On Sunday 7th May Ian took Tess to compete in the Chiltern Gundog Society Novice Test at Woodlands House near Marlow in Bucks. Around 30 novice dogs were entered to compete in a test that was set out on ground that comprised of ancient woodland.
I had worked to prepare Tess for this competition as the 2 previous tests we had entered recently had not resulted in any awards. This was due to minor issues that kept scores too low to be serious competitors to the eventual winners. However, I looked upon these two exercises as training days that became a great way to discover weaknesses. Those that read my last blog will recall that I set out my plan and aspirations for Tess in the item (dated 16th February) so I was content that our plan was on track.
When I arrived at Sunday’s test venue I was looking to try and achieve an award; whether that was a certificate of merit, 4th, 3rd or second, any of these would be success in my eyes. To win would be fantastic but mean of course that she would qualify out of Novice and become an Open standard dog and unable to continue to run at this level again.
There were 4 tests set out to complete;
Blind and marked retrieve
4 dog walk up. Each dog completing 2 retrieves to shot whilst remaining at heel and steady whilst the 3 other dogs completed their work
Double marked retrieve
Double blind retrieve
At the completion of the tests I was content that Tess had run well and should be there or thereabouts to pick up an award. At the announcement of the awards I was overjoyed to learn that we had been placed first and a clear winner with a score of 77/80, and beating second place by a clear 3 points! Now that she has qualified to run as an Open dog my work starts again to raise her to a level to be able to compete with some very experienced dogs and handlers.
As I said in February I wanted her to be at this level by the time the shooting season starts, the reality is that we have arrived a bit sooner than expected and am now looking to find some Open competitions to give her a run in, watch this space!
Now the season has ended I have been thinking about how my picking up season has turned out. This year was the first in many that I only had one dog fit and ready to work, as a result I had to alter my strategy somewhat with the shoots I work on. My fellow pickers up were very supportive of the position I found myself in and stepped up to take my place where more than 1 dog is required to cover certain areas of ground. I am pleased to say that ‘Tess’ my young Labrador, who only turned 2 in late November has been great, ably developing experience and confidence over the 38 days picking up she has completed this season and carrying out some brilliant retrieves including Pheasant, Partridge, Duck, Woodcock and Hare. It really made a nice change to concentrate on just one dog this year and ensure her progress was nothing short of careful management.
The 4 shoots I regularly attend include bags that range from around 50 and up to and in excess of 200 so lots of opportunity to build competence with careful guidance. The only sour note was Tess’ collision with the barbed wire fence whilst hunting down a runner resulting in 4 stitches to her brow in mid January. However, she recovered quickly to finish the last 2 days of the season.
Now the time has come to push Tess on in preparation for the series of Spring and Summer working tests and build on the awards she gained last year in ‘special puppy’ category. I hope to be able to get her to the required standard to achieve awards in Novice category this year and hopefully have her to ‘Open’ dog standard by the time next shooting season commences. She enjoys training so my plans look to develop her abilities to match what I believe she needs to improve on.
for Tess to be tighter to me when at Heel
to have a solid and quick response to the stop whistle, particularly at long distance
to be able to push her out in a good straight line on ‘blinds’ to well over 150 yards
Her water work is very good already. She retrieved 2 pheasant blinds on our last shoot day from water, having to be pushed back through dense dry reeds and swim out onto open water, both in view of a collected gallery of guns and beaters resulting in warm comments for good work. So all in all a positive season with more training to come if Tess is to meet the potential she is capable of.
I hope your season went well and have planned ahead accordingly for training in the coming months as the days lengthen and get warmer!
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