Tri­als of Ted

Nick Ri­d­ley has taken the plunge and de­cided to see how Ted goes in a cou­ple of work­ing tests.


“I have been con­cen­trat­ing on Ted’s obe­di­ence, re­triev­ing and steadi­ness”

Ifind dog train­ing at this time of the year quite frus­trat­ing. The net­tles started grow­ing very early this sea­son and it is be­com­ing more dif­fi­cult to find areas to hunt Ted. I have one small rough grass field that I use and that is okay at the mo­ment, but I know that it won’t be long be­fore the this­tles start to grow through and ob­vi­ously that will limit what ex­er­cises I can do with him.

How­ever, all is not lost and I have taken the plunge and de­cided that next month I will see how Ted goes in a cou­ple of work­ing tests. Due to the way the Sport­ing Gun dead­lines work, by the time you read this I will in fact have run him in a puppy spaniel test and a test for re­triev­ers (but spaniels can en­ter). To be quite hon­est it has been more than 11 years since I ran a dog in a work­ing test and I have only en­tered two in all the time I have had gun­dogs. About 25 years ago, Meg, my very first springer, gained a first place at the Mid-Herts Gun­dog Club sum­mer work­ing test – to put that in per­spec­tive she was the only spaniel to be en­tered and con­se­quently won best spaniel! Sweep, our lit­tle 12-year cocker, was never cut out to be a “test dog”, es­pe­cially where speed was go­ing to be a win­ning fac­tor. How­ever, when she was just nine months old I did run her in a Game Con­ser­vancy Test and she sur­prised the life out of me when we got awarded third place in the puppy test, and that was up against quite a few dogs.

Right at­ti­tude

I should say that since these two-mi­nor suc­cesses there have been plenty of em­bar­rass­ing mo­ments, es­pe­cially at var­i­ous gun­dog scur­ries and I even­tu­ally came to the con­clu­sion that nei­ther I or my dogs were cut out for the com­pet­i­tive side of work­ing gun­dogs. So, I hear you ask what has changed my mind – well the an­swer is re­ally quite sim­ple, Ted!

Over the past 12 months he has been con­stantly show­ing me that he may have the right at­ti­tude and per­son­al­ity to deal with work­ing in dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions and sit­u­a­tions and he can be very fo­cused. Dur­ing his train­ing, I have been de­vel­op­ing his con­fi­dence to the point that when I give him the com­mand “get out” or “get back” he to­tally be­lieves that there is some­thing for him to find and re­trieve, so my hope is that this will stand him in good stead in the work­ing tests. How­ever, the sit­u­a­tion may not be quite that straight for­ward.

I hap­pen to know the ground the spaniel test is be­ing held on and I sus­pect the puppy hunt­ing test will be run in some

open ground. There is plenty of white grass and rough reedy areas, how­ever, I know Ted as­so­ciates this type of cover with his re­triev­ing ex­er­cises and this is where I could re­ally come un­stuck. My main train­ing field has quite sim­i­lar cover and, as I have men­tioned in pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cles, I have been re­ally con­cen­trat­ing on Ted's obe­di­ence, re­triev­ing and steadi­ness – most of this has been done in open rough grass areas, hence the con­nec­tion. I have also come to re­alise that he is the kind of dog that is go­ing to need some scent un­der his nose to re­ally get him go­ing and that isn’t un­usual for cock­ers, but I sus­pect that there will be very lit­tle ground scent about for the work­ing test. Although thi­sis go­ing to be the same for all the com­peti­tors, I do have con­cerns that he may be a bit sticky and keep look­ing at me rather than get­ting his nose down and get a wig­gle on. So, in an­tic­i­pa­tion, I have been chang­ing my train­ing regime.

Bar­ren hunt­ing

Some years ago, I re­mem­ber Sport­ing

Gun’s Gra­ham Watkins show­ing me how he got his Game­goer dis­play spaniels hunt­ing on bar­ren show grounds. Ba­si­cally, he would take a hand­ful of grass and roll it in to a very loose ball and then with the dog sit­ting next to him he would throw it in to an area of rough ground, he would then cast the dog off with and make a “pssssh­h­h­hing” noise to en­cour­age the dog to hunt. It was amaz­ing how it worked and over a pe­riod of time it would “con­di­tion” the dog to hunt when it heard the noise and Gra­ham would just oc­ca­sion­ally drop a ten­nis ball for the dog to find so that be­came the re­ward for it hunt­ing.

I have been try­ing this with Ted and so far I am hav­ing some re­ally good re­sults. I have found that if you don’t roll the grass too tight it will break up when it hits the ground and I just add a lit­tle bit of saliva to cre­ate a bit of scent. Af­ter just a few days of try­ing this he is be­gin­ning to get his nose down and is start­ing to get re­ally stuck in. I have been ei­ther drop­ping a ball or some cold game for him to find so hope­fully all the dots will start to join up. To re-en­force mat­ters, I have been drop­ping his find on a turn whis­tle, so ev­ery time he re­sponds to the two pips he finds some­thing. My only con­cern is that in the work­ing test I am not sure if I will be al­lowed to pluck some grass, spit on it and throw it down be­fore hunt­ing Ted – I may just need to check on the rules!

Af­ter a few days Ted be­gan to get his nose down and started to re­ally get stuck in

Cold game

Nick has been us­ing cold game as a re­ward for Ted to find

new regime

To an­tic­i­pate Ted look­ing at Nick rather than get­ting his nose down, Nick has changed his train­ing

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