moment. For that reason, a few litters are being run on to around 9 months, so that the best prospects can train for excellence,( the strapline for the Club ) and breeding selection on ability is even more meaningful.

This initiative allows close observation of character. Selecting against the stubborn, the self-employed dog, in favour of natural game sense and desire to please (trainability) is going to change the game for Clumber handlers. Good Clumbers have always existed, but CSGC aims for consistency. Fixing a character rather than superficial features is much more use to the breed.

100% WORKING FOCUS

There will be no CSGC action to alter the look or working style of a Clumber. The point is to retain the essence of what a Clumber is and to single mindedly encourage dominance of its natural working ability. Anyone who has seen or handled a good Clumber working a back wind or experienced its hunting blitz unleashed by scent will not accept anything less.

Ultimately The Clumber Spaniel Gundog Club has a simple and measurable aim – the level of adoption of Clumber Spaniels by those who currently work only Cockers or Springers, in say three years-time. Along the way it will extend a welcome to the wider working spaniel world to ease the Clumber into the mainstream of spaniel work.

The Clumber spaniel is too good to become an amiable clown or a game fair curio. It’s time to seize the day and let the field sports enthusiast enjoy a breed which exists to work.


Follow the exciting progress of CSGC at www.theclumberspanielgundogclub.co.uk


117 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page