Flatastic New Year Challenge 2022

We are thrilled to announce that Hans and Spyke (Flatastic Blue Intelligence) won the Flatastic New Year’s challenge 2022. It was a close race to the winning position as the Flatastic owners had put a serious effort into getting the exercise of sending their dog to the place (leash on the ground).

Happy Spyke at training with Hans – January 2022

Spyke is a very happy fellla. He is a typical flatcoated retriever in the sense that he loves to be funny and have fun. He is great in teaching his owners not to take life and training too seriously. At the same time he loves to work. He resembles his mother in that way – always full of passion but in a more modest manner and he is quite good in heelwork and waiting his turn. He has a very kind nature in a big boyish body. He is a great all-rounder and when he truly understands what is asked of him – he is more than willing to perform. I am very proud of him and Hans and I am looking forward to whatever the future holds for them.

Youngster Spyke – photo by Caroline Nilsson
Puppy Blue – Spyke

This years’s challenge was judged by gundog trainer Jantine Veldhuyzen from Jachthondenschool de Kust. Jantine is very passionate about dogs, their welfare and proper training. She also writes articles in gundog magazine “de Jachthond” on different subjects within gundog training. Jantine has a lot of experience, especially with standing dog breeds but she also has a keen eye for seeing through the mind of a flattie, which does not surprise me as our breed has a lot of standing gundog qualities to them.

Jantine Veldhuyzen

Thank you Jantine for judging this year’s Flatastic challenge – and thank you for the feedback – all participants were very happy with your pointers.

Learning patience & managing excitement

All-rounder Rumi jumping a frozen small river

It is January and the duck and goose hunt is still in season. So early Saturday morning me and the girls drove to Friesland in the hunting field of Lieuwe who owns Flatastic Platinum Alignment “Gurbe”.

I had not slept much that night as I am starting to experience hunting nerves on beforehand. Many hunters know this sensation – it is a conditioned hormonal response in the body. Hunting generates adrenaline and cortisol in the body. This stress response can be very useful and at the same time very addictive as it makes you feel very present and alive. Apart from that the huge dopamine pay-out when I bring back food for my family assures a very content and satisfying feeling afterwards. The human race is genetically made to collect and hunt, however these days most modern folks seem to live out these instincts in buying gadgets and clothes in amounts that mostly out rise our needs.

Anyway, the conditioned physical response in my body made me very attentive and energetic. My stomach seemed to close off so breakfast did not really want to cooperate.

One of the benefits of a rise in stress in a body is that all senses become more intense. Biologically this has the purpose to increase chances of survival by predicting danger and better at gaining food. Until a certain level, stress is very helpful and and not harmful because the body can easily break down the cortisol afterwards. If your body has a little extra reserve of energy (muscles and fat) the temporary lessening of digestion will not cause any problems for the homeostasis. This works for humans the same as dogs. So in wintertime me and the dogs have a bit more fat on the ribs.

Making it easier for the body we dress warmly, it saves energy. Also the brain will not be distracted by the sense of discomfort in case of cold or heat. This is why assuring that your working dogs are not too warm or cold – especially during winter hunting, is not merely a question of how much we “spoil” them but simply to preserve their bodies and have their minds on the job all day long. Their brains will have more focus and their muscles and ligaments in better shape.

So my dogs have isolating jackets (neoprene) when working below 5 and/or in cold water areas.

Magnificent sunrise through the camouflage net of the hut.

The weather forecast had promised wind (which is great for goose hunting). Reality gave us not even a breath of wind so all geese flew too high to come closer to our dinner table. So our morning had been a lesson in patience for both us and Rumi. Nevertheless it was magnificent to see the amounts of geese and so many different kinds too. Being alert and awake due to “hunter’s stress” made the beautiful sunrise even more breathtaking and impressive than I remembered it had ever been.

Happy girl Rumi – doing a quick check if she had not missed a goose falling. After all, there had been a shot or two.. it made me smile, because a goose is hard to miss if it falls. Letting her run around a bit is also a way of allowing the build up tension to release and reheat her body.

After the morning “goose time” and a warm cup of coffee it was “duck time”. So I brought both the girls out – Lotte (Flatastic Red Strength) was very happy to join her mother and did a nice job walking at heel. Hunting goddess Diana was with us and 4 big male mallards fell. Lotte was at first a bit careful as the duck was moving it’s wings, so I send Rumi to help. Rumi also got to search for one in a little creek with thorn bushes and wired fence. Lotte followed and learned. Young dogs learn faster during a hunt from the older dogs than from the handler so this hunt was a great opportunity. Lotte got to practice recall a lot as she was keen to run out far. The 3rd duck she retrieved very well to my hand and I could see she was really starting to enjoy the game.

Lieuwe, Lotte, me and Rumi

At lunchtime my stomach was still a bit tight and I had been rather busy managing the two eager girls. Lieuwe and I decided to do one last hunt despite the rain and wind coming up, so for educational purposes we decided to bring Rumi and Gurbe.

Rumi soon got in action as we lost a duck in a very big river. As the access was obstructed – we needed to mark well and walked rather far to a suitable entrance. I sent Rumi to the other side and Gurbe followed. The distraction and the difficult water was too much to ask for so we let Rumi work alone and she managed to get the last bird nicely.

A wonderful day to look back at – two Flatastic youngsters had a good bit of training without overwhelming them with excitement and unfortunate situations. Maintaining the steadyness and heelwork and allowing them to hunt a bit. Tomorrow will be a day of preparing the ducks – there will be a good few meals out of them and the feet will be kept to withdraw glucosamine.

Looking at the experience from a stress perspective – my body needed a great deal of healing today- having walked 8 kmrs plus and not eaten enough throughout the day – I wisely took some rest and ate well to support the removal of the stress hormones. Short periods of stress followed by rest and healing is a natural balance that we need to maintain. For animals and humans. Therefore it is a good thing, for wild life too, that Sunday is a non-hunting day.

Thank you Lieuwe for inviting me and the girls again – in gratitude of the beautiful Friesland.

Best New Year Wishes from team Flatastic

Rumi – Kaspar – Lotte giving a charming head turn & greeting you into the New Year 2022

A warm and affectionate greeting into the New Year 2022. However we are all still struggling with lockdown affects – we hope that the new year will bring health and well-being to all of our friends – 2 and 4 legged – in all possible ways one can have the above. As dog training is difficult due to the current government restrictions (max 2 people together outside) we felt it was time to come up with a new challenge for the Aura litter to keep the youngster busy and engaged. The new year challenge is:

– train your youngster to run to his leash laying on the ground with 1 cue

– let him take place, laying on the leash in down position until you give a release cue.

– add distance to the cast and duration of the waiting laying down.

– the winning team has the best execution in terms of duration, distance of cast, most relaxed emotion/body language of dog and amount of pleasure being displayed.

Go to your place – challenge

Are you curious to hear who wins the challenge? Monday 10th of January we will reveal the winning video on the Flatastic Facebook site. Good luck everybody!

Up for a change of game at the edge of hunting season

Mother & son taking a sneak peak

Last Thursday I received a last minute invitation for hunting in the middle of the Netherlands. Of course we gladly accepted. I asked what kind of hunting was on the menu and this time we started the day with hiding in a hut awaiting geese and ducks flying by. As this takes steadyness and quietness of the dogs I thought it was a good idea to bring Kaspar too in order to allow him get used to awaiting out of sight of the guns.

View from the hut

I am myself a little nervous when on a new hunt somewhere – as I worry if we will do well and fulfill the expectations. I would be very sad in case an unfortunate shot animal would not be retrieved well – in the end that one of the reasons gundogs are a part of hunting, to ensure that suffering is kept at a minimum in the case needed. Knowing that Rumi never lets me down is comforting but a good hunting dog is not being created only with training. They need the right field experience as well. Today Rumi was “lucky” to get more experience by a cast of a big grey goose that was still alive after a shot. This was the first time for her to retrieve a warm living grey goose. She took a couple of moments to pick it up and came in full galop with the big bird and then it was my task to fulfill the job – also not a beginners thing. These birds are huge and taking an animal’s life – even for your own purpose of eating it is not a light task. The experienced hunter supervised my job and checked that I did it in the most humane way. So also a first for me. I really appreciate to learn from experienced people and today was a very rich learning experience from wholehearted hunters with years of experience. A big thank you for that – to whom it concerns.

The field was situated in the surroundings of Schiphol – every now and then the planes passed by and I was thinking how dangerous such a big bird can be for an airplane engine. Then considering how many geese I spot every day in the fields as I drive on the highway…no wonder hunters are so busy trying to keep the numbers within an acceptable rate.

Retrieving the goose took me back in time, when I as child drove with my father through his hunting area, a forest in the south of Denmark. He sometimes ran in to animals laying on the side of the road – foxes and deer suffering from impact of a cat hit. I remember my father becoming very angry when people had not taken the effort to call the police about hitting an animal. I am not sure if people realize that hunters work together with officials in such cases and that there are trained search dogs available to track hurt animals and relieve them from suffering. He would then jump out of the car and end this situation. When I was younger I disliked this part a bit – but as I grew older I realized that all meat came from animals and that taking a life is part of that proces.

I started horseback riding as a child and during a visit at a stable next to a slaughterhouse I saw for the first time with my own eyes how our beef and pork is being generated. From that day on my whole vision on hunting changed, as I can assure you that hunting and eating game is the most kind way of having meat on our plate. But enough on hunting politics – back to the present.

Thankfully accepting game to bring home to the table

My little boy Kaspar watched his mother retrieve the goose and a duck – and did a great job of being quiet and waiting. After the morning hunt we went for a driven hunt on hares – so I decided to bring only Rumi for that bit. She is not so experienced yet on hares but with a couple of runs including a hare retrieve. I got some good exercise too out in the field and I drove home with a wonderful hunting experience and an enjoyable day with passionate people and dogs. Tomorrow I will prepare the meat generously given to us by the host and then we will continue training the dogs for next years hunting season.

Learning to hunt

Rumi (Flow of Spirits Silver Skipper) awaiting a driven hunt Dec 2021

Hunting can be a sensitive subject in our modern society. In the Netherlands many hunters are confronted with demonstrators and disturbance of wildlife by people who have strong feeling against the old craftsmanship of hunting. I deliberately use the word craftsmanship as it is not a sport. First of all one must have a great deal of knowledge (through study and field time) of Nature and her inhabitants. Furthermore one must be able to handle the technical parts of owning a gun and ammunition – as well as the permits and police checks that a huntsman complies with. On top of that – a hunter must invest in a gun dog with the right inheritance and train his dog(s) weekly to assure that he can use the dog to retrieve any game on land and water. No taken life must be wasted. Then he must know his area well, he is connected to this area all year round – supporting the farmers too. The hunting is just a small part of flora and fauna conservation that takes place in nature by men and women who have their hearts in the outdoors.

Nature and her beauty – farm land and Dutch rivers – Friesland Dec. 2021 – will there be any hares out here for the Christmas dinner?

Another aspect that I find fascinating is how we as humans can eat other living beings, meaning that all animal products that we consume – have to be taken by somebody’s hands. Wether it is killing a cow for beef or a chicken for a Gordon bleu. Or taking the cow’s milk from the kalf for our daily cheese. Somewhere between the range of living on these products and acknowledging that it is on their “cost” that we consume – is how we humans feel about doing this. We have created a society where we do not have to feel this ourselves. We just go to the supermarket and pay for what we want. So there is no emotional regulation in our consuming other than our hunger/greed and financial limitations. He who has taken the life of an animal himself in order to live and provide for himself and his family develops a whole different sense of the value that the specific animal has. It works a bit the same with having your own vegetable garden – you realize how much effort and hard work it takes to grow food.

So back to dog stuff – I was invited to join a group of hunters in the North of Holland: Friesland. A driven hunt. Normally these groups consist of hunters and helpers to drive with our without dogs. Today we were short of helpers due to the covid situation and the foreman hunter decided to continue with a smaller group, meaning a narrower chance of bringing home meat for the Holidays.

Wild duck with brussel’s sprouts and red wine-fig sauce and mushrooms

So I drove to the beautiful North and had brought Rumi with the idea to do a bit of retrieving in case we were lucky to “harvest” some game like hare, pheasants and or ducks.

Flat farmland on a frosty December morning

However due to the short amount of helpers and the large area to cover – I figured today would be a good day to see if Rumi could find her “HPR blood” and do some hunting like spaniels and pointing dogs. This is a bit tricky because Rumi is rather “hot” when working and I was reluctant at first. I was afraid of losing contact with her and unsure wether I could convince her to hunt sideways and not run forward towards the hunters. We have never trained this but I have always tried to get her to follow the direction of my body when walking her. So I did the exact same and called her back when the distance became to far. Guess what – flatcoated retrievers can work on a driven hunt. I was so amazed how easily she adapted to the situation and she just ran as if she has done so all of her life: on frozen soil, on grass land, on chopped off corn, in the forest, jumping small rivers and checking the covers for scent. It was pure pleasure to watch. Flatcoated retrievers have HPR (hunt-point-retrieve) blood in their vains from when the breed was build. But this has never been their purpose and they are today expected to only retrieve. On field trials one will be disqualified if she does a point. Well, Rumi pointed several woodcocks – she found several pheasants (no pointing here) and she retrieved 3 blind duck retrieves, one very difficult one in the water, or rather on ice under a tree just a meter offshore of an island on the wrong side of the wind. So there I had it all coming together: ability to work on her own – still following my directions – despite her sensitive shoulder ligament ploughing through ice. What an amazing girl she is. I felt so humbled of what she showed me and I felt utterly proud of what we were able to show of the breed.

Queen of the Friesian fields

After a cold day in tough terrain – I checked my iPhone: 19.639 steps – 13,6 km of walking in an average speed of 4,3 km/hour. I do not even dare to think how many k’s Rumi has run but today she is rather lazy.

Yesterday was not only a flatcoated party – I had the pleasure of enjoying two German long haired HPR’s one younger dog who had a great hare retrieve in a river – just sent Rumi in case he needed encouragement but he was sure of his case and Rumi respected his turn. Beautiful ending of the day. I was so filled with joy and thankfulness for this experience. In the evening I contemplated on all the efforts of the farmers (saw again grassland eaten to mud by geese), the hunters, the dogs and all the training, preparation and precautions.

Honoring the spirit of the animals – reminding ourselves that they gave their life and being proud of the craftsmanship of hunting – in my case the dogmanship.

I concluded – no man or woman would out of pure greed for game be able to sustain this amount of effort unless there is a held love for Nature. Thank you for this insight and appreciation. Thank you Lieuwe for inviting me to be a part of your little group of hunting friends for a day. And a special gratitude towards the Frisian land for her beauty.

Water fowl hunting in the Netherlands

Rumi and her retrieve: a
greater “white-fronted goose” (in American called “speckle belly goose” in Dutch “Kolgans”)

Rumi and I have had the privilege of being invited for larger commercial hunts in Belgium during the last couple of years. This has been such a learning opportunity for me as a handler and it has brought out the best hunting skills in her. Having a high drive dog and combining hunting with competitions in the same season is not the easiest path to choose, but I enjoy this combination more than my ambition.

Rumi awaiting the birds to pass

Our competition season ended a bit disappointing.. first we had to stop during a our first working test A. Rumi had hurt her paw while jumping a fence. Then I became ill and missed the FRC AT. Finally recovered and ready on time for the WFRG Trophy, then it got cancelled due to Covid-19. So not quite the end of a season we had in mind.

Typical Frisian skies and farm land – and carrying home tonight’s dinner

End of competition season means more time available to go hunting – therefore I gladly accepted an invitation to join a so called farmer’s hunt in the Northeast of Netherlands. A farmer’s hunt is a small hunt, in this region mostly focusing on regulating the enormous amount of farm land damage by geese. In the Netherlands we have geese in amounts that one can surely call it a plague for farmers and grass areas. They destroy large amounts of crop and fill the fields with excrements – causing high nitrogen release into the environment.

Hunting geese is not an easy task – they are extremely clever and communicate with each other. They spot you very easily in the field and wearing camouflage clothing and hiding well is necessary. Having a dog who is sitting quietly and holding position is essential. For Rumi who is used to retrieving a large amount of ducks on each drive, this is a bit challenging but luckily she is a quick learner. I enjoyed the cold morning – out in the field from sunrise, trying to differentiate the birds while passing. I have great respect for the hunters and their field knowledge and love for nature and care in their decision making. Today was also very special as one of the hunters was lucky to harvest (Dutch language use this term) her first goose. Rumi had the honor of retrieving the goose in a stream.

3 good water retrieves – male ducks

After the goose hunt, we walked a great deal of farmland with watersides in chance of ducks. Especially male wild ducks are in high numbers and make a good protein source in our diets. As these hunts are only successful if the hunter approaches very carefully I stayed on a distance. Therefore Rumi had 3 retrieves – all blind and by directing on water – I am so proud how well she followed directions and in cold and windy waters. The last retrieve was a duck with an unfortunate wingshot hiding in thick cover of water plants. “Go search” and then it is pure joy to see a flatcoated retriever doing what they master to perfection: working the scent of the wind in the waterside cover. Some turning tail action and I know that she has picked up the scent. Into the deep water, pulling the duck out through the cover and then tangled in water plants pushing herself out of the steep waterside with the duck. I am so proud of her for this beautiful retrieve. Tomorrow I will prepare the duck and enjoy it with my family. Thank you Lieuwe for this wonderful day in the field.

Flatastic road trip to 3 day International Dog Show Herning Denmark

Being a relatively young breeder (in experience not age😉) means I still have to learn more about dog anatomy and flatcoated exteriors. This year has been intense time with 3 dogs in gun dog training of which 2 youngsters. I have a clear vision of not speeding into results in gun dog competitions and building a solid foundation. Therefore only Rumi is in the competition game this season and I have decided to dive into the world of dog showing this autumn. Apart from theoretic learning (great that one can do online workshops with zoom) I have done a lot of show training at the KC Kennemerland dog club. Willemijn my trainer is a very kind and clever handler and she has generously developed me and the dogs up to the point that I dared to do the unexpected with my “working” flatcoats: going to an international dog show abroad.

I must admit I also had an urge to visit my home country and my “partner in crime” Frans was luckily crazy enough to join me on a road trip to Denmark.

Our Airbnb rented pearl in the middle of a forest

Our rented holiday home turned out to be in the middle of forest full of pheasants and deer. We had just by walking the dogs a severe case of impulse control training happening to us unexpectedly.

Showtime

Flatastic Red Strength “Lotte”

Friday was the first day and I had 5 dogs to handle: Kaspar and Lotte youth class, Jason between class, Déroy and Rumi open class. Judge was Jan Robert Sauge.

Little did I know that the top show breeders and professional handlers were present. It was quite an experience and I saw a fairly large difference in type of what I am used to see at minor shows and also the game of handling. Luckily we came well prepared – however I could not help thinking that my dogs were a little out placed here. Nevertheless we did our utmost best – the youngsters were a bit impressed by the slippery concrete ground and noisy surroundings, but behaved nicely. They lacked though their usual charisma that day. Déroy and Rumi were “on” from the first moment and were very charming, the floor made it difficult for them to run relaxed, but I was very happy with their confident attitude. Especially Déroy was a dream to have in the ring – it was 4 years ago since his last show – love his no nonsense character and will to please. He loved all the sausage pieces the most I think.

Me searching for the right pose with Déroy

Friday results judge Jan Robert Sauge:

Flatastic Black Peace “Kaspar3rd place VG youth class

Flatastic Red Strength “Lotte” 2nd place Exc youth class

Flatastic Aquamarine Acceptance “Jason” 2nd place VG intermediate class

Flow of Spirits Red Admiral “Déroy” VG open class males

Flow of Spirits Silver Skipper Exc open class females

Pretty Rumi giving it a tails up

Saturday results judge Jessie Borregaard Madsen:

Flatastic Black Peace “Kaspar” 3rd place VG youth class

Flatastic Red Strength “Lotte” VG

Flow of Spirits Silver Skipper Exc open class females

Sunday results Börje Johansson

Flatastic Black Peace “Kaspar” 3rd place VG youth class

Flatastic Red Strength “Lotte” Exc youth class

Flow of Spirits Silver Skipper VG open class

Winners of Sunday’s competition from the left Almanza Back Seat Driver BIR & Caci’s I’m Just Smashing BIM

Throughout the 3 day show I witnessed how my dogs learned and adjusted to the surroundings – it was pleasurable to see how they matured and I was very proud that from day 2 they started taking naps in their pen. I think that must have had great training value. Of course they were given a free run and a mud bath every afternoon – perfect prep for beauty queens.

Of course I would have loved to see more Excellent on the score chart but considering the whole game of international showing, the competition and which standard these judges are used to I think team Flatastic did very well. It also helped to narrow down what my personal vision for our breed is concerning exterior and functionality. So I am bringing a lot of valuable lessons home.

Also I learned tons about dogs, showing, people behind the whole thing and I would like to thank those of you who took time for some cosy small talk, good advice & a little fun making. A special thank you to Frans for allowing me to run with his boys.

Also thank you to Natasha for joining with her Finnish Lapp Aaron. He sure liked my black girls and he bravely opened all his charms, the sweet guy.

Aaron Kaspar Lotte Rumi

Patience is a virtue

Rumi with dove on A trial photo by Marielle Vlaar

Last Friday Rumi and I finished the official SJP season by giving it a go at the SJP A. It was a long shot to expect that we could succeed in getting two SJP A diplomas in one season with the circumstances that we have had. We are very happy with the one A in the pocket so why share this post on not having completed our “goal”? Because there has been an important lesson in the whole proces for me, which I think might be worthwhile sharing. When you have a sport dog and you have high ambitions it is very easy to get drawn into all aspects to enhance the winning chances. Training with a high-end trainer, knowing the right people to have access to terrains etc., having chances to bring your dog to shoots, improving your own skills, training your dog as much as possible.

It can be a very addictive state of mind to be in and it can also take the joy out of being with you best friend in the field.

Due to Rumi’s permanent shoulder injury it is no longer possible to have a full training schedule for her. Therefore I loose mental training time and if I would have to compensate for that – getting control back would mean pushing harder and maybe in a way that is not close to my heart. So “the sand slips between my fingers” while I am looking at it. Looking from that perspective the glass is half empty.

The other side of things is that my beautiful girl has taught me to value every day without pain or worry. She has taught me another very valuable lesson: to be real and allow imperfections. Accept the place we are at. Accept her nature and work with it the best we can within the limitations. This also means taking a piece of the humble pie once and a while. Looking at it from this perspective the glass is half full.

The wonderful thing about accepting being right where we are at – is that it allows “flow”to appear. So I am very thankful for having Flow with my Flow-girl.

Maybe this personal note may serve as a little reminder for some of us in the dog-handling business. To step down once and a while from chasing goals and just checking if we can still drink from the joy of being in flow with our dog and the partnership. Thank you Rumi for this wise lesson!

Photo by Marielle Vlaar

While we are still continuing training – also with Rumi as much as possible – patience seems to be the key word with the two youngsters (or should I say monsters?). We are dreaming of flow in the future – for now it is mostly that they are having flatastic fun and I am trying to keep up and being at least half a step ahead. Again a major life lesson in staying in the moment and not getting caught up in result thinking.

Mischief & co. (Lotte and Kaspar)

But enough philosophical contemplation – another thing that took some patience was adding our youngsters to the Flatastic website with their own page. If you are curious – follow the link: https://flatastic.nl/dogs/ or look at the page dogs here and check out what we made of it. Would love to hear what you think.

Rumi & the gang “showing off“

Rumi & 7 of her offspring from left to right: Rumi, Jason, Shelby, Gurbe, Kaspar, Line, Lotte, Fien

3rd of October 2021 was the day of the Dutch flatcoated retriever club to have their yearly club show. The flatastic gang was present and we even won the offspring class – an unofficial class but it was great fun to participate. Frans de Vries had designed a flatastic logo to wear on our similar t-shirts:

It was a long day with rain pouring repeatedly – not the best way to get familiar with dog shows, but I must say I am really proud that we pulled through. In good company and with sufficient catering we managed to get through te long waiting hours. Thank you to all the owners for participating and Barbara and Caroline for helping out showing my two youngsters in the offspring class.

Team flatastic in the ring makes youth class
Bitches youth class
Flatastic Red Strength “Lotte”
Lotte running
Flatastic Yellow Joy “Line” Very Good youth class
Flatastic Black Peace “Kaspar” Excellent Youth class
Flatastic Aquamarine Acceptance “Jason” Excellent Youth class
Flatastic Apricot Fulfilment “Shelby” Very Good Youth class
Lotte excellent youth class
Mama Rumi 2nd place excellent in open class🥳