On the 13th & 14 of May the WFRG held a working test weekend – on day for the younger dogs C & B1 level (beginners & advanced beginners) and the other day B2 and A (pre-open and open class).
I participated with Flatastic Black Peace “Kaspar” in B1 and Flow of Spirits Silver Skipper “Rumi” in the A class. The theme of our weekend turned out to become “make your own assessment”.
When you obtain more experience in gundog competitions you start to recognize the difference between the abilities of a dog and the execution of a retrieve set up in a competition. When hunting for real it is very different. The success is determined based on wether the bird gets in the hand or not and how well the dog worked on the bird. At tests it can even be a disadvantage to participate with a working gundog. I will explain to you why a bit later on.
Kaspar has been a bit of challenge in mating season as his nose is extremely well developed and he has an enormous passion to retrieve. He does that very well to and brings everything that has hair or feathers. He brings it alive and well – even newly hatched chicks, so he is keept on a long leash now and we are working really hard to teach him the difference between working and hunting.
I am very lucky to have a trainer who understands this talent and knows how to appreciate and yet deal with the challenges of it at the same time.
In Oostvoorne the park is rather rich in game and when I sent him off to the first retrieve – a free search in front of a forest – he took off like racehorse and came back with foam in his mouth. The judge was a bit startled- not understanding why he didn’t catch scent of the dummy in the beginning. I felt compelled to be honest and told him that my boy was not sincerely looking for a dummy but was most definitely hunting for live game instead until his passion settled and he regained some thinking capacity. This turned out to be the theme of the day – me having a very good laugh with two judges familiar to the pointing dogs. They enjoyed my “German black haired pointer”. All dummies were retrieved and Kaspar ended up with 73 points and a descent diploma. Was I happy? No! But yet I had to smile – he is so talented with his nose and drive, how can I not be glad from a breeder’s point of view? But we definitely need to tame him a little bit in these circumstances.
The next day it was Rumi’s turn. Our first station blew the whole result it turned out afterwards as this gave us only 4 points. A bit of a schokker as I had two dummies in the hand. But nevertheless I got an explanation from the judge later on making me understand “the game” of a test better. It does however make me a bit sad – knowing that Rumi had done exactly what I wish for in a working gun dog and that this actually can lead to such a poor result. But that is all in the game I understand. It does challenge me though to remain very sharp eyed on which qualifies I value myself when selecting for breeding. So what happened? I was at post with Rumi on the low side of a hill behind a waterway and a green dummy was thrown with a shot. All the dog could register was a shot and the judge and photographer on top of the hill. So the intention was that the dog would run up and down – scan the water and see the movement of the water caused by the thrown dummy and then finding it by scent when swimming. Rumi’s dummy fell rather distant on the left side this out of the wind from where she entered the water.
At the shore on the other side was a dead fish with a white belly floating. Guess what – Rumi is very skilled in scanning water surfaces when hunting. And most waterfowl have a light side that shows in water.. so she swam towards the fish – checked it and did the following:
But of course without result because the dummy was under the grass – thrown too far and pressed under the grass by the waves Rumi made while jumping in. She had no chance of finding this dummy and she continued searching the whole side along the water, the judge told me later. This is really a good skill for a hunting dog because hurt game will try to hide upstream. Back to the test: I was called to direct her to the dummy which she did in 1 command.
Then the blind. I carefully repeated the judge’s explanation as it has happened before that I misunderstood the directions. Guess what – it happened again. I directed Rumi to the place and she listened rather well. Turned out to be the wrong “brown spot” next to yellow flowers. So I called her back and after a few commands we got the dummy from the right place. I was very pleased with how Rumi worked and even the judge remarked that we had improved over the winter. We earned 4 points out of 20 for the whole station.
I am not sharing this story to complain about the test or the judge in any sense. What I do feel is important to empathize is the fact that we as handlers really need to be able to see how our dogs work and why they do what they do. Especially when doing tests, because there can be so many things going on that we do not know about but to the dog’s instinct or skills that might make a lot of sense. Was I disappointed about the 4 points? Yes of course- but what remains in my memory is that I am unbelievably proud of what Rumi shows – what she has learned in hunting and that she is beginning to trust my directions better and better, even when I take her out of a search area. All the stuff we strive for is sweet when it succeeds and is values in competition. But the most beautiful thing is to watch our dogs in their natural behavior and applying their skills. So I proudly took our last place in the ranking of certificates in Oostvoorne. It may be our lowest certificate ever but boy am I in love with my fantastic girl – such a pleasure to witness her at work.
Thanks to Sophie Alma who took all the nice pictures of Kaspar and Rumi in action.