The photo below is Cooper hanging out calmly behind a holding blind at this weekend’s Upland test. This was his calmest moment during the whole weekend.
This was Cooper’s first Upland test, and it was a learning experience. First, Cooper and I had to walk up from the start line in parallel with another handler and dog, Cooper in the heel position and me with a shotgun in hand, waiting for a surprise chukar to launch out the blackberries. We were to honor the other handler and dog, and not do the retrieve. As all four of us moved forward, the bird went airborne, the other handler and I both shot at it while both dogs kept their butts on the ground. The other dog was released for the retrieve, and Cooper simply sat and watched the other dog fly past him to get the bird. Hmmm, off to a good start.
Cooper and I then returned to the holding blind as seen above, while the other team, shooters, and the judges proceeded further into the field to go get more birds. (These folks can be seen at the top of the photo in blaze orange).
Because we had succeeded at honoring the previous dog, it was Cooper’s turn to do his first retrieve on the next walk up from the line. We repeated the walk up with another honor dog, shot at the bird, Cooper stayed at heel, and went for his retrieve on command. But then we started the downward spiral for the rest of the weekend when Cooper spit the chukar out at my feet instead of delivering it to hand. After a bit a coaxing, Cooper delivered the bird, and we proceeded to go find more birds to flush and retrieve.
Being a Spaniel, this boy started quartering, nose to the ground and headed into heavy cover. Cooper stopped, pounced, and brought back a dead chukar that had been planted in the cover to test a dog’s tracking ability. Cooper 2, Chukars 0.
Cooper then returned to quartering (a requirement of the test), when he scented another bird. He paused, lunged, and came up with a live chukar that didn’t have a chance to fly before Cooper nailed him. Cooper 3, Chukars 0.
The next bird was found hiding in a wire enclosure to keep it from running but with an open top to encourage the bird to fly straight up when confronted with a flushing dog. Not this bird, it sat tight. So on my verbal coaxing, Cooper pushed the cage over and the bird took off on a very low flight trajectory. I whistled a command for him to sit, but Cooper also took off on a low flight trajectory, whistle-sits be damned. The gunners brought down the bird with single shot, and Cooper was on it in a flash and brought it back to hand. Cooper 4, Chukars 0.
But, unfortunately, his refusal to sit on command at that last flush was an immediate disqualification. Cooper 0, Russ 0.
The Upland test, even with its failure, was the highlight of the weekend. Cooper really showed his Spaniel-ness, nose to the ground, tracking, quartering, pouncing, and retrieving. Now all we need to add is sitting on command.
But the rest of the test was extremely frustrating. Cooper was reasonably calm during the Upland test, but that was only the calm before the storm. He was so wound up in the hunt test environment that he couldn’t keep his brain in his head.
I am still so frustrated about the rest of the hunt test and Cooper’s behavior, that my language will not be suitable for a family rated blog. Oh well, “running with the big dogs” will have to wait until next spring at the earliest.
08-24-2010: Our friend Carol was taking photographs at the water series and just sent me these images. The photo of Cooper and myself walking up at the edge of the pond, waiting for a surprise duck to fly up, shows exactly where his head was at that day. Out ahead by 3 feet and not at heel.
Cooper at heel (plus 3 feet)
Returning with a duck from a marked retrieve
Read Full Post »