Archive for the ‘coursing ability test’ Category

Every dream turned into a goal involves a journey laden with setbacks, disappointments and milestones. There is joy in that journey. Guard that joy well so that in the end you rightly celebrate the accomplishment as well as the memories of the trip.

That’s from an article “The Joy Stealers” by Connie Cleveland. In the article, she talks about the comments we make that diminish another’s dream or accomplishment, whether out of thoughtlessness, misplaced kindness, or malice. And in one tiny sentence, she mentions that sometimes we can steal our own joy.

I think that’s what I’m doing in the back of my mind.

My first two Irish Water Spaniels were All-Around IWS. That’s an award given to Irish Water Spaniels that get titles in AKC retriever hunt tests, obedience, and conformation.  I worked hard for those titles, and fortunately, I had two dogs who agreed to go along with me (as well as a lot of help from other dog folks).

With Cooper, my first IWS, I wanted to achieve all that because I wanted to make his breeder proud of us, and because I could see that he had all the talent, work ethic, and beauty to achieve it. He loved retriever work, kind of got a kick out of obedience from time to time, and tolerated conformation because he loved me.

With Tooey, I thought I could do it again, and we did. She loved conformation, even though, being English, she didn’t look like the other American IWS girls. So that title took awhile. Retriever hunt tests took even longer — only when Russ decided to make it fun for her in the field, did she finally get that title. Obedience was OK, so long as the judge was a woman with a gentle touch, and not some big guy with a floppy coat.

So both of them got their All-Arounds. And now I have Carlin, who has all the beauty, brains, and work ethic that Cooper had, and he has a retriever title. So, all I need to get is the conformation championship and the obedience title, right?

Well, maybe not.

Carlin has issues. Ever since he was viciously attacked out of nowhere and injured by a dog twice his size, he has been deeply suspicious of other dogs he doesn’t know. Which, in a conformation ring or at an obedience trial, is just about every dog. He lunges and barks at them, and it raises my stress levels every time. I put a lot of effort and thought into keeping him safe, and those efforts are distracting when you’re trying to remember the Obedience rules or struggling to help your dog stay calm in the conformation ring. I’m sure some very intuitive person with excellent handling skills and a lot of dog knowledge could pull it off, but I don’t think I’m that person. And I haven’t found the person who can take him on without my sending Carlin away and spending a lot of money.

So. I may have to give up that dream. And the thought of Carlin’s not getting an All-Around like Cooper and Tooey fills me with regret.

And I think my own regret might be stealing at least some of the joy I could be feeling about Carlin’s considerable accomplishments:

  • A Master Hunter Upland Advanced title. It took 18 increasingly difficult spaniel hunt test passes and years of training to get that title.
  • A Rally Novice title. He loves doing the Rally exercises, but not the dog-filled environment. We got that title by concentrating on small shows with relatively few dogs and one ring. And he was on leash the whole time. And I kept him either busy or in the car, so he never had very many moments in a row to worry about other dogs.
  • A Coursing Ability title. That was not work — it was all fun. Just the joy of watching my dog run alone at top speed for 600 yards, and loving every second.
  • A retriever Junior Hunter title. That one was work, and a lot of training, and involved several failures. There were parts he loved (swimming and running), and parts he didn’t like so much (ducks). But we did it. When we passed that last test, I cried and hugged the judges. (They were very nice about it.)
  • A lot of very fast progress in Scentwork in just a few months. He loves the game, is very methodical in his searches for odor, and almost always finds it. If there’s a weak link, it’s me.

Really, when I look at that list, it’s kind of amazing. It’s a lot to rightly celebrate. And my trip with Carlin is not over yet.


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For a dog Carlin’s size, a Coursing Ability Test course is at least 600 yards. The course for today’s test, put on by the Chintimini Kennel Club, was 637 yards.

The course was mostly flat with just a few dips and swales. The cover was quite short — it looked like the grass had been cut recently, and that perhaps a few drops of rain had fallen in the recent past, making the field a carpet of gold with flecks of green. And the morning started out cloudy and relatively cool. Everyone was grateful for this, as it would be more comfortable for the dogs, who were going to be putting out a lot of hot panting effort in a very short period of time.

Carlin ran 13th, so we didn’t have a long time to wait. This club recommended that the dogs run without a collar for safety, so I went along with it, simply looping the leash into a kind of slip lead. Once we got out to the start line, I took of his leash, and held him around the chest like I have in Flyball and Barn Hunt. Carlin was ready to go, but restrained himself, waiting for me to send him. The Hunt Master asked me if I was ready, and when I said I was, she twirled her finger to signal the Lure Operator to start the bags running, and sent us off with a “Tally Ho!”


Another IWS, Baby, takes off from the start line
Judge and Lure Operator under the white tent, Hunt Master standing next to the handler

Carlin finished that first run with dedication and enthusiasm. He is such a beautiful dog to watch run. I wish I could have been both the handler and a photographer so I could get pictures, but if you saw the video of his first run, you know what I mean. Carlin passed that test, finishing the course in 1 minute 3.78 seconds. Then we waited for the rest of the dogs to finish so the group can start the second run.

The running order with 1st run times

The field was relatively small, so they ran the same course again, this time in reverse. That messed with the dogs’ minds a bit, especially if the dog has been running often enough to understand that corners can be cut, thus reducing the distance. (This is legal.) Oddly, Carlin did get a little confused at about 1/3 of the way through of the second run. The plastic bag bunnies ran through a shallow swale, and going that direction, they were briefly hidden from sight. Just for those few moment, Carlin lost them and he slowed way down, looking around. This is where the skill of the Lure Operator comes in. He slowed the lure down and then alternately slowed and sped it up. This jerky movement caught Carlin’s eye, and he was off again.

Surprisingly, even with his slight difficulty, Carlin ran that second run a little faster than the first: 1 minute 3.41 seconds. And he did it with enthusiasm and dedication. So that was his third pass overall, earning his first title. As soon as the AKC records it, he will be Realta’s Carlin O’Whistlestop CA.

Carlin resting in his crate with his qualifying and title ribbon

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Today we finally had deliciously cool weather, clouds, and even rain. A perfect day to go stand outside and watch some Lure Coursing trials. Lure Coursing is a sport for sight hounds, like Salukis, Borzois, Pharaoh Hounds, Greyhounds, Whippets, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and others.

Today the Afghan Hound Club of Greater Portland put on a Lure Coursing Trial, and along with it, a Coursing Ability Test (CAT). The CAT is an event similar to Lure Coursing that is open to non-sight hounds. (Irish Water Spaniels, for example.) To pass the test, a dog runs, pursuing a lure, completing the course with enthusiasm and without interruption within a given time. For a dog of Carlin’s size, it’s about a 600 yard course that must be completed in under 2 minutes.

The course is made up of straights, curves, and turns. The lure in this case, was a series of black and white plastic bags that are pulled on cables by a system of mechanized pulleys, situated so that the course simulates the unpredictability of chasing live prey.

So after watching several dozen sight hounds do their thing for several hours, we decided to enter Carlin in the Coursing Ability test, just for the heck of it.

See the video below to find out how the boy did.

We timed it: just 50 seconds from when the Hunt Master sent us off with a “Tallyho!” to Carlin’s crossing the finish line, 642 yards later.

I was really pleased, especially since a few of the sight hounds, for whom this sport was designed, ran the same course for the Lure Coursing trial, and instead of finishing the course, lost the bags, lost interest, or tried to run off the course.



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