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Posts Tagged ‘Irish Water Spaniels’

After a long, very hot, dusty, and wildfire-smokey Labor Day at the Scatter Creek Wildlife Management Area in Rochester, Washington, I was tired. Carlin and I had just run his 10th passing master-level spaniel hunt test. He’d gotten to go swimming as part of the test, so he was refreshed, but I wasn’t.

I knew Carlin had passed the test. But I wasn’t sure that his scores were good enough to get that last high-scoring pass needed to qualify him for the Master Hunter Upland Advanced title.

After a dog gets a spaniel hunt test title, the dog can earn an “Advanced” title at that same level. So, for example, a spaniel that has earned a Junior Hunter can earn a Junior Hunter Advanced. (For dogs classified as retrievers, as are Irish Water Spaniels, the titles would be JHU and JHUA, for Junior Hunter Upland and Junior Hunter Upland Advanced, respectively.)

To earn these Advanced titles, the dog must first have earned the initial title with however many passes that takes. So, for a Master Hunter title, the dog needs to earn 5 Master Hunter passes. Then, the dog needs to earn that number again, but this time each a with score averaging 8 or more.

While ribbons were being given out, Russ went and found the judges’ score sheets, and did some quick calculations. Carlin, despite having hopped a foot out of position on one of his bird flushes, and despite an ugly hunt dead portion of the test, had squeaked by with an average of 8.25

So, that was it. Carlin had earned the highest possible title in spaniel hunting tests. More than two years of testing and three of training, working toward this goal. And we finally made it.

I cried and hugged Russ, the judges, my trainer, Carlin, the test secretary, and just about anyone else who looked like they wouldn’t mind being hugged.

Here are the tests he qualified in for the MHUA title:

Master Hunter Upland pass 6Missouri Headwaters Gun Dog Club – May 21, 2017
Average score: 9.33

Master Hunter Upland pass 7 – Cascade English Cocker Spaniel Fanciers – May 26, 2017
Average score: 9.2

Master Hunter Upland pass 8Cascade English Cocker Spaniel Fanciers – May 27, 2017
Average score: 8.9

Master Hunter Upland pass 9 – Clumber Spaniel Club of America – September 2, 2017
Average score: 8.63

Master Hunter Upland pass 10 – Puget Sound English Springer Spaniel Club – September 4, 2017
Average score: 8.25

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Last Sunday, we had a very nice, warm and therefore short, spaniel practice. We were out with a few other members of the Snake River Spaniel Club, in a field within the Montour Wildlife Management Area (WMA).

Because I started handling Carlin earlier this year, I took on handling duties again at the practice. Carlin did a very nice job. He was steady to wing and shot, he retrieved all his birds to hand, and he even did a creditable hunt head, looking for a bird that had glided off course and gone down in a neighboring field.

It was hot, though, and getting hotter, so as soon as practice was done, we wanted to inspect Carlin for grass awns, pull any out, and then get out of there. It's hard to see in the first photo, but the third photo shows the mature grass growing tall, so tall that sometimes Carlin wasn't visible in the field. But what's worse is that every grass plant had grass awns. Those are dangerous grass seed cases with barbs that can work their way under the skin, travel to distant organs and muscles, and just generally cause expensive pain and anguish, and even death. So, it's important to get them off a dog before the awns have a chance to embed themselves.

Carlin had at least one awn between each of his toes. And he doesn't much like anyone messing around with his feet. But it's necessary, so Russ and I teamed up to look everywhere — top- and bottom-sides of all feet, inside ears, in the armpits, the eyes, gums, anus, shaft…, pretty much everywhere. It look longer to do that inspection and removal than to run Carlin on the course and do a hunt dead.

But the excitement wasn't over. As we were leaving the area, a black Labrador-looking dog trotted down the road toward us. No people or cars in sight. So we stopped to see what we could see.

He was a friendly, intact male dog, a bit submissive, with no collar. He was also very thirsty, not surprising since the weather has been above 95 degrees F most days for months now. And, the thing that broke my heart even more — he had grass awns sticking out from between most of his toes, some of which were abscessed already.

We gave him several bowls of water, and some treats, and with a bit of coaxing, he hopped into one of the dog crates we have in the car. (Tooey volunteered to sit in a back passenger seat so the strange dog could have her crate.)

So, obviously, he is or has been someone's dog. We called a friend who lives sort of nearby the WMA to ask for advice. Then we called the county sheriff to see if they knew any shelters that were open.

This being on a Sunday, there weren't. And the sheriff also told us that the WMA is a popular dumping ground for unwanted pets. So, we took the dog to the Idaho Humane Society in Boise. If his home was near the WMA, we may have taken him away from people who might be looking for him. But those grass awns, which he would have gotten from the fields of the WMA, had obviously been in there for way more than a week.

I just couldn't leave him there. I hope some good people find him and give him a good home. And give him the medical care he needs now, before it's too late.

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Last Saturday… well, maybe we should just skip over a long description of Saturday. Basically, that one last bird defeated us on Saturday. That last bird, the one, that if Carlin had put it in my hand, would have earned us Carlin’s 2nd retriever Junior hunt test pass? Carlin dropped that bird just five feet from my hand. It rolled down the bank to the edge of the pond, getting dredged with sand. He tried two times to pick it up — he put is mouth on it, but he just couldn’t bring himself to bite down on that sand hard enough to grab up the bird so he could hand it to me. So we were out.

Which is too bad. Because on the rest of the test, Carlin did a fine job. Two tough land marks, both in thick, taller-than-an-IWS cover, the first out 20 yards farther than it looked. And the other, the live flyer, landing perfectly in line with the gunner and the blind so that neither I nor Carlin could see it. He found both birds, though, (the first with a little handling help from me), and brought them both back to hand. The first water bird was nicely done, too. It splashed down into the water, and Carlin went out directly and directly back, with bird to hand. But then that last bird…

Oh well.

So on to Sunday, which had a much happier ending.

It was hot in McCall, Idaho, somewhere in the mid-90s F. And, unlike Saturday, we weren’t rescued by a 20-degree-dropping thunder storm. The hunt test, put on by the Treasure Valley Hunting Retriever Club, was held in a large, dusty gravel operation south of Lake Payette, with quarry ponds and re-growing fields studding the area.

The morning land series was held in a field of tall grasses, broken up by small trees and smaller bushes. It was also damp enough to attract a small swarm of mosquitoes. The judges placed decoys (which have thrown Carlin off his stride in the past) among the grasses. The first bird was pretty easy for Carlin, although he did introduce a note of personal expression. The cover was tall, but the mark wasn’t too far away, maybe only about 65 yards. He zoomed out, ignored the decoys, picked up the bird, and then zoomed sideways for a few yards to pee on a bush. When done showing everyone who’s who around here, he sauntered back and delivered the bird.

The live flyer was a bit more challenging. It flew, was shot, and dropped about 85 yards away, but directly behind a tree and some bushes. When I thought Carlin must have found it, I muttered, “I can’t see him.” Very helpfully, one of the judges stepped to the side so she could see him, and then said, “He’s got it.” I whistled, and Carlin came trotting back, and delivered that bird to hand, too.

So, we were called back to the water series.

I tried my best to keep a positive attitude. I wanted to project confidence. But when I saw the setup, what I saw was a prime opportunity for Carlin to run the bank instead of going straight out into the water. Which would likely mean that he’d come back along the bank, too. Which would give him plenty of opportunity for him to drop the bird when he got out of the water 5 yards away from me.

But that didn’t turn out to be the problem. Yes, he ran the bank. But after swimming across the water, he got to the bird, which had landed directly on top of a duck-sized, duck-shaped rock. Like every dog before and almost every dog after him, he took exception to that rock. He found his duck, all right, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to get too close to that rock. After many calls from me to fetch up his bird, he finally, gingerly, reached over and grabbed it. He swam back across the pond, got on the bank, but kept running and delivered his bird.

The second water mark was also a bit problematic, too. The start line was on a thin peninsula. The mark was set up so that the dog coming back from the opposite shore could have shorter swim if he came back onto the land behind the neck of the peninsula, through a break in the bushes, instead of swimming all the way back to the start line. And this is precisely what Carlin and a few other dogs did. Very generously, the judges allowed us to move back and toward the break in the bushes so we could meet our dogs about 5 yards from the shoreline.

Happily, Carlin held onto his bird all the way in and put it into my hand. Oh, happy day! We’d done it! When we got off the field, I gave him about 5 pieces of salami, a slice each of ham and turkey, and made a big jumping-around deal of his success. Not dignified, I know. But I was pretty darn happy.

When Russ was done gunning for Seniors, Carlin, Tooey and I went over to the Payette River and had a swim. I hadn’t brought a bathing suit, so I swam in my hat, blouse, and underwear. It was delicious. The water was cool, and it washed off a bunch of the grime, sunscreen, and bug spray that I’d been getting on me all day.

The dogs had fun, too, especially Tooey, who had waited patiently in the car all day. Russ threw fun bumpers. And the two dogs beat me to it every time.

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And the bed passed!

Let me explain. Russ and I have been sleeping in a queen size bed. And since we are the type of folks who allow the dogs on the furniture, we are often joined on the bed by one IWS. There’s room for only one IWS when both Russ and I are in it. Used to be that Tooey ruled that roost, but since we moved to Idaho, Carlin has been claiming that space. And amazingly enough, Tooey has let him do it.

But this last weekend, Russ finished building a beautiful new bed. And this one, given that we now have the room, is a king size bed. Totally big enough for two adults and two Irish Water Spaniels.

But still, Tooey hasn’t been willing to get on it while Carlin was up there.

In the middle of the night last night, though, we got lightning. Flashes of white that came through all the bedroom window blinds. And as usual, Tooey started barking at the lightning. I used to think that she was just mad and barked to tell the lightning off, like Cooper used to do. But last night, I thought, well, maybe she’s scared.

We have a thundershirt for her — a wrap that goes tightly around her chest and back. It has seemed to calm her in the past. But the thundershirt was stored away in an outbuilding, and I certainly didn’t want to wander outside in the middle of the night, in the middle of a lightning storm.

So I heaved Tooey up onto the bed next to me, and put my arm around her tightly, as if I were a human thundershirt. Thankfully, she stopped barking, letting out only a little growl or whine from time to time.

After a while, the lightning stopped. Tooey stayed alert for it for awhile. But finally, she stretched out and gave a long deep sigh, and we both joined Russ and Carlin in sleep.

So, it’s true, there’s plenty of room for two adults and two IWS to sleep comfortably on the beautiful new bed.

Now, if can just stop her from running through the flowers and dousing herself in pollen before bedtime…

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John Arrington, one of my new training buddies, is an excellent photographer. I am so lucky when he brings his camera and takes photos of Carlin and I training. Here are three from a couple of weeks ago that I really like:

photo by John Arrington

photo by John Arrington

photo by John Arrington

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I worried about what I was planning to do for days ahead of time. I had bad dreams. My lower intestinal tract was worried, too. I knew there were good reasons for doing it, but I didn’t want to.

I don’t want to hurt or frighten my dogs, especially on purpose. But there are rattlesnakes around here. There are rattlesnakes right behind my employer’s building. People have seen them on roads out of town. Apparently this a bumper year for gophers, ground squirrels, and whistle pigs, so with all that food and the early hot weather, the rattlesnakes are out in force.

And what I might do to teach my dogs to avoid rattlesnakes would hurt them less than if they went on a summer hike or early season hunt trip, and got bitten by a rattlesnake.

So Russ and I took both dogs to the Rattlesnake Avoidance Training put on by the Idaho Humane Society and the Idaho Chukar Foundation.

We signed up for the earliest time they had. I hoped to avoid too many crowds and hot weather. But even so, there were lots and lots of people there. (It appears they had capacity for about 250 dogs, I’m guessing.) The photo below doesn’t begin to show how many people were at this beautiful park to teach their dogs about rattlesnakes.

They had 7 trainer stations where trainers met handler and their dogs, and talked with them about any exposure the dog might have had already with an e-collar, snakes, or previous training. They also explained how the training would be run.

They also explained that the dogs would be exposed to bull snakes on the course, which look and behave almost like a rattlesnake but don’t have rattles and are not venomous. When the dog looked at, stepped on, touched, or investigated a snake, the trainer would activate the e-collar to simulate the sharp pain of a snake bite.

Then one at a time, a trainer/handler/dog team went through the course to help the dog learn to recognize the sight, smell, and sound of a rattlesnake.

The course had 5 snake stations:

  • Stations 1, 2, and 3 had a bull snake. These would teach the dog about the sight and smell of a rattlesnake.
  • Station 4 had a bull snake and a sound maker to simulate the sound of a rattle rattling. These would introduce sound, along with the sight and smell.
  • Station 5 had a plastic snake and a sound maker to simulate the sound of a rattle rattling. This would remove the smell element, but keep sight and sound.

Each station also had a snake handler to keep the snakes safe. But even so, the snakes were being handled more than they’d like, and they were not happy about it. There was a lot of writhing, tail flicking, and lifting of heads.

Russ took Carlin through first. My photos did not turn out well — my shutter finger was way too slow. But then I took Tooey through, and Russ took photos. In the pictures below, Tooey had been through three stations already, and really begun to get that rattlesnakes are not our friends.

The snake is lying at the base of the tree, on the right side, along with the noise maker. The snake handler is peeking out from the left side.

We hadn’t even gotten that close to the snake, but Tooey, I think, had already gotten a whiff of it in the photo below.

By this photo, she’s heading off away from the snake.

At this point, my job was to run away from the snake with her, praising her for avoiding the snake. The trainer could see that she was reacting appropriately, and didn’t use the e-collar this time.

Carlin went through the training a second time. He’s usually quite soft, and those few times when we’ve used an e-collar on him, we haven’t needed to turn up the dial beyond the minimum. But in his first run through the training, he didn’t seem to get the point at all, so we ran him through again, this time using a higher setting.

You can see how close he got to the snake. Just before this photo, he looked at the snake and the trainer nicked him with the collar. He jumped away fast, and we both yelped. This snake was beginning to lift it’s head in a threatening posture. That scared me, adding to the reality of the simulation.

But the time we got to station 4, Carlin had figured it out like Tooey. He was already running away when I was just seeing it for the first time.

The trainers said that many dogs don’t need another session, that they get it after this training. But he also urged us to repeat the training on our own if (when?) we come across another snake. I hope that never happens. But we live in Idaho now, and rattlesnakes are our neighbors.

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We have kept this blog up for more than 10 years. I know that there are others who enjoy reading it. But we also use it as a kind of diary, to help us remember what happened to which dogs when.

So as I have with Carlin’s other hunt test passes (Junior and Senior), I thought I’d create a post that lists Carlin’s scores for the Master Hunter Upland spaniel tests he took and passed, earning his MHU title. Each test is represented in a table, and each table includes the scores given by the two judges for each category.

Master Hunter Upland pass 1Northwest English Springer Spaniel Club – August 20, 2016

Ability Land Water Retrieve Hunt   Dead Water Blind Average
Hunting 9 | 9 N/A 8 | 8 6 | 6 7.67 | 7.67
Bird finding 9 | 10 8 | 9 8 | 8 6 | 7 7.75 | 8.5
Flushing 8 | 8 N/A N/A N/A 8.0  | 8.0
Trained 8 | 8 8 | 9 8 | 7 6 | 6 7.5  | 7.25
Retrieving 9 | 8 9 | 8 8 | 8 7 | 8 8.25 | 8.0
Overall average 7.83 | 7.88

 

Master Hunter Upland pass 2Northwest English Springer Spaniel Club – August 21, 2016

Ability Land Water Retrieve Hunt   Dead Water Blind Average
Hunting 8 | 9 N/A 9 | 9 8 | 10 8.33 | 9.33
Bird finding 9 | 9 10 | 9 10 | 9 10 | 10 9.75 | 9.25
Flushing 8 | 9 N/A  N/A  N/A 8.0  | 9.0
Trained 6 | 6 10 | 8 7 | 9 6 | 6 7.25 | 7.25
Retrieving 9 | 9 10 | 9 10 | 10 6 | 8 8.75 | 9.0
Overall average 8.41 | 8.77

 

Master Hunter Upland pass 3Mount Rainier Sporting Spaniel Club – September 2, 2016

Ability Land Water Retrieve Hunt  Dead Water Blind Average
Hunting 10 | 8 N/A 8 | 7 10 | 7 9.33 | 7.33
Bird finding 10 | 7 8 | 9 7 | 7 10 | 7 8.75 | 7.5
Flushing 10 | 9 N/A N/A N/A 10.0 | 9.00
Trained 10 | 10 6 | 7 7 | 7 8 | 6 7.75 | 7.50
Retrieving 10 | 10 10 | 7 8 | 8 7 | 6 8.75 | 7.75
Overall average 8.92 | 7.82

 

Master Hunter Upland pass 4 – Puget Sound English Springer Spaniel Club – September 3, 2016

Ability Land Water Retrieve Hunt   Dead Water Blind Average
Hunting 9 | 9 N/A 10 | 10 8 | 8 9.0  | 9.0
Bird finding 9 | 9 10 | 10 10 | 10 8 | 8 9.7  | 9.25
Flushing 10 | 9 N/A N/A N/A 10.0 | 9.0
Trained 9 | 8 8 | 10 10 | 10 8 | 8 8.7  | 9.0
Retrieving 10 | 8 9 | 10 10 | 10 9 | 9 9.0  | 9.25
Overall average 9.2  | 9.1

 

Master Hunter Upland pass ? – Clumber Spaniel Club of America – September 4, 2016
We don’t have any records of passing this test. In fact, we are sure he failed it. He over heated, and instead of delivering his second bird to Russ, he took his bird to the shade and laid down. He was not called back to the hunt dead or to the water portions of the test.

But when I called the American Kennel Club in early this month to straighten out some other mistakes on Carlin’s AKC Points and Awards page, the AKC said they show a pass at this test for Carlin.

“Really?” I asked, “I don’t think so.” I asked the nice lady there to check her records again. So she did, and then she replied that she’s sure he passed. They even had it down as Carlin’s 5th qualifying score for his MHU title. She was a bit embarrassed that the certificate hadn’t been sent out yet, and was glad I’d called her so she could make sure to get it sent.

About 5 days later, an MHU certificate arrived, dated September 4, 2016. We just didn’t get it until May 8, 2017. We could have stopped there and accepted the title, but it didn’t feel right. So we entered him in more tests to make sure Carlin could really do the work. And he did.

 

Master Hunter Upland pass 5Missouri Headwaters Gun Dog Club – May 20, 2017

Ability Land Water Retrieve Hunt   Dead Water Blind Average
Hunting 9 | 8 N/A 10 | 8 9 | 8 9.33 | 8.0
Bird finding 9 | 8 9 | 9 10 | 9 9 | 8 9.25 | 8.5
Flushing 9 | 6 N/A N/A N/A 9.00 | 6.0
Trained 9 | 8 9 | 9 10 | 9 9 | 8 9.25 | 8.5
Retrieving 9 | 7 9 | 10 10 | 8 9 | 9 9.25 | 9.0
Overall average 9.2  | 8.0

 

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