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It was an all-dogs-all-the-time weekend. Often our weekends are that way, but this one was packed.

Agility

On Saturday morning, Russ took Carlin to beginning agility class. Apparently, Carlin is doing quite well and really enjoying it. I knew he would, and I’m very happy Russ has found a good instructor for it. Someday I’ll go watch, but I hear that they’re learning stuff in very small pieces.

Going for a walk

While they were gone, Tooey and I went for an hour-long walk while it was still cool. There’s this neighborhood to the south of us that I hadn’t explored yet, so was took the long way through the adjacent park, and then wound our way among the houses and streets. That section was not laid out in a grid, and it was full of dead ends and cul de sacs. I never did exactly get lost (I caught sight of a busy road that I recognized several times), but it wasn’t a straightforward walk. Tooey enjoyed it though, especially that last bit when I let her swim in our neighborhood irrigation canal. She looked for the ducks that often live in the reeds that line the bank, but none were to be found.

Bathe and trim (part one)

When we got home, Tooey got a bath and trim. She was filthy. As in, the-water-turned-brown filthy. As in, why-have-I-been-letting-this-filthy-beast-sleep-on-the-bed filthy. By that time of the morning, the temperature had already reached the high 90s F, so blowing her dry was mostly a formality. Although it does get the loose hairs out of her coat, which means I don’t have to do quite as much brushing and combing. With a light trim, Tooey was looking and smelling beautiful again.

Bathe and trim (part two)

When Russ got home, Carlin got a bath and a clip-down. He was dirty, but not nearly as dirty as Tooey. (Perhaps that’s because of her swim in the irrigation canal?) I haven’t been clipping Carlin down because I had still been harboring this fantasy that I might show him in October, but I finally realized that that’s not going to happen. He doesn’t like judges touching him, he’s worried about being so close to other dogs, and I don’t handle all that very well. And plus, there’s unlikely to be any IWS in the Boise shows in October, so there’d be no point in showing him. (You conformation folks will get the pun, eh?)

So he got clipped. His topknot and ears went down to about ¾”, and the rest of him to 3/8”. He looks very handsome to me. Plus he and I are training for hunting now, and a short coat makes it easier to get out the burrs, seeds, and grass awns.

The First End

After about 3-1/2 hours, both Carlin and I were done grooming. I had Russ’s delicious soup for dinner, did a load of laundry, watched TV for a bit, and went to bed.

It all started again on Sunday morning.

Scent work

My scentwork group all came over to my house early in the morning to practice. We did several Interior Advanced hides, a couple of Exterior Advanced hides, one vehicle search (which is not part of AKC Scent Work, but is done in some other organizations’ searches), a Handler Discrimination Novice search, and an Advanced Container search with extra containers. Carlin did well on all of them except Containers.

In Containers, he could not concentrate. The containers were on his lawn, he ran last after all the other dogs, and all he could think about was sniffing the grass to learn more about all the other dogs. Finding odor was just not of any interest at all. OK, so I guess we go back to basics in Containers on grass. Normally, I practice Containers on concrete, but I’m going to have to change my ways. Somehow.

Spaniel training

After lunch, Carlin and I then trucked off to a friend’s property to practice water blinds and hunt deads. Since by that time it had gotten really hot, we decided to do water work first. My friend is an accomplished retriever person, and she set up some fun land-water-land-water-land blinds for Carlin. They weren’t long blinds, but it did mean that he had to resist stopping to hunt around on the island. He’s been through this scenario before, and I didn’t have to handle him very much. If this had been a retriever hunt test, it would not have met the standard—I let him get way off the straight line from me to the bumper, but my goal was to get him down wind from the bumper so he could find it on his own. Which he did just fine, several times in multiple locations.

Then came the hunt dead. Carlin has never failed a hunt dead in a spaniel test, but he’s gotten himself way off course many times. Enough to push time limit to the very nubbins. Enough to raise my stress level considerably, and enough to lower his score by quite a bit.

In a hunt dead, the handler knows only vaguely where the bird is. The judge will say, for example, that the bird is somewhere in the arc formed by that distant that tree out there to the left and that fence post out to the right, and about 65 yards out from the line. So basically, you try to make some kind of educated guess as to where the bird might be, and then send your dog straight out in a line to a spot downwind from that spot. Of course, you have to guess where downwind is out 65 yards away—sometimes that’s obvious, but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the wind is moving differently out there. Or there may not be any breath of wind at all.

And in yesterday’s practice, Carlin did exactly right. We set it up so that Carlin would out into a cross breeze. I sent him in a line that would put him downwind of where I thought the bird was, he actually took that line, and then hooked a right when he winded the bird. Actually taking the line is what I was looking for. So, good boy!

Riding in the car

While Carlin and I were gone, Russ took Tooey for a ride in the car, which is a good thing in and of itself. He was looking for a DMV where he could maneuver the boat and trailer, so both could be licensed and registered in Idaho. Since this was a reconnaissance mission, there were no worries about leaving Tooey in a hot car. Just a nice air-conditioned ride on a hot sunny day.

the now-registered Spainnear Uisce (the boat), Tooey, and Carlin

The Ending End

By the time we all got home, it was time for dinner, a little TV, another load of laundry (to wash the dog bath towels), and bed.

Like I said, all dogs, all the time.

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“Carlin Superstar”. It’s one thing to think that in your own head about your own dog. It’s an entirely different thing when someone else says those words aloud. Particularly when they’re said by someone in a position to know. And yesterday, that’s what the judge said as Carlin and I walked out of the area of his third Exteriors Advanced search.

Exteriors Advanced had been a tough search for most of the dogs. Only two qualified, and Carlin was the fastest of the two with a time of 43:08 seconds and no faults. In Russ’s video, you can see from the movement of the spectators’ hair and the movement of the little pink flags that there was a definite breeze. I think the wind must have been swirling around the corners and into the alcove of the building.

It was still morning, so not too hot, and the search area was still in the shade. We were the 5th team to run, so the odor had been in place for at least 1/2 hour if not longer. And the course was set up so that the start line was downwind of both hides, which I think helped.

You can also see from the video how eager he is to go. Carlin is always eager to go. Even on the last run of the last day of a multi-day trial, he pulls me to the start line. He loves this game, just about as much as he loves Spaniel Hunting Tests.

Russ also took a video of Carlin’s second Containers Advanced run. This search took place about an hour and a half after the Exteriors search. The air was warmer, the asphalt was warm but not too hot, and the breeze was still blowing. This start line was set at 90 degrees to the wind direction.

I’d hoped to start Carlin on the most downwind row of containers (the row opposite the judge), but he had his own ideas. And as it turned out, that worked out great. The timer clocked him at 35:07 second, again with no faults, for another 1st place. This run, being the third in which he qualified, also earned him his Scent Work Exteriors Advanced title.

The Great Salt Lake Dog Training Club offered only Exteriors and Containers at the Advanced level in their trials this weekend, so since we were there anyway, I took Carlin out for another Exteriors run. Unfortunately, the battery on Russ’s camera gave out, so I don’t have a video of that one. But Carlin did well again, at 1 minute, 05:19 seconds for a 2nd place.

That one took a little longer, I think, because there was this big round pillar that captured the scent of one hide and gave him the idea that there were actually two hides along the brick wall that formed the boundary of the second search. It took a while for me to decide that he’d found that hide already, and take him to the other side of the course along the downwind edge. He caught that scent as soon as we got downwind, and alerted to it right away.

Our last run of the day was his third Containers Advanced run. Same three-rows-of-five setup, similar location in the parking lot, and what looked to me like the exact same containers. (I think they must have had several copies of the same containers, some “hot” with scent and some not.) This time the start line was set up at the corner of the search area, directly downwind. He finished this search in 34:09 seconds, for a 1st place and his Scent Work Containers Advanced title.

Carlin starting his Containers Advanced search

“Here’s one!”

“Here’s another one!”

Carlin floats off the search area

Today was a good day for Team Carlin

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Back when I got my first Irish Water Spaniel, Cooper, I had a lot of help learning to groom and trim the coat. Cooper was a wiggly puppy, not all that eager to be up on the grooming table at all, much less stand still while people were working with very sharp shears around all his tender spots.

One of my first teachers, Colleen, used to have me come to her house before dog shows so she could get my attempt at a trim into good shape.

Cooper and Colleen

When she got to trimming around his boy bits, I would hold them out of the way and cover them with my hands. I didn’t want him to be hurt, and I knew he’d never get up on the table again if he got cut back there. Colleen was very careful and always warned me when she was getting close.

“I don’t want to cut you,” she’d say.

“Better me than him,” I’d reply.

She never did cut me or him. As I observed and practiced, I got better, and since then, I’ve able to do a pretty good job without more than a minor nick on either myself or my dogs.

So, I was grooming Carlin yesterday. He doesn’t love standing still either. It was a nice day, so I had the door open. I had the shears out. One of my hands was shielding the hanging boy bits, and the other trimming nearby long coat.

And then something happened outside. Tooey jumped up and ran out into the back yard. Carlin jerked, and my finger got in the way of the tips of those very sharp shears just as they were closing. It was a small cut — I didn’t even notice it until later.

But the whole thing scared the crap out of me. He was fine, though, and my finger is already mostly healed.

Better me than him.

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Now I know where Carlin’s heart is: Scent Work. How do I know this? The evidence occurred at last weekend’s Scent Work trial in Blackfoot, Idaho, put on by the Upper Snake River Valley Dog Training Club.

In the Advanced-level Scent Work classes, the judge can use a non-food distraction: a toy, a light, or a noise. The dog needs to be able to ignore the distraction and keep working to find the hidden scent.

This is harder for some dogs that others. Some dogs just can’t resist a tennis ball or a stuffed toy. And some distractions are more distracting that others. So when I saw a Dokken duck sitting in the very middle of the Advanced Exterior search area, my heart sank a bit.

A Dokken (officially known as a Dokken Dead Fowl Trainer) is a somewhat-lifelike imitation of a bird. Retriever and spaniel trainers use them for training their hunting dogs. A Dokken is about the size, weight, and coloring of a real bird, such as a duck, pheasant, or dove, but they don’t have feathers, and, unless you inject yours a special bird-scent compound, they smell like the plastic they’re made of.

example of Dokken Dead Fowl Trainer — image from Gundog Supply

In training for his hunting career, Carlin has been heavily rewarded for picking up and delivering Dokkens to hand. So I thought there was a distinct possibility that Carlin would pick up that Dokken and try to deliver it to me. It’s not against the rules for him to pick it up, but it is against the rules for me to touch him or the distraction. And if he found it so distracting that he couldn’t find his hides, then, well… Then we fail.

There’s not a lot I could do to deflect Carlin if he was determined to get that Dokken. He moves very fast in search areas, and often I can barely keep up with him.

So, I just took a deep breath, took a hold of his harness, told him to “Find it!”, and let him go.

And what did he do? He jumped right over the Dokken, and ran straight to the scent hidden under the edges of a plastic box set a couple of feet beyond the Dokken. Having found that and gotten his chunk of dried liver, he took off again, looking for the second hide, which he found expeditiously in the corner of a garage door frame.

The whole search took him 41.8 seconds.

Dokken?

What Dokken?

Now, of course, if the distraction had been a real duck, pheasant, chukar, or dove, the results would likely have been way different. But fortunately, using a real bird wouldn’t be allowed. So we’re safe there.

For the whole 2-day trial, Carlin did really well. On the first day, he got:

  • 2nd Place in Exteriors Advanced at 31.69 seconds.
  • 1st Place in Interiors Advanced at 49.13 seconds.
  • a Q in Buried Novice at 16.13 seconds.

On the second day, he got:

  • 1st Place in Exterior Advanced at 41.80 seconds.
  • 3rd Place in Container Advanced at 47.71 seconds.
  • 4th Place in Interior Advanced at 1 minute, 21.04 seconds.
  • 4th Place in Buried Novice at 17.30 seconds. This third pass in Buried Novice got him that element title. And having gotten his fourth Novice element Novice title means he’s earned the Scent Work Novice title (SWN).

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Carlin did something last Saturday that I still can’t figure out.

Here’s the setting: A quiet, warm afternoon, warm enough to want to leave the doors and windows open, but not so hot as to be oppressive. Carlin up on the grooming table in the grooming room (which is in an outbuilding), facing the open door to the outside. Me wielding scissors on Carlin’s coat to finish up an hour of combing and clipping.

All of a sudden, Carlin became very distracted. His nose started doing a lot of vigorous sniffing. His head waved side to side, obviously trying to capture the scent to determine where and from what this new scent is coming from.

I thought maybe he wanted to go outside, so I let him off the table. He stuck his head partway out the door, and then turned around and ran to the opposite side of the room, where he hid behind some machinery stored there. When I went to see what he was doing, I was concerned to see him shaking like the proverbial leaf. His whole body was shaking and the whites of his eyes were showing.

Tooey, on the other hand, was lying on the floor near the door, snoozing. She didn’t seem concerned at all. So I woke her up, and she and I went out to case the yard, trying to see what might be out there. My first thought was mountain lion (not likely, but not impossible). Then I thought, maybe skunk. But usually, I can smell skunk, and I didn’t detect that. Tooey remained unconcerned as we patrolled the property together.

When we got back to the grooming room, Carlin was standing a bit closer to the door (I think to keep track of Tooey and me), but he was still shaking.

So, I got Tooey back into the room and shut the door. Carlin relaxed a bit with the door shut, so I got him back up onto the table and I finished grooming him.

But then we had to get back to the house. I opened the door to the grooming room again, and Tooey and I stepped out and walked to the front door of the house. Carlin could easily see us from the grooming room, and when I got the front door to the house open, he ran as fast as he could from the grooming room, to the front door, and into the house.

He paced around inside, clearly not comfortable. So I gave him some Rescue Remedy and a cookie, and had him go into his crate in a dark room for a bit.

That evening, he was willing to go out the dog door in back and into the chain link kennel that evening, but not out into the front yard. At bedtime, I gave him more Rescue Remedy and we all hopped onto my bed to sleep.

The next morning, he reluctantly went out the front door and peed in the front yard, but then came right back to the porch, where he paced back and forth, still worried about whatever it was. I gave him more Rescue Remedy, and just let him stay in the house and kennel—wherever he wanted to be. Tooey and I stayed outside.

Finally, by that evening, he must have been satisfied that all danger was past, and happily ran all over the front yard, saying hi to the neighbor’s sheep and cat.

I asked the neighbor if he saw anything unusual on any of his extensive collection of surveillance cameras, but no. I guess it will just have to remain a mystery.

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What a weekend! Exhausting and exhilarating and wonderful. And all done without my talking.

So what happened? Well, the short answer is that this weekend at the Idaho Capital City KC Scent Work trials, Carlin earned three AKC titles: Scent Work Interior Novice (SIN), Scent Work Exterior Novice (SEN), and Scent Work Containers Novice (SCN). He also qualified in one Novice Buried search. And, on top of all that, on Saturday, he won High In Trial for Novice out of the Novice A classes.

Friday was the first day of the trial, and strangely, I wasn’t nervous. I was pretty confident in Carlin’s ability to find the hidden scent of birch essential oil to qualify in the Novice Exteriors, Containers, and Interiors classes. Novice Buried was last. I didn’t feel quite confident in Buried. In practice, he’s successfully found the Buried hide about 70% of the time–which is not where I like to be when I enter an event. But, I was going to be there. I might as well try anyway.

Well, he did great, better than I expected. He found the hidden scent in Exteriors in 20.96 seconds, for a 1st place; Containers in 10.41 seconds for another 1st; and Interior in 16.86 seconds for a 4th place. In both Exterior and Containers, he did very little searching, almost as if he knew where the hide was before he even entered the search area. Interiors was a little harder–the hidden swab with a little bit of birch oil was on the bottom of an easy chair. But that chair was right next to an ottoman, so it took me a bit longer to be convinced that I could identify specifically where the hide was, should the judge ask me to show her.

Buried eluded us, though. He searched all the boxes of sand several times, and didn’t seem to be able to identify which box the odor was buried in. So, I started to do a directed search by pointing to each box. He sat (his indication that he’s found a hide) after I pointed to the first box, so I called it. But he was wrong. I should have waited and pointed at every box, getting him to search each one again.

Saturday. I don’t even remember Saturday except for the end. If the ribbon stickers didn’t say the times, I would not remember them. No 1sts, but overall Saturday was just great. Exteriors in 16.27 seconds for a 3rd place; Containers in 11.12 seconds for 4th place; Interiors in 10.85 seconds for 2nd place; and lo and behold, Buried in 16.99 seconds to qualify. So, we qualified in all the offered Novice classes, I had no handler faults, and Carlin’s times added up to be the quickest of all the dogs (55.23 seconds out of a possible 480, which is 2 minutes per element). With that, Team Carlin took home the High in Trial ribbon for the day.

I was not expecting that at all. I had figured that one of the teams with a 1st would get it. So when our names were called, I think my smile split my face. (Not unlike when Cooper got a Judges Award of Merit in Conformation.)

Sunday poured down rain, but the show went on. I think folks were relieved to have cooler weather, and the dogs didn’t seem to care. And Carlin did pretty well. Exterior in 19.63 for a 4th place; Containers in 8.58 seconds for 4th place; and Interior in 9.28 seconds for 2nd place. Those passes were the third for each of those classes, so that earned Carlin his new titles.

And Buried? Well this time, Carlin searched about three of the boxes and then did an enthusiastic sit at one of them with a huge smile on his face. Must like the enthusiastic sit he does for all the other elements. So I called it. But darn it. He was wrong. Or fooling with me. Or just tired. So we didn’t qualify in Buried on Sunday.

Oh, and about the no talking? That makes our successes particularly sweet. I had surgery on my vocal cords on May 8th, and I was not allowed to use them. No talking. No whispering. No singing. No yelling. So Carlin and I did all three trials without my talking to him. Just gestures and pointing and facial expressions. Not the way I’d normally like to do to it. But Carlin and I are a team, and there are times we don’t need to talk.

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Last summer, Tooey found and sampled almost all the ripe melons before we had a chance to harvest them. We just got used to eating around the bites she’d taken.

She’d pick one up, take it to a nice shady spot, and have a snack. If it it wasn’t quite ripe enough for her, she’d retrieve another.

Carlin got into the act, too. He liked cucumbers and lettuce.

So this year, when we replaced the old rotting raised beds with new sheet metal ones, we decided we’d build a fence around them to keep the dogs out. Or we hope it’ll keep them out anyway. They’re not particularly enterprising thieves. For example, they haven’t bothered to figure out how to open the cabinet where the kitchen garbage is kept, and they don’t counter surf (at least yet).

Once we get the gate installed (it wasn’t in yet at the time of the photos below), we hope the fence will be sufficient to keep them out.

But then we caught them casing the situation, so you never know what will happen once the scent of ripe cantaloupes and cucumbers starts floating through the air.

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