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Carlin SWA plus SCE!

Carlin and I had a great time at the Idaho Capital City Kennel Club‘s scent work trials this weekend. We got off to a slow-ish start on Saturday, but totally picked up steam today.

Carlin with ribbons

Yesterday (Saturday), Carlin went to extremes. In trial 1, he placed first in Container Excellent, but then NQ’d in Buried Advanced. Then, in trial 2, he NQ’d in Container Excellent but qualified with a 3rd place in Buried Advanced.

The qualifying runs, he earned without doubt. His indications that he’d found the hides were clean and unambiguous. In Containers Excellent, he sniffed and pawed the three correct containers, totally ignoring the food distraction and the toy distraction. In Buried Advanced, he briefly pawed the correct dirt boxes and sat next to them. He did pick up the tennis ball distraction, but quickly dropped it when I told him to leave it (which pleased and amazed me).

Our NQ-ing the other Containers Excellent and Buried Advanced were mostly on me. In Containers, his indication on the third hide looked half-hearted, so I asked him to keep searching. He randomly picked a container that I had stopped and stood next to instead. Well, the one he initially indicated was correct and the random one was not. Buried Advanced was similar. I didn’t quit moving, but he had a hard time finding the second hide, but finally he picked one. I called it, and we were wrong.

But Sunday, the boy was amped. He whined and wanted to start searching NOW! Usually, I take a bit of time at the start line while I switch his long line from his collar to his harness. I think that gives us a moment to breathe and collect our thoughts. But Carlin wanted to GO NOW! And in all four searches, he found his hides quickly and accurately.

The first search was a Containers Excellent, with the containers set in a 4 x 5 grid. I hate grids. Carlin usually just blasts into the center of all the containers and starts searching from the middle of the grid. That makes it very hard for me to remember where he’s searched and where he hasn’t. But in the first trial, Carlin decided to be methodical, searching up one row and back down the next in a zig zag pattern. He ignored the toy and food distractions and found each hide. I called them correctly, and we were done in just under 27 seconds for a 1st place.

Honestly, I don’t remember the day’s first Buried Advanced search. The ribbon sticker says it happened in 28:15 seconds for a 3rd place.

With the 2nd trial of the day, I was feeling nervous. If he passed the Containers Excellent, he’d get an SCE (Scent Work Containers Excellent) title. If he passed Buried Advanced, he’d finish both the SBA (Scent Work Buried Advanced) and the SWA (Scent Work Advanced) titles. I realize having titles isn’t everything, but still, they show how hard we’ve worked and how talented Carlin is, so I wanted them.

And lo and behold, Carlin qualified in both. This time Containers Excellent was set in a circle, the toy distraction was totally hidden inside the container. In previous trials, judges have set the toy so that exhibitors could see at least part of it, and know to not call a find on that container. But not this judge. So I’d have to just trust my dog to find odor, and not the toy or the food. And he did it! It took us two turns around the circle, but he found and indicated all three hides in 37:28 seconds, completely ignoring the toy and the food, for a 1st place.

In Buried Advanced, he found both hides in just under 34 seconds for a 4th place. I didn’t believe his first indication, and I wanted to be very conservative, so asked him to keep searching. He correctly indicated a second box of dirt pretty quickly. And then he bee-lined it back to the box he first indicated, sat down smartly, and lightly pawed the box. This time I believed him, called it, and we got a “Yes” from the judge. I was a bit rattled, because this was the qualifying run I really wanted so Carlin could get both the SBA and SWA titles. So for a few seconds, I forgot to say “Finish”. Then I remembered and said it, the judge said, “THANK you!” with some emphasis. I think she was worried I wouldn’t say that last crucial word.

I am so happy with Carlin’s performance. We’re both a bit tired, him because he worked hard for his Qs, and me because I chaired these trials. But we had a great set of volunteers to help get this weekend’s trials done and done well.

Now we can rest, until we start training for the next trials in early December. I’ve decided to try Handler Discrimination, so we’ll see how that goes.

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There were some great things about our recent hunting trip in eastern Montana. The Carlin and Tooey got to trot almost to their hearts’ content in the wild country without danger from snakes, ticks, or other dogs.

There were only a few cockleburs and grass awns, and those we got out from the dogs’ coats pretty quickly.

The stars at night were amazing. I’ve never seen the Milky Way so clearly, and the Big Dipper pretty much blew my socks off (not literally–it was too cold for that) with how close and crisp those stars appeared.

And the dogs found and flushed a few pheasants and sharptails.

But mostly, it was an unsatisfying trip. It was cold – really cold: in the low 20s F during the day, and 0 at night. The birds were few and far between. And it was very windy. Even though the dogs flushed a few birds, the north wind whipped them quickly up and out of gun range and off to the far southern horizon. Being November, the days were short, and we had a lot of driving between areas where we were permitted to hunt.

And then, there was that little trip to the vet…

A bit of back-story is in order: Almost 7 years ago to the day, Russ and I were hunting the Potholes in eastern Washington with Rod and Renae. We had their dog Rio along, and we had Cooper and Tooey. Tooey liked to cruise the edges of the ponds looking for whatever could be flushed or chased. And she found something – a porcupine. That porcupine got Tooey but good. We spent quite a while pulling quills out of her nose and muzzle. We got them all out, but as soon as we let her go, she ran right back toward that spot where the porcupine had been. She fully intended to get that porcupine for what it did to her. We called her off, and most reluctantly she turned away and came back.

But apparently, she has never given up her grudge against porcupines.

It turns out that porcupines like to eat the inner bark of trees. But until this last week, we didn’t know that. Both dogs were hunting in a draw crowded with bare, stunted trees. Fortunately, Russ was on the ridge right above them. Suddenly, he called out “Porcupine!”

The dogs had ventured into porcupine country. This is what I think went through their minds when Tooey encountered the porcupine. Tooey: “Porcupine! I am going to GET you, sucker.” Carlin: “I think I’ll go see what Tooey is looking at.”

Both dogs got quilled by the unhappy resident. Once Russ called out, the rest of us came running to grab the dogs and take them back to the truck, where we could try using a hemostat to pull the quills out.

But getting them out didn’t work so well this time. We finally muzzled Tooey with a rope during the operation, but it was clear that we wouldn’t get the ones out from inside her mouth. Carlin bit Russ on the thumb while Russ was trying to get the quills out, and besides, Carlin had a quill up one nostril.

So off to the vet we drove, a little office in Glendive, about an hour away from where we were hunting.

Dr. Jen at Dawson County Veterinary Clinic was awesome at getting those quills out. The vet also did a careful, thorough search of their paws (apparently, some dogs try to wipe the quills away from their muzzles and then get them stuck in their paws), ears, eyes, mouth, neck, and front legs.

Poor Tooey had to be sedated to get the quills out from the roof of her mouth.

She found several broken-off quills in both dogs, and pulled them out, too.

Based on what we’d just gone through, we were not surprised to hear that quill-pulling is a big part of Dr. Jen’s practice. One poor local dog apparently comes in once a month to have quills pulled. I guess some dogs never learn.

Like Tooey. I imagine that this incident will just intensify her grudge. I hope for Carlin, though. He’s not as happy to put up with pain as Tooey is.

Not sure how, but somehow Carlin got a grass awn in between his toes. And that awn dug far enough into that space that he developed a pus-filled cyst.

We had been out training the weekend, and if you’re going to train in the summer in southwest Idaho, there’s going to be cheat grass, complete with its signature nasty awn.

As I do every time after training, I use a blower to get the debris out from Carlin’s coat, including and especially from between the toes. Because this has happened before. Twice. Between the same two toes.

I didn’t notice that there was a problem until Saturday afternoon, just as my regular vet was closing.

Grass awns can cause a lot of damage. They can travel through the skin and tissues, even working themselves up to the lungs or heart.

So off to the emergency vet we went. They cleaned out the cyst, prescribed antibiotics and pain medicine, told us not to let him lick it, and sent us home. All to the tune of several hundred dollars.

By Monday, I was not happy, and neither was Carlin. He hated the plastic collar, which was meant to stop him from licking the sore. And it still looked red and inflamed to me.

So I took him to our regular vet. They cleaned it out again. Told us to let Carlin lick it if he wanted, and advised against the pain medicine if not needed. All for $15.00.

The area is looking much better now, and Carlin is running around like there’s nothing wrong. We’re both happier.

It was an all-dogs-all-the-time weekend. Often our weekends are that way, but this one was packed.

Agility

On Saturday morning, Russ took Carlin to beginning agility class. Apparently, Carlin is doing quite well and really enjoying it. I knew he would, and I’m very happy Russ has found a good instructor for it. Someday I’ll go watch, but I hear that they’re learning stuff in very small pieces.

Going for a walk

While they were gone, Tooey and I went for an hour-long walk while it was still cool. There’s this neighborhood to the south of us that I hadn’t explored yet, so was took the long way through the adjacent park, and then wound our way among the houses and streets. That section was not laid out in a grid, and it was full of dead ends and cul de sacs. I never did exactly get lost (I caught sight of a busy road that I recognized several times), but it wasn’t a straightforward walk. Tooey enjoyed it though, especially that last bit when I let her swim in our neighborhood irrigation canal. She looked for the ducks that often live in the reeds that line the bank, but none were to be found.

Bathe and trim (part one)

When we got home, Tooey got a bath and trim. She was filthy. As in, the-water-turned-brown filthy. As in, why-have-I-been-letting-this-filthy-beast-sleep-on-the-bed filthy. By that time of the morning, the temperature had already reached the high 90s F, so blowing her dry was mostly a formality. Although it does get the loose hairs out of her coat, which means I don’t have to do quite as much brushing and combing. With a light trim, Tooey was looking and smelling beautiful again.

Bathe and trim (part two)

When Russ got home, Carlin got a bath and a clip-down. He was dirty, but not nearly as dirty as Tooey. (Perhaps that’s because of her swim in the irrigation canal?) I haven’t been clipping Carlin down because I had still been harboring this fantasy that I might show him in October, but I finally realized that that’s not going to happen. He doesn’t like judges touching him, he’s worried about being so close to other dogs, and I don’t handle all that very well. And plus, there’s unlikely to be any IWS in the Boise shows in October, so there’d be no point in showing him. (You conformation folks will get the pun, eh?)

So he got clipped. His topknot and ears went down to about ¾”, and the rest of him to 3/8”. He looks very handsome to me. Plus he and I are training for hunting now, and a short coat makes it easier to get out the burrs, seeds, and grass awns.

The First End

After about 3-1/2 hours, both Carlin and I were done grooming. I had Russ’s delicious soup for dinner, did a load of laundry, watched TV for a bit, and went to bed.

It all started again on Sunday morning.

Scent work

My scentwork group all came over to my house early in the morning to practice. We did several Interior Advanced hides, a couple of Exterior Advanced hides, one vehicle search (which is not part of AKC Scent Work, but is done in some other organizations’ searches), a Handler Discrimination Novice search, and an Advanced Container search with extra containers. Carlin did well on all of them except Containers.

In Containers, he could not concentrate. The containers were on his lawn, he ran last after all the other dogs, and all he could think about was sniffing the grass to learn more about all the other dogs. Finding odor was just not of any interest at all. OK, so I guess we go back to basics in Containers on grass. Normally, I practice Containers on concrete, but I’m going to have to change my ways. Somehow.

Spaniel training

After lunch, Carlin and I then trucked off to a friend’s property to practice water blinds and hunt deads. Since by that time it had gotten really hot, we decided to do water work first. My friend is an accomplished retriever person, and she set up some fun land-water-land-water-land blinds for Carlin. They weren’t long blinds, but it did mean that he had to resist stopping to hunt around on the island. He’s been through this scenario before, and I didn’t have to handle him very much. If this had been a retriever hunt test, it would not have met the standard—I let him get way off the straight line from me to the bumper, but my goal was to get him down wind from the bumper so he could find it on his own. Which he did just fine, several times in multiple locations.

Then came the hunt dead. Carlin has never failed a hunt dead in a spaniel test, but he’s gotten himself way off course many times. Enough to push time limit to the very nubbins. Enough to raise my stress level considerably, and enough to lower his score by quite a bit.

In a hunt dead, the handler knows only vaguely where the bird is. The judge will say, for example, that the bird is somewhere in the arc formed by that distant that tree out there to the left and that fence post out to the right, and about 65 yards out from the line. So basically, you try to make some kind of educated guess as to where the bird might be, and then send your dog straight out in a line to a spot downwind from that spot. Of course, you have to guess where downwind is out 65 yards away—sometimes that’s obvious, but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the wind is moving differently out there. Or there may not be any breath of wind at all.

And in yesterday’s practice, Carlin did exactly right. We set it up so that Carlin would out into a cross breeze. I sent him in a line that would put him downwind of where I thought the bird was, he actually took that line, and then hooked a right when he winded the bird. Actually taking the line is what I was looking for. So, good boy!

Riding in the car

While Carlin and I were gone, Russ took Tooey for a ride in the car, which is a good thing in and of itself. He was looking for a DMV where he could maneuver the boat and trailer, so both could be licensed and registered in Idaho. Since this was a reconnaissance mission, there were no worries about leaving Tooey in a hot car. Just a nice air-conditioned ride on a hot sunny day.

the now-registered Spainnear Uisce (the boat), Tooey, and Carlin

The Ending End

By the time we all got home, it was time for dinner, a little TV, another load of laundry (to wash the dog bath towels), and bed.

Like I said, all dogs, all the time.

Carlin Superstar

“Carlin Superstar”. It’s one thing to think that in your own head about your own dog. It’s an entirely different thing when someone else says those words aloud. Particularly when they’re said by someone in a position to know. And yesterday, that’s what the judge said as Carlin and I walked out of the area of his third Exteriors Advanced search.

Exteriors Advanced had been a tough search for most of the dogs. Only two qualified, and Carlin was the fastest of the two with a time of 43:08 seconds and no faults. In Russ’s video, you can see from the movement of the spectators’ hair and the movement of the little pink flags that there was a definite breeze. I think the wind must have been swirling around the corners and into the alcove of the building.

It was still morning, so not too hot, and the search area was still in the shade. We were the 5th team to run, so the odor had been in place for at least 1/2 hour if not longer. And the course was set up so that the start line was downwind of both hides, which I think helped.

You can also see from the video how eager he is to go. Carlin is always eager to go. Even on the last run of the last day of a multi-day trial, he pulls me to the start line. He loves this game, just about as much as he loves Spaniel Hunting Tests.

Russ also took a video of Carlin’s second Containers Advanced run. This search took place about an hour and a half after the Exteriors search. The air was warmer, the asphalt was warm but not too hot, and the breeze was still blowing. This start line was set at 90 degrees to the wind direction.

I’d hoped to start Carlin on the most downwind row of containers (the row opposite the judge), but he had his own ideas. And as it turned out, that worked out great. The timer clocked him at 35:07 second, again with no faults, for another 1st place. This run, being the third in which he qualified, also earned him his Scent Work Exteriors Advanced title.

The Great Salt Lake Dog Training Club offered only Exteriors and Containers at the Advanced level in their trials this weekend, so since we were there anyway, I took Carlin out for another Exteriors run. Unfortunately, the battery on Russ’s camera gave out, so I don’t have a video of that one. But Carlin did well again, at 1 minute, 05:19 seconds for a 2nd place.

That one took a little longer, I think, because there was this big round pillar that captured the scent of one hide and gave him the idea that there were actually two hides along the brick wall that formed the boundary of the second search. It took a while for me to decide that he’d found that hide already, and take him to the other side of the course along the downwind edge. He caught that scent as soon as we got downwind, and alerted to it right away.

Our last run of the day was his third Containers Advanced run. Same three-rows-of-five setup, similar location in the parking lot, and what looked to me like the exact same containers. (I think they must have had several copies of the same containers, some “hot” with scent and some not.) This time the start line was set up at the corner of the search area, directly downwind. He finished this search in 34:09 seconds, for a 1st place and his Scent Work Containers Advanced title.

Carlin starting his Containers Advanced search

“Here’s one!”

“Here’s another one!”

Carlin floats off the search area

Today was a good day for Team Carlin

Finally cut it

Back when I got my first Irish Water Spaniel, Cooper, I had a lot of help learning to groom and trim the coat. Cooper was a wiggly puppy, not all that eager to be up on the grooming table at all, much less stand still while people were working with very sharp shears around all his tender spots.

One of my first teachers, Colleen, used to have me come to her house before dog shows so she could get my attempt at a trim into good shape.

Cooper and Colleen

When she got to trimming around his boy bits, I would hold them out of the way and cover them with my hands. I didn’t want him to be hurt, and I knew he’d never get up on the table again if he got cut back there. Colleen was very careful and always warned me when she was getting close.

“I don’t want to cut you,” she’d say.

“Better me than him,” I’d reply.

She never did cut me or him. As I observed and practiced, I got better, and since then, I’ve able to do a pretty good job without more than a minor nick on either myself or my dogs.

So, I was grooming Carlin yesterday. He doesn’t love standing still either. It was a nice day, so I had the door open. I had the shears out. One of my hands was shielding the hanging boy bits, and the other trimming nearby long coat.

And then something happened outside. Tooey jumped up and ran out into the back yard. Carlin jerked, and my finger got in the way of the tips of those very sharp shears just as they were closing. It was a small cut — I didn’t even notice it until later.

But the whole thing scared the crap out of me. He was fine, though, and my finger is already mostly healed.

Better me than him.

Now I know where Carlin’s heart is: Scent Work. How do I know this? The evidence occurred at last weekend’s Scent Work trial in Blackfoot, Idaho, put on by the Upper Snake River Valley Dog Training Club.

In the Advanced-level Scent Work classes, the judge can use a non-food distraction: a toy, a light, or a noise. The dog needs to be able to ignore the distraction and keep working to find the hidden scent.

This is harder for some dogs that others. Some dogs just can’t resist a tennis ball or a stuffed toy. And some distractions are more distracting that others. So when I saw a Dokken duck sitting in the very middle of the Advanced Exterior search area, my heart sank a bit.

A Dokken (officially known as a Dokken Dead Fowl Trainer) is a somewhat-lifelike imitation of a bird. Retriever and spaniel trainers use them for training their hunting dogs. A Dokken is about the size, weight, and coloring of a real bird, such as a duck, pheasant, or dove, but they don’t have feathers, and, unless you inject yours a special bird-scent compound, they smell like the plastic they’re made of.

example of Dokken Dead Fowl Trainer — image from Gundog Supply

In training for his hunting career, Carlin has been heavily rewarded for picking up and delivering Dokkens to hand. So I thought there was a distinct possibility that Carlin would pick up that Dokken and try to deliver it to me. It’s not against the rules for him to pick it up, but it is against the rules for me to touch him or the distraction. And if he found it so distracting that he couldn’t find his hides, then, well… Then we fail.

There’s not a lot I could do to deflect Carlin if he was determined to get that Dokken. He moves very fast in search areas, and often I can barely keep up with him.

So, I just took a deep breath, took a hold of his harness, told him to “Find it!”, and let him go.

And what did he do? He jumped right over the Dokken, and ran straight to the scent hidden under the edges of a plastic box set a couple of feet beyond the Dokken. Having found that and gotten his chunk of dried liver, he took off again, looking for the second hide, which he found expeditiously in the corner of a garage door frame.

The whole search took him 41.8 seconds.

Dokken?

What Dokken?

Now, of course, if the distraction had been a real duck, pheasant, chukar, or dove, the results would likely have been way different. But fortunately, using a real bird wouldn’t be allowed. So we’re safe there.

For the whole 2-day trial, Carlin did really well. On the first day, he got:

  • 2nd Place in Exteriors Advanced at 31.69 seconds.
  • 1st Place in Interiors Advanced at 49.13 seconds.
  • a Q in Buried Novice at 16.13 seconds.

On the second day, he got:

  • 1st Place in Exterior Advanced at 41.80 seconds.
  • 3rd Place in Container Advanced at 47.71 seconds.
  • 4th Place in Interior Advanced at 1 minute, 21.04 seconds.
  • 4th Place in Buried Novice at 17.30 seconds. This third pass in Buried Novice got him that element title. And having gotten his fourth Novice element Novice title means he’s earned the Scent Work Novice title (SWN).

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