|A couple of weeks ago, Seeker participated in his first novice cold game trial. It was at the Golden Retriever Club’s championships in Hjo. The trials were very well organized. We arrived in good time and since it wasn’t our turn until in the middle of the class, we had time to watch the first dog and see how the trial was structured. After that we took the dogs for a walk and returned to the gathering spot for a snack, before it was time to begin our warm up.
I always find it challenging to trial with a new dog. It takes a couple of times before your preparation and routines work well. How much warm up do we need? What should that warm up look like? Heeling, hunting/holding a small area, marked retrieves? With Seeker, I had decided on trying to keep us in motion and to do a lot of heeling beforehand – I wanted to feel that he was with me and not wrapped up in his own world. He was very wound up during our warm up, but felt attentive and like he was with me.
It was a fun trial for a novice class; I often find that they are a bit boring and predictable. There’s more space for an interesting layout in the open and the elite class. When it was our turn, Seeker couldn’t really keep himself together when it was time to greet the judge (even though we have been working on that extensively with a lot of different people. We’ll simply have to do some more work, preferably with me being a bit nervous…), but he quickly returned to my side. The trial begun with quite a long stretch of heeling for a novice class, perhaps 30-40 yards, where the judge walked beside us and the shooter was already positioned ahead of us. This meant that the judge directed the pace, which young master Seeker found a bit difficult. During the heeling there were also 4-5 shots fired. Seeker did a really good job about 75 % of the way, even if he was very much on his toes and was in a position a bit too far ahead for my liking. When we had just a couple of yards to go, he spotted the white marking that we were heading towards (it was placed on the ground) and took a gigantic leap towards it. I was quick to blow the stop whistle – I think he would have stopped by the white marking anyway, but I wasn’t going to risk it – and then compensated by going to stand next to him…
A marked retrieve by the water’s edge followed. I waited a bit extra to cast him, in order to show the judge how steady he really was and he nailed the marked retrieve and managed a great delivery. I was told afterwards that I seemed a bit nervous during his deliveries. I have to begin to trust that they really do work and not take the game from him too quickly. His deliveries really are excellent nowadays.
Some more heeling followed. This time he heeled well the first few yards, but then spotted the person throwing, who stood there looking all ready, and figured out where we were going. He didn’t leave my side this time, but did sit down crooked a bit in front of me. The marked retrieve was out in the water this time, and he had to swim. He did a really good job. I thought that he was a bit slow coming back in, so I blew the recall, but I don’t think that would have been necessary.
Then it was time for yet some heeling and after having made an about turn (so that we now had the lake behind us), it was time for the sweeping up. This part was too difficult both for us and nearly all the other dogs this time. No wind what so ever meant that it was really hard to go deep and when he finally got out far enough, he wasn’t persistent enough and didn’t make sure to get everything. He was also tempted by the water behind us (the bank was part of the sweeping up area, but not the rest of the lake), but even after having gotten the game that was placed there (a gull), he kept wanting to go back. After having retrieved three birds, we got to turn around for yet another water mark and then cast him back out to hunt again. After many tries where there was nothing, we had gotten all the game but the rabbit. Even though he was just a couple of yards from it, he never got scent of it and the judge pulled us out. I think only one or two dogs of all the 16 that were in the trial that fetched all the game, and not one dog got a first prize. The conditions were really difficult.
He solved keeping calm really well, even if he does find that very difficult according to himself. After the trial, the judge Sören Svärdh gave us good feedback. The judge was really nice and supportive through out the trial. I love his diplomatic comments and way of putting things, especially referring to our heeling as ”somewhat airy”. Yes, well, to say the least! It probably looked liked we hadn’t worked on heeling at all, and yet we do that a bit every day. But we haven’t done it enough in a trial situation.
Here’s Seeker’s critique: ”Male that exhibits good marking skills and a nice retrieve. He needs to show higher efficiency in his independent hunting.”
All in all I’m very happy with our debut. Considering how much I’ve been working with his deliveries it felt lika a huge victory to be able to trial at all – and have great delivieres throughout the whole trial. ? (You can read more about ”The Great Delivery Challenge” here). The judge also wrote “Great deliveries” in the critiqe and that really shows that the training has worked! He also retrieved all game beautifully, was very steady, did great marks and followed me when we were to move (followed me, even if he decided a bit too fast where we were going and started to move there ahead of me…) and did a good job sweeping up, but we obviously hadn’t practiced enough sweeping up in difficult circumstances so going out to the full depth of the sweeping up area with a distraction behind us that many times was too difficult for him. Until next time we’ll also work hard on the heelwork in difficult environments – it has to work one day!!
In the video below you can see some heelwork, two marked retrieves and part of the sweeping up. Unfortunately the camera man found heelwork to be very boring to record so that’s not in the video (I would have liked to have it to see more of what it looked like, next time I’ll instruct the camera man to record everything 😉 )