2022 personal gundog goals achieved

In the beginning of the year I made a list of goals in order to have a clear vision of what we are putting our efforts into. One of the goals concerned gundog competition work. I had hoped for a second SJP A for Rumi and at least a SJP B for the youngsters. Yesterday we fulfilled that wish when Flatastic Black Peace “Kaspar” achieved his SJP B with 68 point out of 80. Still plenty of room for improvement- but his official B hunting exams is passed. It was not easy as I was on crutches and my Italian was not very comfortable with these sticks around him. It resulted in a rather creative delivery execution – he is very clever to avoid risks (the day before I had accidentally dropped one of them on his back). Very proud of my beauty & brains guy.

Upper photo from Saskia Moonen FRC

My personal standard and preference for breeding flatcoated retrievers is at least a SJP B or equivalent as it proves that a dog that is bred to hunt is showing that he will retrieve game and have basic obedience. Apart from that an excellent anatomy in the eyes of an exterior judge is preferred.

Kaspar has now proven up to that standard and with his health results he is now complying with the FCI, Dutch Kennel Club and the flatcoated retriever club’s requirements in order to be used for breeding.

But before my lights turn from orange to green Kaspar will as most of his sibling undergo an ultrasound scan to ensure that his kidneys are as they should be. This is due to the early loss of his sister Line (see earlier news feed). I have spend a lot of time contemplating and gaining information wether I should continue with this in mind and I still feel that our breed is troubled by a low gene pool, too many cancer cases, early age death rate is too high generally speaking. Apart from that – very few flatcoated retrievers show the work drive and intelligence that I find so characteristic for them. I still feel both Kaspar and Lotte can contribute to keeping my beloved breed alive – maintaining the gene pool and adding working skills and good looks and function. A few interested puppy buyers are on the waiting list already and we will keep it open and start making plans as soon as we have had the last confirmation on health concerning the kidneys.

Gundogshow Doorwerth 4th of Sept 2022

Beautiful rosettes for Lotte & Kaspar

Last Sunday Lotte & Kaspar participated in the Gundog show Doorwerth. It was a very warm and dry day and the dogs were having a hard time even in the shade.

Lotte’s first time in open class

Kaspar was brought out in the working class for the first time and he made it to the finals with all the other gundog breed winners of the working classes.

Lotte was for the first time brought out in the open class competing with much more mature bitches.

Me checking Kaspar’s stand during the finals

Our results:

Judge Mrs Richy Lochs judging the flatcoated retrievers:

Flatastic Black Peace “Kaspar” BOB working (1st place excellent)

Flatastic Red Strength “Lotte” 3rd place excellent bitches open class

Show reports from judge

Judge mr. Hans van den Berg judging all breeds working final:

Flatastic Black Peace “Kaspar” 3rd place working finals (all breeds)

Judge mrs. Linda Weijnans judging couples:

Flatastic Black Peace “Kaspar” Flatastic Red Strength “Lotte” 1st place couples class all breeds

Josine kindly showed the winning couple – I had fallen out with a knee injury

We are very pleased by the wonderful results – a special thanks to Josine and Mathijs who saved my day by helping out. Congratulations on your results – also for halfsister Ragne ( Beguarded in a conch shell Flat Our Pride) who won the puppy class with a deserved excellent.

Summer gundogging results

The competition season is full in action and the hunting season has commenced as well. In the Netherlands hunters are working hard to save the farmers’ crop from doves and different birds. In Belgium the duck season is already in full action and Flatastic Aquamarine Acceptance “Jason” and Flatastic Green Compassion “Fien” have been out in the fields together for retrieving.

Flatastic Platinum Alignment “Gurbe” obtained a very impressive SJP B diploma on game with 75 point out of 80.

A proud Lieuwe and Gurbe

Flatastic Silver Will “Bruce” has a SJP B of 69 out of 80 point and is now qualified for MAP B competitions.

Congratulations Lieuwe and Klaas with your great B diplomas.

Yesterday Rumi and I finally obtained our 2nd SJP A allowing us to subscribe to MAP A competitions. MAP A is the highest level of gundog competitions on game – designed to resemble real hunting situations. The competitions serve as selection competitions for the the Dutch championships called Nimrod.

Walking up to the heelwork part for the last time – photo by Saskia Moonen FRC
Me telling Rumi how great she was – photo by Saskia Moonen FRC
3rd place SJP A – photo by Saskia Moonen FRC
Beautiful girl with her price 🎀

From now on only the fun stuff awaits the two of us Rumi. Thank you for everything up until now.

Flatastic on tour – Denmark flatcoated training weekend on Fyn

Two weeks ago me and the dogs started our summer tour by visiting Yvonne Scheltens – a fellow flatcoated breeder (Tricksywood’s) and gundog trainer in the beautiful Drenthe region in the Netherlands. We shared some great training time with both our young dogs and their mothers in the challenging terrain Big thanks for your hospitality Yvonne and looking very much forward to our future plans…

Rumi taking a sitting twist-turn not to miss out on Yvonne bringing a dummy away for Kaya

From the north of NL me and the happy three dog campers travelled to Denmark to join a weekend of training with 60+ other flatcoated retrievers. I had prepared a small lecture on stress in working dogs for the Danes and on the photo underneath you see a very hot room with interested people sticking to it despite the conditions – after a long hot day of training (only cooling options for the dogs) sitting in a warm cabin taking in serious dog knowledge is only for die hards. My respect and thankfulness for your engagement in becoming a better owner/handler for your dogs!

A short (1 1/2 hour) lecture on inelastic behaviors and stress in working dogs given by me in a summer warm cabin.

Luckily I also had time to train my own dogs. Training three was a challenge – so I had asked Josine (owner of + Line) if she would like to handle Kaspar for me. I joined with Lotte and together we started at the beginners team but moved on to the open class team on Sunday afternoon led by Carsten Druekær (trainer and gundog judge). It was very enjoyable to be trained by Carsten – he is a complete training nerd – loves to go into detail with learning stuff and he has a huge heart and understanding of dogs’ beghavior and technical execution of an exercise. He will never let any of us become dull in training our dogs and he gave me a leap ahead in one afternoon. Carsten I will come back for more as soon as I am back in DK! Another joy of training abroad is the fact that there are different traditions to working your dogs. For us – practicing working in a manner where the dogs had to pass one another from close by and be passed by others too was new and very useful to practice.

Me & Lotte with Carsten explaining things thoroughly

Such a training weekend is very enjoyable- first of all it can really push you into a new impulse in your own training but secondly it is a great opportunity to meet other flatcoated handlers, breeders and trainers. Reminding me that we really need to work together to preserve our wonderful breed. This year Annette & Jørgen (to whom a big thank you for arranging) added tracking to the menu and due to lack of time – I asked Lene and Jan from kennel Whimbrel if we could visit later in the same week.

Taking in inspiration for a welcome in style

Jan was so very kind to make several red deer tracks to all of the dogs including half sister Ragne of Josine and Mathijs with whom we have been camping all week on Fyn. All of the dogs enjoyed the tracking and especially little Ragne gained huge amounts of self confidence when she discovered her tracking skills. Rumi was so powerful that Jan had to take over the line. I could simply not hold her.

Big thanks to kennel Whimbrel – Lene and Jan for having us and especially Jan for the great tracking experience.

With “The Twins” on the road

Hunting exam season in the Netherlands is open!

Me & Lotte enjoying the diploma moment photo by L. Verspui

It is summer and the gundog exams of Orweja have started.

The SJP exams are found in 3 levels: C-B-A

C is mainly basic obedience and retrieving of dummies

B is intermediate level retrieving of rabbit, duck and crow on a precision mark and casting past water on top of the C parts

A is all of the above plus a double blind dove retrieve on 100+ meters range plus a long drag of goose with several turns. The blind test does not allow disobedience on the directing, thus a very high level of obedience in casting is required.

The SJP diploma gives access to the equivalent level of MAP and/or Working tests.

Rumi & me giving it a go for the 2nd SJP A – but did not make it – yet. Photo by Sophie Alma WFRG
Powerduo Laurine & Flatastic Green Compassion “Fien” getting ready to show their heelwork skills in Heerle. Photo by Sophie Alma WFRG

Here are the results from the past two weeks of Flatastic Aura action in the field:

Flatastic Platinum Alignment “Gurbe” with his owner Lieuwe SJP-C 46 points out of 50

Flatastic Blue Intelligence “Spyke” with his owner Hans SJP-C 39 out of 50 points

Flatastic Green Compassion “Fien” with her owner Laurine SJP-C 38 out of 50 points

Flatastic Black Peace “Kaspar” SJP-C 50 out of 50 points

Flatastic Red Strength “Lotte” SJP-B 67 out of 80 points

I am a very proud breeder with these results – and it makes me even more proud when I see how much pleasure the dogs bring to our lives, how many engaged gun dog hours in the field we can enjoy because of them. Congratulations Hans, Laurine and Lieuwe with your diplomas.

Workshop Marking

Flatastic Black Peace “Kaspar” ready to mark

The Dutch Working Flatcoated Groep “WFRG” held a marking workshop by Eric Verzijl in the beautiful place of Rijen.

A nice group of 11 gun dogs – 2 labradors, 1 golden and 8 flatcoated retrievers, most of them young dogs around 2-3 years of age.

Eric opened the day by inviting us to work our dogs exactly the same way as we do at home. He encouraged us to take action if needed not letting the dog finish without the retrieve being successful.

Eric explained the risks of signing the judges on a gundog trial that one is ready with a verbal command. Here I am using my right hand to cue that I am ready (leash had been removed on beforehand) while still keeping an eye on the dog.

On beforehand I was a bit nervous about the impact on my dogs when doing only marks a whole day. Marking I find is very exiting for the dogs and it can easily ruin the steadyness and push them into stress levels where handling is difficult.

Flatastic Red Strength “Lotte” having a great time picking up the cow skin dummy.

In cases like this I am happy that I have learned to recognize the levels of excitement and stress in my dogs and know how to deal with it and/or stop before I push them into over excitement. Luckily they are already well on their way to dealing allright with major stimuli.

During the workshop Eric presented the dogs with a variety of dummies. From cow skin in different colors to dummies with goose wings and launcher dummies. He even used a hand launcher that was build on to a shotgun. This I found unique as many gundog trainers mostly train for competitions and tend to forget preparing handlers for the real deal. Eric spend time explaining important aspect of practical hunting and why certain rules must be obeyed in order to ensure safety for all.

I find the risk of doing workshops in comparison to regular training is that one jumps from one training vision to another. Erik was clear on his views and opinions but I am glad he left space open to continue on our own route of training in order to remain predictable for our dogs.

One of the most discussed items in gundog training is the use of treats (a positive reinforcement tool). It is a topic that can call on strong emotions for some reason and this is intriguing I find, why we humans react so strongly to this when discussing gundogging.

My dogs are very motivated retrievers. Kaspar has a strong will to please and Lotte a strong independent and distance seeking drive. Therefore they bring different challenges into my handling. I use different tools to influence their emotions and behavior on a very conscious level. As they are young steadyness training is always on my top priority and because of all the mistakes I made in my basic training with their mother I spend more time focusing on walking towards the beginning point and the whole setting around me, than I do on the technical skills themselves as for example marking. At this point returning is a bit of a challenge as they have learned that after delivery the fun stops. I offer them good stuff to deal with the “sad” ending of the fun, but it will never have same reinforcement value as the retrieve itself of course. So I try to have all the right boxes ticked on beforehand – to prevent any messing around after picking up the retrieve. Everybody who owns a flatcoated retriever knows that if you desire a perfect steadyness/heelwork performance before building technical skills you will never get ahead. So knowing when to focus on what and being very alert to reinforcement is a must for successfully handling this wonderful breed.

Body language (during the return) is a great predictor on what behavior the dog will show. When the tail is up this high I know he is not in the mood for giving up his newly discovered cow dummy. This leaves me with information and options. I am alert to a last minute decision of turning away from me and I am prepared to give a higher reinforcement than the execution is actually worth. Why is that? Because it was a difficult emotional decision for him to make as he would have rather kept it. I communicated to him that I really appreciated and valued his decision to come in return with a perfect sit to hand. Kaspar’s highest reinforcer is a handful of sausage and a big verbal praise with hugs afterwards. Please invest time and effort in finding out what your dogs different levels of reinforcers are.
Here is a sit that on the first hand looks ok. I found it to be a bit too tense and the distance from my leg too far. Instead of becoming a pain in the neck by nagging him into a closer sit (and by that being irritating on beforehand) I decided to get a treat out and feed him a couple in exange for eye contact just to get a bit more attention to me in favor of the helper in the field. Note I did not lure him to eye contact. Then I asked a closer sit (successfully) which I then could reinforce with the throw of the high value cowskin dummy.
This is the return after the cast of the above mentioned dummy. Look at the difference on body language while coming in compared to the photo of the return above. This return predicted a perfect sit to hand and gave me a good reinforcement opportunity. Because Erik had this marking exercise build up 3in a row style – I could use the next retrieve prospect as reinforcer instead of treats or cuddles. I am a big fan of treats as reinforcers but not of making myself into a random slot machine of treats. Know exactly what you are reinforcing, when you do it, why and what you reinforce with. And remember- reinforcing only happens if the dog perceives it as such.
Lotte eagerly returning

It was a very enjoyable day in Rijen were both youngster were presented with many different marks, dummies and situations (dummies falling behind hills, in heavy water plants etc etc). When training on my own it is impossible to provide the dogs such variety and for that opportunity a big thanks to Erik for the chance to practice a bit of practical hunting skills too. Thank you WFRG and Huntingdogs gun dog school (Erik Verzijl).

All above photos are made by Erik Verzijl

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💛