And we have the paper to prove it!

You can read about her CGC test in an earlier post. It was part of the 2016 IWSCA National Specialty fun, and we both did great.

Is she asleep?

“Is she still asleep? I’m hungry.”

“I don’t know. She doesn’t smell awake. And she hasn’t stretched yet.”


“Well, it’s 5:30 AM. Time to get up. Time to go out. Time for breakfast.”

“So, what do we do.”

“How about I hold her down, and you lick her.”

“Yeah, okay. That should work.”

“Probably. It worked yesterday.”

Ch. Tabaka’s Tilt The Balance CDX WDX SH, “Trucker”, must have been a memorable dog. I haven’t found out much about him on the Web, but I do know that he was owned and bred by Ruth Tabaka of Washington state. Whelped in 1982, he was a versatile dog. He was the first show champion American Cocker Spaniel to earn a Senior Hunter title. On top of that, he has a CDX obedience title and a Working Dog Excellent certificate. There is a little info about him, plus the history of spaniel hunt tests, in Dusting Off History to Look at Cocker Hunting Tradition by Bobbie Kolehouse, published in the Spaniel Journal (accessed 5/15/2016).

I understand from my fellow Mt. Rainier Sporting Spaniel Association members that Ruth Tabaka was instrumental in getting spaniel tests going, likely a difficult task since they seem to have been resisted by AKC spaniel parent clubs and field trial clubs. And according to Kolehouse’s article, Ruth also “developed a introduction to gundog training as a guide for people interested in beginning fieldwork and judged field events.”

So why is this important to me, an Irish Water Spaniel person who is unlikely to ever own an American Cocker? Well, it’s because today, at the Mt. Rainier Sporting Spaniel Association training day, Carlin was awarded the club’s Trucker Memorial Field Challenge Trophy.

Carlin and trophy

Back in year 2000, Karyn and Steve Eby commissioned Karen Lee to paint a portrait of Trucker, and then presented it to the club as the Trucker Trophy, to be awarded each year to the club member’s dog that earns the most points from spaniel hunt test passes: Master=3 points, Senior or WDX=2 points, and Junior or WD=1 point. And in 2015, all his passes earned Carlin the most points and the trophy for that year.

Russ and I split the handling duties for those tests, and I am so pleased for all of us. And so for this upcoming year, Ruth Tabaka and her Trucker can serve as inspiration for our continuing (and not always this successful) work with Carlin.

The Mount Rainier Sporting Spaniel Association held a training day this Sunday at Scatter Creek, Washington. We thought that it would be a good opportunity to run Carlin through his paces and see if he was ready to move up to Master level spaniel tests. In addition to all the skills he needed to get his Senior Upland title, he now needs to be steady to flush and shot, make a longer “hunt dead” blind retrieve, and also a water blind retrieve. Our primary concern was his being steady to the flush and shot.

We are getting closer. The land series was set up with two gunners and Carlin ran big, covering a lot of ground, with frequent whistle reminders to turn and return to the course. He found and flushed his birds, and was mostly steady (with a whistle reminder) with a bit of forward motion rather than a butt plant. Both birds that he flushed were missed by the gunners and so no retrieves on those birds. A clipped wing pigeon was rolled onto the course which he picked up and trotted back for a delivery.

Carlin return with a pigeon

Carlin returning with a pigeon

Because he wasn’t rock solid at being steady, we have decided that it is premature for him to be entered into Master level hunt tests. And so we didn’t even bother with practicing on the water work.

But Ms. Tooey, who has been retired from the hunt test world after a disappointing attempt at Senior work last August, was given a chance to run the land series because she has been so patient while we focus our training on Carlin. There were two birds on the course, with Tooey and me in the middle and flanked by two gunners. I simply said “hunt it up” and off she zoomed, turning without prompts at each gunner. She knew what to do and needed no encouragement or handling. She found and flushed both birds, stayed steady to the flush, and both birds were dropped by the gunners. Tooey did laser line retrieves, returned with the birds, swung into the heel position and handed off the birds with the “drop” command. In other words, a perfect run.

Ms Tooey ready to hand off the bird

Ms Tooey ready to hand off the bird

Now we had already resolved not enter Carlin in the upcoming Spaniel tests at the end of the month, but Patrice had the idea that maybe we should bring Tooey out of retirement for another go at Senior level hunt tests. So before we had second thoughts, we filled out the entry form, wrote a check, and it goes out in tomorrow’s mail. Not the results we expected from today’s practice, but these are Irish Water Spaniels after all and one must learn not to be surprised.

And of course, the results from Tooey’s next hunt test may continue to surprise us in ways we have yet to experience. Stand by for updates in a couple of weeks.

Tooey’s Kind of Dog Show

The recent Irish Water Spaniel Club of America’s 2016 National Specialty was almost perfect for Tooey. She has competed in two previous National Specialties, one in 2010 and again in 2014. But in this show, she got to sit quietly in the grass, outside the ring, as a few dozen well-groomed IWS ran around in circles while she calmly scanned the horizon for ground squirrels.

When the show was over, we collected our picnic lunch and wandered over to the tables next to where the winner’s photos were being taken. While a number of IWS were in the queue to be photographed and while other folks were enjoying their lunch in the shade, Tooey became fixated on her most favorite thing in life.


A Chukar

This chukar was cruising under the picnic tables looking for a good source of food, oblivious to all the bird dogs in the immediate area. Just a mile away is the Prado Dog Recreation Park where sporting dogs are trained daily to go after game birds of all sorts. This is where we used ducks for the WC/WCX tests on Tuesday, and I am sure that this chukar was an escapee was from a Spaniel or Pointer test in the recent past.

Under the picnic table looking for chow

Under the picnic table looking for chow

Two things made this an amusing situation. First is that Tooey, who is often shy in crowds of dogs and people, locked onto this bird with laser focus and nothing else could distract her. The other odd thing, is that there were dozens of other IWS (aka bird dogs) who never saw, smelled, or became aware of this game bird at their feet and under their noses, literally.

Had I released Tooey, she would have bolted at full speed to try and make a capture of her favorite bird. But this being a very formal dog show with a significant number of non-hunters in the crowd, I subdued my urge to release the hound. But that is not to say we didn’t do some herding and tracking exercises.

A very taught leash is the only thing between this bird and lunch

A very taut leash is the only thing between this bird and Tooey

This county park in Chino Hills, while being the host site of the dog show, is not particularly friendly to off-leash dogs. There was a large lake next to the picnic area that does not allow swimming for the dogs. But because Tooey was good enough not to inhale the chukar in front of an audience, we took her down to the water and let her accidentally fall in and then swim down to a shallow area where she could easily get out of the water (and fall in again).


According to Tooey, this was one retrieve short of a perfect dog show.


Tooey CGC

Many years ago, I went through the CGC test with Cooper. But I’ve been avoiding it with Tooey for years now because she often take an inexplicable dislike for some dogs. I know some of the kinds of dogs she doesn’t like: dogs with pushed-in faces and pushy bitches. But I can’t always predict which dogs she’ll like and which she won’t. So I’ve been avoiding CGC tests because participants can’t predict or control which kind of dog their dog will encounter during the test.

imageOn the other hand, the chairwoman of this year’s IWSCA National Specialty encouraged me to enter. And Tooey is usually on her best behavior at Irish Water Spaniel events. As another IWS person said, IWS know their own. So I entered, and we lucked out. The dog she tested with was the mellow, veteran IWS boy, Presley, whom she ignored and who politely ignored her. And because of that and her past training, Tooey earned her Canine Good Citizen ribbon.

If you’re not familiar with the test, here is a recap:

Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger

Tooey sat politely when I asked her to, and stayed sitting while the evaluator, playing the “friendly stranger,” approached from the side. Tooey ignored her. Tooey was busy watching prairie dog holes, waiting for a rodent head to pop out.

Test 2: Sitting politely for petting

And she stayed sitting while the woman petted her topknot briefly. Tooey was still watching for prairie dogs.

Test 3: Appearance and grooming

Tooey is quite practiced at this, having let many, many people brush her over the years. She just sat there and let her ears be looked at, a brush be run down her back, and her front feet picked up. She did briefly look at the evaluator to assess what was going on, but then went back to watching for prairie dogs.

Test 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)

This one was easy. I gave Tooey the “right here” command (our version of a loose heel), and she walked right with me: forward, right turn, left turn, about turn, and stop.

Test 6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place

Tooey did this perfectly. She sat and downed just wonderfully. Then, I put her in a Sit and Wait, and walked the 20 feet away. When I turned around to come back, he was sitting there, straight and proud, just like the princess she is.

Test 7: Coming when called

I again put Tooey in a Sit and Wait and walked 10 feet away. I turned around to see that proud princess pose again, and when I called her, she trotted directly to me. Not into front position as in obedience competitions, but that’s not required. I think by now the prairie dogs were temporarily forgotten.

Test 8: Reaction to another dog

This is the exercise because of which I’ve been avoiding the test for Tooey. Walking in control around other dogs is not predictably easy. In this test, we had to walk up next to another person/dog team, then have Tooey sit and ignore both the other dog and the other person, me shake hands with the person, and then both teams walk on. Presley was very calm, as I expected. That probably calmed me down as well.

Normally, participants don’t get to pick their test dog, but Presley was handy, so I (strongly) suggested him. He was perfect. (Thank you, Jill, for volunteering for Tooey’s test.)

Test 5: Walking through a crowd and Test 9: Reaction to distraction

For these tests, which were combined, there were four people: one in a wheelchair, one walking with a cane, one walking with a walker, and one walking around holding two stainless steel bowls. As they milled around, Tooey and I walked around in the group. She jumped just very slightly when the two bowls came crashing down, making a noise, but behaved quite calmly otherwise.

Test 10: Supervised separation

Tooey did this beautifully. I took her over to the volunteer, and told Tooey “Here’s a friend”, “Wait”, and “I’ll be back”. For years, whenever I have to leave the dogs, I’ve been saying, “I’ll be back”, and then, I always come back. So for this test, when I walked away out of sight, Tooey knew I’d be back. I had to stay out of her sight for 3 very long minutes. The volunteer told me that Tooey just sat there perfectly, not even moving a foot.

I showered Tooey with praise, and after picking up our ribbon, we ran off to get Tooey some treats. And then I let her take me on-leash prairie dog hunting again.

About 16 months ago, Patrice and I received a query to see if we would be interested in organizing the field events at the 2016 National Specialty for the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America. The field events consist of a retriever test (Working Certificate and Working Cerficate Excellent) and possibly an upland test (Working Dog and Working Dog Excellent).

Before we accepted, there were several issues that we needed to ponder and reconcile. First is geography. The 2016 Specialty was to be held in Southern California and we live a 1000 miles north in Portland, Oregon. Second issue: we have run our dogs in plenty of tests, we have helped run tests, but we have never organized a test before. And that is probably why we said yes, because had we known what we were getting into, our first response would have been NO WAY! Hindsight is an amazing tool.

My first order of business was to find judges. For the retriever side of things, I have some contacts in our local retriever clubs, and found two folks from the Pacific Northwest who were able to commit these many months in advance to spend a day in southern California. Upland Spaniel judges proved to be scarce. And at the same time, while we had lots of interest in the retriever WC and WCX tests, we had interest from only one person for the upland WD and WDX tests. So we decided to hold only the retriever WC/WCX tests.

Second order of business was to scout out and secure the location where the hunt tests could be held. To travel 2000 miles round-trip just to look at some hunt test grounds didn’t pencil out, but I could do a reconnaissance trip while running my dog at a hunt test at this venue. So in November of 2015, I ventured south with my two pups for a bit of R & R to Chino Hills, California. Lots of phone conversations with the venue reserved a lovely test site with fields and ponds.

The third order of business was to find a source for birds in southern California, by phone. I contacted a number of retriever clubs in the area based on the contact info on their websites. No club responded, so that was a bust. I contacted a few clubs from links from the AKC and got lukewarm help, but no birds. Then we connected with the Labrador Retriever Club of Southern California and hit gold. They not only gave us their source in Idaho, they suggested we order our birds and have them shipped to California along with their birds, 10 days earlier than we needed them to coincide with an order their club was making.

Then the fourth problem to solve was how to keep a few dozen birds alive and healthy for 10 days from a 1000 miles away. Once more the Lab Club offered a solution — one of their members, Kelly, agreed to keep and care for our ducks for 10 days, and then transport them to the test site. And then, on top of that, they also offered to loan us all the hunt test equipment we needed and supply volunteers for test dogs, gunners, and bird wranglers.

All these problems were solved, but they took many months to arrange, some up to about two weeks before the test, and all by long distance. There was a lot of nail biting.

Fast forward to March, 2016. Patrice created the test premiums, took checks and entries, created the running order, notified participants, and designed and printed the catalogs. All that was left were some last minute texts to confirm that the ducks had arrived in southern California, and to check in with the club members who had volunteered to help, that they really could still help. Time to pack the car and head south.

Patrice and I arrived the night before the test, and the next morning, bright and early, we drove to the test site. When we checked in and paid for entry, however, we discovered that the office had no record of our reservation, and no grounds set aside for us. As we discussed this with the office manager, trucks-ful of dogs and trainers streamed past us into the park, taking many of the prime spots we had reserved by phone months prior. Finally, Wendy, from the Lab Club, again came to our rescue — she recommended a site for us and guided us down there.

The rest was logistics. Post signs so that participants could find the site. Get out all the chairs, tables, test equipment. Organize all the helpers and give white shirts (required by the WC/WCX rules) to all the ones who were going to work at the gunning stations. Get the two judges together so they could design a good test. Get all the participants together and organized. Drink some water. Tell everyone where they should and should not “air” their dogs and themselves. Get people to move their cars and park on the correct side of the road. Cheer when the guy with ducks showed up. Hand out ammunition to the gunners (reassuring one participant that the live ammunition was truly steel and not lead).

We could not have done this without a lot of day-of help. Our judges, Misalyn Armstrong and Paul Hauck, designed really lovely tests. They gave every dog the best chance at success. We had Kelly, our duck wrangler, and Steve and Rod, our live bird gunners. And Rosemary, Jill, Annalies, Michael, and Paul handled the dead bird stations. We had a gallery of folks watching and supporting their fellow club members. Lunches were supplied by Ellen, signs were posted by Tim, and he brought the water as well. Dorothy rounded up chairs for the workers and gallery, as well as toys as gifts for all entrants. Liz organized the trophies, and Patrice organized the certificates and duck bands. Jack, plus Rod and Renae, supplied beautiful judges gifts, and Tim brought gift certificates for the live bird gunners. I’m sure there was much more help rendered that I have remembered here, and I apologize to anyone I have forgotten.

Out of the 12 entries, we had three qualifiers each in the WC and WCX. (Our Tooey was not one of them; more on this in another post.) I hope everyone left the test feeling that they had gotten their time and money’s worth.

The water series of the WCX test

The water series of the WCX test



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