The flatcoated retriever is a dual purposed breed, meaning that each individual should be build correctly and be a beautiful dog, being able to work in the field for the purpose of hunting/retrieving. The Danish flatcoated retriever club has an event in the spirit of the dual purpose with both an exterior and working qualifications twice a year – springtime and autumn.
The Danish trials are rather different in set up from the Dutch system but nevertheless I guessed there would be no better way of getting in touch with it than participating myself so I entered both youngsters in the Markprøve B beginner class.
The first day was a very nice but cold sunny day and the running in the show arena kept us warm. All three dogs were placed above expectations. Here is what judge Brian Izzard said:
Excellent bitch througout, nice head, good eye, excellent front, good lay of shoulder, correct rearangulation, good overall size and temperament, moved well
Nice young boy, correct hed, eyes and teeth, fair angulation at the front, good rear angulation, moved well
Moved OK, good head, good teeth, eyecolour OK, would prefer more bone, stands well when settled
The day after it was time to show some working skills. In DK the trial is held for each participant with all retrieves in one. That is completely different from what we are used to. Another thing that amazed me was the fact that the retrieved game was placed on the ground leaving scents marks next to the next dog’s beginning spot. Also the helpers were standing in the cast line of the dog so they functioned as a distraction when the dog was sent out and returned.
There is a lot of discussion going on in DK because the trial system has been revised and adapted to using less edible game for young dog trials and (unfortunately) less independent work of the dog. Some aspects I think will make sense and other I am afraid will influence our breed dramatically in negative sense of the word.
But for now the Markprøve B beginner was the original test as it has been for years.
Lotte started out and showed nice heelwork and steadyness – followed by a good mark running up past the helpers uphill. Then she arrived at the huge duck.. apparently our modest exposure to cold game made her hesitate to pick it up swiftly and I had to apply some encouragement to get the duck in my hand. This “poor” game handling or should I say “youngster’s aim to keep it to myself behind the trees” became the theme of the day sadly and we ended with a big zero points but full of encouragement from judge Jens Lund who I admire for his ability to point out all the good sides of the performance. I must say I have never had such a poor performance and still leaving with a big smile. Not only due to the compliments of our basic training but also knowing why the performance is like it is. It is all about how I have designed their training matching the purpose of practical hunting in a water rich country and the Dutch trial system.
Kaspar was about the same performance as Lotte except he had a little better delivery to hand. Again there was some hesitation to picking up some pieces of game. Again his very low to zero exposure to certain pieces of cold game made sense to me. Looking at it from a positive judge’s eye, many good points: good marking – nice waterwork, heelwork and steadyness. Also finding the game was quickly and precise. Delivery to hand was good but to much encouragement needed to pick it up and bringing it back. I think it was a very fair conclusion and looking back it might have been a bit of a long shot for us to join this test at this point in our training. Nonetheless we had a positive “training” out of it and with a good dose of self reflection I could take the zeros with an accepting attitude.
We enjoyed the rest of the day on the terrain watching the finals of the winner class casting downhill into a lake on a blind uphill.
Looking back there are quite some differences to how dogs are trained and how things are executed. Especially waterwork I noticed was not of the standard we know in NL – many dogs struggled to accept a watercast even though the entrance was straight and the dogs could walk right in.
Their capability to direct the dogs however was of high standard and everyone has a good territorium whistle on the dogs (dog is being asked to search within 1-2 meters in circles).
Searching together with other dogs is also a part of the open class exercises and I find this interesting as it has been taken out in the new system. The capability of the dogs to search together is close to what would happen on a hunt I think. The only thing I find a bit tricky how is unwanted behavior being judged?
Looking back our weekend was full of inspiration to our training and I am sure we will make a come back after having made some training adjustments as we are headed towards the Dutch cold game season too. Let’s see if we can get our youngsters out of their young flattie heads 🤭. Those who have trained flatcoated retrievers will know what I mean by that. Either you love to work with it or you develop a dislike to their independent thinking. So far I still love to wrap my head around these typical flattie “flaws”.