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Welsh Springers an asset for some hunters

Frank Pampush was looking for an upland gun dog. He wanted a dog that had great confirmation and could also compete in flushing dog competitions. More importantly, he wanted a family companion, a dog that would make a good house dog and hunting companion.

Friends said to him – go to a dog show and see which breeds appeal to you. He did. He took a good look at all the spaniel breeds and kept coming back to the Welsh springer spaniel, for most people, a little-known breed.

Although England and Wales adjoin each other, the English and Welsh Springers are distinct breeds. The English Springer has a white background with black or liver-colored markings, while the Welse Springer is slightly smaller, with reddish markings on a white background.

Both are called “springers” because that’s what they do when working game. They spring at the bird, flushing it into the air for the hunters to shoot. In fact, the Welsh Springer was at one time called the Welsh Starter, a dog that was primarily used to flush birds into the air for falconers.

Pampush came away from the dog show thinking of the Welsh Springers, but it wasn’t until he went to an American Kennel Club flushing dog event that he was completely sold on the breed.

“I saw a young boy out in the field working with a dog, and it was a Welshie,” Pampush said. “That image just locked in my mind, it was a glimpse of a classic sporting scene, and I knew that was what I wanted.”

Pampush took his first Welsh Springer through the AKC hunt test system, completing the Master Hunter level. He’s currently working with his second Welshie, Gretchen, a young dog with tons of drive and an admirable ability to mark the flight and fall of a bird for the retrieve.

Are Welsh Springer Spaniels for everybody?

“Their ability to mark game is outstanding,” said Joe DeMarkis, Pottsville, a flushing and pointing dog trainer. “They are intelligent, and training has to be kept challenging.”

If you think you’d like to get a Welshie, as Pampush did, do your homework. Compared to other spaniel breeds, there aren’t many of them. For example, in a given year the AKC might register 13,000 English Springer Spaniels, but fewer than a thousand Welsh Springer Spaniels.

The date of origin of the Welsh springer spaniel cannot be traced; however, dogs resembling the breed with its distinctive red and white coat are frequently depicted in old pictures and prints.

It’s believed that the breed flourished in relative obscurity deep in the Welsh valleys, where local sportsmen bred them carefully and protectively, conserving the breed in a pure state.

Pampush did a lot of research before choosing both his dogs as puppies. If you want a Welshie for hunting, your best bet is to see one “in person” at a flushing dog event. To find an event, go to www.akc.org, and search under events, selecting flushing dogs.

Gretchen runs through some high grass. LISA PRICE/TIMES NEWS
That’s Gretchen, a Welsh Springer Spaniel owned by Frank Pampush, from Atlanta, Georgia. Pampush was in Schuylkill County to work his dog with trainer Joe DeMarkis of Pottsville. The two trained at my farm in Barnesville last week. LISA PRIE/TIMES NEWS