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.
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.
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
Nick has been using cold game as a reward for Ted to find
To anticipate Ted looking at Nick rather than getting his nose down, Nick has changed his training