Talent hunt WFRG

Judge Bert de Graaf explaining me & Rumi what is about to happen in the finals – photo by Pernilla Koers

Every June the working flatcoated group (WFRG) in has a special flatcoated only working test. This year it was Rumi’s turn to participate in the open class. We made it to the finals and came in with a 4th place. More importantly – I enjoyed how we worked together and I had the pleasure of understanding the accents of the performance in relation to our current training.

At the same time two of Rumi’s sons participated in the novice class and had a great working test experience.

Sneak preview workshops

Lotte supervising our plans

2 years ago we, Marguerite Schouten and I, had invested a huge amount of time and education that resulted in the design of a whole theme of workshops about wellbeing, stress and excitement for the working (gun) dogs. Unfortunately many planned dates got caught in covid lockdown like many other events around the globe.

Nevertheless none of us sat still but we continued our education and yesterday we were finally able to create new dates! Here they are – exclusively for those of you who follow my Flatastic news a sneak preview:

From Stress & Excitement to well-being when working your (gun) dog

– 2 day course on 3 & 4 Dec 2022 – each day will contain a morning lecture inside and after lunch we be will training with 1/2 the group outside with the dogs. This means you will attend 2 theoretical lectures – one hands on training and 1 observant training. The course will be given in Dutch language. More information on content, location and pricing will follow soon.

– 2 day course on 25 & 26 Feb 2023 – each day will contain a morning lecture inside and after lunch we will be training with 1/2 the group outside with the dogs. This means you will attend 2 theoretical lectures – one hands on training and 1 observant training. The course will be given in Dutch language. More information on content, location and pricing will follow soon.

Breeders edition – building behavior and supporting your puppies obtaining a healthy stress response system

9/16/23 January 2023 consisting of 3 Monday evenings online course for breeders (regardless of experience) on how behavior and mental welfare is being influenced by nurture (and nature) and how you as a breeder can take actions to prevent unnecessary stress responses in the period from pre-conception till departure of the pups. This will give your working dogs a higher welfare throughout their working career and create better basics for succes. Course will be given in English by a Dutch and a Danish native speaker.

Save the dates

Should you already want to let us know that you are interested in participating you can reserve a spot for free without obligations until 2 months ahead of the date.

Mail to Birgitte & Marguerite at spirilisious@gmail.com with your contact information (email & telephone)

FRC 50th anniversary event in Werkendam – Rumi 1st open class at show & Flatastic family fun

Me & Rumi ✨ happy campers at the Club Show of the Dutch Flatcoated Retriever Club – winning the bitches open class out of 17 bitches. Photo by Barbara Ras (edited by yours truly)
Black & liver colored FRC 50th birthday edition rosette & a glass of bubbles from hubby

The weekend of 27/28/29th of May the FRC celebrated her 50th birthday with a flatcoated event in Werkendam at the Selevia Hoeve. Of course we were there to celebrate with other flatcoated retriever fans.

Goody bag content

Friday fun day

After a late evening arrival on Thursday we had to get up early in order to be on time for the first workshop: First Aid for dogs. We learned how to perform CPR among others. Thereafter we joined the Balance and Coordination workshop where Rumi and Kaspar had a blast. The instructor was amazed as Kaspar’s skills at such a young age – I explained that we had used a lot of coordination enrichment during the puppy period. It was nice to notice that our efforts have made a difference in the dogs coordination skills.

After the morning sessions we decided to leave Kaspar to rest with half sister Ragne at the campsite as he was rather tired after his morning gym. Rumi however had a serious schedule with agility ahead. But before that we had lunch with the rest of the Flatastic family who came to join us: Marja & Shelby, Hans/Marloes & Spyke, Frans & Jason/Déroy.

I decided to bring Jason to the agility as he loves action like his mother. Let’s say I am glad I brought some arnica gel too because running him in the horse arena throughout the agility course was a rather physical endeavor. Rumi had a time of her life – luckily the jumps were very small so she would not hurt herself considering her chronic ligament injury.

Kaspar and his half sister 5 month old Ragne (Beguarded In A Conch Shell Flat Our Pride) sleeping up close and personal in our campervan

Saturday show time

Photo collage of our day – photos taken by: left top by Barbara Ras & right top by Mathijs Biemold

Saturday Ragne and Rumi were entered to the Club Show nicely held outside (great that the club had arranged that last minute “weather” decision option as stated in the subscription papers) where there was a lot of space for the dogs to relax.

Josine & Ragne

Ragne came in 4th in the youngest puppy class bitches with very promising and Rumi won the open class bitches out of 17 very nice open class entries.

I was very surprised and of course exhilarated. Also on behalf of Rumi’s breeder this is a great accomplishment and me & Dennis celebrated with champagne back home.

Unfortunately Rumi jumped a high fence when running off the campsite to find me as I was showing a college breeder’s dog in the youth class. Her shoulder ligament cannot take such jumps and she was not running fully stretched in the best of bitches class. But I was still very happy with the whole day and that I can maintain her shape even with the handicap of the damaged ligament up to a degree that she wins her class and is still able to go hunting.

Rumi has now won the open class bitches twice and she has twice been placed second, one time in Denmark at the flatcoated club show. She holds the SJP A gun dog exam and Map B both with high points. She is for sure a fantastic dual purposed flatcoated retriever.

Sunday gundogging

Sunday the FRC had at water workshop and both Rumi and Kaspar joined. Rumi who is not used to sharing her handler with her kiddos was rather uptight that she had to wait her turn and she became her young self – rather uncontrollable and wild, but nevertheless she did some nice blind casts and resisted temptations. Kaspar had his first fake large goose on the water and a little (rubber) duck that was diving repeatedly. He became very eager and it looked like he had extra boat motors when chasing the duck in the water. Unfortunately Lotte could not join this great weekend because she was in heat – but she spend the weekend with Dennis bicycling and visiting the parents in law. Great to have a replacement girl😚.

Big thanks to the team of volunteers of the FRC Dutch Flatcoated Retriever Club and great instructors throughout the weekend – also thanks to all Flatastic people visiting and spending the weekend with us. We had a lovely flattie time together.

Happy 2nd birthday Flatastic Aura Litter

Happy birthday boys and girls

I sometimes sit and gaze out the window thinking back at all I went through from birth of a heartfelt wish till the day I passed my first bred puppies to their new owners. I never ever could have imagined what an emotional roller coaster life would put me through just out of having a couple of puppies..

I never imagined that my heart could open up to so many dogs at once.. never imagined how vulnerable it would make my heart when we unexpectedly and far too early had to say goodbye to miss Yellow who I took so many “punches” for in order to give her the best life…

I never imagined that all our efforts and coaching would be so warmly welcomed as it has been..

I never expected so many to do so well as gundogs this early in life..

I never thought they would bring so much joy and pleasure to their humans as they do.

I am utterly proud of all of them – I hoped they would become social and happy flatties and they have become so much more than just that! They have become flatcoats of my heart.

Funny social pretty energetic sweet clever and always ready to rock and roll. Beauty and brains if you ask me, but then again I might not be very objective.

A very happy birthday to Lotte Kaspar Kai Jason Spyke Shelby Jones Bruce Jones Gurbe & Fien.

Big hugs from a proud breeder

In loving memory of Line💛

Flatastic Amber Value did it again

Victor with his victory

Last Saturday Ivo van Kempen & Flatastic Amber Value participated in the WFRG working test B1 in Oostvoorne and won the first price (despite the fact that he was the youngest dog in the field that day!!). Big congratulations to Ivo and Victor. Their second year of gundog work in competitions together is as promising as the first year.

Very proud of those two! Especially because Ivo has worked with Victor on calm behaviors throughout the winter – showing it is worthwhile maintaining and investing in mental stability for young competition dogs for long term pleasure for both the gun dog work and welfare of the dogs. Well done you two!

Very nice score

Mr Adonis

Flatastic Platinum Alignment “Gurbe”

This gorgeous boy has been called Mr Adonis from a very young age. He was one of the last puppies to leave our premises and luckily his handler has kept in contact with us. Today I had the pleasure of seeing this handsome and great boy. He has inherited his good looks from mommy Rumi and his passion and independent spirit is familiar to me. His father has passed his good reasoning and modest way of being. I just love this great guy who has become a goose retrieving expert.

Gurbe supervising his game – photo by L.Bosma

Gurbe and his handler are hunting together and they enjoy gun dog training for competitions.

3rd price unofficial SJP for Lieuwe and Gurbe

Gurbe lives in North Friesland with his human family and his dog friend Jiska (heidelwachtel) and a “terror-cat”.

All rounder

Flatastic Black Peace “Kaspar”

Many people – even gundog judges and trainers do not always know that the flatcoated retriever is not only a dual purpose retriever – but he is also a great all rounder when it comes to working skills. Apart from gundog work they love all kinds of active sports and perform really well when handled correctly. This can be tricky as a flatcoated needs a fair, clear but soft hand with well defined (but surely violence free) boundaries.

The flatcoated retriever is a retriever, surely, but the breed has been build with more than just retriever blood. Their sublime swimming skills are thanks to the newfoundlander and setter blood brought the eagerness to hunt, speed and an excellent nose. You may find individuals showing their setter blood more than others and these ones tend to be rather independent and easy to excite. I am very fortunate to live in a country where natural hunting abilities is being appreciated in certain tests as this allows these types to excel.

Because my native country’s retriever club is having a bit of a cross road conflict about a new test system so I decided to test it out myself as we were on holiday in the region anyways.

Kaspar passed the field trial Debutant class with many compliments of the judge

Both Lotte and Kaspar were entered and Kaspar passed with 1st category and Lotte was given a 3rd category meaning she needs some more training to pass, but the quality is there. Of course I was very pleased with Kaspar’s achievement – he did really well. At the same time it made it clear to me that a field trial system such as the Danish one that is up now, will easily exclude some of the more lively individuals as they will have a difficulty dealing with the high amount impulses involved in the Introduction Test. This will put pressure on the gene pool of the Flatcoated Retriever which is already threatened to narrow down to much. So I am worried about the future for my breed if a whole country sets the pace like this in a test system. .

Nothing better for a worried human mind than a happy flatastic threesome. From the left Lotte, Rumi and Kaspar

Nevertheless we enjoyed quality time with our dogs in beautiful and nature rich Denmark.

And not the least – my first own bred dog has now a field trial qualification on top of his other national and international achievements – and he has still to turn 2. His sister will surely follow but she is a bit of a wild cat sometimes – I train her in her own speed to avoid unnecessary pressure. But no doubt Lotte is a diamond in the rough who will shine at the right time, sharing glitters of her setter – origin.

Failure at failure

Kaspar with a bleeding nose after running through sharp water plants

When you scroll through my newsfeed you will find many shadings of great flatcoated moments – of which the most talk about positive and successful experiences. However, as in real life there is of course no such thing as succes only. Our human tendency to avoid failure regularly is very handy for surviving but it can also be an obstruction to success.

A while ago I participated in a competition with Rumi who has done really well in training lately. The competition consisted of 5 different elements all except 1 asking the dog to be able to switch from open to closed areas and visa versa. At the same time the competition had a high amount of distractions some not known to handler.

I started the competition confident and happy with Rumi and how she tried to do her best. Some things were simply to difficult compared to the level of training we are at in training but as the day continued her frustration grew and I was tempted to push and handle more than I would have liked to see myself doing. At the end I decided to pull her out of a set up that I felt even the judge was unhappy with. I left the grounds really disappointed and discouraged.

Someone asked me if I was unhappy with my dog’s execution of the work that day. I really needed to think about that.. I was not unhappy but sad. Sad that she had been put into a situation where I did not recognize the impact the design of the test had on my girl. Sad that I had trusted the design of the test. It is very easy to complain about a test or a judge – because it takes away any self blaming or responsibility of lack of training so instead I tried to use my sadness and hangover to contemplate.

First of all, what do I think is a good retriever competition? This question alone can take endless sentences to answer so let me be brief and forgive my incompleteness.

A good retriever competition is one that has various elements to allow different working styles of all retrievers and all individuals.

For example, a Labrador is very precise and ground working with his nose (generally speaking). Flatcoated retrievers are mostly working on the wind like standing gun dogs and in the best case they switch between wind ground scenting. These are things a competition can include in their set up. Another thing is distance. At which distance does a breed start working at own initiative – this varies a lot also within a breed. Allowing a chance for all types to have a good chance to do well could be an aim for a hosting party. I have now mentioned a few.

Now back to failure. I noticed that my experience of failure had disappointing feel to it. Disappointed that all our hard work seemed demolished in a few hours.

But more importantly I felt to have failed in protecting my dog from the mental failure and frustration she suffered. I should have given up the moment I noticed her frustration. I did not do this in time. Why not? I had nothing to loose or win anyway because I had missed one retrieve already. I did not give up because I did not want to be confronted with my own feelings of failure. So let’s say I failed at failure.

Rumi contemplating on which piece of goats cheese will come her direction

Later I started thinking how my ability to allow failure as a part of the proces actually can benefit my success rate. It could potentially allow more space to acknowledge what we need to practice better or differently. It could also allow more kindness to my relationship with my dogs and it could spare me the hangover of having raised my voice or used my flute signals too much. Failure can potentially be my best teacher in kindness and gun-dogging.

So we will continue to practice the art of failure a little bit more.. at least to the extend that I am able to protect my dogs from circus acts.

Danish Flatcoated Retriever Club – weekend dual purpose event in April 2022

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.

Flatastic Black Peace “Kaspar” being judged by Brian Izzard UK

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:

Rumi:

Excellent bitch througout, nice head, good eye, excellent front, good lay of shoulder, correct rearangulation, good overall size and temperament, moved well

Kaspar:

Nice young boy, correct hed, eyes and teeth, fair angulation at the front, good rear angulation, moved well

Lotte:

Moved OK, good head, good teeth, eyecolour OK, would prefer more bone, stands well when settled

Another judge was doing his final exam so we were looked at twice..here Kaspar is showing a nice trot.

Markprøve B

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.

The twins making the best of a cold evening in the van

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?

Rumi resting in the camper van during our road trip

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”.

A weekend out with the Flatastics

From the left Shelby, Spyke, Lotte, Kaspar, Jason, Fien and in our hearts +Line 💛

It was a big contrast after the past week’s painful event of loosing beloved Line..

I did not feel much joy driving my car towards Bergschenhoek for the Clubdiploma day on dummies organized by the Working flatcoated group and the Toller club. Normally I look forward doing trials with my dogs but it was with a heavy heart this time..because Line was supposed to do this trial too. After meeting with the other Flatastics we agreed to do this trial in honor of Line and her wonderful nature.

Lotte was in a typical hormonal spaghetti brain mood of a bitch coming in to heat – so let’s say it was not her best day and we are curious to see when her 2nd heat is coming, but nevertheless she showed some nice work and especially her steadiness pleased me.

Silvia Renders caught the B price winners on camera

Kaspar however rose above expectations and just smashed it (for Line) and won the B class with a modest 72 points. When I heard that only 3 B diplomas were obtained I was ever so more proud of this great guy. He worked very focused and eagerly and just delivered way beyond I would think he is trained to.

The happy “Italian” Kaspar already keeping an eye on the helper for the water retrieve – photo by Silvia Renders

Flatastic results:

Kaspar 1st place B diploma 72 points Lotte C diploma 45 points Shelby C diploma 33 points Spyke C diploma 37 points

Congratulations with the qualifications and thank you for a comforting and enjoyable day together with our dogs!

Awaiting the first post – photo by Silvia Renders

Showtime

2nd place group class Rijnland International Dog Show – photo from PPPrints

Sunday it was time to show that our flatcoated retrievers are dual purposed. The Rijnland dog show gave the youngsters an opportunity to join the group class with all breeds in the bing ring. Kaspar and Lotte were great in showing themselves side by side and I was very surprised that they took a second place out of a rather big group. Standing still for the photo was less successful.

Show results 27/3-22:

Kaspar 1st place VG intermediate class. Lotte 1st place VG intermediate class Rumi Excellent open class.

You can imagine we are all a bit tired after the busy weekend and the past emotional week – now we take some rest to digest all the contrasting emotions before commencing our next adventure, which is just around the corner…