Today it is the birthday of our Aura litter. What a journey have they brought me personally and what a pleasure and joy too. A big congratulations to all brothers and sisters – wishing you a wonderful day.
Kai Kaspar Shelby Spyke Lotte Jason Jones Fien Gurbe Bruce & Victor
Also in loving memory Line – the girl who rocked many of our hearts.
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.
At 3:45 AM on a Friday morning an annoying alarm clock reminded me of the fact that “the early bird gets the worm”. An invitation to join a hunter in his field means being at the location around sunrise. This not an activity for lazy bedstayers.
He who gets up early gets to experience the breathtaking beauty of dawn and awakening of all life in Nature. Nothing else can make a human land more in the body and serve with with peace of mind than nature does. The sounds of birds and insects. Wind in the grass and water whispering at you.
Today the point of interest is barnacle geese. This bird stays in NL during winter and heads back to Russia and/or other similar cold areas to mate and raise their chicks.
As they are not mating yet this time is the last chance to obtain some fat rich biological and sustainable meat from an animal that has had a high quality of life.
Many people ask me how I can stand being a part of killing an animal. I often try to explain that I have more difficulty seeing our regular meat and diary production where animals have less freedom and/or some times limited well being. If we could eat less “regular” meat and more game from nature it would make a huge welfare difference and we humans would still have sense of respect and awe for the animals we eat as obtaining a goose’s meat for consumption is a long process that takes effort. When I do the effort – I value the meat even more and I feel less comfortable disposing even the tiny bits. So when I prepare a goose for consumption, all but the intestines, head and feathers are used.
Apart from my fascination of what beautiful nutrition Mother Nature provides us with – I must not forget to mention that it brings me great joy to watch a good hunting dog work from his instincts and skills.
I cannot think of anything prettier than a flatcoated retriever build for his function galopping towards a retrieve with his tail out and nose upward. It can give me goosebumps of awe every time.
Gurbe is a full brother of Lotte & Kaspar from our first litter Aura. He is a bit stronger build than Kaspar but still very compact, fast and turnable. He has a lovely coat – a very charming presence and he is incredibly driven with huge hunting cleverness. I remember when his owner visited us before they were born and he explained about his hunting field and his wish for a hunting dog with excellent water skills. Today I can proudly conclude that he got all that and even more. Gurbe is a passionate worker giving his handler enough challenge. This great boy will do anything to get the last bird home and in my opinion this is a very important talent that a dog either has or not. He has a very good balance between problem solving on his own and will to please. And he is so charming. I am very proud of this boy and of his owner. It is his first flatcoated retriever and they are a great team still in the proces of ankering their teamwork in gundog tests – but already with very good results in the pocket. The hunt together as if they have done that for ages..
Lotte is by far not so experienced as Gurbe in goose retrieving so she got a chance to watch and learn from her brother after having had a few relatively easy marks. She was a bit exited when allowed to run out for a mark and lost some focus on the first bird but after a while she settled better and worked more precisely. A goose fell on the waterway at 200 meters away and she did not see it. It became a blind passing of the water and directing to the left on another 20 meters. Amazing job that she trusted my instructions and retrieved the floating goose.
Later on we sadly had an injured goose that landed very close to the road. Lotte and I immediately started running up to come in between the road and the goose. I made the mistake of letting Lotte search for the goose too early (due to my own poor impulse control) and she turned wind downward and found the landing spot of the goose. She was now behind the goose and the road and if the goose would have been able to fly up this could have put her in the risk of running up to the road and the goose to fly away to a field where we did not have access. This was a big learning moment for me to think more carefully about risks and how to set up the search better. Luckily Lotte put her nose to the ground, kept tracking where the goose went and retrieved it promptly. Pfffiiiewww what a moment. I am not sure which feelings I had at that time – a bit of everything I believe. The morning hunt ended enjoying quietness and singing of the field birds. A rare sound as many of these birds are pushed away by predation (cats/geese/foxes/poor living areas). The sounds of the birds always seduces me entirely and I had not even noticed that the hunt had been called to an end. “We stop now or you will have difficulty cutting out the meat in time as it is getting warm” we’re the wise words of my hunter. So I returned home after a cup of coffee and a quick “Adonis photo shoot” of Gurbe. I had the last goose on my cutting board at 21.45 hours at night.
Sustainable meat is not easy peasy done. And I even did not have all the hassle of a hunting license and shooting etc. Did I mention that this type of goose hunting is law regulated to protect crops from farmers etc? Meaning it is not optional – the hunting is more or less obligated. Also on weekdays when the hunter might not have the exact spare time.. Nature does not wait and regulated protection of crops sets the pace. Nature shows us humans that everything has its timing – I try to learn from her…
Our two youngsters are different from character but they do look a lot alike – especially in their habits and positions. When joining a couples class that works in our advantage. The couples class takes place in the main ring of a show and the dogs do not necessarily need to be perfect breed representatives but they must be the same type and explicitly male and female in looks. Lotte and Kaspar have been placed every time when entered in couples classes and again today they brought home a golden cup 3rd price and a very nice bag of Renske dog food.
Before the couples class we had the individual judging that sadly did not give a placement for Rumi – but she is also completely out of coat. Good a very nice report on all three, with feedback that makes sense to me.
Judge today in breed was Mrs Gerda Groeneweg-de Klerk & couples class Godelieve Wit-Bazelmans
Kaspar 1st place VG working class:
Bijna 3 jaar. Reu van een zeer goed type maar zou in het geheel wat mannelijker mogen zijn. Goed gevormd hoofd. Prima expressie. Voldoende halslengte. Mooie rugbelijning. Voldoende voorborst. Voldoende diep lichaam. Zag liever meer kniehoeking. Bone passend bij het type. Voldoende krachtig voetje. Goed behang. Gaat vlot met een wat korte pas. Zeer goed
Rumi Excellent open class:
7 jaar. Innemend vrouwelijk hoofd met zachte expressie. Prima geplaatst oortje. Fraaie halsrugbelijning. Prima voorborst. Mooi opgeribd lichaam. Goede hoekingen voor en achter. Ovaalvormig bone. Voorvoeten mogen wat compacter. Is momenteel iets in de rui. Gaat vlot. Uitmuntend
Lotte 1st place Excellent working class
Bijna 3 jaar. Elegante teef. Mooi type en formaat. Mooi gevormd vrouwelijk hood. Prima expressie. Mooie halsrugbelijning. Prima voorborst. Goed opgeribd lichaam. Prima hoekingen voor en achter. Bone past bi het type. Voldoende krachtige voetjes. Mooie vlak aanliggende vacht met prima behang. Gaat met correct paslengte. Goede presentatie. Uitmuntend
Tonight it will be double bubble of champagne to celebrate this week’s results. Work & show. But most importantly never forgetting the fun..
On Sunday the 23th of April the working flatcoated retriever club held her annual speciality working test Scandinavian style for flatcoated retrievers only. More than 100 flatcoated retrievers gathered in Utrecht at Pavilion de Forelvijver for a sporty gundog day.
Luckily the weather forecast did keep its promise and most of the day we enjoyed sun and good wind. It was really nice to see some of our “Aura” littermates and younger half sister Ragne and Rumi’s brother Déroy too.
Rumi (Flow of Spirits Silver Skipper) did an amazing job and won the open class🎊
Flatastic Red Strength “Lotte” was lucky to join her mother for a day out and she was in the novice class. She was one of the younger contestants and managed to end on an eleventh place in the ranking – very proud of that being under the age of 3 years.
Results of the day
Beguarded in a conch shell Flat our pride (halfsister Ragne) 56 points
Flatastic Blue Intelligence “Spyke” 71 points
Flatastic Green Compassion “Fien” 56 points
Flatastic Red Strength “Lotte” 65 points
Flatastic Platinum Alignment “Gurbe” 61 points
Flow of Spirits Silver Skipper “Rumi” 80 points 1st place
Flow of Spirits Red Admiral “Déroy” 74 points 2nd place
Very happy with the results of my girls and offspring of Rumi – but most of all – it was great to see you again.
Yesterday was probably the wettest Saturday of the year raining from early morning till nighttime. Strong winds caught us too and I had planned to participate in a working test in Lochem organized by the Golden Retriever Club Nederland. I was the first time Flatastic Red Strength “Lotte” was out in a competition on her own. Up until now I had entered both siblings in exams but for workingtests one can only bring one dog of ownership.
In the Netherlands the working tests are seperated in two styles (all on dummies):
1) the official Orweja Working test called OWT. These tests qualify for the IWT in the end. Here dogs must be completely quiet and very obedient and they must work very direct – not searching to wide or show too much own initiative. This style of working suits dogs with a lot of Will to please and handlers who like to train the details. The tests are judged by judges appointed by the Orweja organization specific for these tests. Levels are starters novice and open.
2) retriever working tests arranged by the breed clubs according to their conducts. These test are supposed to reflect a more practical oriented hunting situations- however the trend is that the challenges are becoming more a reflection of the imagination of those who design the tests than actual hunting situations. Nevertheless the competitions are often variated with lots of different accents including walk ups driven hunts marking searching and waterwork. The judges are appointed by the retriever breed clubs. The levels are C, B1, B2 and A (C being the lowest and A the highest). Here faults as sound and poor obedience will not result in failure necessarily but severe distraction in points. To obtain a certificate one must have at least 60 points according to most retriever breed clubs. This means one may “miss” one retrieve and still pass if the point are high enough.
Lotte and I had a nice day together – luckily the weather did not bother her a bit. Her coat kept her warm and dry and she did not hesitate to swim when given the chance. She was however a little bit distracted by the fact that she is in the middle of her phantom pregnancy. At times she looked at me as if she had no idea what was going on and I had to repeat cues which is very unusual for Lotte.
Unfortunately we missed our first retrieve – a sprayed dummy dragged in an open field with a cast from the forest with a gunshot fired alongside the forest in opposite direction of the placement of the dummy. That was simply to difficult for her to comprehend. She searched really well but not in the “right” place. I can certainly not blaim her – this situation reached far beyond our present training. I am right in the middle of teaching her to follow the shooters direction precisely and not the opposite. No sweats – the second retrieve from a free search was back within seconds.
The rest of the day was full of challenging retrieves – a partner walk up with shooters and driven hunts with semi blinds. Casting blind over water with distractions from a dummy trown earlier in the water alongside. Oh boy this test was really on the high end of what may be asked in a B1 level test.
I am very proud of Lotte that she managed to keep up with the high level – and I have a lot of new inspiration to bring to my training.
Thank you Josine and Mathijs for the layover and taking care of Kaspar and Rumi during the day. They had a marvelous time and it was lovely to be with you and Ragne again.
A week ago I drove to the east of the Netherlands to participate in a working test A with Rumi. The working test was designed by Henk Slijkhuis and the difficulty level was high and contained a lot of obedience and steadyness with walk-ups and distractions. It was hard work for us as Rumi is strong minded and not the calmest dog to handle. I was very pleased with her performance though and a bit irritated about my own mistakes. Plenty of space left to learn though.
A week later the two of us entered a whole different arena: a very noisy hall at the Rijnland international Cacit dog show. Rumi die very well and achieved a 2nd place excellent in open class with a strong line up of very nice show bitches. She is a dream to show – she loves it and shows off as a pro. Belgian judge Jos Cuyper laid his hands on her and was very surprised by her tightness and muscular body. I explained that she is a highly trained working gun dog with a very wide and proud smile. I am of course very thankful for her breeder breeding this dog but I am also proud that I have managed to keep her so well even with her permanent injury. It is a lot of TLC and I am so happy that it shows in her well-being. Here are some photos kindly taken by my husband:
The “twins” also had to spend the day in a warm hall – Kaspar and Lotte were both brought out in the working class. Kaspar was less appreciated by the judge with a 1st place Very Good. I found him rather tense in the ring this time – he seemed a bit impressed by the surroundings.
His remarks were this time the opposite of the last time. Not quite sure what that means… Nevertheless Kaspar is in size perfect within the breed standard, even though he looks smaller. I am confident that it is an asset to have males of different sizes in a breeding program as the flatcoated retriever as a breed is producing rather big dogs with slightly too much coat. When hunting too big and long dogs with a lot of coat – it will become a difficulty to enjoy their work for a full day. They run out of energy too fast. So I am still happy with my fast running somewhat smaller Italian.
Lotte has developed a lot lately and as she has just been in heat she looks very nice and full at the moment. She did very well in the ring with a 2nd place excellent in working class bitches.
For the fun of it I had entered Lotte and Kaspar in the couples class. I simply enjoy taking the long run in the hounory ring on the felt carpet and showing my breed. It is hard to beat the elegance of two long running flatcoated retrievers. It is just lovely to watch – regardless who’s dogs they are.
Last year we were appreciated by the same judge with a 3rd place and this year we ended at a 2nd place. Wauw!! Lotte did not enjoy it as much as Kaspar because he was running behind a spaniel in full heat. I am so appreciative that he handles himself so well. The handler of the spaniels passed at a close distance and the male spaniel did not appreciate any competition. Kaspar kept his cool and did not bother a moment. What a nice temperament my Italian has! So proud.
I would also like to thank the many flatcoated handlers who congratulated us or just to had a friendly chat on the go. It is nice to feel welcome – even though I am a “newbee” in the showing world. Many of you have taken time to explain and share your knowledge. Thank you for that – it is highly appreciated.
Also a big thank to Yvonne from Tricksywood’s and Josine and Mathijs for a lovely weekend in good company.
Up until now Kaspar had not had a chance to be alone when hunting. It is a bit of a disadvantage having to stand in the shadow of another dog but at the same time they can learn by watching. It is called observational learning and especially puppies and young dogs learn by watching. But also grown ups do learn doing so. I therefore always turn my dogs away when we are seeing another dog performing in an unwanted manner.
Many handlers tend to watch things go wrong with their dogs are at heal next to them expecting their dog to see everything while not “learning” from it. It is fairly easy to redirect your dog’s attention by calling his name and rewarding the attention with a small treat without having to move your dog and possibly disturbing others. This is a simple example how you can redirect attention. I use a lot of redirecting attention when working my flatcoated retrievers. The breed is known to be a working dog who will hear see and smell every bit of the surroundings, therefore they can easily be distracted or “loose their heads” to what the exact task is. Starting a practice of “leave it for later” is really a big necessity if one wants a reliable gundog.
Kaspar was lucky to have a few retrieves of goose shortly after arrival at the field. I was walking him in heal behind the hunters when the first two geese fell. One still was a bit lively so he needed some encouragement, but brought it well to my hand. I am always a bit nervous when a goose is not dead right away. They are big birds and I do not want suffering to continue. I feel that the craftsmanship of hunting for your dinner table contains the ability to witness the suffering and ending it swiftly is very important. The fact that it touches my heart forces me to have respect and appreciation for nature and living beings. Knowing I having taken a life to have food.. it urges me to live my life to the most. I even feel we should all be able to kill our own food if we wish to eat meat. Otherwise we become nonchalant and easily throwing meat products away without any sense of value.
While walking on Lieuwe who was one of the hunters told me more about nature. There is a bird that is very territorial. It will simply drown all other birds in the water without any hesitation:
I really enjoy being out in Nature and learning from the field. It has an impact on my being and I can intensely enjoy the quietness and vastness presenting itself to me.
After a long sit and wait – a goose was shot and it fell across the water. My hunter said the wings were still healthy so we had to walk 800 m around to find it. While doing so Kaspar was surprised by a hare who took off and he started to chase. I have done a lot – really a lot to train recall with distractions but on a hunting day with high adrenaline a running hare passing at 3 meters distance while on a free search.. I did not expect him to pass the chance. But in the back of my head I forced myself to give it a go. Thinking – “do not avoid your own chance of failure – just go for it”. I grabbed my whistle and he ran 2-3 meters then turned away towards me. Wauw! That was the greatest moment of the day with my Italian. He came back with a big grin and a tongue out. I was of course very proud of him that he let the hare go. The goose turned out to give us a bit of exercise and after 30 minutes we were able to get it. Kaspar had retrieved it after a second shot only seeing the gun’s direction and coming back he hesitated jumping in a steep river. I signed him to stay at the field in the other side – a big goose that has been in dirty water is less hygienic to cut out in parts and very heavy to carry home. So for this moment I made use of the hesitation. If it was a gundog competition it would cost a lot of points. These situations are also why some people do not hunt with their dogs when they want to use them in competitions.. you can easily “spoil” certain pieces of your training.
A big thank you to Lieuwe for inviting me and Kaspar and thank you for letting me take the geese home for my dinner table.
On Saturday the 4th of March 2023 the flatcoated retriever club held a working test that I had entered with Lotte. Unfortunately she is full in heat so I decided to go to the international Martini dogshow in Groningen instead. Klaas the owner of Flatastic Silver Will “Bruce” had asked me to bring out his lovely strong boy. Bruce has not had ringtraining or ever been to a show so it was quite an experience for him. I am very proud of this wonderful boy – he has a strong body and an enormous perseverance when working. He retrievers everything with feathers and hair, it is rather impressive what he is already capable of at this young age. He will track a deer for his hunter, retrieve a fox – but he also has obtained his two Orweja SJP diplomas and he is now approved for breeding. He has finished all his health tests including an ultrasound of the kidneys and he has tested clear of hereditary diseases. He is of medium size – his type is traditional (English). His head is very maskulin – maybe it could have a bit less defined stop but this fits his type I think. He has excellent movements with a lot of thrust and a very bright and engaged temperament. In many ways he reminds me of Rumi, which touches me. I am very much looking forward to following him and his owner in the future in their ventures.
Rumi loves to be at a show – it fits her character so well to have attention and lots of treats. She loves to run as well so I had brought her too. The judge gave her a very nice description and a 4th place in her class.
Bruce was given a Very Good and a third place by judge Sandra Hoyer.
While I was out in my fancy clothes – Lieuwe Bosma & Flatastic Platinum Alignment “Gurbe” were in Lattrop and they came home with their first WT B1 diploma. The day after they came in at a third place in the unofficial SJP held by their trainer. Congratulations Lieuwe & Klaas with this weekend’s accomplishments. A good start of the season.
Today I received these pretty certificates from the Dutch kennel club Raad van Beheer. For the first time they have made a breed ranking and I am surprised that we ended this high in the ranking. However our main focus is working with our dogs I still try to maintain the dual purpose by having the dogs judged by different breed specialists. In this way I hope to learn more about anatomy and the different types within the breed. For now we enjoy the certificates..