Cooper’s first hunt test was at the Whistling Wings Spring 2010 hunt, located at Pepper’s Retriever Grounds. It was a UKC test, and Cooper was going for his first pass toward his Started Hunting Retriever title. To get his first pass, he had to succeed at doing 4 retrieves: 2 water retrieves and 2 land retrieves.
The water retrieves were set up at a small pond that had both “running water” (water too shallow to swim in) and “swimming water.” You can see the cluster of people at the water’s edge in the picture below. That spot at the edge is where the line was set up — that’s where the dog is sent from and returns to.
The water portion of the test consists of two single retrieves — a duck is launched, the dog goes out, grabs the bird, and comes back, and then a second duck is launched, which the dog also retrieves. In this case, the first duck was launched into the shallow area of the pond, just to the right of the small island. That retrieve was about 40 yards. The second duck was launched into swimming water to the left of the island — a retrieve of about 60 yards. At the left side of the photo above, just to the right of the lady in the purple coat, you can just see the blind behind which the second duck launcher is hidden.
Cooper was the 6th dog to go. He and Russ walked from the last holding blind (seen in the picture above) down to the line at the edge of the pond. At Russ’s signal, a person sitting behind the blind, seen at the far right of the photo below, blew on his duck call, and launched the duck. While the duck was in mid-air, the gunner to Russ’s right (not seen in the picture) shot a 12 gauge blank in the direction of the duck. After the duck splashed into the water, the judge said, “Dog,” Russ said, “Cooper,” and Cooper leapt into the water.
Cooper zeroed in on the duck, fetched it, turned around, and came back to Russ…
… who, with an extended left arm and pointed finger, visually signaled Cooper to come to heel.
Even though UKC rules for a Started Hunter Retriever test require only that the dog return the bird to the start area, Cooper has been trained to deliver the bird to hand. That means that he holds the bird gently in his mouth until Russ takes it from him.
photo by Chris Rotell
After the first duck, Cooper successfully retrieved the 2nd duck. We left the area, just hoping that Cooper and Russ had done their parts to the judges expectations, without breaking any rules. We wouldn’t find out until after the land retrieves, which I’ll talk about in the next entry.
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