To be or not to be… your true nature

Rumi next to a
German wire-haired during training on the Dutch island Texel

Within the gundog world Flatcoated Retrievers are known as very good hunting dogs solving tasks quickly, independently and with major bird finding abilities. They tend to be less popular as gundog competition dogs compared to other retrievers. One of the reasons for that may be that handlers find them easily distracted (mentally) and a bit strong minded. When reading the breed description of the Dutch hunting association KJV – I must admit a bit to my surprise – the emphasis was put on how challenging they are to train. This is not uncommon to hear.

When people ask me if a flatcoated is difficult to train, I always hesitate to answer, because I do not find them difficult to train as such but maybe I would say they are challenging to understand fully. During the past year this question has been weaving in and out of my mind and the answer became clear when looking back my friends’ dog Prada.

Prada was a Labrador (traditional) x Rhodisian Ridgeback mix. Prada showed me that her behavior around mud and water varied. Some days (within same season/temperatures) she would behave like one would expect from a Labrador: jumping through mud holes and having fun. Then another day she would go into a full freeze of the body just by seeing water and mud (ridgeback crocodile avoidance) – then avoiding every drop of moist intensively.

Back to my personal view of the flatcoated retriever..

The flatcoated is a breed that was created in England out of several other breeds involving setters, retrievers and newfoundlanders. When keeping this in mind I have started to look at individuals and trying to estimate to which of these three categories the specific flatcoated take after the most. To be honest I think my breed is a hybrid so to speak. They are categorized as retrievers but they are in fact not pure retrievers neither pure HPR (hunt-point-retrieve) dogs. Therefore I call them hybrid or when I get a bit cocky out in the field “best of both worlds” dogs.

At work

I have had Rumi for almost 7 years now. In her life she has been out hunting, driving, retrieving – she has had a litter – participated in many many gundog competitions, tests and workshops as well trotting around in the show arena. She has proven to be a dual purpose all-rounder with a rather intense hunt/prey drive. She is born to work and she loves almost every activity except endless heelwork sessions. She is a bit low on the will to please side and her nose is preferably up in the air scent area and she loves to run. Ideally a flatcoated would be able and willing to switch easily between ground and air scenting. Rumi has a rather strong preference to air scenting and running.

So where does all this thinking bring me?

The past two days I have been training on Texel a Wadden Island north of NL. Thanks to Jachthondenschool de Kust we& Jachthondensport Texel we were given the chance to train at open level in a very challenging terrein and strong winds and rain.

If it was not clear yet – it has become now. My Rumi is by dominance HPR style in her behavior when put in a terrein that triggers it. Compared to the German wire haired and or the Münsterlander she might be a bit more attentive to instructions but at times I hardly saw a difference and if any I asked myself why Rumi was less manageable than some of the HPR’s. Maybe my next answer will be – when asked if a flatcoated is difficult to train – “no – not at all – as long as you know the dominant gene of the day and how to approach it, you are good.”

In other words – it takes a flexible handler who can recognize “the gene of the day.”

This training was again a tea party with humbling cake – I definitely need to upscale my own HPR handling skills if I want to work Rumi in high winds and rough terrein such as that of the raw Texel nature. Why I love this so much? Because the dogs bring me back to my true nature..

Winners of the Flatastic New Year Challenge 2023

Who me? Gurbe took the price once again.

As mentioned in our previous message, the Flatastic Challenge was up for judging this week and the winners were:

1st price – best execution of the challenge: Lieuwe Bosma & Flatastic Platinum Alignment “Gurbe”

Most creative challenge Evelien Hendriksen & Flatastic Orange Pleasure “Kai”

Best Talent Josine Woudsma & Beguarded in a conshell Flat our Pride “Ragne” (1 year old halfsister to Aura pups).

This year we had great fun – not only when training the dogs but mostly from watching the great videos made by the owners. I now know for sure that owning a flatcoated retriever will either make you a flexible and humorous person or even better – you are spontaneous to start with. 

This year gundog trainer Yvonne van Houten – Scheltens from jachthondenschool Kaya (www.jachthondenschoolkayaa.nl) judged our young talents and their owners work. She provided everyone with positive feedback add to their toolbox. Thank you Yvonne for your time and effort.

Yvonne & her two flatcoated retrievers Ylva & Kaya

Thank you for all the fun you brought us by participating and getting training serious with the Flatastics.

The Challenge

Check out Flatastic Flatcoated Retrievers on Facebook to see the videos of the 3 winners.

New year challenges

Lotte’s first goose hunt

Unfortunately I missed out on one of the big hunting days in December due to a terrible flu. Kindly I was offered a rain check and off me and the girls went on a mild January morning. Lotte has shown a really nice presence when hunting this season and I decided to introduce her to goose hunting. Having Rumi and Lotte at the same time in the field takes some focus as the two ladies are keen and very attentive. Goose hunting is special in the way that one has to be still and out of sight. It requires of the dogs that they can sit and wait for a longer period of time.

Did we hear something moving in the high grass? Both Lotte and Rumi were tricked by the sound of a shot that missed and created a sound in the high grass. These are situations one cannot practice in gundog training. The dogs need to learn it while doing the real thing.

Working on the steadyness and calm behavior is an ongoing proces – especially with highly driven dogs and having two to deal with while paying attention to overflying geese can be a bit challenging but the three of us managed fairly well and we even got to practice heelwork too. The geese were flying a bit high due to the wind but one goose was picked up.

After drinking a cup of coffee we continued hunting on ducks and both ladies were put at work in demanding terrein.

Guns & dogs all in camouflage

Thank you Lieuwe for the great day in your field!

A cast with 3 obstacles on the way out and returning.

At Christmas time most gundog trainers are enjoying the holidays and I thought it would be a good idea to present a challenge for the youngsters of our Aura litter. On the above photo you can see what the challenge is. A flatcoated retriever is a clever working dog who uses his sight a lot. He will by nature scan the environment and run the easiest and quickest way in and out – avoiding obstacles. Therefore one needs to train this specifically in order to fulfill field trial requirements of going back and forth in a straight line. Today is the final date to send in the videos of the execution – tomorrow we will announce the winner. This year Yvonne Scheltens from Jachthondenschool Kaya will judge the videos. The videos will be shared on our fb page for you to enjoy.

Flatastic Holidays

Kaspar Rumi Lotte

Last summer we found this beautiful children’s playhouse on a Danish campsite on Læsø. It reminded me of an Austrian log house that is found in the snow and so we decided to use it for our holiday greetings card this year. Is it not cute?

We wish all of our friends joyful and Flatastic holidays, may it be good for you and your four legged friends too. ❤️

We are spending Christmas with our three wonderful black beauties on the couch revoking from a nasty flu, contemplating on next year’s plans and enjoying looking back at the year that has passed.

I am thankful first of all for all the great learning while training my dogs at Jachthondenschool de Kust, by Jantine Veldhuizen. I feel privileged to have a safe place where I can practice the art of failing and succeeding without any personal shaming or pressure.

I am also thankful for all the loving care my dogs were able to receive from Physiotherapist Fysiotherapie voor dieren Marijke Hegemans, Holistic Vet Den Hoek and Diergeneeskundig centrum Alphen Ad Rijn.

Apart from all the love, companionship and joy we enjoyed with our dogs at home in the past year we also look back at many accomplishments from our dogs and their littermates. Here is a short overview of the fruits of our efforts in 2022:

Flow of Spirits Silver Skipper

Rumi photo by FRC

FRC club show 1st place open class bitches

WFRG Talentenjacht working test open class 4th place

Working Test A certificate

Danish Flatcoated Retriever Club show 2nd place excellent bitches open class

WFRG Club show 4th place excellent open class bitches

FRC apporteer trofee 8th place

WFRG trofee 9th place

Raad van Beheer WOW (yearlist show results) 45th place out of 243 entries.

Flatastic Black Peace

Kaspar photo by Robin Polman

C-diploma CDD

1st place Danish Debutant prøve

1st place CDD B

SJP C

SJP B

3rd place SJP B

Working test B1 certificate

Danish Flatcoated Club show Roskilde 1st place intermediate class & BIM intermediate class.

Gundog show Doorwerth BOB working (1st place Excellent) & 3rd place all breeds working. 1st place with sister Lotte in couple’s class.

Raad van Beheer WOW competition 60th place out of 243 entries

Flatastic Red Strength

Lotte

CDD-B

Danish Deputant prøve 3rd place

SJP B diploma

SJP B diploma

Danish Flatcoated Retriever club 1st place VG Intermediate class

Gundog Show Doorwerth 3rd place excellent open class bitches & 1st place couples class all breeds with brother Kaspar.

Raad van beheer WOW competition 109th place out of 243

Mrs Goodlooking

Mrs Goodlooking – Flow of Spirits Silver Skipper “Rumi” returning with a pheasant after a long and difficult drag

The two Trophy’s of the flatcoated retriever clubs are now completed. It was our debut in these flatcoated retriever finals with 4X triple retrieves and not an easy task to participate in whilst Rumi being in heat and just out of heat. It cost us a couple of brain farts and she was a bit more distracted than normally but nevertheless she showed that she is well into this level’s requirements. So I feel proud of Rumi and all the hurdles we have overwon together. The FRC – Flatcoated Retriever Club published some very beautiful photos taken by Ad Ordelman and Robin Polman. Enjoy

Mrs Speedy

Busy season 🍁

Kaspar & Lotte at heal awaiting pheasants to arrive

It is autumn and it is the busiest season for us. While all finals of the gundog competitions are in full motion – hunting season is also at her peak.

I am driving back and forth from hunts and competitions and the three musketeers are luckily in top condition.

Trophy FRC – photo by Robin Polman

Rumi (Flow of Spirits Silver Skipper) and I came in 8th place at the Flatcoated Retriever Club’s Trophy. The competition is a copy of the Dutch Championships (triple retrieves) though on shorter distances and more retrieves – 12 in total.

Rumi was unfortunately in heat and I had already accepted that we once again had to stay at home. It turned out though that the organizing party was motivated to invite us despite her heat and after consent of the two participating male dogs we found a way to participate without causing distractions.

This meant that Rumi spend the day locked up in the car and only taken out for the 4 takes. It is not the best way to be in a competition but considering this fact and her hormonal state I think we did allright only missing out two retrieves. The most difficult drags – she did very well so that was very pleasing to me.

I would like to thank FRC for a special day of gundogging. I felt very appreciated and valued by the club – thank you for all the trouble you went through to spoil us. Thank you for the flexibility and effort and thank you for the great goodybag. I really enjoyed the rest of the dogs too. Rather special to have the top of the Dutch working flatcoated at one place at once. Congrats to Marc & Janne who won the Trophy 🥳. Also a big thanks to helpers and judges.

Our list of points – no certificate due to missing out on two retrieves.

On my way home I got a call if I could step in to retrieve on a hunt early next morning.. so me, Rumi and Lotte had a short rest that night.

Rumi got a wonderful chance to work on her speciality: finding hurt ducks alongside water. She taught Lotte the tricks of catching diving ducks and Lotte also showed the same drive to continue searching as her passionate mother. After the drive she managed to find 5 hurt ducks that had been hiding successfully from other dogs..

Their will to hunt and continue sometimes takes the best of my patience but in these situations I feel so utterly proud and amazed by these black beauties.

Some photos from the past season:

Kaspar with pheasant and barb wire
Lotte with pheasant- contemplating to keep or deliver
Brother Jason with a landing duck feather on his nose
Rumi with pheasant

Thank you to my husband for allowing me to spend so much time and effort with our flatcoats this time a year.

Flatastic Working Test Lochem

Spyke & Kaspar with their working test certificates

Last weekend (29th & 30th Oct. 2022) the WFRG held a working test in Lochem, East Holland close to the German border.

On Saturday Hans Mansveld & Spyke passed the test with a certificate in the C class. Me and Kaspar managed to pass the B1 test with a certificate.

Spyke photo by Sophie Alma

On Sunday it was Rumi’s time. She achieved a working test A certificate. Our first one 🥳

Team Flatastic – Gurbe – Kaspar – Spyke photo by Josine Woudsma

Apart from enjoying working with our dogs the weekend gave the opportunity to catch up with other Flatastics. I also had the pleasure of spending two nights at Josine & Mathijs’ place with half sister Ragne. Thank you for having me and the 3 musketeers visiting.

Shooting in autumn colors

In the middle of the hunting season I decided to have a different shoot. My friend & photographer Anita from Arista Photography took us out on a very sunny day to catch some shine on the black coats. Here is a collection of the photos:

Kaspar
Kaspar Rumi Lotte – with rubber duck

Sad news

The day before yesterday we received the sad news that Rumi’s mother Flynn (Khila-Flynn Umbra Fida) has passed away at the age of 11 years old after 7 weeks of illness caused by a tumor in her nose.

Flynn was a special lady – like Rumi a dog who chose herself who she liked and she had a mind of her own. I loved her for her sweet and vulnerable presence, she was not only a fantastic working gun dog but she was very beautiful too. I am very thankful for all the great trades she has passed on to her daughter grandchildren for us to enjoy.

Flynn on the cover of a Dutch gun dog magazine with a photo taken by Arista Photography

Sadly I have not been a part of her last years – but before that I was privileged to be somewhat close in her life and therefore have many wonderful memories of her to cherish.

Flynn – enjoy hunting rabbits with Mille and your other friends in the forever hunting fields. We also wish all who love Flynn the best in grieving this loss.

Workshop Working Test C/B1 15 okt 2022 Putten

Photos from participants & helpers

On a misty Saturday morning – 11 flatcoated retrievers & one golden retriever met in the beautiful Putten for a working test workshop hosted by Yvonne van Houten from Tricksywood’s kennel and myself. Our two kennels have produced working gundogs and we were brought together by one of my puppy buyers (Lieuwe Bosma) who is training at Yvonne’s dog gundog school (Jachthondenschool Kaya). As we enjoy the same passion for gundogs and share the love for flatties we felt it would be awesome to host a working test workshop – primarily for our own litters. As many were busy with holiday catch ups – there were some spaces left for guests and we were even joined by a very talented golden retriever.

Our program was full and after a short introduction of one another we started the day with heelwork practice. First we shared some tension regulation tools as we had steadyness practice later to come and then we started with the basics of double marking heelwork. This means teaching the dogs to turn on the spot from the front – or hind legs, sitting and standing.

Josine with Lotte showing a good turn with hind legs on a dishwashing bucket turned upside down

While I was holding the “heelwork bootcamp” Yvonne had the other group in steadyness practice. Using the air & go while working from a line, who would have thought that a group of young flatties could do so well? The handlers were in need of a good lunch and some time to unwind after the morning program. A nice cup of warm pumpkin soup, richly filled sandwiches and plenty of chocolate (and for the dogs a big biscuit) – was all we needed to get started in the afternoon.

Yvonne had a nice marking exercise in and around crow decoys from a hut. We can proudly announce that all decoys were left unattended. No flattie flaws today!

As Yvonne and her helper were shooting around I had a duck and goose hunt at the waterside, doing a baby walk up – retrieving through the cover on a partly marked water retriever, partly on the sound of the foam duck hitting the water. All dogs were easy to work through the cover and all dogs managed to retrieve the huge foam goose from open water.

Not only did Yvonne and I enjoy the day with so many lovely flatties & a beautiful golden boy, it was very rewarding to see how many handlers made a slow shift of attention from aiming to control their dogs to working with the eagerness by positive reinforcement when the dogs do what we like to see. It is a hard change to make from trying to erase errors by control to enhancing the wanted behavior. Lovely to see how the dogs responded and started to do more of the good stuff. What touches me is the immediate improvement in the connection between dog and handler. Well done you all!