The first multi-trainer day of the new training season saw us back at Harewood.
Our three trainers for the day, Darren Kirk, Nigel Matthewman and John Ramsell.
Whilst it was fantastic to see such a mixed group of old familiars and new faces, the day was tinged with sadness at the sudden and unexpected loss of John Cooper, who along with his wife Mandy should have been joining us.
Our thoughts are with Mady and her family at this sad time.
After “Dad Talk”, the mass was split into three groups, each group would visit 2 exercises in the morning session and one in the afternoon before a mini working test later on.
We are afforded some great areas for training at Harewood and for introducing dogs to barriers we have nice safe post and rail stock fencing together with ponds and lakes for water practice.
The first rules when using ANY kind of barrier are to check what is on top of the obstacle and what is on the other side. Is it safe for my dog to land.
As the groups are of mixed ability the first round was to introduce the dogs to the obstacle and the command “over”.
A nice short mark the far side of the fence. For those able to jump, send your dog and give the over command.
For those who just beginning .. approach the fence/obstacle .. let your dog see it, throw the mark and as your dog stands against the fence, offer a helping hand giving the command “over”.
Each dog and handler was able to have a good few attempts at this, for the older dogs, the marks being thrown further into the wooded area giving an opportunity for some handling.
We then moved on to the “water”
A nice small pond with easy access for those less confident and plenty of opportunity for those that liked to leap.
A nice straight forward single mark to build the dogs confidence.
WALK UP / HUNT UP & HOLDING AN AREA
Having been given access to a new wooded area the Hunt-up / Walk-up was a great way to introduce an exercise that catered for the spaniels hunting and the retrievers steadiness and marking whilst working together.
A number of blinds were set down and the spaniels hunted forward with the retrievers off lead walking behind.
For novice handlers introducing their spaniels to hunting can be quite intimidating. Which way do I “cast” my dog ? How far should I let my dog go ? .. Where do I walk ? are just a few questions that spring to mind.
When hunting your spaniel through a beat (the area you are set to work), typically you want your dog working no more than 10 feet each side of you.
Cast your dog to the opposite side which it normally sits/ heels, or if you see your dog is particularily interested in one direction also cast the opposite way. ( You don’t always know what your dog has seen. If your dog has spotted a rabbit for instance and you cast it towards the rabbit you could in fact be sending your dog for that retrieve !!!!!!... when this is the last thing we want).
So we have “cast” our dog. As a handler our job is to direct.. try and walk as straight a line through the beat as you can, guiding your dog with your hand or if needs be by taking an obvious step in the direction you want the dog to head, but try and then come back to centre.
Some dogs can be very “left” or “right” handed and will comfortably hunt more to this side than the other. We need to make sure that our dogs cover the ground evenly and are not missing big areas.
Walk nice and slowly allowing your dog to hunt for you.
After the spaniel had retrieved 3 or 4 of it’s dummies, the retrievers were given a “mark” behind the line. When the retrieve was safely to hand then spaniel hunted forward for a further 2 or 3 finds.
Once this task had been completed we headed to the top end of the wood. Each dog was given a nice mid range mark .. then turned away from the mark and the dummy picked up. Dog then sent to area and held with hunt whistle, working the area, after a short while dummy was dropped without the dog seeing and the dog then allowed to “find” and retrieve.
Distances were varied depending on dogs ability.
By the time the dogs and handlers reached this station (for two of the three groups), brains were fully engaged.
Every working dog needs controls.. Brakes and Direction, without these we cannot work our dogs at distance.
There are lots of simple exercises that we can use to help us achieve this goal and that also work for all levels of dog and handler.
To ensure that everyone was paying attention we started with a simple straight retrieve.
Our next exercise was set as follows :
Sit your dog at your side facing forward and throw a dummy in front.
Heel your dog round 45 degrees (on quarter of a clock face ) and throw another dummy straight ahead.
Turn your dog back to the first dummy thrown and send your dog. Be ready for your dog to veer towards the second dummy, if it does, stop your dog. Sit your dog up facing the first dummy and send again, if necessary turning your body slightly across the dog to prevent the veer towards the second.
Once the first dummy is retrieved, heel your dog round to face the second dummy and send.
This exercise is easy to practice at home in the garden or out on a walk, anywhere with a small amount of space.
To take this to the next level. Sit your dog up at your side. Throw one dummy at 12 o’clock. Heel the dog round 3 o’clock and throw another dummy, heel round again to 6 o’clock and put another dummy out and lastly to 9 o’clock and put the last dummy down. Now send your dog for a dummy of your choice making sure you heel round and send the dog straight.
The last exercise was a test of steadiness and direction.
Two dummies thrown a far distance apart, the dog must retrieve the first dummy thrown …. !!!! Get ready to stop your dog !
So how do we train to "win" this exercise.
With our dog sat nice and steady at our side, the first dummy is thrown, in this case, to the left. We now make a deliberate movement with our body to turn the dog to watch the right hand dummy thrown. Another deliberate movement facing our dog to the left dummy should "turn our dog off" to the right.
Now send your dog for the first dummy down. If your dog looks like breaking to the right, hit the stop whistle and either direct left OR for younger dogs, bring the dog back to your side, line up for the left using your body to block the right and send.
With the wonderful spring sunshine on our backs for most of the day we all headed of for a well earned cuppa and slice of cake.
The cake table was indeed wobbling under the weight of all the delicious treats that members kindly baked and bought along.
Time for a few thought from Darren and a moments silence to remember John and then on with the raffle. Again huge thanks to all those that donated prizes and all those that bought tickets.
The proceeds of the raffle will be sent on to a charity to be chosen by Mandy Cooper.
THE WORKING TEST, DEDICATED TO JOHN COOPER
Two marked retrieves …. Pick the first dummy thrown !!!
Test two was a repeat of test one but at an increased distance and over a track.
Whose nerve would hold … it is interesting what a splash of pressure can do to handling
A very big well done to Rachel Devoy and Ruby for taking the top spot, with Jeff Kitchen and Sam second and Alison Whitehead and Angus third. (Just goest to show Ali that it’s just like riding a bike …. )
AND FINALLY ...
Thank you to our trainers and to our helpers, Alfie and Eleanor, to Chris for your amazing organisational skills, and everyone else who knows me !!!
We hope that all those that attended the day enjoyed it as much as the Kirkbourne Team did.
If you have any feedback for ways your feel we could improve our day, please either message Darren or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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