Here’s a link to our most recent newsletter, from November 2021. (From there, you can read earlier issues also.)

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    Members’ Open Day

    Saturday, September 18, 2021
    Rebel Ridge Farms
    Elkton MD 21921

    Current and prospective MSDA members, their family and guests brought their dogs for an informal day at Rebel Ridge. Rebel Ridge Farms provides more than 250 acres of fields, ponds, and woods as well as a heated and air-conditioned clubhouse. They came out to practice their hunting, field obedience, and retrieving skills, see some experienced dogs in action, or just enjoy the day on this beautiful property.

    The only price for attending was a generously-sized potluck lunch dish contribution. On the same day at Rebel Ridge, MSDA was holding a Spaniel Hunting Test. Members’ Open Day potluck dishes, supplemented with purchased items, also provided the day’s lunch for the hunt testers.

    Members’ Open Day was very informal. There were no structured activities, though Sally Eck, who leads the Pointing Group at MSDA’s annual springtime Field Day, and Gary Seibel, who leads the Retrieving Group at Field Day, were there and were happy to provide demonstrations, encouragement and advice to others. We hope that everyone had a great time, learned something, and made some new friends.

    If you have any questions about Members’ Open Day or have any follow-up comments, please contact the Event Chair Pamela DeSmidt (

    AKC Spaniel Hunt Test Seminar for Judges and Handlers (with Hunt Test)

    Friday, September 17, 2021
    Rebel Ridge Farms,
    Elkton MD

    MSDA hosted a unique AKC Spaniel Hunt Test Seminar for Judges and Handlers in conjunction with our September Hunt Tests. This event was presented by Tom Meyer (AKC lead rep for Spaniel Hunt Tests/Field Trials) and was conducted entirely in the field, revolving around a licensed AKC Spaniel Hunt Test. Tom conducted the seminar as he was judging the test with one other judge, and used the actual field set-ups and dog performances for teaching in lieu of a classroom lecture.

    Thanks to Tom Meyer and all of the participants and volunteers.

    If you have any questions about how the seminar and hunt test were conducted or have some follow-up comments, please contact the Event Chair, Steve Surprenant (

    2021 Fall Spaniel Hunting Tests

    Saturday September 18 (AKC Event #2021441910) and
    Sunday September 19 (AKC Event #2021441911)
    at Rebel Ridge Farms in Elkton MD.

    MSDA held two days — two separate events — of AKC Spaniel Hunting Tests at Rebel Ridge Farms in Elkton MD. Rebel Ridge provides spacious grounds, ample ponds, and excellent fall cover. (They let the grass grow extra tall just for our hunt test weekend!)

    One or more of the following breeds ran in the hunt tests: Boykin Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel, English Cocker Spaniel, English Springer Spaniel, Flat-Coated Retriever, Golden Retriever, Irish Water Spaniel, Labrador Retriever, Miniature Poodle, Standard Poodle and Welsh Springer Spaniel.

    Thanks to all the human and canine participants, judges, gunners, committee members and all volunteers who helped make this weekend a success. Thanks also to members who attended the Members’ Open Day on Saturday for providing the awesome potluck dishes for the hunt testers’ buffet lunches for the weekend.

    If you have any questions about how the hunt tests were conducted or have some follow-up comments, please contact the Event Chair, Steve Roth (

    MSDA Summer Pool Party 2021

    Saturday, July 24 2021
    10:00 am – 3:00 pm
    Dickerson, MD
    Hosted by Alex and Steve Roth

    This event was for MSDA club members, their families, and their guests. Dogs, too, of course!

    The pool was open all day and dogs enjoyed retrieving as well as just swimming for fun. There also were a lot of interesting smells to investigate on the property, informal field training opportunities, and some great games of chase, especially among the youngest pups.

    MSDA provided grilled hamburger & chicken and cold non-alcoholic drinks. Attendees brought side dishes and desserts to share for lunch.

    Whether you had lots of fun at Pool Party, or had to miss it this year, we think you’ll enjoy Members’ Open Day on September 18th at Rebel Ridge Farms in Elkton MD. We hope to see you there!

    Photos of 2021 Pool Party are below. (Click on any image to enlarge.)

    Upland Dog Fundamentals Workshop June 19-20

    Spaniels were originally bred to hunt, find, and flush upland game out of their hiding places – pointers and setters did the pointing, and retrievers did the retrieving. Today’s upland dogs are expected to hunt, find, point or flush, be steady to wing and shot, and reliably retrieve or respectfully honor another dog’s retrieve.

    MSDA was pleased to hold a late-June training workshop led by professional trainer/handler Jordan Horak. Jordan is an accomplished upland dog professional trainer and handler, winner of both the National Open and National Amateur Cocker Championships, and the inventor of the Cato Board placeboard (named after his English Cocker Spaniel).

    The workshop was held on Saturday June 19 and Sunday June 20 at Thornhill Farm in Woodbine, MD. A limited number of private lessons were available on Monday, June 21. Eleven working teams (dog + handler), as well as auditors, participated.

    Participants and their dogs were at all skill different levels. On Saturday and Sunday, working teams took turns training with Jordan both on the lawn and in the field, while everyone in the group was able to observe. After each exercise, there was a discussion of key points, what went well and how to achieve improvements. Emphasis was placed on developing the bond between dog and handler. Jordan’s deep knowledge of sporting dogs was evident throughout the weekend.

    Photos of the weekend are below. Click on any image to enlarge. Thanks, Roseanna Bennett and Steve Roth, for taking pictures!

    If you have questions regarding this training weekend, please contact the Event Chair, Steve Surprenant at

    Choosing and Using a Dog Whistle

    At MSDA, we often receive inquiries about whether or not a whistle has to be used in training, which whistle is best for training, and do different sporting dog breeds need different whistles?

    In answering these questions, this article assumes:

    • That the reader has already decided to use a whistle in field training, hunting, hunt tests and/or field trials, and they need to make a preliminary decision about which whistle to use.
    • That the reader will not use a whistle as a command or while handling until after the dog has already learned that command without a whistle.

    A sporting dog’s ability to hear
    There is a hearing difference among dog breeds – those with floppy ears covered with hair won’t be able to hear as well as those with erect ears. But there is no material difference in the hearing between any of the sporting dog breeds.

    Humans can hear a frequency range between 20 and 20,000 Hz; dogs can hear 40 to 60,000 Hz. The smaller the number the lower the sound; the higher the number the higher the pitch. This explains why a dog can hear a silent whistle, which emits a sound above 20,000 Hz, yet the sound is inaudible to most humans.

    People need to train their dogs before incorporating a whistle
    There are many dog owners who have exceedingly high expectations of a dog whistle. A toot on a whistle has no inbred meaning for a dog. A dog may be interested the first few times he hears a whistle’s distinct and/or unusual sound. The dog may even approach you to investigate, but the effect is typically temporary. Over time, the dog will lose interest in the whistle unless he begins to associate the sound with something that he has been already taught to do.

    Do you need a whistle to train a sporting dog?
    Strictly speaking, the answer is “no”. You can teach any dog a command with voice alone. Once a command is learned, you can add hand signals to help a dog understand the command at a distance. But, out in the field, a dog may not be able to hear your voice or see your hand signal. During hunting, a hunt test or a field trail, using a whistle will be appreciated by fellow hunters, handlers and judges, and is much more dignified than yelling at your dog from the top of your lungs.

    A whistle for sporting dog training is helpful for three primary reasons.

    • A whistle is easier to hear – the human voice does not carry as effectively as a whistle over distance, especially on a windy day.
    • A whistle is clear and unambiguous – the human voice is variable in pitch and easily distorted by environmental factors. A good quality whistle will not alter in pitch when you are angry or tired.
    • A whistle is less disturbing to most wildlife – the human voice is very disturbing to wild game, and sporting dog work should be carried out with a quiet hunt whenever possible.

    A whistle is not always the answer in every situation. Sometimes, you may want to work a dog in almost complete silence; for example, in close quarters a hand signal, or whisper voice, may be more appropriate.

    In practice, most sporting dog handlers should first teach voice commands and then add whistles and hand signals as training progresses and the dog has already learned the voice command.

    Choosing a whistle
    A whistle choice often comes down to the handler’s preference as the specific pitch doesn’t make any difference to the dog. Once you have bought your first whistle, you are likely to use that whistle “type” for the rest of your life. However, no two dogs are exactly alike which can make it more difficult to choose the perfect whistle from the beginning.

    Most people have to experiment to see which whistle is just right. Some handlers will buy a half-dozen or more of the same whistles at a time to test each one for the exact sound they want. Other handlers, even if they have been around for a long time may switch whistle preference with some regularity.

    Whistles for sporting dogs
    The breed of sporting dog and the type of training can impact which whistle you may choose. Spaniels tend to work closely and you may not need to use a whistle with a large sound radius even if cover is thick. A pointer will spend a lot of their time air scenting at a distance, but once on game, they will get into the undergrowth; you may benefit from a whistle which can cut through thick groundcover at a distance. And, retrievers work over long distances so you need a loud whistle for giving instruction and a reliable recall.

    Additionally, if you have a retriever that runs in retriever hunt tests as well as spaniel hunt tests, or a spaniel or a pointer that runs in retriever hunt tests as well as spaniel or pointer tests, it’s nearly impossible to pick one whistle that works well in two different test types. Just because a dog has learned to recall on three toots on one type whistle, does not mean they will recall well with three toots on a different whistle type. There are some combination dog whistles (aka dual-tone whistles), but they still yield different tones on different frequencies as if you were using two different whistles.

    Many of the dog whistles have a “pea,” a small cork ball inside the whistle shell. A pea allows you to “trill” the whistle and make different combinations of sounds. However, the pea in a whistle can freeze in cold weather from your saliva. For cold weather training and other reasons, many handlers use a pealess whistle which are also better at making quick blasts. And a metal whistle that works well in most seasons, can freeze to your lip in below freezing temperatures.

    Making the final decision
    Even though some whistles are better suited for different situations, in the end, it’s your choice. No matter what whistle you choose, to get the most out of it you must know how to blow it and be consistent with your tones.

    If you’re interested in learning more about choosing and using a whistle, the following links may be of interest to you:

    Spaniel Hunting Tests, May 8-9

    MSDA held two days — two separate events — of AKC Spaniel Hunting Tests at Rebel Ridge Farms in Elkton MD. Junior, Senior and Master stakes were available each day and there was Working Dog (WD) testing on Sunday. Many thanks to our judges John Dunn, Steve Surprenant, Jeffrey Thomas and Jim Zimmerman and to all the many volunteers who made this weekend so successful.

    Not just for spaniels, the hunting tests were open to all eligible flushing breeds. Look who participated! We had one of more of the following breeds entered: Airedale Terrier, Boykin Spaniel, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Clumber Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel, English Cocker Spaniel, English Springer Spaniel, Flat-Coated Retriever, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, and Welsh Springer Spaniel.

    Congratulations to the weekend’s qualifiers: Ace (Labrador Retriever), Blarney (English Springer Spaniel), Breck (English Springer Spaniel), Carter (Welsh Springer Spaniel), Cooper (English Cocker Spaniel), Elsa (Golden Retriever), Emma (Flat-Coated Retriever), Flyer (English Cocker Spaniel), Freddie (Boykin Spaniel), Gatsby (English Springer Spaniel), Jemma (English Springer Spaniel), Jet (Golden Retriever), Luke (English Springer Spaniel), Mocha (English Cocker Spaniel), Nimmy (English Cocker Spaniel), Paddy (English Cocker Spaniel), Patton (Labrador Retriever), Porter (Boykin Spaniel), Rose (English Springer Spaniel), Sonny (English Cocker Spaniel), Taffy (English Springer Spaniel), Thor (English Springer Spaniel), Weyland (English Springer Spaniel), Winnie (Clumber Spaniel), and Ylva (English Springer Spaniel).

    Claire Podlaseck took some great photos that you can view at . Really, follow the link – the photos are awesome!

    And, here are some more pictures from the weekend. (Click on any photo to enlarge them.)

    If you have any follow-up questions about hunt tests, please contact the Event Chair, Steve Roth at .

    Field Day April 17, 2021

    MSDA’s Annual Field Day — a FUN day of field work for bird dogs of all experience and skill levels — was Saturday April 17 at Rebel Ridge Farms in Elkton, MD.

    Some photos are posted below. (Click on any photo to enlarge.) People are also sharing comments and photos on MSDA’s private Facebook group.

    Flushing Group photos:

    Pointing Group photos:

    More Pointing Group photos, taken by Field Day participant Carolina Johnson:

    Retrieving Group photos:

    Field Day is always divided into groups according to hunting style: Flushing, Pointing, and Retrieving. Our hard-working group leaders and volunteers included very experienced handlers, hunters, hunt test judges, trainers and gunners. Group activities and individual attention for handlers and dogs were based on each individuals’ training goals for the day.

    To keep all working groups small, Field Day was further split into morning and afternoon sessions, with a midday lunch break for all groups.

    Field Day is designed to accommodate everyone from true beginner dogs (who have never met a bird) to experienced master hunters. Though activities are targeted at Sporting Group dogs who are interested in hunting, hunt tests, and field trials, Field Day welcomes all “birdy” dogs. Look who came! We had one or more of the following breeds this year: Barbet, Boykin Spaniel, Brittany, Clumber Spaniel, English Cocker Spaniel, English Springer Spaniel, Flat-Coated Retriever, German Shorthaired Pointer, German Wirehaired Pointer, Golden Retriever, Irish Red and White Setter, Labrador Retriever, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Poodle, Standard Poodle, Sussex Spaniel, Vizsla, Weimaraner, and Wirehaired Pointing Griffon.

    Field Day is set up to be attentive to each dog’s experience and needs, rather than running all dogs through a standard set of drills. We keep the groups small so that everyone gets plenty of time and attention. Birds and gunners were provided.

    Due to the continuing risk of Covid-19, Field Day was a bit different this year, with more health-related precautions and much less mingling among the different groups. Despite that, it was a great day. We are looking forward to bringing back many extra Field Day activities, such as clubhouse use, the fabulous potluck lunch, and shared activities such as CGC testing in Spring of 2022.

    MSDA Field Training Basics

    Offered Two Days
    Saturday October 24th and Sunday October 25th, 2020
    10 am – 3 pm
    Dickerson, MD

    These days offered an introduction to field work for all sporting dogs. Handlers and dogs were dispersed among multiple fields and simultaneous activities. There was no live fire and no shot birds. Some people came for both days and some just for one or the other. We had 18 dogs signed up for Saturday and 19 for Sunday, including one or more of the following breeds: Barbet, Clumber Spaniel, English Setter, German Shorthaired Pointer, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Sussex Spaniel, Vizsla, and Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. Many were beginners.

    Photos are below. (Special thanks to Ken Harringer for some really good ones!) Click on any photo to expand and click through the gallery.

    The weather cooperated nicely for Saturday, but Sunday was cooler with some light rain. Still, we had two relaxed and fun days to work on some basic training, and we hope that everyone went home with happy and tired dogs, and having a better idea of what they need to focus on over the winter months.

    The trainers for the weekend were: Ken Harringer, Betsy Harringer, Steve Roth, Brian Schmidt, and Steve Surprenant. Topics included: introducing dogs to bird scent, basic pointing and flushing techniques, obedience commands essential to field work, e-collar conditioning, and yard work with placeboards.

    Since this occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic, activities were entirely outdoors and safety protocols including social distancing and masks were required.

    For questions about these and other training opportunities, contact Steve Roth (hunting