Why does my Spaniel go crazy for birds?

February 24, 2022
Spaniel puppy blog

Do you feel nervous every time you go on a walk that a bird or squirrel is going to fly or scuttle past and your Spaniel will go nuts!? (pun very much intended) 

Maybe your Spaniel suddenly turns into a patrol dog and runs to the window every time they hear a rustle just to subject you to excessive barking? 

Perhaps your Spaniel goes into full-on action mode in your garden every time they see movement? Or in your house, if they see something through the window?

Or it might not be birds or squirrels that transforms your Spaniel into a loon but it could be cats, sheep, leaves, fresh air! … the list goes on.

If only we could opt out of seeing the things that our Spaniels go crazy for just to make walks easier. Scratch that, just to make sitting down with a cuppa easier!

If you’re anything like me you’ve been a bystander to your Spaniels crazy bird/squirrel/ cat outrage and they’ve knocked your plants flying in their rush to get to the window, I’ve had multiple cups of coffee thrown around my living room… and yes even all over me and my poor cream carpet! 

No matter what animal or thing it is that sets your Spaniel or Spaniel mix off it’s usually down to their impulse to hunt and follow their nose.

A Spaniels’ impulses can easily get them into trouble, trust me! So let’s see why and what we can do to help…

Specialist Spaniel Training Solve your Spaniel troubles
The face of a Spaniel who’s spotted a bird…

Why does my Spaniel want to hunt birds?

If we wind the clock back to before dogs were domesticated they had to find, chase, hunt and scavenge for their food and work hard for their meals.

As the years passed by humans and dogs became closer, most likely because we saw how good they were at catching food! Dogs then became man’s best friend and we have since selectively bred for favoured traits in specific dogs to enhance certain features that were useful for us. Some examples can include in herding dogs, selective breeding has increased the desire to eyestalk and chase but suppressed the desire to hunt and kill livestock which makes them particularly useful for herding sheep. Terriers will carry out the whole list of behaviours associated with the prey drive they will chase, hunt and kill which is how they become effective in a job as a ratting dog. With Spaniels specifically, we have bred them for the chase, we utilise this to flush birds but not to kill and eat them, the name Cocker Spaniel came from them being used to hunt woodcocks in the first place.

Through this breeding, Spaniels became what we know them as today – ‘gun dogs’ because their prey drive was helpful for hunters. In the past many Spaniels were given the job to hunt birds who had been caught by throwing nets, their role would be to ‘flush’ or chase birds out of the bushes into the net, then as shotguns became popular Spaniels were then trained to drive birds out of their hiding spots so that the hunter could shoot.

I can’t always imagine my boys doing that now, as they sit all cosy cuddled up next to me, but it’s a huge part of the Spaniel breed history which can teach us a lot about how they behave today! And as cute as my boys are they are very much still working dogs genetically and even if you have a Spaniel Cross who is super fluffy and cuddly they are still very much a working dog and they need to work with you.

This is another reason why all breeds are different and it’s not a ‘one fits all’ when it comes to dog training, in most cases different breeds need different training.

When we compare a Spaniel’s job to the likes of other gun dogs like Pointers who had to stand motionless pointing and Setters who had to ‘set’ ie crouch down at the sight of birds you can see why Spaniels can be so crazy. It was literally their job to do that! 

So it’s no wonder our Spaniels do laps around the park or the garden when they see birds, it’s in their DNA! Their whole family tree is made up of Spaniels who had to do just that.

But history doesn’t have to repeat itself, and there are many things you can do to help.

The art of keeping your Spaniel’s attention!

How can I stop my Spaniel chasing birds?

Because of how Spaniels are bred, and their hard-wiring need to flush birds ‘standard dog training’ often doesn’t work for them.

I can’t tell you how many Spaniels and Spaniel Mixes I’ve successfully trained that have previously believed their dog was ‘untrainable’ because they’d believed they’d tried everything!

Often when Spaniel owners try ‘standard dog training’ they find the results a little underwhelming.

Like Chantal who came to me because after working with other generic dog trainers, she was no closer to keeping Blake within sniffing distance. His Spaniel senses were in overdrive and waving a bag of treats just wasn’t cutting the mustard. 

We worked together over Zoom as she lives in Switzerland. She said: “Before we started training with Hannah, Blake would be all over the place chasing or looking for birds, planes, paragliders (basically anything that flies).

“In Switzerland, Working Cockers are not known, and no one was able to help me. Hannah really understands Spaniels and knew just how to help Blake and me.

“Working over Zoom/ WhatsApp with Hannah is great, no disadvantages at all. She also shows exercises with her own dogs to make it all clear!

“Now we can enjoy our walks, and his recall has improved a lot!”

“He sees birds and CHOOSES not to chase them” 

In fact, Chantal is one of my Spaniel Inner Circle members and has been from the beginning. 

Or like Emma, with Albie who had originally felt embarrassed in puppy classes, she said:

“We had previously attended puppy and kennel club classes, but they made us feel silly and embarrassed. 

“Albie is a super smart dog but put in a small space with other dogs, their owners and lots of new noises and smells, well his arousal went through the roof – 9 times out 10, it was game over, and all his focus had been lost before the class had begun.

“Some people thought it was funny. Others looked at us like, “why are you here” which was heartbreaking.

“But now Albie can stay cool, calm and collected in new situations. He no longer throws himself over any visitors, he can walk well on a lead, and his recall is better than we ever thought possible. 

“He’s never going to be “perfect”, and we wouldn’t want him to be – but to us, he is everything we wanted and more when we decided to get a spaniel.”

The beautiful Albie, he’s a good boy!

It’s devastating to feel like you can’t get the help you need with your Spaniel. It’s overwhelming to think you’ll never have a dog who can walk calmly on the lead or who will be able to run free on walks without being a flight risk. 

Choosing a dog trainer who specialises in Spaniels makes your training much easier and more effective. We don’t use generic training techniques and we choose the training that appreciates and adapts specifically for Spaniels and Spaniel crosses. 

This is exactly the reason why I invented the Spaniel Inner Circle so that Spaniel owners, like Chantal, from all over the world can get my help and expertise. 

It allows me to share my tried and tested Spaniel knowledge with Spaniel owners like yourself, for a low monthly cost you can get all the tools you need to train your Spaniel or Spaniel cross and help to keep them calm.

I give you direct help, training techniques and understanding of your Spaniel so that you can go out into the world together confidently, and even sit amongst the birds without being on eggshells! 

In the Spaniel Inner Circle, you will get easy to understand techniques that are proven to work plus you get immediate access so you don’t need to wait to start training your Spaniel or Spaniel mix, you can start right now!

I’ll let you in on some very simple training tips you can try with your Spaniel, then when you’re ready for more simply join the Spaniel Inner-circle by clicking here.

The lovely Blake, check out that view!

Can you give me a tip to stop my Spaniel chasing birds?

Stopping chasing birds, and other moving objects, unfortunately, isn’t a one-trick solution, it’s a recipe of understanding and training techniques that when mixed gives you the desired results – a zen Spaniel.

You can absolutely teach an older dog new tricks, but if you have a puppy really work on teaching them to work around birds from the beginning. 

  • The key is trying to prevent the rehearsal of the chase because the more that they chase the more they will repeat the behaviour. Chasing releases adrenaline and gives your dog a massive dopamine rush (it makes them feel bloody amazing!) 
  • Give your Spaniel a job to do around birds, ie get them searching for a specific scent, get them retrieving a gundog dummy, get them searching for treats in the long grass. If you do not give them a job, teach them what you want them to do, and work with them, they will go self-employed and chase as they have no idea what you actually want them to be doing. Giving your dog a job will make your job a lot easier – trust me!

If you really want to see the change you need to join the Spaniel Inner Circle to get the full low down on exactly what to do to stop your Spaniel chasing birds, squirrels and anything else that they might go crazy for.

Here’s a preview of the very in-depth session we had, which is available to watch as many times as you like on replay.

During this, I showed my members what they need to do to teach their Spaniels and Spaniel Crossers how the hell to leave the birds alone. Check out the comment below received after one of my lovely caught up on the session afterwards: 

“I was unable to watch the live session “Hey spaniel leave those birds alone” so I caught up from the recording. This was so informative, thank you Hannah! The Spaniel Inner Circle concept is amazing. To have all this help and information at my fingertips is great. So even if I miss a session it means I never miss a thing. Thank you!”

Everything in the Spaniel Inner Circle is recorded so if you can’t make the live session, or want to replay, you can do in your own time!

Where can I get more help for my Spaniel or Spaniel mix?

For just £29.99 a month, you’ll get access to everything you need to train and enjoy your Spaniel. Plus, you’ll join a community of people who are proudly Spaniel – with not a jot of shame in sight. Think of all that money you have spent on training gadgets, different leads to stop pulling, different high value treats to try. I have never had a member tell me it is not worth the money, but you do have to put the work in and implement what I say to get the results 

The Spaniel Inner Circle isn’t just cheaper than in-person dog training. It’s more effective. 
  • Flexible – Enjoy 24/7 access so you can train anytime
  • Easier for your Spaniel – Away from exciting people, dogs and new scents, they can learn quickly
  • Shareable – Your whole household can watch the training. When everyone’s on the same page, you enjoy faster results
  • Personal – You get quick answers to your questions whenever you need them, my members ask me their questions and I answer. 
  • Recorded and saved – so you can watch it back as many times as you need to
  • It will prevent future breed-specific issues from developing, on every session I do I also talk about prevention, if you have a puppy this is absolutely key for you. I can help prevent Spaniel specific problems from developing that will cost you a lot of time and money to resolve later on down the line

Imagine one day being able to sit in a park, drinking a coffee watching the birds calmly with your spaniel?

Imagine having a Spaniel who sees a bird and automatically chooses to come back to you, like Blake now does?

Imagine being able to enjoy off lead walks together knowing your Spaniel or Spaniel cross will respond to your recall?

All of that is possible in the Spaniel Inner Circle so what are you waiting for? Join now and start finally enjoying your walks together.

Join now and start getting the Spaniel of your dreams!

By Hannah Antrobus

Hannah is a spaniel specialist dog trainer for spaniels and spaniel crosses. Her catchment area is Warwickshire but she offers video sessions and works with clients nationally and internationally so don’t hesitate to get in touch from wherever you are in the world!

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