UPPING THE ANTE ...
Spring is in the air and it's time for our advanced handlers and our Gundog Team members to start soaking up the pressure and the sun.
As well as ensuring our dogs are ready for any working tests to come a spot in the Kirkbourne Gundog Team is also at stake ... progress and stay in the team, take a step back and you're out !!!
Saturday saw us bring a mix of advanced members and team members together for a day of "upping the ante". A new location brings new sights, sounds and smells... and for those dogs that have been training at Stubbs for a while and are completely comfortable in that environment, time to shake it up.
As always we start with our basics .. but this is advanced, leads of, in pockets and not to be seen for the rest of the session.. some heelwork and sit stays to get the minds focusing, and a few "simple" short seen retrieves then on with it.
A nice simple seen retrieve to get the mind focused....
The theme of the day "Does your dog trust you....?"
Does your dog trust that you know best ... even when it has seen a bird fall that you turn it away and send it for a runner which you know is heading out of the county ... will it listen, will it follow your instruction ?
There are lots of basic skills which all need to be pulled together that enable us to answer "yes" to this question.
In short we must have :
Commands at a Distance
The ability to stay calm under pressure
When out working our dogs it is very rare that we are alone, invariably there are other dogs and handlers doing the same job in fairly close proximity.
Our first excercise is to get our dogs used to working whilst other dogs are out in the field , they must recognise and listen to your commands.
Straight seen retrieves but with a minimum of two dogs retrieving at once..... CHECK (now lets do it twice as fast ...)
Taking instruction whilst other dogs are working around you ....
Next some nice clean "staight line'' memories .. a nice distance but easily achievable, stepping the concentration levels up a little, then a little twist, place a memory and change the angle. Now change it up again... split into two teams... each team place dummy, then send their own dogs for other teams dummies ....!!!!
Teach those straight lines from an early age to make sure when you line your dog it goes where you tell it, but remeber to make sure you are sending it on the right line.
Speed - coming along nicely ... CHECK
Now lets add a little pressure and some distance commands !
Two teams .. each team places dummy and then picks the opposite teams dummies in relay style .. first to team to pick all dummies wins - CHAOS
Now this excercise went to show what happens when we add a little competative pressure to the mix. Volume increases, number of commands increases, speed of commands increases, dogs all slow down.
The dogs that handled best were handled slowly and quietly and left to do the job ..
With adrenalin levels up, straight into some steadiness training... a walk-up across the field with a dummy launcher .... and we're off, and so are the dogs and so are the handlers. If you want to win, you have to be prepared to get out after you dog and let it know when it has got it wrong.
There is no point in thinking, oh the muds slippery or the crop is deep, get out after it and make the correction. The next time you could be on a walk about shoot day or in a field trial line and your dog is the one that disturbs the birds for everyone else. Not good.
Time to re-fuel. Dogs and handlers worked hard during the morning session time for a break.
The afternoon found us concentrating on "retrieves with distraction"
When training "blinds" in a group it comes down to handlers choice, do you want a "true blind" in which case turn your dog away or does your dog need a little guidance, in which case watch the preceeding dogs... the down side to watching is of course, you also watch the preceeding dogs get it wrong (if they do) ...
To see or not to see, that is the question ?
A nice simple mark but with a distraction thrown as the dog was on the out run. Nice to see the dogs watching the distraction but mostly picking the retrieve it was sent for.
Worthy of note was Angus who I think we would all agree managed to mark just about every dummy down !!!
The addition of a dummy launcher added an extra dimension and increased the dogs adrenalin, well done everyone for keeping calm and in control and a mention for Major who nearly caught the googly.
Flop or Fly ???
It's always a good training day when people go home having acheived something new or having found something that they need to work on. For each dog and handler the day proved enlightening in different ways, for some their dogs weren't as steady as they would have liked, for some a lack of speed proved a frustration. For others, it was all about anything but a straight line....
Keep training to win and see you next time Folks !
But Dad, honestly, they have no feathers, I need to find the ones with feathers .....