Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hunt Test Training

[Note: Time is too short these days for me to write up every training session. Briefly, we continue to train every day with few exceptions. When I don't make an entry in the blog, it generally means we continued working on the same things we've been working on. Recently, it has meant we've continued working on the Wetfoot Drill, the Adventure Drill, and blinds. Yesterday and today's work was different.]

Park Heights and Cheltenham

Bob Hux, the Pro whom Lumi and I began training with in 2007 when we first became involved with field sports, retired this last winter to Florida. But this week, he was back in town helping a friend of his with one of her dogs. He took the occasion to train with two small groups, one yesterday at our Park Heights training area, and one today at Cheltenham. My dogs and I joined him both days.

The training session were typical Senior Hunt Test and WC/WCX practice days, since the dog he's working with is entered in both of those events at the FCR National Specialty north of here next weekend. Each day, we ran a land series first, then a water series.

Yesterday's land series was a single mark because the hay was too high to see our dogs. After the land series, a few of the dogs, including mine, also ran a land blind. Then we ran a water series on the technical pond at that property. The water series consisted of two water marks, and also included a water blind, for those dogs that were running blinds. Both of my dogs did well on every retrieve, which was great. Most importantly, neither one had any problem with returns on the water retrieves. Bob congratulated me on Laddie's LWL return, saying happily, "I never thought I'd see that!"

Today's land series was three marks with a flier for the third (center) mark, plus a blind. The lines to two of the marks and the blind ran thru a marshy low-lying section of the field. Lumi and Laddie, like most of the dogs, ran all three marks as singles. Lumi and Laddie made the marking look easy, but every other dog had trouble finding the flier, and some also had trouble with one of the other marks, or getting thru the marshy area, or both, so I don't think they actually were easy. Lumi and Laddie were also the only dogs in the group ready to run that particular blind, though Bob set up a separate easier blind for the dog he was working with. Laddie ran the blind nicely. When Lumi ran the blind, she needed a WO for a slipped whistle, but then reran it beautifully. I also had both of my dogs honor, but neither got to honor a flier. They both remained steady the entire session.

Today's water series was two marks. Bob had the marks thrown in open water for all the other dogs, but I had my dogs run them as LWL singles, with the ducks thrown on land. The good news (very good news) is that Laddie came right back with both of his. The bad news (very bad news) is that Lumi repeated her behavior from her last Senior Hunt Test and stalled on one of the water marks, repeatedly licking and turning over the bird, then rolling around in the grass. Eventually she picked up the bird and brought it, as she had in the test where she passed, but it was completely unsatisfactory. Unfortunately, on both occasions it was too inconvenient for me to go pick her up. I'm afraid her behavior will only go down hill for that situation. I don't know what's going to happen in our test this coming Saturday.

After the water series, Bob put out one duck as a water blind for the dog he's working with. "This one's too easy for your dogs," he said, "I'll get to them next." After he ran his dog, he put out two more ducks for my dogs, then told me where I should drive around to run them from. This was a 110-yard blind with a very sharp angle entry, open water for the first 80 yards, and then a channel for the last 30 yards, with points angling in from both sides at the entry to the channel. The birds were up on the shore.

Bob didn't know it, but an additional difficulty was that a few days ago, I ran both dogs on a water blind to one of those points. Of course, that's where both dogs aimed for as soon as they were in the water, and my hardest task with each of them was to keep them off that point without swimming over to the point on the other side. Once they were past both points, they needed minimal handling in the channel. Again, I was pleased to see both dogs climb up on shore, pick up the bird, and trot back into the water to swim back. Both dogs took an excellent line back to me thru the channel, without attempting to divert to either of the points.

Afterwards, I told Bob that that blind looked harder than any of the Senior water blinds I've seen so far. He said, "Oh, no, that was a Master blind." It was nice to know that he had that much confidence in my dogs.

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