You’ll probably know it by know – I found more great stuff in the archives 🙂 This story is from 2017 when I was a game carrier at a spaniel field trial.
We’ve been to our first open class trial for spaniels. But we were on the standby list and never got to start… Which turned out to be an absolute win, because instead I got to be a game carrier and walk closely behind the judge.
If you’ve been to a spaniel trial, you know that the spectators get to move about 50 yards or so behind the dog team and that you don’t really see anything of what’s going on. You might see a bird taking off after the dog has flushed it, but that’s all.
Walking behind the judge is like being the steward that takes note at an obedience trial. You get to hear everything that is said to the team and you see everything. It’s so incredibly instructive! Everybody should get a shot at trying it. ?
The judge was Jörgen Andersson, who himself has a lot of spaniel champions and who I have attended seminars with before. He is, in my opinion, incredibly wise and has an enormous knowledge bank. In addition, he has qualities that I hope all judges have; he is kind to the participants, he tries to make everyone feel comfortable (which can be really valuable, people are often quite nervous) and he is also keen to give the team a good experience as far as possible. I got to see, among other things, how he managed to get a person, whose test was over in 15 seconds because the dog went out of hand directly, to leave the situation with (I think) a pretty okay feeling anyway. Jörgen really gave a great pep talk and it seemed that the handler felt better afterwards, realizing that it was simply time to go back home and work on what didn’t work today. Such good work on Jörgen’s side!
Now I also know that anything can happen on a test. Out of the twelve starting teams, all but one team was disqualified. Almost all the dogs were out of hand, in one way or another. Certainly, a good performance requires training and it certainly helps to have experience, but you do also need a sprinkle of luck… or at least not too much bad luck, in order to get it right. ? But I do like the quote by the former Swedish skier Ingemar Stenmark: “The more I train the luckier I get”.?
Based on my experience of the day and what I learned by looking at others (both what was good and what didn’t work so well) and by hearing the judge’s comments on the different teams, I have made some reflections about me and Tassla’s and my training. I’ll pay extra attention to the following in the future:
- I have to work up a much safer and more resilient turn signal, which Tassla will turn on regardless of the situation. My goal is to not use my whistle at all, but if I have to, I want it to be bulletproof.
- I need to shape up when it comes to working on our casting. I need to be able to cast her on longer and straighter lines, and we really need to work on our push backs. Not least in weathered soil.
- Overall, we need to work on blind retrieves a lot more. I lost count of how many flushes I saw this weekend where the dog couldn’t mark the fallen game simply because the dog was in a thicket were it couldn’t see what was going on.
- I need to get even better at not using the whistle when I don’t need to.
- I’m going to think about not moving too fast, pushing the dog in front of me – then she doesn’t have time to cover the ground.
- I’ll keep in mind that sometimes it’s smart to just walk on, quickly, to get a flush and keep the dog in hand for the entire time.
- Remember that it can be over in 15 seconds. ?
- Tassla’s fitness needs to improve! Some runs lasted for over 20 minutes, then the dog got to rest for an hour and then work again for another 20 minutes, all in really rough terrain or up and down out of ditches at full speed. Hard work!
- I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many pheasants in one place before and then I am born in Skåne (county with a lot of pheasants…). Sometimes there were pheasants almost running over our feet! That is a lot of scent. I need to practice keeping my dog in hand despite that. And first and foremost, teach her to not run in on scents.
- If I feel like I’ve lost my dog, I should take the responsibility of quitting. I don’t want my dog to rehearse a lot of the wrong things and I most certainly don’t want her to flush when she’s almost out of hand – then I’ll most certainly lose her …
- I need to work on being able to tell the difference between when Tassla is just running in on scent and when she actually has scent that will lead to a flush. She has different patterns of movement in the different situations, but everything goes so fast that I can confuse them.
- If I want to continue taking photos of spaniels in action I have to get myself a camera with faster processor. ? Most of the photos I took looked like this:
In a few weeks we hope that we are lucky enough to get to test how our training works at another trial, if we get a spot. Until then it’s just training all the way!