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Archive for the ‘Realta’s Carlin O’Whistlestop’ Category

I’m not sure what took me so long to finish getting Carlin’s health checks. He is almost 5 years old. The recommendation is that checks be done just after 2.

But, oh well. They’re done now. He had his thyroid checked three years ago while we were trying to diagnose Carlin’s inexplicable hair loss. (Most likely allergy to chicken–we tried lots of things, including an elimination diet. Once we removed the chicken, his coat came back.)

And today, finally, I had his eyes checked and x-rays done of his hips and elbows to check for dysplasia.

Carlin doesn’t like going to the vet. But the staff at the Idaho Veterinary Hospital in Nampa were wonderful–gentle with Carlin and kind to me. They got us in and out with with very little stress.

The eye vet said “looks good” after the eye exam. And after the hip and elbow x-rays, the radiology vet showed me the x-rays and explained why he thought Carlin’s hips and elbows looked healthy as well.

So now we’ll wait to see what the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) says. If they agree, then Carlin will have his CHIC certification. That lets owners of other IWS know his health status. That way, they can decide if they want to use him at stud.

I’m sure he’d love that.

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Carlin has done some good spaniel work in hunt tests over the years. And we are fortunate that he’s been recognized for his talents:

I particularly enjoyed his winning the Trucker trophy because Carlin won it from a club originally founded to promote the traditional spaniel breeds: English Springer, English Cocker, American Cocker, Sussex, Field, Clumber, and the like.

Irish Water Spaniels in the United States have not really been seen as a traditional spaniel breed; they’ve occupied a weird space: being named spaniels but being classified by the AKC as retrievers. Carlin, and the other IWS that have competed in spaniel hunt tests or hunted upland birds afield, have reminded anyone who has forgotten that IWS can and do excel as flushing spaniels.

But now it’s time to pass the Trucker trophy on to another spaniel, an English Springer this time. We took one last photo and then sent the trophy on to Lynn and her Sky to enjoy.

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A couple of weekends ago, my friend and I tried burying scent vessels in the dirt so that we could practice Scent Work Buried Excellent with our dogs. (The scent vessels contain the swabs that have the odor on them — the vessels prevent the odor from coming into direct contact with the dirt.)

It mostly went OK until we tried to pull the scent vessels (1″x2″ test tubes) out of the ground. I had tied fishing line onto the vessels and thought I could use that to pull the vessels out of their holes. I figured, if the fishing line could withstand a fighting fish, it ought to withstand my pulling a small test tube out of the ground.

But no. The fishing line broke, and when it broke, we lost visual contact with where exactly the vessel was buried. (Losing visual contact is actually the point, or at least will be. During a scent work trial, neither the dog nor the handler is supposed to be able to see where the vessels are buried.) We’d make a mental map of our search area, so we knew sort of where the vessel should be, but we ended up having to dig around a bit to find it. Definitely not a leave-no-trace situation.

Part of the reason why the fishing line broke was that we hadn’t actually dug holes first and then dropped the vessels in the holes. We dug very short holes, but mostly we had to push the vessels the rest of the way into the ground, and they got stuck in the mud.

Thus, no holes + fishing line = stuck vessels. Not good.

So I redesigned my vessels and got myself an auger to dig holes that are just a bit bigger than the vessels.

augur

I drilled a small hole in the bottom of each test tube. (There was already a hole in the tube’s lid.) I then strung mason’s twine through the tubes, making a big double stopper knot at the bottom to keep the test but on. I also added a bead between two regular stopper knots about 3/4″ above the screw-off lid of the tube. That way, I can add a swab to the tube without losing the lid.

Then I put in a small knot at 6″ to help me be sure the swab inside the tube is 6″ deep. (When we get that far. Carlin isn’t able to detect scent buried that deep yet, but he’ll get there. I hope he gets there soon enough for the March trial, where he’ll be entered in Buried Excellent. The hides at that level are 6″ deep.)

I added another stopper knot at 8″ (that’s how deep the hides are in the Master level). Lastly, I strung a bead and another stopper knot that should help me grip the line so I can pull it out when the tube is at its deepest.

I used blaze orange twine with a little tape flag because I can see it when it’s peeking above the ground. At least for a while, I need to be able to see where the hides are so I can reward Carlin when he’s right. I also used orange because, theoretically anyway, dogs don’t really see orange as orange — they see it more like a gray. (Or at least, that is what I was taught by multiple retriever and spaniel trainers who all use orange dummies when they don’t want their dogs to see the retrieve object.)

Yesterday, I tested it all, putting the tubes out at 4″ deep. I used the augur to create 4 holes in a gravel-dirt mix area, put the vessels with swabs in them in the ground, and lightly filled up the holes with about a couple of inches of twine sticking out. I left them there for about 30 minutes to give the odor a chance to start moving.

Then Carlin and I came back to the area and searched. He had an easy time finding the ones that were not near any objects, and a bit harder time finding the ones that were near above-ground objects (logs, mostly). But eventually he found them all.

And even better, when I went back to pull the vessels out of the ground, they all came right up, with almost no effort. I replace the little bit of displaced dirt, and when I left the area, it looked like nothing had happened there at all.

Thus, augured holes + mason’s twine + good dog = success. Good!

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The two dogs took Russ and me pheasant hunting today at the Payette River Wildlife Management Area. It’s the last day of the season, and they thought we might get lucky.

Well, we were lucky. We had a lovely walk along the river on a spectacular winter day. No birds, though. Unless you count the picked-clean pheasant carcass that Tooey retrieved. (Which I was foolish enough to not photograph before returning it to the wild.)

But we all had a good time. Here are some photos.


This last photo was taken at the same spot that the photo of Carlin was taken just a few days ago. (When Russ and Carlin had an equally lovely walk and just as many birds.)

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Carlin in the snow along the Payette River, Idaho, December 2018 — photo by Russ Dodd

Carlin is not a natural model like Cooper was. He doesn’t settle himself in front of a camera every time someone pulls one out, like Cooper did.

But Carlin isn’t shy, either. If a camera appears, he doesn’t hide.

He pretty much ignores the camera. And that means that there are quite a few pictures of Carlin, looking like his effortlessly handsome self.

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Buried is hard. Or at least, it seems to me that most dogs that try AKC Scent Work have a harder time with Buried than with Containers, Exteriors, or Interiors.

That has been true for Carlin, too. And now it gets harder.

Buried Novice and Buried Advanced has dogs searching for odor in boxes of dirt. Buried Excellent has three hides buried 6 inches deep in the actual ground. It’s a big leap — the dog has no familiar objects that he knows to search. I imagine that it just looks like nothing, or maybe it looks like Exteriors, where the dog searches above ground for hidden odor.

For Buried Excellent, the dog has to learn to search for odor underground. I’m hoping Carlin will be ready for Buried Excellent at my local Boise trials in March, so it’s time to get going with training. And today I finally got it together to bury some hides in the ground for Carlin.

Today, the three swabs are scented with Birch, Anise, or Clove — all odors Carlin is familiar with. I’ve placed each swab inside a plastic tube that has a lid with a hole in them. I’ve buried the tubes about 1/2 inch below the surface of the ground in the grass.

As you can see by the video, Carlin is indeed confused about what kind of search this is. I am using a different cue (“search dirt”) rather than my usual one (“find it”). But seeing no containers of dirt, I think he’s assuming this must be an Exterior search. But finally, he catches a whiff of odor at ground level.

He eventually found all three hides, but I helped him quite a lot: by restraining him so he wouldn’t leave the search area, by calling him over to where the hides were located, and by standing next to them.

Eventually, I won’t help him at all, and then that’s the case, then I’ll bury the hides deeper.

 

 

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Sunday December 2nd found Carlin and me at the second day of the Upper Snake River Valley Dog Training Club‘s (USRVDTC) December scent work trials. Because Carlin had passed his third Interiors Advanced search the day before, we moved up to Interiors Excellent.

Our first attempt at Interiors Excellent was an NQ, but that was almost totally on me. Excellent Interiors has two search areas. In this trial, the first search area was the same room as the previous day’s Interiors Advanced search. The second area was an adjacent space, with no physical dividers between them.

In the first search area, Carlin found his first hide, on the underside of a table, right away. He searched the room a bit, but then he ran over to a pile of lunch boxes, and insisted, pawing and pushing one of the lunch boxes, that this was a hide. So I called it. But what I didn’t pay enough attention to was the fact that these lunch boxes had a tennis ball perched on top of them. This tennis ball was one of the three distractions placed around the search areas, and at this level, hides aren’t placed in the same place as a distraction. I should have seen the tennis ball for what it was, and had him search elsewhere. But with my incorrect call, we NQd our first Interiors Excellent search. This is what we call a “learning experience”.

Fortunately, the judge kindly allowed us to complete the search in the first search area even though we’d NQd. Carlin searched hard for the entire three-minute time limit. Since he didn’t find anything else, I could have concluded that there simply wasn’t a second hide in the first search area, but it turned out that there was. Finally the judge showed me where it was. It was on a door in a corner adjacent to the second search area. At one point, Carlin had gone into that corner, but then quickly left it, trying to go into the second search area. I pulled him out of the second search area, but then inadvertently blocked him from searching that corner again. So that was on me.

The judge kindly let us search the second area, too. Since there had been two hides in the first search area, I knew there was only one hide in the second. And it took Carlin about 10 seconds to find it, in a metal cookie tin under one of the tables.

So, on to the first Handler Discrimination Novice search of the day. If Carlin qualified (Qd) in this search, he’d have the Scent Work Handler Discrimination Novice (SHDN) title. And boy, did he! He nailed the box with my sock in 6:72 seconds. But he also nailed the box, and scattered other boxes everywhere, which got him a fault. His time improved from the previous afternoon. In fact, his time was the fastest of all the dogs, but that fault knocked him down to a 2nd place. But still, it’s a Q and a new title, so I was very happy.

By the time the afternoon trial came around, Carlin and I were both pretty amped. Sunday’s Trial 2 was my last chance to pass an Interiors Excellent search this weekend. I really wanted that pass. So I thought I might watch the Interiors Advanced dogs and see where they had trouble. Maybe I’d learn something. And boy, did I.

None of the Interior Advanced dogs passed. They all failed to find a hide set under the upper rolled edge of a metal folding chair. Partly I think it was airflow–the room had two drafty doors, which were closed during the search, and a big window. But partly it was because handlers got in between their dogs and the chair, and partly it was that handlers didn’t alter their paths around the chairs to help their dogs search from multiple vantage points.

So, I decided I would try to avoid those mistakes in our Excellent search.

Sunday’s Trial 2 Interiors Excellent search used the same two search areas as the Trial 1 search, but the hides were in different places. He found a hide in a cookie tin on top of one of the tables reasonably fast. But then we had to keep searching to see if the first search area had a second hide or not. We searched every table. We searched both doors. We searched all over every chair. And lo and behold, there was a hide tucked into the rolled metal edge of one of the folding chairs.

So that was two hides in the first search area. That meant that there was only one hide in the second search area. It took him about 20 seconds to locate that hide folded into the clothes of a half-size Santa Claus doll seated in a wooden rocking chair. He was a little vague about where exactly in the clothing the hide was, so I had to ask him to “Show me”. So he stuck his nose deep under the butt of the Santa Claus doll and then sat. I called it, and we were right. Carlin’s first Interiors Excellent, completed in 2 minutes, 21:07 seconds. Of the two dogs entered, Carlin was the only one to pass, so we got a 1st place.

The day ended with a bonus Handler Discrimination Novice pass. Of the 4 dogs to pass, Carlin got another second place. Again, he had the best time at 11:40 seconds, but he also once again scattered boxes. So, he got a fault and a 2nd place. I am so glad we don’t have to do a Handler Discrimination search in boxes again. (The next level searches in interior spaces for a cotton ball or swab loaded with the handler’s scent.)

All in all, it was a great weekend. The club ran the trial well, workers and the judge were very efficient in the set up, and the searches themselves were challenging and fun.

2nd in HDN; HDN title; Q and 1st in SIE; Q and 2nd in HDN

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