Water test for spaniel – first trial

I looked through the archives once again and found a blog post from 2013 on Tassla’s first water test in – enjoy! 🙂

Today I have been away with Tassla and started at a water test!

Two trials were on the agenda: What is called the Beginner’s Water Test and Water Test B.

After all, it was Water Test B that I wanted after which I am qualified to start Open Class, which I hope I can do within a not too long future if everything feels good. It is possible to completely skip Beginner trial (field) if you want – though I don’t want to – and go directly to Open class. But one must have passed the Water Test first.

I was hoping for luck today. Last week I discovered, to my horror, that the times there are water tests within reasonable driving distance this fall were just today or a weekend in August when I am in Norrland at a wedding … So, I registered quickly and unprepared for this test – but freshly ventured …

Today’s test started with the simple water (Beginner’s water test). A shot went off, a duck was thrown out as far as the thrower was able to and then the dog should be sent after the judge gave the go-ahead. The water was completely open – that is, no water lilies or reeds.

Tassla was sitting steady and quiet when the shot and throw went. However, she flinched from the shot and later on I also noticed that she was a little wary of the shots. But I was SO pleased with the steadiness. You were also allowed to have the slip lead loosely hanging around the neck of the dog and I took advantage of that opportunity because I know Tassla is so hungry for water. Therefore, I was very surprised when Tassla then, at my command, ran to the water’s edge but there hesitated long and well to jump in!

As I am used to obedience training – where you stand as a pillar of stone and do not say beep and certainly do not give any extra cues – I remained silent five meters away. Thank you oh, the judge told me to help her so I ran forward and peeped her to get in. In the end she slithered in from the cliff edge. ? (I should have bathed her before the test of course!)

Then she splashed her way to the bird. Tassla has had an incredibly strange swim style that looks as if she is drowning. She splashes lots with her front legs and lies sort of vertical in the water. This summer, however, we have managed to get rid of it by swimming a lot with Totte. He swims very calmly and nicely and he gladly swims around for any length of time just enjoying it. So, Tassla has got to hang on and become calmer and calmer and thereby got a good swimming technique.

But now she stretched her neck – must try to see the bird – and ended up in that splashing again. After splashing her way to the bird, she also managed to push it a few times with her whisking front legs, but after swimming a lap around it, it was as if she realized she was going to take it, took it and started swimming back.

Then she chose to get out of the water at an excruciating, difficult place at a cliff – puh – eventually managed to get up (the bird was GIGANTIC in the little cocker mouth) went half a meter, released the bird and began to chew it. It looked like she thought it was irresistible, she just had to taste a little and preferably have it a little for herself of course. Well, we were at a spaniel test and then you are allowed to talk almost as much as you want with your dog (imagine that, retriever folks!) so I peeped her in a big way and then she took it again and came in with it. I think I caught it in the air, sort of. But you also get away with that!

It REALLY was no beautiful display anywhere this – but we were approved anyway.

Then came the difficult water test. I looked a little at the dog before me and got almost a little heart palpitation of what I saw. I have a problem. I am afraid of water. I am not a good swimmer and have always been afraid of water. I do not swim under water etc. And therefore I think it is very uncomfortable when my dogs swim away far out on water where I can’t stand on the bottom. Not to mention swimming among water lilies and such scary things. And I knew it would come now, and Tassla has swam in lots of water lilies this summer, though not so far from me.

Now a shot was fired, a man who hid in a boat in the reeds about 100 meters away (no of course not but it felt like 100 meters but it was possibly 50? Or 30?) quacked and threw out a duck among the water lilies. Tassla sat very steady now as well, waited for my cue and left to fetch it. This time she was faster into the water but there was still some hesitation.

And then she started swimming. Now the splashing had disappeared! Good! She swam the entire loooong way over the open water and into the water lilies and when she was five meters from the bird it was as if she realized that this was probably a little far away anyway (projection?). So then she turned. To my great surprise, however, I managed to turn her back on my push back (one hand up in the air and “cast” her back) and this not only once but three times. The surprise came because I trained this very little and only on land. But the fourth time she had decided that it was time to return to the base and she came back without the bird.

Had we been lucky enough to have head wind, then I don’t think she had turned. She would not miss the opportunity to take a bird. But, but you can’t rely on luck – you have to practice. ?

And we haven’t done that enough. SO; now we have LOTS of good answers to what we need to train so we are better prepared next time. No surprises, that feels good. I detest being surprised in training – when behaviors that I do not understand at all where they come from show up. We will have these training campaigns for a while:

1. Shots. Tassla was affected by the shots that went off. I’ve noticed this before. She doesn’t care if we are at a shooting range and there are shots all the time. But if there are occasional shots she can get a little affected. So, we will be working on changing that feeling! I don’t think this will be a problem, because I have worked her through other sound wariness in obedience and she manages it very well. I have three strategies. Play, food and walks / coffee training. (I promise to describe them on another occasion).

2. Getting used to game. Tassla is not comfortable enough with game. She has a mix of terror and delight and has a somewhat violent approach to it. I will continue on the road we’ve started in the game training which is very much about letting game become a “normal” part of the training. I roam around with game on walks, let her carry it, sit and drink tea with the game and the dog next to me.

3. Marking ability / casting on water. I think Tassla has a very good marking ability on land. Now we just need to transfer it to the water and that there may be long marked or blind retrieves where she has to swim far away from me to pick up. I will try to get some help from the wind initially, I think, so she gets scent in her nose when she swims out. Then I will probably borrow Elsa’s rubber boat I think! Then I have to mind this with expectations of water. It could easily become far too overcharged (and then we risk getting noise + that she runs in) so some water work must be about working just by water, not in it.

4. Delivery to hand. For a while Tassla’s deliveries have become a little worse (she let’s go a little too early so I have to catch the object in the air) but now we are getting them back on track. I really believe in so the idea of brainwashing the deliveries – that’s the last thing to do in a long chain. And now we need to work a little more on deliveries with game. I think I will do a transition – wing-clad dummies for example. Slightly smaller, frozen birds that “hold together” a little better and are not so nice to chew on. ? And “strange” dummies with “bird feeling”.

I feel very satisfied and happy with the day. Tassla has just retrieved game in water once before. She has never had shots in training before. She is not comfortable enough with game. So, I put her in the face of incredibly difficult challenges. I got it a little bad conscience for that at first, but I thought before I started the test that I would not destroy anything with this test – and I probably didn’t either. I just got a lot of good information about what I need to take responsibility for training for next time.

My nice test companions informed me that more water tests have come out in our area now, and if we only get a little more training done we can probably pass even the difficult water test during late summer / early autumn if we want to. It will be very fun to try again – whenever it is – but even more fun it will of course be to figure out and doing some really good training before then!

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