The Countryman's Weekly has published my article relating to our young guns and beaters. Fantastic encouragement for our future generation from the UK's biggest selling weekly country sports newspaper!
Young gundog handlers enjoyed the BASC challenge. 12 year old Ella said, "I loved the scurry distractions and the dummy launcher. It's good to see how far we've come with our training. I'm happy with her steadiness today."
The BASC team and volunteers encouraged the young handlers to participate and offered feedback at the end of each scurry.
It gave me immense pleasure to watch Jack the fire investigation dog, demonstrate his role at Bournemouth University. The School of Applied Sciences is incredibly fortunate to have the 2 year old working cocker spaniel and dog handler, Julie Sykes visit Talbot Campus this term. The team facilitate and deliver fire investigation and forensic training.
This unique training is set up for forensic science students to observe a fire scene with investigation and forensic input. Jack is a significant part of the process. He has been trained to work in a fire scene and search for a liquid based or hydra carbon based accelerant which can be anything from petrol diesel, white spirit, acetone, paraffin, lighter fuel, BBQ fuel or a flammable liquid.
Fire Investigator and Dog Handler Julie Sykes kindly gave up some of her valuable time to answer a few questions about Jack...
What kind of training is involved to enable Jack to search with confidence and enthusiasm?
It’s based around play. Initially when I first got Jack at 10 months old we went out every day and played with a tennis ball. Once we started his training it was all based around his tennis ball. He would look for his tennis ball and there would be an accelerant associated with the find of the tennis ball. Eventually we moved away from the ball and used it as a reward. Once he gets a find in the fire scene we have a couple of minutes having a play with the ball as his reward.
How do you know when he's found something?
Once he finds a smell of an accelerant Jack stands still. He is unique and prances on the spot with his front paws. Jack will then expect the ball to appear. I’ve tweaked it slightly for him as we work mainly in confined spaces and once he finds an accelerant he looks at me for the reward but for safety purposes I then find a safe place away from the scene to give him the ball.
What did Jack have to make him a suitable candidate for the role?
The dog has to be keen and eager to please. These dogs want to be busy and need to be slightly head strong. If I’m in a fire scene and I try to pull him off I need him to be head strong in the way he’s not going to budge until I recognize he's found something. These types of dogs need to be head strong so they can do their job. You don’t want them to be passive and not have the enthusiasm to get the job done.
How have the students responded to watching Jack's demonstration?
I think they love watching the dog work. The training starts with the actual fire in the container with a fire investigation/forensic input with a group of students. This is followed by a demonstration from Jack.
Julie demonstrates the dog's ability to work by placing four t-shirts on the ground. Two of the t-shirts are contaminated six weeks ago with paraffin/diesel and then put through the washing machine several times. This exercise highlights that if someone did start a fire and washed their clothes and then the clothing was seized by the police at a later date. Jack would be able to detect a fuel. The forensic investigator would take it away as evidence and the laboratory would identify what type of fuel was found on the clothing.
What does Jack do in his time off?
He’s in the woods looking for pheasants! Jack loves going into the woods everyday for an hour or two. He often joins my business colleague on a local shoot and he picks up and flushes. He loves it!
What do you love about Jack?
He’s just so keen to please me. It’s such a sense of achievement when he finds something. He never stops and loves being busy. Jack is always on the go and has a lovely enthusiasm for life.
Julie and Jack both work in the educational and investigative sector. Can you give me an example of investigator sector?
It could be for the fire and rescue service or police or an insurance company. We sometimes have to attend a fire scene and Jack will to do a forensic search. We work all over the country so it does vary. Next week we’re in Leicester and Middlesbrough. What advice would you give a youngster who perhaps wants to be a fire investigator dog handler?
Unless you obtain a niche in the area, for e.g. we work in the educational sector, there isn’t a high volume of private work out there so your best option is to go through a fire and rescue service as a fire fighter. Clive Gregory is the expert and specialist of this area of work. He brought the first fire and rescue dog into the country in 1996.
Julie is qualified to Level 1 in Fire Investigation and worked for Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service for over 20 years in the emergency control room. Julie visits several universities throughout the country on undergraduate, postgraduate and international courses. Recently she has been involved in developing and delivering a fire investigation module for an on line masters qualification.
There is no doubt this training is an important part of the course curriculum and forensic students are fascinated to watch Jack work his magic. The fire investigation team demonstrate passion and commitment within their field. The excitement and anticipation for this event is a measure of the popularity our students have for this type of training. Jack is simply gorgeous. He's a real inspiration and a huge asset to the educational and investigative sectors throughout the country.
'Fire Investigation Dogs are extremely cost effective – they operate with great speed, are extremely accurate, highly motivated and are very reliable. In a world of modern science there is no detection equipment available to the fire scene examiner that can surpass the trained search dog.' (Clive Gregory 2001)
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The Prince of Wales recently gave a speech to world business leaders highlighting that the educational system is struggling to develop young people' s life skills. Without these skills can they cope in the real world? The heir to the throne highlighted that self esteem, self confidence and eye contact are essential elements to have for young people to manage themselves outside of education.This made me think of the wonderful youngsters I have met during the shooting season and how their experience is helping them develop as individuals. Their dedication, enthusiasm and the roles they play on a shoot day gives them an opportunity to develop these essential skills. It's great to see we are encouraging and supporting the younger generation with their love of shooting, dogs and conservation. And in return their energetic presence and positive attitude to the sport can make a real difference on a shoot day. Reflecting back on the season there is no doubt these youngsters possess the essential life skills. By recognising and encouraging their interests we are helping to build a bright and successful future for one of winter's most popular country sports. Here's a snap shot of our shining stars....
Brothers Sam and Oliver Mursell have always been keen on shooting. Following in their Dad's and Grandad's footsteps the young guns have been beating throughout the season and can't wait for beater's day. Both agree they need more practice to improve their shooting and they firmly believe that perseverance, determination and having fun is the key to succeeding.
Oliver is the heart of the beating line. He has various responsibilities on the shoot which helps him develop his self management skills. He is passionate about the sport and conservation and his focus is realistic. One day he would like to manage his own game shoot.
Talented musician Josh Hathaway has a genuine passion and enthusiasm for the sport. He has been beating and shooting since he was 10 years old. Josh learnt his shooting and conservation knowledge under the local shoot captain. The seventeen year old who is currently studying for his A levels enjoys the social and sporting aspects of the shoot day. His friendly and approachable manner is refreshing and he shows genuine interest in people and life. Josh is a natural communicator and it's clear he possesses those essential elements - confidence, self esteem and eye contact....all three are shining brightly.
Ella and Jessica's enthusiasm is like a breath of fresh air...They believe their beating experience has strengthened their team work, adaptable and confidence. They love being part of the beating line and watching the dogs work. Some of the drives can be challenging with thick woodland full of brambles so the girls use their imagination and pretend they are in Hunger Games!
Learning to shoot, working the beating line or helping with the pickers up provides opportunities for the youngsters to develop key transferable skills relating to many areas of life. Seeing these young people on the shoot demonstrates their enthusiasm, determination to have fun and enjoy a day in the countryside.
It has been a wonderful winter in all parts of Dorset and a highly productive season for our gun dogs. So far for the beating and picking team it has been an enjoyable and challenging season as most of the team are new to this domain. As I continue my gun dog journey with Ivy I have realized that our training on a shoot day doesn’t always go according to plan. Fortunately on a small shoot like ours it is acceptable to be flexible when things don't go to plan and as a novice picker up it’s been a huge learning curve. Therefore I try to make a mental note on each shoot as to what I can work on outside of shoot days. I’m a firm believer most faults come from the handler and I don’t want to put pressure on Ivy during a shoot as this can cause more problems so our training days are a perfect way to go back to the basics or work on a specific area.
One of the many key lessons I’ve learnt is to reinforce the straight line retrieves. In between shoots days I have been practising memory retrieves to build on Ivy taking straight lines through cover and over obstacles. This has increased her confidence and strengthened our trust in asking her to take the line when I give her the command. "Dogs have emotions and we need to learn how to read their body language more accurately to become better trainers." By Graham Cox (2014)
One particular aspect of Ivy’s training which I constantly work on is her steadiness to shot. I realize she is new to the field and being a young dog she tends to get excited in the first drive. As I become more confident at reading Ivy's body language and understand her intentions I can (hopefully) prevent her running in.
As a novice getting ready for a day's picking up can be quite daunting. So although I will already have an idea of what to take with me it's good to ask others....
'What is the one essential item you pack in the car for a successful day beating or picking up?'
Mick, a picker up has a keen appreciation of what handlers need on a shoot day. "It's got to be a first aid kit as you never know when your dog may get injured." Pet photographer, Sarah Smith agrees with him, "Whether you're out walking the dog or working your dog a first aid kit is essential to have in the car."
Local beater, Rick, explains that his desire for a specific cuisine is an essential requirement for a successful day beating. "It's got to be an Italian themed lunch. One of the Italian meats really makes my day! It all started when I used to go mushrooming as a kid with the family and my grandparents would clip me around the ear and get me to pick the poisonous ones and tell me they weren't!" Rick grins and adds "Our lunch would be ciabatta and salemi or one of the Italian meats and that's what I continue to do now."
Mark who is part of the beating team has invested in something he feels is essential for a good day out beating. "I love my tweed cap...it's one of the first things I pack in the car!"
"Food!" Paul grins, "I don't mind what kind of food. It just needs to be edible!" He pauses for a minute and adds, " I do always make sure I've got a tow rope and shackles in the car, as you never know if someone needs help." Paul is part of the beating team and loves working his spaniel on the shoot.
Spaniels Dodger and Archie have effortlessly found a place in the heart of the beating line. Dodger's handler, Emily is delighted with his progress and admits after a full day on the shoot an essential item has to be a towel for the dog. "I always try to get the excess water and dirt off him before starting the journey home.
Beaters Jason and Tim share the same idea. "It's got to be a hip flask!" The boys agree the silver gem is the essential accessory for the beating line. Easily accessible and undetectable inside the jacket pocket it's easy to see why the rich flavour and aroma of port keeps them focused on the job!
New to picking up this season, Sam chuckles. "Ah..my dog lead is the one essential for me." He pauses and then adds, "I can't believe I left my lead behind on the last shoot!"
Michelle loves beating and enjoys working her spaniel. "My essential item has got to be my dog." She smiles and adds "I wouldn't be here without him!" Chris who helps to run the beating line agrees. "My dogs are essential for me to have a great day!"
What's my essential item? It's my tea flask! When I arrive at the shoot there is a mixture of excitement and understandable apprehension. My morning brew settles the nerves and by the time the first drive starts I'm relaxed and ready to work Ivy. I wouldn't be without my drink pod!
We all have to start somewhere...5 years ago my gun dog training began with no knowledge or experience of the working gun dog domain. I've enjoyed every training class and working test and met some fantastic handlers throughout my journey. My goal was focused towards taking Ivy on a shoot and experience being part of a picking up team. The shooting season is well under way and this year I've had an opportunity to join a picking up team for a local shoot. A few of the beaters and pickers are newcomers which has instinctively brought us together. We've had two successful days so far and we're looking forward to many more. I've tried to capture some moments and thoughts with a snap shot of a newcomer's experience in one of winter's most popular country sports.....
Emily loves being part of the team. "I've been beating many times before however never have I worked my own dog, and that's a completely different experience! The feeling I got was amazing and such a buzz! Knowing all the training and hard work had paid off was incredible! Seeing him flush his first few pheasants out put a smile on my face for the whole day! The atmosphere from everyone was brilliant it was such a laugh! I can't wait till the next time!!"
Tim is elated with his first day. "Our first time beating and I can quite honestly say we loved it...despite the wet weather! I started the day not knowing how minstrel would behave, but she was great even to the point of picking up her first bird from then on she had pheasant on the brain, but still she kept her concentration and listened for my commands. We've been bitten by the bug! It was our second time beating yesterday and we both turned up with a lot more confidence. Minstrel didn't disappoint. She was amazing and she's turning into a lovely little working girl. We had another great day!"
Mark loved his beating experience. "We both enjoyed our first day beating together, even though we lost each other for a while in a forest full of Christmas trees! Murphy is a Patterdale Terrier cross Spaniel and will soon be 12 months old. He was rescued from a flooded farm as a pup in Somerset last winter. Murphy now knows what a pheasant is! First drive first pheasant flushed within 50 yards. It just got better from there... "
Gun dog trainer Chris Walton from the Purbeck Gundog Club was delighted with the day. "The shoot has started from scratch with the guns who
know nothing about running a shoot relying on help
from those who do! A first for them, a first for most
of the beaters and pickers and a first for me running the line! I can honestly say that the second
week became easier and more relaxed, so by the end of the season we should all have cracked it! A jolly good learning curve for all. Good job I've got the voice for it!"
Rick is the life and soul of the beating line. "I'm so pleased I said yes to going beating. Seeing the dogs work as they were intended to do with their owners, flushing the game out for the guns and the Labradors detailed to do the picking up, steady and ready fro action. Now I appreciate how it all works together. What a great day, roll on the next one!"
Thousands of visitors flocked to the Dorset County Show last weekend. This year marked the 15th year of the ever popular lake side scurry in the Country Sports arena with the Twistmount Gundog Team. The aim of the timed scurry was to test the dogs in water. A dummy was thrown out to an island and the dog had to swim through the water to retrieve the dummy and deliver back to the handler.
Twin brothers Neil and Nigel Varney managed the event and both were dedicated in providing family entertainment and educating people on the world of dogs. As the scurry got under way you watched and listened to the dynamic duo and within minutes it was easy to see why this event was so popular.
“Everyone likes a clean bum but no-one likes a smart ass!” yells Nigel as the twins captivate the audience with their sharp wit, smooth sarcasm and passion for country life. Their playful and teasing commentary was infectious and the distinctive brotherly banter could not be ignored. There was no doubt this nail biting timed event had you gripped from the start and encouraged a variety of breeds to enjoy the scurry.
"We’ve had labs, spaniels, pointers, terriers and collies have a go today" Neil added. " We have all sorts of dogs enter and it’s great to see the dogs enjoying themselves." Neil who is the international recognised gundog trainer of Twistmount Gundogs travels the country giving demonstrations, holding training sessions and seminars and judging competitions. Both brothers said "It’s just dogs being daft and having fun!"
Neil who is the keeper of a successful shoot at Somerset smiled as he recalled a lakeside memorable moment. "A dog came off the island, didn’t pick the dummy, spotted a poo bag on the outskirts of the lake, picked it up and headed back towards the crowd. He then proceeded to shake and not everyone made cover!" Neil and Nigel laughed. "The crowd love it when things going wrong! Especially when the dog goes out and picks the dummy and then comes back the long way, going all around the outside of the lake and gets everyone wet. It's great entertainment!"
The Varney Brothers were in their 15th year of delivering demonstrations at the show. It may sound obvious but the key to getting noticed is to make sure you have something fresh to share. Neil and Nigel have that certain something. They embraced their unique talent and with their knowledge, experience and friendly approach they delivered a fun scurry which was second to none.
Bloxworth summer 2014 water training has been rewarding, progressive and fun! Ivy and I have learnt so much and Corbinsbere has given us plenty of opportunity to highlight our strengths and work on our challenges. It has been fascinating to watch the dogs work in water. Their confidence at the bank and determination to retrieve in the water is outstanding. Their hunting speed and style on the island is a pleasure to watch. Here are a few quotes and pics from the handlers to encapsulate our summer of water training. Enjoy!
" I’ve loved these water training sessions. My main challenge is to deliver the dummy without shaking first! There are lots of challenges and you can never be complacent. It’s about bringing them all together and making it work for you and the dog. I started off treating the water retrieve differently but actually it’s the same as a normal retrieve on land so I’ve learnt a lot from these sessions. Coco has achieved so much from these sessions. She wouldn’t go in to start with and now she loves it!" Pat Rogers with Sam and Coco.
As a novice handler watching the Gundog Euro Challenge in the International Arena was tense, exciting and a huge learning curve as the teams competed against each other in a series of tests set to highlight the abilities of various breeds of gun dogs.
Summer is well and truly here, bringing with it warm hazy days and glorious summer evenings. It's an ideal time to enjoy the mood of the season and practice our water retrieves. Bloxworth provides the perfect location for our introduction to water training delivered by Corbinsbere Gundogs.
The aim...A neat delivery out of the water to hand. Rather than diving in with long retrieves the focus is to give the dogs several short retrieves that doesn't put them under too much pressure and finish with a delivery to hand without dropping the dummy and shaking first.
As I stand by the water I can feel the warm evening sun on my face. Majestic trees cast their reflection over the far side of the lake. I catch the scent of wild flowers on a breeze. It is a beautiful summer's evening. The dogs are quivering with excitement knowing what is about to unfold.
As we wait our turn for a retrieve I watch the swallows dip and weave across the lake. The fading sun bounces off the lake with an occasional ripple of water. A damselfly catches Ivy's attention as it hovers over the bank. It is a privilege to train my dog on an estate which attracts an abundance of wildlife...to observe and feel part of it. These are some of the real benefits of my gun dog journey with Ivy.
“What a fun day! Always well run and the tests were challenging!”
“Cracking terrain with the wood, water and lots of cover!”“I learnt today….not to over handle my dog, especially in water!”
“I'm not a member of the GWCT but after listening to the talk today perhaps I should be!”
These were just a few of the comments coming from the gun dog handlers at the AV Gundog Working Test & Fun Day (non kc) held at Bloxworth Estate by kind permission of Lisa Macdonald Smith. The event was sponsored by Skinners Dog Food and the Game& Wildlife Conservation Trust.
A strong team – Enthusiastic and dedicated, Corbinsbere Gun Dogs were able to create something exceptional in the working test domain. Experienced in the field of gun dog training Tracy Corbin and her team organised the event which offered all types of gun dogs an opportunity to try four challenging tests in Special Puppy, Novice dog/novice handler, Novice and Open classes. Experienced judges Michael Lynfoot, Nick Coates, Margaret Allen and Dave England were keen to offer their time and support throughout the day.
Local gun dog competitor Felicity Green found the day to be rewarding and a good exercise to experience the test environment without the pressure. “These events are a great way to assess how far you are with your dog. I've got a kc intermediate test coming up and it's helpful to keep doing them because dogs and handlers behave differently in test circumstances. These fun events are slightly more relaxed but you're still in a test environment and you get alot more help and feedback from the judges.”
Felicity was delighted with her scores and came 1st in the Open Retriever Class with her Labrador Retriever Ashoaks Silent Wings. “The water test was a challenge for me today. It was a blind across the water. The dog went out well but she didn't handle as well as I would have liked in getting her over to the island. Once she was on the island she hunted nicely picked the dummy and the rest of the test was fine.” Felicity obtained some useful feedback from experienced judge Nick Coates. “I learnt today not to over handle my dog in a water retrieve. Nick offered some good advice as I find it's always difficult not to handle when your dog is in the water. I should have let her swim further into the lake and then given her one command. I was trying to get her over to the bank before she had swum far enough and therefore I lost points for over handling.”
The working test also serves as a vital link between novice gun dog owners and the more experienced handlers. The novice dog/ novice handler class offers the less experienced handler to participate in four tests and find out if they enjoy this exciting field sport. Local gun dog owner Gemma Northover is new to the working test environment. She was thrilled with her German Short Haired Pointer cross, Henry, who came 1st in the Special Puppy Class.
"I really wanted to learn how to handle a gundog properly and Henry is loving his training and enjoys it so much." Gemma has been pleased with his progress and came away with some areas to work on. "I need to do more heel work and keep Henry a bit tighter when quartering, and remember to draw him back if he goes on a bit too much. He can get carried away so I try to make sure he is always listening to me." The handsome German Pointer x Irish Water Spaniel clearly loved his puppy tests and his achievement reflects a young dog who is keen, quick to learn and eager to please.
Corbinsbere were delighted to see 14 year old Becky Mann participate in the working test with her Labrador Retriever Ellie. "I've enjoyed today and realize I have to work on our steadiness." The local junior handler has had a successful start in life with various gun dog events and has won many scurries in the four years she has been handling. From a very young age Becky has shadowed her Dad, Gerry, in the competition field and has a passion for the countryside. He said, "Becky always gives 100% in all she does which is a good thing these days and we are very proud of all she has achieved."
The talented teenager came 1st at Highclere this year and has qualified for the Great Wall Motor World Series Junior Handler Championship Finals in September which aims to find the UK's top junior gun dog handler. Competing in the test today highlighted the unique relationship between Becky and her dog and no doubt a future winning team, not just in the field but in life itself.
One of the benefits of a working test is that it teaches us something new about our dogs and our handling. Thankfully the support from our sponsors and local gun dog clubs enables us to celebrate the outstanding working characteristics of our gundogs whilst enjoying all aspects of the countryside. This year the GWCT have expanded their dog theme at the Scottish Game Fair and introduced an exciting 'World of Gundogs' attraction which no doubt will prove popular not only to the gun dog enthusiast but to all dog lovers.
“Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.” By Jim Rohn
Training Ivy can be a challenge but at the same time it is fun and rewarding. Last weekend at a group training session we had a guest trainer, Andy Brown from Oldcroft Gundogs. He delivered an interesting training session and showed us several extra handling tips for various situations. The gun dog trainer from Wiltshire is a firm believer in positive reinforcement and believes we should give the dog every chance of succeeding.He revealed an exercise which focused on strengthening the stop command using the whistle. As a novice handler I have found the stop whistle challenging so this was hugely beneficial for both dog and handler. By using the retrieve as the reward and Andy Brown and Fergus, Wendy Bardsley and Ivybreaking the training into small chunks I have introduced Ivy to this command. I have been patient and consistent with her and she now enjoys responding to the stop whistle. Andy explained that consistency is a key contributor to all training exercises. Since owning a gun dog I have tried to ensure that my family have the same rules and boundaries for our dogs so that they do not receive mixed messages. As a dog owner and handler it is my responsibility to prevent mixed messages from occurring. I firmly believe a dog that knows the rules, and has consistency from the family will learn a lot quicker and will be less inclined to indulge in undesirable habits and behaviour. If the consistency fades the dog will get confused and gradually lose respect for your commands. This will result in selective hearing and the dog will choose when he wants to respond to your commands. I believe inconsistency can affect the dog's ability to please the handler. I'm learning through my gun dog training journey that by consistently applying and practising the basic fundamentals results in a happy and biddable Ivy.
Andy Brown offers residential and non-residential gun dog courses. For further info visit: http://www.oldcroftgundogs.comPicture taken by Purebeck Paws: Sarah Smith
It was a warm summer's evening and I wanted to try out my freshly cut grass strips for some directional training.
My girls asked if they could join in have 30 minutes of junior handling training before bedtime. 'Of course!' I replied...always pleased to see they are willing and keen. I pondered down to the end of the garden and told the girls to grab their training bags, dummies and whistles and I'd start doing some steadiness exercises with the dogs. Five minutes later the girls appeared...
This week I read an interesting article relating to modern dog training methods written by Artikel von nina (http://www.planethund.com/eng/modern-dog-training-methods-softies-science-ethics-review-2005.html) She believes as a dog owner/handler your authenticity is important when developing a bond and mutual trust. Nina suggests that many training problems could be avoided or solved if you simply show yourself to your dog just the way you are. The youngsters adore their onesies, much like I loved my leg warmers in the 80s so they are only showing the dogs who they are and what they feel comfortable wearing. I'm just not sure if Jack my lab bought into the whole idea...
This handsome dog is 22 months old and his full kennel name is Fordcopse Baillie. He was bred near Lymington and as the pups were born during the Olympics the litter were all named after members of the GB team. Baillie is named after Olympic canoe slalom champion Tim Baillie!
Together with Jackie's enthusiasm and Baillie's willingness to learn they have worked hard this year to progress within the gun dog training field. Their achievements for Working Tests 2014 include:URC Hants& SW:1st Special Puppy, Arun & Downland: 4th Special Puppy and Isle of Wight Gundog Club Novice – Awarded ‘Keepers Choice’
How did you get into gun dog training Jackie?
It started when I went to Fun4Dogs (http://fun4dogstraining.com) obedience training class. Christine Walton suggested I had a go at the gun dog training class so I went along and I’ve been hooked ever since!
Who inspires you?
Chris was the person who got me started and as we've progressed I've started training with gun dog trainer, Sarah Miles. She's such an inspiration and has raised the level for me in many ways. Sarah is strict within the training field and has high expectations. You have to keep practising until you get it right. Sarah pushes Baillie and I beyond our comfort levels which I enjoy and she always offers constructive feedback. The training is related to positive re enforcement.
What’s the most memorable moment in your gun dog journey so far?
Recently I competed in a novice URC working test and I had to send Baillie for a blind retrieve which was over a wall and up a long track and then at 45 degrees there was a shot fired at the top of the hill and I was instructed to send Baillie for the blind first and then the retrieve at the top of the hill. I was convinced Baillie wouldn’t do it but to my utter amazement he did it! I was so over the moon …the feeling was amazing, I was grinning from ear to ear for the rest of the day J
Do you have any pre-competition routines?Yes, I give Baillie some tripe in the morning and always walk him before the test. When I get to the event I do a bit of heel walk and a few retrieves just to settle him as he’s still quite young and can get excited before the test.What are your current challenges with training?Heel work.. It's my biggest challenge with Baillie. It’s never to o early to start your heel work!
What advice would you give to people wanting to get into gun dog training?Just have a go! It’s a great excuse to spend some time in the countryside with your dog and it can be very rewarding and fulfilling.And a final few words from Jackie...Baillie is the first gun dog I have trained and I am very fortunate to have such a lovely dog. He's my constant shadow and makes my world complete! Many thanks to Jackie and Baillie for their time and Sarah Smith (www.purbeckpaws.co.uk) who supplied the photos.
The coolness of the morning quickly evaporated as the sparkling sunlight shone down upon Bloxworth Estate. Corbinsbere non KC Working Gun Dog Test offered handlers the promise of a hot and rewarding day. Tracy Corbin and her devoted team had spent days preparing and organizing 3 challenging working tests for the puppy, novice and open classes. The registration area was a hive of activity and the atmosphere was relaxed. The familiar surroundings and friendly greeting from the Corbin's team instantly dissolved any pre-test nerves. As I registered I asked myself why I was entering today? I wanted to explore this area further so throughout the day I threw the question out to handlers and judges: What are the benefits of a non KC working test? I believe this type of test is an opportunity for me to test Ivy's working ability. It can be a perfect starting point for handlers who may want to move on to further competitive events such as KC working tests or field trials in the future. This type of test offers a chance for me to understand the strengths and weaknesses of Ivy and to obtain feedback relating to my handling through the judge's comments. It's also a platform to run in a test environment without the pressure of the KC regs. I also get to meet like minded handlers who are there to test the working ability of their dogs.
I asked Michael Lydford who was judging the water test, if he enjoyed this type of environment. He explains, "I'm a big fan of the fun working test because it's a great introduction to the working gun dog test environment." Michael believes non KC working tests are an ideal stepping stone from going nowhere and enabling handlers to work their way up to the more serious tests. He also understands that not everyone wants or is cut out for the formal KC conditions so tests like these are ideal.
Competitor Neil Ward is a proud advocate and a firm believer of these tests. Neil who came 1st in the Open Retriever Class with Grace explained why he enjoyed today. "Grace is a non KC registered dog therefore I'm limited to what competitions I can enter. This is an ideal opportunity for me to test the ability of my dog under test conditions." He added that the water test was a big challenge today and was delighted with the overall outcome. Neil had someone else by his side who he was extremely proud of...daughter Jessica Ward. She achieved a 1st in the Spaniel Puppy Class with her spaniel Azzy. Beaming from ear to ear Jessica told me that competing and actually winning a working test meant so much to her as Azzy was one of the four spaniels she had stolen. Jessica said, "We are so lucky to have her back. Just having her here is special, let alone her achieving something like this, she's been through a lot." Both Neil and Jessica have a passion for nature and the countryside and believe there are lots of benefits to a non KC working test. Jessica added, " Whether your dog is KC-registered or not, it's a fun and relaxed atmosphere, a great place to meet other owners and people with the same interests, and the judges give helpful advice after each run, so we can go away and improve on for next time." Local handler, Hilary Hardman enjoys competing in both non KC and KC working tests. She told me the benefits of today is that you can identify possible areas of weakness relating to your training routine and see where your dog is challenged on the day. She believes you can then focus on these areas and build them into your training sessions. Hilary thinks the test environment can also identify your dog's strengths which is so rewarding to see on the day. "It's important to continually work on steadiness and the stop whistle" said Hilary. She was thrilled with her 2nd in the Retriever Puppy Class with Tula and 2nd in the Retriever Open Class with Flint. Hilary seems to think the water test was the biggest challenge today for a lot of the dogs. The marsh cover on the island was a challenge for some of the open dogs." Fortunately Flint was undeterred by the soggy conditions and Hilary was delighted with his willingness to achieve.
Positive handling skills and a keen dog gave Henni Weld a chance to show what a winning smile looks like after a day at Bloxworth. She was elated with her 1st place in the Spaniel Novice with Bella and 2nd place in the Novice Retriever with Gladi. Lulworth based Henni explains " I tend to get quite nervous at competitions so I enjoy the non KC working tests as they are slightly more relaxed. I always take a deep breath before each test and try to enjoy the experience." Henni picks up on Lulworth Estate and enjoys the challenge of working tests. Henni told me she had been able to get some great feedback from each judge. She believes the water test was the biggest challenge for her and fortunately both dogs did really well. "It's such a rewarding experience when it all comes together on the day." Henni highlighted there are always areas for improvement and she learnt today that she needs to work on hunting up with her spaniel.
As I reflected on the day at Bloxworth I drove home with one of the biggest buzzes to be had...working Ivy, watching her hunt and then seeing her retrieve. Whether you take part in a KC or non KC working test the satisfaction and pleasure is second to none. Test organisers, judges, dummy throwers, fellow competitors, gun dogs and the surrounding countryside are an inspiration to me and the working test holds a variety of benefits which makes it an invaluable experience.
Junior gun dog handlers
When it comes to dogs and kids there is something special going on. Dogs are non judgmental therefore they can’t criticize and they are unable to correct. Whether a child is reading to a PAT dog in a school library or being a junior handler the unconditional feedback the child receives can only make them feel better about themselves. Their confidence and self esteem will grow. They learn about positive reinforcement and responsibility. The dog can introduce a child to those important life skills.The junior scurries set up at the Hampshire Show on May 5th was a unique and exciting challenge for the next generation of our gundog scurry and working test handlers. I observed many youngsters taking part in the scurry and retrieves. All of them were young, dynamic and full of enthusiasm. Some of the youngsters simply went in for a fun challenge with their family pet and others went in to experience the test environment and put their training into practice. It was a joy to watch and great entertainment for the crowd of spectators. I did see some very promising youngsters taking part in the event and each displayed a bond between dog and handler which was unique to watch. Thankfully, these events offer an opportunity for the youngsters to shine and for the experts to recognise the potential of a growing team. The variety of the tests gave an exciting challenge to the youngster and their dog. Two of the young handlers who competed on Sunday were my daughters, Jessica and Ella. It was the first time I've seen them both in a test environment and I have to say I was very excited for them!Jessica, age 9, won the junior straight retrieve using the latest dummy launcher. The dummy was sent out about 80 yards. Ivy marked the dummy from her position at the start line and the timer was set as the dog was sent out. Jess used the hunt whistle and Ivy picked the dummy and retrieved it nicely back to hand in 51 seconds. Jess was delighted with her 1st rosette, bag of St Johns dry dog food and a dummy. She wasn't so impressed when she realized she had to carry the bag of dog food all the way back to the car park!
Ella, age 11, won the junior retrieve multi pick up challenge. The course consisted of a 5 dummies being thrown out. 3 were marked and two were blind retrieves. Collective time for all dummies is the time recorded. As in all classes the stop watch is stopped and started as each dummy is collected. Ella's handling was calm and clean and she completed the challenge in 88.41 seconds which gave her first place for the juniors. She also completed the dummy launcher retrieve and came third with a time of 64 seconds. As Ella won the junior pick up with the fastest time she has been invited to the junior finals at Sandringham in September.
She also completed the dummy launcher retrieve and came third with a time of 64 seconds. As Ella won the junior pick up with the fastest time she has been invited to the junior finals at Sandringham in September.
As a member of several gun dog clubs in the Dorset area I'm so thankful the trainers and members encourage and welcome junior handlers. Extracurricular activities are important for all the family. I feel life is about more than just school/work and as a mum I try to help my girls find a balance with their lives. Being part of the gun dog community helps develop their sense of purpose. They create bonds with their peers and other junior handlers and become part of a new community where they learn about their own talents, interests, strengths, and limits. Following their test at the Hampshire Show I asked them if they were proud of their achievement. I think the pic below answers this question...
Avon Tyrrell woodland training day
As I made my way to the URC woodland training day the ominous grey clouds covered the sky and released a sudden heavy April shower. It was going to be an interesting day! As I entered the Avon Tyrrell Estate the sun filtered through the clouds, signalling the end of the rain...for a while! Following a warm welcome and a quick cuppa we filtered into our groups for the day. I was pleased to see a mixture of black, yellow, golden and flat coat retrievers in our group. Our trainer started the session with an introduction to the dummy launcher using a tennis ball attachment. I learnt that by using this tool it covers the tennis ball in shot scent when fired and it is excellent for firing a ball along the ground, specially into cover to help a dog take a line. This was the first experience for Ivy and myself using a tennis ball attachment. The noise level was fairly high but Ivy seemed ok with the 'cracking' sound. Thankfully Ivy loves tennis balls so her first experience of the launcher was a positive one as she was very keen to mark and retrieve the balls. It was also a good steadying exercise for the group. As the morning progressed our trainer took us through various exercises which were extremely useful and effective. From a novice perspective there were many things I liked about this training session today. I enjoyed the trainer's style of teaching. He used calm, positive methods to acquire success for both dog and handler. It seems gun dog trainers style can vary from one trainer to another. Is there a wrong and a right way to teach? What are the factors that make a successful gun dog trainer? I don't have the answers but I'm sure each trainer's style is based on a solid foundation of knowledge and experience. I'm not attempting to label a trainer as many may alter their style depending on the situation, handler and dog. Perhaps the art of training is knowing which style to use and when? An intuitive trainer can skilfully change from one training style to another. The training style and intensity that works best may depend on the individual dog's character/temperament, age and stage. Something different happened today which I've not experienced before in a group situation. The trainer offered a demonstration of how something happens or how something is done using his own dog! He explained clearly what he was going to demonstrate, he would then carry out the exercise and encourage you to watch his dog. Following the exercise he would feedback to the group and reflect on the dog's actions and behaviour. This style of training was extremely useful for me as a novice. I could obtain clarity and understanding of each exercise through seeing his dog complete the task. Additionally the trainer was helping us develop our confidence, building on the essential tools needed for us to succeed as a team. He also used a young keen dog in the morning and a slightly older more experienced dog in the afternoon. Both were different in character and experience. It was a pleasure to see the strong bond between trainer and dog.
I came away with so much from the woodland training day. The diverse range of retrievers was a benefit for me to see. I enjoyed watching the elegant and fast flat coat who was keen and biddable. The two golden retriever's gentle temperament shone through and were impeccable with their performance. A pretty young agile yellow retriever caught my eye. She was so keen to go out! I met several new handlers who were happy to offer words of encouragement and support and all the handlers in my group were enthusiastic and friendly. Avon Tyrrell offered a fabulous woodland setting which created the ideal environment for our training day. Far from the madding crowd and able to switch off from the daily hustle and bustle of life...perfect!
Training at Rockstead Farm
As the gravel grey clouds dissolved and a soft ray of sunshine fell upon Rockstead Farm I felt our training session was going to be a dry and constructive one!
We started the evening with a marked retrieve using the fence as a natural line to encourage the dogs to keep straight. I sent Ivy out and she seemed hesitate even though she had marked the dummy. I used the 'back' command to encourage her to continue and pick the dummy which she delivered back to hand nicely. I then did the same exercise again but this time a blind retrieve in the same area. Ivy went out slowly and stopped looking back for guidance/reassurance. I used the 'back' command and then the whistle to ask her to hunt which helped her to find the dummy and deliver back to hand. After a couple more marked retrieves through cover and across the field our final challenge of the evening was a marked split retrieve. One dummy thrown to the right hand corner of the field and the second to the left hand corner of the field. I decided to send Ivy out to the left hand corner of the field which was the last dummy thrown. Again she was slow and hesitate to go out but once I gave her the back command several times she continued to the area of the dummy and delivered back to hand. When I sent her out for the 2nd retrieve I decided to push her far right so she ran alongside the edge of the cover and headed for the correct area. Once I gave the hunt whistle she found the dummy and retrieved to hand nicely. As the evening progressed I observed a distinct lack of drive or desire with Ivy. I'm not sure why and I don't have the experience to offer a reason for this behaviour but I do realize a dog's drive is vulnerable and can be easily damaged so it is important to nurture and protect her desire to retrieve. I will put the dummies away for a few days and try again at the weekend. Lessons learnt and reflection: