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Carlin has done some good spaniel work in hunt tests over the years. And we are fortunate that he’s been recognized for his talents:

I particularly enjoyed his winning the Trucker trophy because Carlin won it from a club originally founded to promote the traditional spaniel breeds: English Springer, English Cocker, American Cocker, Sussex, Field, Clumber, and the like.

Irish Water Spaniels in the United States have not really been seen as a traditional spaniel breed; they’ve occupied a weird space: being named spaniels but being classified by the AKC as retrievers. Carlin, and the other IWS that have competed in spaniel hunt tests or hunted upland birds afield, have reminded anyone who has forgotten that IWS can and do excel as flushing spaniels.

But now it’s time to pass the Trucker trophy on to another spaniel, an English Springer this time. We took one last photo and then sent the trophy on to Lynn and her Sky to enjoy.

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A couple of weekends ago, my friend and I tried burying scent vessels in the dirt so that we could practice Scent Work Buried Excellent with our dogs. (The scent vessels contain the swabs that have the odor on them — the vessels prevent the odor from coming into direct contact with the dirt.)

It mostly went OK until we tried to pull the scent vessels (1″x2″ test tubes) out of the ground. I had tied fishing line onto the vessels and thought I could use that to pull the vessels out of their holes. I figured, if the fishing line could withstand a fighting fish, it ought to withstand my pulling a small test tube out of the ground.

But no. The fishing line broke, and when it broke, we lost visual contact with where exactly the vessel was buried. (Losing visual contact is actually the point, or at least will be. During a scent work trial, neither the dog nor the handler is supposed to be able to see where the vessels are buried.) We’d make a mental map of our search area, so we knew sort of where the vessel should be, but we ended up having to dig around a bit to find it. Definitely not a leave-no-trace situation.

Part of the reason why the fishing line broke was that we hadn’t actually dug holes first and then dropped the vessels in the holes. We dug very short holes, but mostly we had to push the vessels the rest of the way into the ground, and they got stuck in the mud.

Thus, no holes + fishing line = stuck vessels. Not good.

So I redesigned my vessels and got myself an auger to dig holes that are just a bit bigger than the vessels.

augur

I drilled a small hole in the bottom of each test tube. (There was already a hole in the tube’s lid.) I then strung mason’s twine through the tubes, making a big double stopper knot at the bottom to keep the test but on. I also added a bead between two regular stopper knots about 3/4″ above the screw-off lid of the tube. That way, I can add a swab to the tube without losing the lid.

Then I put in a small knot at 6″ to help me be sure the swab inside the tube is 6″ deep. (When we get that far. Carlin isn’t able to detect scent buried that deep yet, but he’ll get there. I hope he gets there soon enough for the March trial, where he’ll be entered in Buried Excellent. The hides at that level are 6″ deep.)

I added another stopper knot at 8″ (that’s how deep the hides are in the Master level). Lastly, I strung a bead and another stopper knot that should help me grip the line so I can pull it out when the tube is at its deepest.

I used blaze orange twine with a little tape flag because I can see it when it’s peeking above the ground. At least for a while, I need to be able to see where the hides are so I can reward Carlin when he’s right. I also used orange because, theoretically anyway, dogs don’t really see orange as orange — they see it more like a gray. (Or at least, that is what I was taught by multiple retriever and spaniel trainers who all use orange dummies when they don’t want their dogs to see the retrieve object.)

Yesterday, I tested it all, putting the tubes out at 4″ deep. I used the augur to create 4 holes in a gravel-dirt mix area, put the vessels with swabs in them in the ground, and lightly filled up the holes with about a couple of inches of twine sticking out. I left them there for about 30 minutes to give the odor a chance to start moving.

Then Carlin and I came back to the area and searched. He had an easy time finding the ones that were not near any objects, and a bit harder time finding the ones that were near above-ground objects (logs, mostly). But eventually he found them all.

And even better, when I went back to pull the vessels out of the ground, they all came right up, with almost no effort. I replace the little bit of displaced dirt, and when I left the area, it looked like nothing had happened there at all.

Thus, augured holes + mason’s twine + good dog = success. Good!

The two dogs took Russ and me pheasant hunting today at the Payette River Wildlife Management Area. It’s the last day of the season, and they thought we might get lucky.

Well, we were lucky. We had a lovely walk along the river on a spectacular winter day. No birds, though. Unless you count the picked-clean pheasant carcass that Tooey retrieved. (Which I was foolish enough to not photograph before returning it to the wild.)

But we all had a good time. Here are some photos.


This last photo was taken at the same spot that the photo of Carlin was taken just a few days ago. (When Russ and Carlin had an equally lovely walk and just as many birds.)

Handsome Carlin

Carlin in the snow along the Payette River, Idaho, December 2018 — photo by Russ Dodd

Carlin is not a natural model like Cooper was. He doesn’t settle himself in front of a camera every time someone pulls one out, like Cooper did.

But Carlin isn’t shy, either. If a camera appears, he doesn’t hide.

He pretty much ignores the camera. And that means that there are quite a few pictures of Carlin, looking like his effortlessly handsome self.

When hiking through the foothills and countryside with our dogs, Tooey has always been vigilant and ready to run down cottontail rabbits or black-tailed jackrabbits. By definition, upland game includes not only a variety of birds, but also includes rabbits and hares. And Tooey has read the manual. She knows what to do when she sees a rabbit. But steady to flush is not in her vocabulary, so a full speed pursuit is in order until she runs it down or it eludes her.

The only thing that separates our property from our neighbor’s sheep farm is a chainlink fence. Tooey is mostly oblivious to the ewes, but is perfectly willing to go head-to-head with a ram if he stands his ground (they often butt heads at the fence).

So when Tooey barks at the fence, we know it’s not at the sheep. Her steady barking this morning got my attention. All the sheep were in the next pasture, and it first looked like her focus was on an empty pen. But then it turned out to be a visiting rabbit taking advantage of the spare hay in the sheep pen.

Such frustration! A rabbit that can’t be chased. It won’t run, and there’s a fence in the way. Darn it! No bunny pie for Christmas.

Buried is hard. Or at least, it seems to me that most dogs that try AKC Scent Work have a harder time with Buried than with Containers, Exteriors, or Interiors.

That has been true for Carlin, too. And now it gets harder.

Buried Novice and Buried Advanced has dogs searching for odor in boxes of dirt. Buried Excellent has three hides buried 6 inches deep in the actual ground. It’s a big leap — the dog has no familiar objects that he knows to search. I imagine that it just looks like nothing, or maybe it looks like Exteriors, where the dog searches above ground for hidden odor.

For Buried Excellent, the dog has to learn to search for odor underground. I’m hoping Carlin will be ready for Buried Excellent at my local Boise trials in March, so it’s time to get going with training. And today I finally got it together to bury some hides in the ground for Carlin.

Today, the three swabs are scented with Birch, Anise, or Clove — all odors Carlin is familiar with. I’ve placed each swab inside a plastic tube that has a lid with a hole in them. I’ve buried the tubes about 1/2 inch below the surface of the ground in the grass.

As you can see by the video, Carlin is indeed confused about what kind of search this is. I am using a different cue (“search dirt”) rather than my usual one (“find it”). But seeing no containers of dirt, I think he’s assuming this must be an Exterior search. But finally, he catches a whiff of odor at ground level.

He eventually found all three hides, but I helped him quite a lot: by restraining him so he wouldn’t leave the search area, by calling him over to where the hides were located, and by standing next to them.

Eventually, I won’t help him at all, and then that’s the case, then I’ll bury the hides deeper.

 

 

Tooey is 10 today!

Ch Stanegate Second Thoughts CD RN JH JHU RATN CGC WD WDX “Tooey”

My sweet Tooey Honey is 10 years old. She’s thicker in the middle (like me), moves a bit slower (like me), loves a wide variety of food (like me), and enjoys her walks (also like me). She also loves chasing the squirrels (I’ll leave that to her) and playing with Carlin, sometimes (I’m right with her there).

Every morning when the lights go on, she hops on the bed and gives me a lick on the nose. I hope I keep getting those licks for many more years to come.

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