Talent, or sheer luck?
Any trialler knows that the best dog doesn’t always win
Iwas chatting to a friend, a passionate trialler, who was reminiscing about past triumphs and disasters. “Of course,” he said, “you should never forget that trialling has little to do with finding the best dog: it is all about establishing which is the luckiest dog.” He was joking, but what made the joke funny was that there was so much truth in what he said.
Of all the sports I can think of, there is not a single one I know where luck plays such a major role as it does in trialling. In many ways it is part of the attraction, and it is certainly a major slice of the challenge. There is no doubt that a talented dog with an experienced handler always stands the best chance of success, but it is also true that the best dog doesn’t necessarily win. never failed to come back and has never shown any inclination to run away, something that some spaniels are prone to do.
However, we want an instant response that we are not getting, so have resorted to what are euphemistically called rewards and which we refer to as bribes. Universally used by owners of pet dogs but scorned by most gundog trainers, rewards do have their place in training. And switching from biscuits to offcuts of ham has certainly sharpened up her response.
Physically, Emma resembles her liver-and-white English springer dam rather than her lemon-roan cocker sire. She is small and though at nine months she may still grow, I doubt if she will get much bigger. I expect her to put on a couple more kilos in weight as she matures — she currently weighs a mere 10kg. She is much the smallest dog I have ever owned, and I am starting to appreciate the benefits of her compact size. Not only is she easy to pick up, she can comfortably share a travelling crate in the car with Rowan.
An indoor dog, she still spends much of her time in her crate — usually
The attraction of trialling was, I thought, captured perfectly by cocker enthusiast Andrew Robinson in a recent post on Facebook. “Field trials should not all be about winning. Sometimes trials should be about being happy with your dog’s performance. The trial I ran in yesterday was about being in good company in a nice place. It was also about watching two judges doing their utmost to give every dog the very best opportunity to succeed.
“I was delighted for the very pleasant guy who pipped me to the post (Jay was second) and, on the long drive home,
I was able to contemplate how lucky I am to be able to do this, and to have a little dog I think the world of.”
Andrew has made up five field trial champion cockers and judged the Cocker Championship twice, so he writes with the wisdom of many years of experience. He had been running his cocker Jay
in a novice trial held by the Kintbury Gundog Club. He reported that the following morning called her cage — in our kitchen, though often with the door open.
If there is one thing that has transformed puppy ownership it is the crate. Instead of having a puppy that can free-range in your house, you can keep the animal securely in the crate, preventing it from causing mayhem elsewhere. The crate gives the puppy a safe haven; Emma readily returns to it on command. She has never been a destructive puppy — the only serious casualty has been a pair of prescription spectacles — but the crate is responsible for keeping such losses to a minimum.
Reading this, you might well be fooled into thinking that Emma is a paragon of a puppy. Unfortunately she is not. She has a remarkable cat-like ability to jump and her party piece is to leap on to the laps of anyone sitting on the sofa. This, I reckon, is a reminder of her cocker parentage. As we have always had a rule of nodogs-on-furniture, we are not too pleased with this.
It was funny the first time but now the joke is wearing thin and the cure hasn’t been found. Any suggestions will be gratefully received. Jay was stiff and sore after hunting in heavy brambles, but still enthusiastic to be out picking-up. Andrew thought he deserved the day off but he doubted if Jay would agree.
It is always satisfying to win and most of us compete in our chosen sports with the aim of doing just that. However, in our quest for victory, we should never forget the pleasure and privilege of simply taking part.
I don’t think that I have ever had a dog that has made me laugh quite so much as Emma, as she is an entertaining and hugely sociable spaniel.
The challenge now, as she moves into the equivalent of her teenage years, is to turn her into a respectable gundog. I am working on it.
andrew Robinson’s cocker spaniel, Jay
emma (left) and Rowan have become firm friends