Mr Adonis

Flatastic Platinum Alignment “Gurbe”

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

Gurbe supervising his game – photo by L.Bosma

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

3rd price unofficial SJP for Lieuwe and Gurbe

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

All rounder

Flatastic Black Peace “Kaspar”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Failure at failure

Kaspar with a bleeding nose after running through sharp water plants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The flatcoated retriever is a dual purposed breed, meaning that each individual should be build correctly and be a beautiful dog, being able to work in the field for the purpose of hunting/retrieving. The Danish flatcoated retriever club has an event in the spirit of the dual purpose with both an exterior and working qualifications twice a year – springtime and autumn.

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

The Danish trials are rather different in set up from the Dutch system but nevertheless I guessed there would be no better way of getting in touch with it than participating myself so I entered both youngsters in the Markprøve B beginner class.

The first day was a very nice but cold sunny day and the running in the show arena kept us warm. All three dogs were placed above expectations. Here is what judge Brian Izzard said:

Rumi:

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

Kaspar:

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

Lotte:

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

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

Markprøve B

The day after it was time to show some working skills. In DK the trial is held for each participant with all retrieves in one. That is completely different from what we are used to. Another thing that amazed me was the fact that the retrieved game was placed on the ground leaving scents marks next to the next dog’s beginning spot. Also the helpers were standing in the cast line of the dog so they functioned as a distraction when the dog was sent out and returned.

There is a lot of discussion going on in DK because the trial system has been revised and adapted to using less edible game for young dog trials and (unfortunately) less independent work of the dog. Some aspects I think will make sense and other I am afraid will influence our breed dramatically in negative sense of the word.

But for now the Markprøve B beginner was the original test as it has been for years.

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

Lotte started out and showed nice heelwork and steadyness – followed by a good mark running up past the helpers uphill. Then she arrived at the huge duck.. apparently our modest exposure to cold game made her hesitate to pick it up swiftly and I had to apply some encouragement to get the duck in my hand. This “poor” game handling or should I say “youngster’s aim to keep it to myself behind the trees” became the theme of the day sadly and we ended with a big zero points but full of encouragement from judge Jens Lund who I admire for his ability to point out all the good sides of the performance. I must say I have never had such a poor performance and still leaving with a big smile. Not only due to the compliments of our basic training but also knowing why the performance is like it is. It is all about how I have designed their training matching the purpose of practical hunting in a water rich country and the Dutch trial system.

Kaspar was about the same performance as Lotte except he had a little better delivery to hand. Again there was some hesitation to picking up some pieces of game. Again his very low to zero exposure to certain pieces of cold game made sense to me. Looking at it from a positive judge’s eye, many good points: good marking – nice waterwork, heelwork and steadyness. Also finding the game was quickly and precise. Delivery to hand was good but to much encouragement needed to pick it up and bringing it back. I think it was a very fair conclusion and looking back it might have been a bit of a long shot for us to join this test at this point in our training. Nonetheless we had a positive “training” out of it and with a good dose of self reflection I could take the zeros with an accepting attitude.

We enjoyed the rest of the day on the terrain watching the finals of the winner class casting downhill into a lake on a blind uphill.

Looking back there are quite some differences to how dogs are trained and how things are executed. Especially waterwork I noticed was not of the standard we know in NL – many dogs struggled to accept a watercast even though the entrance was straight and the dogs could walk right in.

Their capability to direct the dogs however was of high standard and everyone has a good territorium whistle on the dogs (dog is being asked to search within 1-2 meters in circles).

Searching together with other dogs is also a part of the open class exercises and I find this interesting as it has been taken out in the new system. The capability of the dogs to search together is close to what would happen on a hunt I think. The only thing I find a bit tricky how is unwanted behavior being judged?

Rumi resting in the camper van during our road trip

Looking back our weekend was full of inspiration to our training and I am sure we will make a come back after having made some training adjustments as we are headed towards the Dutch cold game season too. Let’s see if we can get our youngsters out of their young flattie heads 🤭. Those who have trained flatcoated retrievers will know what I mean by that. Either you love to work with it or you develop a dislike to their independent thinking. So far I still love to wrap my head around these typical flattie “flaws”.

A weekend out with the Flatastics

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

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

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

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

Silvia Renders caught the B price winners on camera

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

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

Flatastic results:

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

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

Awaiting the first post – photo by Silvia Renders

Showtime

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

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

Show results 27/3-22:

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

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

Broken hearts

On Sunday the 13th I received a phone call that Line – Flatastic Yellow Joy had been taken to the animal hospital with kidney failure. I was informed that she was in danger of losing her life..

A week followed that infused us with emotions I had forgotten one can go through as a human being. Her dear owners and myself were devastated.

After 5 days of medical care Line was allowed to go home and we spend the weekend praying that her body would be able to function with the given medication. I had seen her at the vet’s and she had lost a lot of weight but she was full of her so particular life joy and enthusiasm and boy did we pray for her recovery.

Sadly on Monday morning the blood results showed that her time here on Earth was coming to an end and with deep love her owners decided to plan the goodbye before she would suffer more feeling poorly than we felt was right for this lovely girl.

Line at 1 year of age photo by Anita Lauwers

It is with a very painful heart that we have said our goodbyes to this wonderful soul that we only got to have amongst us for a short while. I am deeply thankful for the rich life she was given by the most loving paw-rents a dog can wish for. I am thankful for Line – she brought me many life lessons and of some I am still in proces of understanding.

Match made in heaven photo by Mathijs Biemold

I am also thankful for being invited to remain close by in the proces of her departure by her caring owners and their family. I too have loved this beautiful yellow girl from birth on and will always do.

I have stood my ground every bit of the way to provide her the life in support and without strings that I felt she deserved from an early age. My intuition guided me through a very difficult time with only one purpose: allowing her to have a life without any pressure and/or pre set ambition. Little did I know why my intuition felt so strongly..

Today I sadly know why: Line was born with kidneys that did not grow the size they should have done. As she grew up there were no signs other than a selective eating pattern telling about her condition. Her owners have always provided her with whatever she asked for – which is quite unique for dogowners – and this fact kept her strong and alive to the end.

Baby Line – photo by Anita Lauwers
Sweet baby Line
Youngster Line
Line 11 months old photo by Josine Woudsma

So while I am struggling to carry my grief – I am so impressed by the love and care she was given – by her owners and all of her fans (she had her own fan club from vets to trainers, family members other dogs etc) and the love she gave in return was exquisite and unique.

Line in summer of 2021 WFRG Talent working test photo by Caroline Nilsson
Her last walk was heavenly 💛

When the grief softens its grip on us we will research into which consequences this event will have and which actions we must take holding future breeding plans in mind. Until then please be mindful when you mention the matter in words. We choose deliberately to share this in public to prevent any unnecessary gossip causing pain to the hearts of people involved but also out of love for our breed.

A sincere and lovingly held goodbye in a sea of yellow

Meaning of the name Yellow Joy

Yellow Joy is the pure joy and delight of the soul of just being – being aware of being. The joy fuels curiosity and activates the sacred impulse of innocent wanting. The bigger the joy, the more the soul wants to be real, loving the truth and wanting to behold the truth.

My condolences to her owners and half sister Ragne who are now left with the emptiness of her no longer being with us 💛

More Flatastics entering the trial arena

Last Saturday the WFRG held a so-called Club Diploma Day. It is a standardized trial with dummies. Obtaining a diploma gives you access to club working tests and is a good way to start bringing young dogs to trials to test how they deal with such a situation.

The c-diploma consists of following parts:

-heeling on and off the leash while walking a set course

– casting the dog blindly 60 m and recalling the dog upon notice of judge

– a marked land retrieve (short distance)

– a marked water retrieve

– down position out of sight of handler during 2 minutes

B-diploma is all of the above parts plus:

– a sharp mark on land (no deviation allowed above 1 m)

– a cast over water and free search for a blind

– free search in woods

A-diploma is all of the above plus:

– directing dog to a set point in the field, when approved by judge one may cast the dog sideways to retrieve a blind

– a drag which begins at the other side of the waterway.

Flatastic Family fun at the WFRG CDD trial

This Saturday it was Flatastic Apricot Fulfilment “Shelby” who brought home a C diploma after having fulfilled his first official trial.

Shelby caught on camera by Silvia Renders
A happy Marja with her first diploma – photo by H. Mansveld

Congratulations with your first diploma Marja and Shelby!

Shelby is a very talented youngster from our Aura litter. He learns very quickly and he lives to retrieve so to say. Of all within the dozen he resembles his mother Rumi the most: highly motivated-a mind of his own and an extrovert character. We are looking forward to see what the future brings for Marja and Shelby.

Competition take-off Flatastic twins

“Double trouble” Kaspar and Lotte

Today Lotte and Kaspar had their first official gun dog competition in the Netherlands on dummies.

It was at the same time a test for me to see if I am capable of administering 2 in 1 day. Well, let’s say I cannot recommend anyone to do this at home unless you suffer from a severe energy surplus. It is a rather exhausting task I must admit.

Nevertheless I am very proud to announce that both dogs managed to achieve an official diploma:

Lotte B club diploma on dummy 69 points

Kaspar C club diploma on dummy 45 points

Of course we have a lot to improve on execution within the test – but mostly it will be a matter of them getting used to all the distractions in a competition setting.

I am very proud of them and very pleased with the outcome. Now they are officially qualified for breeding according to the guidelines of the Dutch Flatcoated Retriever Club. That is to me as a breeder a kind of cool, however I still want to accomplish much more for them to prove their talents before we start making serious plans..

Windy goose mornings

Windy skies greeting the hunter & his catch

Storm Eunice is smiling as she takes off from our shores leaving the Netherlands with broken roofs and trees torn down. At 5 am me and the 3 black musketeers are sailing the highway.. brave Miss Ford is smiling back at Eunice and shortly past 7 we arrive safely in Friesland welcomed by a shower of rain.

My host Lieuwe is on his way to the field with his fellow hunters and I am late due to bad weather, so it will be a quick pitt stop and off to the field.

“You’ll find coffee at the table and be careful Gurbe is outside and will greet you passionately..”

Rumi awaiting a retrieve

I take Rumi out of the car when the first goose finds her way in the water.. a deep waterway and Rumi looks like a weightlifter on a day after a night out claiming a workout anyway. I just love her spirit to work – not even the stiffness of a 2 hour car drive stops her from working wholeheartedly.

On my way to our hiding place in the reed, a big Grey goose is hit but does not fall down immediately and lands rather far on a plowed field. Rumi does not seem to have noticed that it has landed. With pheasants and ducks Rumi spots an injuired bird immediately and will start running on its way down. With geese I can can tell she has not learned to tell the difference on a long distance yet. The goose lands somewhere 150 meters. In thick mud. So we give it a go as a blind. She runs about 80 meters and deviates to the left – then to the right. Of course..she wants to work on the wind.. I want to maintain her obedience on the cast. Finally she accepts the straight line and I feel very content. Then a hare comes out of hiding and runs across the field just in front of Rumi. Ships. A quick “no” from my side and she continues on the cast. Wauw that was some accomplishment for us. After another 30 meters I see her deviating to the left.. I decide to say nothing as her body language says it all. The goose has been found. It takes a fair amount of time for her to galop back to me in the sticky soil – I think she must have been further away than my estimated distance.. and the goose is rather lively when I pick it up. I must admit – a flatcoated retriever has the perfect size to retrieve these big birds and Rumi knows exactly how to get a perfect hold now. Wauw what a great retrieve.

A shot – do I need to mark another retrieve?

This is my third time in the same field..it is crazy to observe how much damage on the grassland is being created by geese. The following photos are from the second last time showing what geese do to the soil and grass:

They stamp the soil and then water cannot pass anymore
And they eat everything and leave CO2 rich droppings. Farmers can apply for financial support when their crop has been damaged. This costs a lot of money for tax payers. Hunting is not just bringing home meat. It is very much about preservation of flora and fauna especially in a country such as the Netherlands continuously fighting water.
This photo is taken closely to where I live. All the wet and empty bits on the field are caused by geese. Such a piece of land can not be used to extract hay to feed farm animals or horses anymore. The farmer has to work the land (ploughing and re-sowing) again in order to restore its use.

After the long cast I reach our hiding place.. despite the cold and the hailstorm I regret wearing thermo undergarments at this point. Walking in the mud is a fairly good workout especially with a heavy goose in the bag. But no time to rest because suddenly Rumi disappears without any notice for a retrieve on water that I missed completely. Not so good for the obedience but perfect for the retrieve. Later the hunter explained how the goose had fallen into a tree in between the reed and how he and Rumi had collaborated in getting the bird out of the tree in the water and then out of the water again. For these kind of situations I am very thankful for Rumi’s perseverance and tough cookieness because a gun dog who is softer and less motivated would have not gone to the extreme needed in these waters.

Same waterway – different retrieve. I am standing on large wooden baskets placed in the water for preserving fish fauna. A really difficult water entry for a dog. Rumi is in the water on the left and at the right side her retrieve is waiting. photo by hunter Piet.

It was a morning full of impressions..Nature in her power, strong winds, rain as if in a waterfall, hail and warm sunlight caressing our cheek. Lovely company – good retrieves, some frustrating ones and a funny one (after a long search in reed Rumi came out with a ammunition shell in her mouth). But most of all a lovely day in the field with pleasant company-enjoying working with Rumi and Nature in her February power.

Happiness at the end of the rainbow

Our day was very retrieving rich – the “guns” (slang for hunters) were skilled and Rumi and I had a tough time getting it all done. Time to start hunting with multiple dogs, so we must speed up the youngsters’ education. Thank you to my host Lieuwe and his fellow hunters and thank you beautiful Friesland for your endless raw beauty. Looking forward to preparing the big lads awaiting our dinner table.