It is believed that the Clumber Spaniel was the result of crossing some form of the Alpine Spaniel with a type of Basset Hound. When training the Clumber, these traits can be seen and should be adjusted for. While many of the other Spaniel breeds will naturally stay close while hunting and take easily to the quartering pattern that is typical of many of the other Spaniel’s hunting styles, the Clumber will rely much more on its nose. In a hunt test, you can often see a Clumber make a bee-line to a bird that it had scented many yards away. And the long, low, sturdy build of the Clumber is perfect for pushing through the thickest cover, as it was bred for in England. While some of the other Spaniels may be hesitant to enter a thick patch of briars or underbrush, the Clumber will plow right in.
I often tell potential Clumber Spaniel owners that although the Clumber Spaniel is the couch potato of the Sporting Group, this is a relative term. While Clumbers do not have the energy of an
English Springer Spaniel, the Pointers or the Setters, that doesn’t mean it spends its life just laying around doing nothing every day. A well-bred Clumber Spaniel needs to be structurally sound enough to hunt thick fields of cover all day. In addition to structure, there are other traits that were bred into the Clumber to help it with the work it was meant to do; coat color and texture, amount of loose skin, and eye shape are some of these traits. Many new Clumber puppy owners are surprised at the amount of energy that a Clumber can have and, as with other Sporting breeds, this energy needs to be channeled to keep it from becoming destructive. Clumbers can get bored doing the same activity over and over again, so it can be a lot of fun for the dog and owner to try different venues. While I have trained and competed with Clumbers in most AKC venues, including conformation, obedience, rally, tracking, hunting, and agility, the Clumbers especially excel in tracking and hunting.
There aren’t many Clumbers that participate in obedience or agility, but it can be done. Again, training needs to be structured to work with the Spaniel/Hound background. At times, the Clumber can appear to suffer from attention deficit disorder. But, if you can keep the training interesting and minimize boring drills, you can excel in obedience and agility with a Clumber Spaniel.
In tracking and hunting you can really see the superior nose and birdiness of the breed. You need a well-structured dog to compete in these events—a Clumber with the proper structure will have no problem covering rough terrain in all types of weather to succeed in tracking and hunting. Clumber puppies are quick learners at tracking, and can earn a Tracking Dog title before the age of one. For hunting, the Clumber should have an obedience foundation, but then let them go—and watch them hunt. While the Clumber doesn’t cover the field with as many steps as the other Spaniels, it has more than covered the field with its powerful nose. When working a hunt dead (lost bird) exercise, you just need to point a Clumber in the right direction, then stand back and wait for it to work the area until it finds the bird and then come trotting back with it.
And finally, what is it like to live with a Clumber Spaniel? They are characters! With that smooshy face and swishy walk, you can’t help but laugh at a Clumber. The down side is shedding, which is done on a regular basis and then, depending on the dog, there could be snoring or drooling. But, if you can live with the hair, you will have a wonderful, loving companion that loves to join you on your adventures and provide entertainment every step of the way.