To quote Craig Koshyk, author of “Pointing Dogs: The Continentals” and Picardy Spaniel evangelist, “the Picardy Spaniel is a bold, no-nonsense gundog with a strong desire to work on land and water.” They are a true versatile breed that excels at hunting many species of game, be it feathered or furred. In Europe the Picardy is used to hunt upland game, waterfowl, hare, fox, deer and wild boar. Born with phenomenal prey drive and a strong desire to hunt their athletic nature affords them excellent endurance afield. Their big-boned, muscular stature is reflective of stamina more than speed, and the Picardy has no trouble navigating heavy cover in search of game. Individual styles can vary, with some dogs prone to simply plowing through anything in their path while others are more genteel in their approach. Their versatility extends beyond the game they seek to the terrain they are capable of hunting. The Picardy is equally at ease in marshes, upland fields, rocky terrain and woodlands, and they can be trained to work out of a duck boat or blind as well. Although they prefer cooler temperatures, they are as adaptable to weather as they are to terrain. Overall, their demeanor afield epitomizes their love of hunting. Some appear to be laughing or smiling as they search for game while others are a little more serious and workmanlike. Picardy Spaniels all love to hunt and they have the instinct to do so without much training. As one Picardy owner succinctly put it, “they are great house dogs that hunt like hell!”
Much to the surprise of most North Americans, the Epagneul Picard is a pointing dog, not a flushing dog. Today’s translation into English is simply “Picardy Spaniel,” but historically “Epagneul” meant most any long-haired pointing dog in French. Their pointing styles can differ a good bit. Some dogs lock up in a classic pose with their tail upright, some simply freeze in whatever position they happen to be in when they find game, and others exhibit what Europeans refer to as a “cooperative” point. The latter is valued more in Europe, and is a bit confusing at first, even to NAVHDA judges, who have referred to it as a “soft point.” A Picardy with a cooperative point will staunchly point the game, but then it will turn to look at its handler as if to say “hey, there’s a bird right here!” S/he will then look back to the bird and reestablish a solid point. A few Picardy owners who hunt heavy cover and cattail sloughs have trained their dog to flush a bird on command, which is very helpful when the cover so thick that a hunter walking in to flush a bird wouldn’t have an opportunity for a clean shot. The Picardy will instinctively adjust to the type of cover being hunted, and they can also be trained to hunt at the range and of their owner’s preference. Picardy are also natural retrievers and good trackers, adding to their versatility afield. Given their instincts and cooperative nature anyone wanting to run a Picardy Spaniel in NAVDHA tests will find them well-suited for the challenges.
The Picardy Spaniel does have a few drawbacks when it comes to hunting in North America, however. Their slow maturation can be a bit of a disappointment to folks who want to shoot birds over young dogs. Although there are exceptions, most Picardy’s aren’t mentally ready for hunting until they are ~9 months old. If you’re the impatient sort, the Picardy probably isn’t the breed for you. The Picardy’s unyielding prey drive can also present some problems as it can result in dangerous encounters with porcupines, raccoons, snakes, coyotes, bears and the like. If you plan to hunt or hike in areas where these vermin live you will likely need to do some aversion training in order to avoid unwanted interactions and undue harm to your dog. And, although an integral part of their beauty, the Picardy’s flowing leg, tail and ear furnishings and ascot are magnets to cockleburs, sticktights and other weed seeds. This is easily addressed, however, by giving your Picardy an annual hunting haircut and running them in a lightweight nylon vest. Vests not only keep weed seeds out of their coat, but they also provide a bit of protection from thorns and barbwire as well as increase visibility of your Picardy afield.