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Archive for April, 2015

Last August, at the IWSCOPS specialty, I noticed that Cooper wouldn’t sit during his runs in Rally Obedience. More than half of the stations required sits, so we NQ’d.

He was obviously uncomfortable, and we tried various things to help him — cleaning out his anal sacs, stretching out his hip muscles, giving him a massage, and dosing him with baby aspirin. Nothing seemed to help that weekend, but then, over the next several months, he did much better in Rally and overall, so we figured that whatever had been going on had passed.

Then, last Friday morning, Cooper had real difficulty getting up off the ground. His back legs didn’t seem to work right, and he walked with a hitch in his step. He didn’t want to go down or up the stairs, and we realized that for quite a while, he hadn’t jumped up on the bed at all. So Russ took him to the vet.

The vet diagnosed The Coop with osteoarthritis in his right hip, and prescribed Carprofen (Rimadyl). Given that he’s 8 years old, she wasn’t surprised. I’d been giving him glucosamine since August, but I guess that’s no longer enough.

And I’ve got to say, that Carprofen is a miracle. After only two doses, Cooper was back to jumping on the bed, running down the stairs, and leaping up to bark at the front door.

I know that any drug over the long term has consequences, and I’ll need to learn more about that in the next few months. But for right now, it’s a real joy watching Cooper get most of that spring back into his step.

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Staying steady at the water, that is, waiting to be sent to go retrieve something out of the water, is not an intuitive skill for dogs. Cooper still has a very hard time with this, and it was only with frequent training that Russ was able to keep Cooper steady enough for long enough to pass his retriever and spaniel senior-level hunting tests.

So I had my doubts as to how easily Carlin could learn this skill. Take a look at how he’s doing so far:

I was so pleased to see these videos of Carlin staying steady at the water on the Tuxedo Kennels page of Facebook, and I’m thrilled with how well Carlin is doing with Richard.

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Cooper, Tooey, Russ, and I went out for the Oregon Hunting Retriever Club‘s picnic test last Saturday. We all had a great time, and the dogs did a good job (subject to their usual challenges). Cooper got every bird or bumper he was sent for. In this test, I ran the 4 marks as singles. One mark landed in the water, and the other three required the dog to run through the water and onto land to get the bird.

Cooper picked up and brought back every mark. But, true to himself, Cooper wanted to break and tried to do so — to go out after the bird before I sent him. I knew he was going to do this, so I held a leash around his chest at the line to prevent him from leaving early. He’d get up and strain against the leash. When he finally sat, I sent him for the birds.

I am not going let that boy break! — photo by Kim Shade

There was also a water blind and a land blind. He did a pretty okay job on the land blind. Going straight has never been his strong suit, but he let me direct him to the mark with whistles and hand signals, adding a few off-route flourishes of his own invention. But, like all the marks, he brought his bumper back to hand.

Cooper coming back from a blind retrieve — photo by Kim Shade

The water blind was a bit more challenging. Although he’s always been willing to jump into any water to retrieve a mark, lately he’s been unwilling to go into the water when he can’t see what he’s going after. So, the “judge” tossed a bumper into the water when Cooper couldn’t see him do it, and since Coop was able to see the bumper floating in the pond, he went right in.

I don’t have any photos of Tooey, but she did a fabulous job. She also did the 4 marks as singles, and unlike Cooper, who “cheats” by going around water from time to time, Tooey trotted straight to the mark and back at her usual methodical pace, through mud, water, shrubs, whatever. Her one failing here, resulted from the fact that one of the marks was an already-dead pigeons that had gotten wet. She hates wet pigeons, so though she picked it up and brought it mostly back, I wasn’t surprised to see her drop the pigeon about 10 feet away from the line and then refuse to pick it up.

But, wow! When she saw the guns come out for her live flyer, she really turned on. When I sent her out after that bird, she actually ran out across the field, straight into the water, and onto the land where the bird fell. She picked up that pigeon, and brought it directly back at a pretty impressive pace.

Gunners out standing in the field

We also did a very short land blind — maybe 30 yards. Tooey hasn’t done a blind in a hunt test situation, but she did go straight out where I sent her, so I was pleased. In fact, I was thrilled with Tooey’s performance. Now, if they’d only had ducks instead of pigeons, she’d have done a perfect job.

While Tooey and I were waiting for our turn, the gunners missed one of the pigeons, which flew off as fast as its wings could take it. When Tooey and I arrived back at the car after our turn, I was amused to see it sitting on the lift gate of my minivan. I don’t think it liked my being this close, and flew off just after I snapped the photo.

The one that got away

All in all, we had a great time. The dogs were thrilled to be out working, I enjoyed handling the two of them and then helping to launch one of the marks, and Russ got in some gunning practice. Since we’re not practicing for any hunt tests, it was all for fun. And it was sunny, too. I can’t think of a better way to spend an April Saturday.

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Clearly, the boy has talent. With a couple of months of weekly training with a pro, and a couple of weeks of daily training with Russ, Carlin has been able to mark the fall of birds and bumpers, go out, pick them up, bring them back, and deliver them to hand. Sometimes, he can even do short doubles — watching two bumpers go down, and then going out to get them one at a time. He’s picked up ducks, pigeons, chukars, quail, and pheasant. He’s even quartering a bit, trotting out in front of the handler, finding birds that have been planted in the field.

So he has some of the pieces that a gundog needs to know. Now it’s time for Carlin to put them all together in his head. So following in the footsteps of the other two dogs, Cooper and Tooey, Carlin is going off for several months to train with a pro. Starting today, Carlin will be living and working with Richard Matzke of Tuxedo Kennels.

Richard and Carlin with bird

Richard and Carlin with bird

Richard is best known for training pointers and spaniels. That will stand us in good stead because our first goal is to have a spaniel for upland hunting. Richard is a hunter himself, and a hunting guide, so he knows what an upland hunter needs in a working spaniel. Besides Carlin’s being a spaniel, though, we also want him to succeed in retriever hunt tests. Richard is also currently working with several other “exotic” retrievers, including a Standard Poodle and some Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers. And he’s worked with Labrador Retrievers, for whom the retriever hunt test game was invented. Fortunately, Richard is close enough to us, and available to clients on Saturdays, so I’ll be able to go up once a week and train with him, too.

Now to one of my favorite (and well-worn) peeves. Carlin is currently in a long show coat. I’d like to clip him down to a field cut, like I did with Tooey. But I have plans to show him in conformation from time to time, and although winning a conformation show while in a field clip happens once in awhile, generally, an IWS has to have long coat on the legs, ears, and topknot to win and get those points. Mostly the long coat is OK — with proper bathing, combing, brushing, and coat conditioning, an IWS can run around out in the field with a long coat. But it does help if the dog can see, and sometimes that long topknot can get in the way. Hence, the ninja spaniel hairdo:

Carlin with topknot tied up

Carlin with topknot tied up

He’s been gone only a few hours, and already I miss the boy, and I suspect he’ll miss us, too. But while we were out training today, he was the soul of happiness.

Carlin airborne

Carlin airborne

Now that we’re home, I can see that Cooper is thrilled to have that Twerp out of the way. Tooey looks worried. But not to worry girlie. All the dogs get sent off to camp or the spa from time to time, but none are given away.

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Russ took Carlin for a bath. This is payback.

Russ_CarlinPoor boys.

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