Russ, Cooper, Tooey, and I were just finishing the land portion of our field training at St. Louis Ponds, when who should drive up but some of our “exotic” hunt training friends.
There was not a Labrador Retriever among them (hence, the “exotic” label). Hank and Holly brought their Master Hunter-level Poodle, Laney, and their 17-week-old Poodle puppy, Taura. Dave and Liz brought their Poodle, Maxie, and Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, Bugsie. So after some happy conversation, both among the canines and the humans, we all walked over to one of the ponds to set up some water work.
We did doubles and singles in the water for the experienced dogs, as well as several blind retrieves for Laney. Laney’s blinds were pretty long — giving her a nice water workout. She also had one very long blind that required her to pass by a bumper on the shore and keep swimming toward the bumper she had been directed to. Good girl!
Bugsie also needed work on entering the water at a narrow angle — a task often required for Senior Hunter (ACK) or Seasoned Hunter (HRC) levels of work. It can be a challenge to persuade a dog to go straight out to the mark at a narrow angle to the land. Often, they want to first run along the bank and then take a wider angle into the water. Cooper has this issue, too, but we didn’t practice it today.
The puppy Taura got to work on some short retrieves into the water — I think she entered into the water channeling her inner Irish Water Spaniel — no hesitation, just an all-out leap. She even brought the dummy back to within a few steps of her handler.
Tooey did very nicely on her water retrieves. She dropped the dummy only once and she delivered each one to hand. She did get somewhat turned around on one mark, and that was as a result of Cooper’s behavior.
Cooper had been acceptably honoring the other dog’s work. This is still really, really difficult for him. Russ had to remind him to stay down from time to time, and Cooper quivered the whole while, but he managed to remain in place.
But after watching all the other dogs go, Cooper’s seeing Tooey leap into the water after her mark was just too much for him to bear. He broke, got corrected, and yelped at the correction. The yelp threw Tooey off, and she started swimming away with the bumper instead of returning to me.
I whistled and called her. She swam away and then in circles. I whistled and called some more. After another moment, she came to her senses, and returned to me. But this was odd — in coming back, she went wide around the area of water where she had been when Cooper yelped.
It wasn’t a wonderful water retrieve, but that yelp made it a challenging one. I didn’t like the swimming-away behavior, but Tooey did come back and she did deliver the dummy to hand under these challenging circumstances. She got a piece of the coveted dried chicken for that.
And then, Cooper had another turn at a water retrieve. Even with the recent correction, he had no hesitation. His leap into the water was every bit as dramatic as the one shown on this blog masthead.
With that, we were all wet, happy, tired, and out of time. Time to stop, and go home.