|Posted on May 29, 2015 at 10:20 AM|
unt Test Story...
trisha: Posted on Thursday, October 18, 2012 2:34 PM
I imagine I will ramble as I write this, but I just can't help it! It has now been a week since I packed up Pebbles, my 12yr old son and my 4 month old baby and we headed off to Suisun City, CA (yep, I'd never heard of it either). It is about 650 miles from home. The reason for this trip was for a Hunt Test. Pebbles needed 1 more for her title and I think I was determined to a fault that she get it this year.
If I'm being honest, about 2 days before we left I really started to panic. What if the dog wasn't good enough? What if I wasn't good enough? What if the car breaks down? What if I spent all this money and time on this trip and we still didn't get the title?
I was still having some of those thoughts as I was driving there. But in general I was happy to be off and see where this little adventure took us. Some great parting words by my husband were, "don't worry about what the dog does- just enjoy having fun with Zach." Those were fantastic words to live by, but hard to totally appreciate as I was fully aware that I wouldn't have been going on this trip if Pebbles didn't need this title so the pressure was there regardless.
The trip down was long! We arrived around 2am on Saturday and I was so tired. Had it not been for a rolled down window, loud radio, and some mighty good sunflower seeds I may not have made it! We took the necessities up to our room. I pottied and fed the dog and we crashed.
The next morning came early after our long trip, but Pebbles was waiting at the side of my bed with a bumper (which I know I had put away in a bag before I went to bed and she was excited so I started moving. I tried to remember all the things I was supposed to do to make sure she was ready. My list of things included potty, a quick obedience/heel reminder, a few fun bumpers, and to relax
For the first time this summer, the hunt test was actually convenient! We were staying in Fairfield and Suisun City was only about 10 minutes away. The grounds were beautiful and I believe the sole purpose of them was for dog training. (I won't get into east and west because that would be a really funny story) To one side were windmills that were to numerous to count. In the other direction was a Military base and town. I was admiring the location until it occurred to me that Pebbles had never seen one of those huge windmills before.
I started to look for my test and realized that as huge as this place was, we better get out and do some bumpers. I was nervous, she was excited so we better blow off some steam. I found a wonderful spot. It had tall grass, short grass, grass of various colors, and a little bit of wet marshy stuff. I get out my bumpers to play with my dog. I throw the first bumper. I send her. She of course is a pro for this type of thing and I'm smiling to myself. She returns the bumper and I grab the collar. The collar came off! It broke right there! Do you think I had an extra collar???? NOPE! I had a bazillion different leashes, but only the collar that was on her. Inside I was panicking a little, but we still played with the bumpers and she was having fun.
I decide that we need to head into town real quick and I'll just find a cheap collar. On my way out I pass by a lady I'd talked to when I first entered and when she noticed me leaving we talked about why. She was so amazing and immediately jumped to the back of her truck and found me an extra collar. Let me just take a minute to say that so far my experience at hunt tests, though limited, has been absolutely amazing! The people have been so friendly and supportive. That may change in the upper levels, but doing the Junior hunt tests has just been really probably the best overall experience I've had with my dogs. Didn't matter if I was there to watch my dog, or to actually run her. So that part has been amazing!
I, of course was early, but I was feeling prepared. People were filling in and I was checked in and ready. The test was set and we all head out to watch the test dog. In theory, it wasn't looking that hard, but there was 2 large ditches/streams the dogs had to run through before they got to the bird. Bird 1 was live. Bird 2 was hand thrown (first time I'd seen that. They usually are in a slingshot type thing). I was nervous for bird 2 because the kid wasn't throwing it high, and bla bla bla... I was just nervous! Plus the test dog went on for awhile trying to find it.
I head back to the car and text Adrienne for the first of many times this day. Now, I'm thinking to myself that ordinarily these birds would be cake for Pebbles, but a few weeks prior to this weekend, I'd randomly decided to take her to Mesa, WA for a hunt test and it didn't go well. And I didn't know why. So that added a little uncertainty to everything.
Anyways, we were dog #8 and so I got her out fairly quickly. One of the things I was trying to correct from our previous outing was that I felt rushed through the holding blinds. The other dogs in front at the other test weren't ready so they made me go sooner. Technically shouldn't matter, but if I'm trying to come up with a cause, Pebbles had to go from a potty break to almost immediately on the line. I wanted to avoid that this time. In other words, she needed to be amped up a little. So after the first dog, I pull her out of her crate and we wait behind cars (I'm told that she can't see any other dogs birds, or she may mark from the wrong spot). With each gunshot she is getting a little more excited and we move a little closer each time.
There are 3 holding blinds to wait in before you get to the line, and I was definitely more nervous, but it was changing to excitement. Pebbles was now trying to cheat to see the birds, but she was great. I then start talking to her. I know this sounds silly, but I really think that dog can understand English. Really! So I start telling her, "Pebbles, that first bird is quite a ways out. Go all the way until the grass changes color, but before the really tall stuff. Okay? Good girl. Good girl. Your so perfect Now that 2nd bird won't be very high so watch good. (Moving up to the last blind...) Good Pebbles..."
We head to the line and for the first time this summer I see the guy holding the live bird right in front of the blind. Pebbles is watching the dang thing flap and make noise. Needless to say, lining her up for this bird was easy getting a sit was not. I could have sworn all the other tests that the bird people were staying behind the blind, but whatever. Didn't matter now. I signal that we are ready and hold on tight! I send her and she takes off! I'm super excited as she blasts through the water and straight to her first bird. I whistle for her to come back. She's a total pro. She sits. I take the bird in a very obnoxious 2 handed grab and hand it to the judge. We line up for the second bird. "Good girl Pebbles. You're doing so good. Please mark." I signal to the judge and she immediately locks in the duck call and I send her. Again, to my nervous delight she heads straight to the second bird. I am totally elated! But, I'm trying to stay calm and I'm whistling and talking to her as she brings back the bird. Again she sits and I do the 2 handed grab. I hand it to the judge and the judge tells me, "it's okay now. You can breathe." So clearly I may have been noticeably nervous, but I was super excited and really glad my dog made it through the first two birds. We headed back to the car. I could now breathe, enjoy my kids (my wonderful son had put the baby to sleep while I was doing all that), and watch the other dogs. It was painfully obvious as I watched that when the other people would grab for the birds it was this graceful one handed thing. Just a simple grab and hand it to the judge. I know for a fact that it wasn't what it looked like when I was doing it, but whatever. She got the bird
I was now thinking ahead to where the 2nd part of the test would be held. After 35 more dogs went I was ready to move on. The nerve racking thing? The test didn't move! The 2nd part of the test would be done in the same spot! I hadn't watched this all summer! Usually a land spot and a water spot.
The dogs are supposed to do 2 birds on land and 2 birds in water. Typically, the dogs would face the water and the birds would end up in it or they would have to cross all the water and hunt for the bird on the other side on land. (a large number of us were hoping that our first test was the water one since they had to cross through so much to get the first 2 birds. No such luck) Well, since I had driven all this way, of course the judges do something way different!
I tried to get the picture on here, but I can't so I'll do my best to describe it. Instead of the typical way of using the water, the judges decided to go long into it. It was probably only 50-60' wide and they inconveniently set us up near the end of it. Bird 3 was across the water to the right and then another 30-40' on land. It had some very well placed duck decoys that made me nervous... I thought it would be the hard bird for that reason. Boy was I wrong!
Bird 4 was a disaster waiting to happen. Since we were still in the same area as the first 2 birds, they took the station from bird 2. They moved it back an additional 40-50' and turned it towards the water. That bird would then be shot to the far side of the water in some deep marshy grass. I was very nervous to say the least. Of course since I was a newbie it may not have been a problem. But here is what I saw as a problem and why.
We were placed for these birds in a spot that would make us send the dog swimming through water and back on land for a bird (which I was nervous until I saw the next bird). But from the very same spot we were supposed to send the dog directly long ways into the water. We had super high grass just 10' away from the line and it was nearly a solid wall across in the direction of bird 4. In an ideal test, the dog would barrel through the grass and run/swim through the water... best guess 200'+ (a really long way!) away. If the dog ran exactly straight towards it and was used to going way out and through water this far, they would have success. IF the dog chose to not go blindly through the grass, but go to the right, they would cross the water and end up back at bird #3 which was a long way away from the 4th one. IF the dog chose to go the the left along the bank of the water they would end up at the area near where 43 birds had already dropped and left scent during bird 2 earlier. Unfortunately, bird 4 was much farther past bird 2. So marking would be really important. Also, if they ran the bank to the left, they would still have to cross the water just make it to the other side near where bird 4 would land. Deep breath I kept telling myself... The other bummer was that obviously in this one there would be an obvious advantage to dogs running later because hopefully the earlier dogs would knock down a decent amount of the tall grass and leave a direct route to the bird for later dogs. Or, at least it would look more encouraging. That didn't help us much because after the cuts from the first round we went from being dog 8 to dog 4
After watching the test dog struggle it adds a little tension among most of the group watching. Judges response? "This is what it would look like if you were really out hunting." Basically, tough luck.
I start to prepare Pebbles again. As I'm heading towards the holding blinds. The first dog heads off and I notice a bucket at the line. What the heck is that?!? I ask someone. I am then informed that when we send the dog, we need to do it while sitting on the bucket. Another thing to make it more life like by the judge. I hadn't seen any test using this all summer either. A little confusion, a little fear... I already was worried about the 4th bird and now I had to introduce something that I was certain Pebbles hadn't done yet, or definitely had not done with me. Again, the people were so nice and someone had a bucket I could borrow to practice sitting next to it with Pebbles. It was nothing like during the hunt test, but at least she got to see it first.
We head to the first holding blind. 1 dog passed so far. 1 dog failed on bird 4. I'm nervous. We head to the second blind. I start talking to my dog. "Pebbles, you are the most perfect dog. I love you you sweet girl. They are hard birds today. Run far on that 4th bird..." I switch collars and put my extra in my back pocket. The 3rd dog is having trouble and Pebbles is anxiously trying to see over the blind. We head to the last blind right behind the judges. "...good girl Pebbles." At this point the person behind me asks if they can go before me. HECK YEAH!
So I move back a blind thinking in my head the extra time will mash the grass a little and put a little more bird smell out there and hype her up more. I really want her to have enough in the tank to go all the way out for bird 4. Another dog fails the test. Now the person I let pass me is up. Again, trouble. "Pebbles, you are such a good girl." I'm actually massaging her ears. We head up to the last holding blind.
I'm still massaging her ears telling her how wonderful she is. She understands English right? I bend down and am looking her in the eyes. "Pebbles, Pebbles, Pebbles. You are gonna do so great (in a very soothing tone). That 1st bird is easy. Just run past the ducks. They aren't real. You'll be able to see the duck on land after you make it across. Pebbles...Pebbles that 4th bird is way out there. Pebbles the 4th bird is WAY down the water. Please please go out far enough. Please Pebbles run far. I love you you perfect girl. You can do it." Now, I'm right behind the judges at this point and I don't know if they can hear me, or if the pep talk was for her or me. Whatever. We are called to the line.
We heel decently up to the line and I see the very scary bucket. I heard varying rules to how the bucket was to be used (also should be noted that the test dog DIDN'T have to run from the bucket it was added for the first dog) but this is what I thought were my rules for it. 1. I couldn't move it- I had to line her up for both birds from where the bucket sat. 2. I had to stay sitting on the bucket from the time I signaled to the judge I was ready (and the bird was shot) until I sent the dog after the bird. Once she was off, I could stand.
We are now next to the bucket. I have her lined up where I want her, but she isn't sitting. She is looking exactly where I want her to though, so I let it be. I signal the judge. The bird is shot. I send the dog. She is just awesome on this one as she passes by the fake ducks, goes straight to the bird and comes straight back to me on the whistle. "Good girl Pebbles!!!" She delivers the bird great and I do another awkward 2 handed grab. Its now time to worry about bird 4.
I've got her by the collar and she is now by my side/by the bucket. I'm sitting and she's not fazed by it at all. However, she immediately focuses back on the bird station for #3. She can see that one. I am pointing her into a wall of grass and she cannot see where bird 4 will be coming from until she hears the duck call and it's in the air. I stand up from my bucket. I don't move her, but I move a leg in front of her to get her attention back in the direction that I want her looking(I'm not brilliant, but I had re watched the hunt tests when Adrienne had run her and seen this a billion times. We had talked about doing it in practice, but now it was real life). It works and I sit back down. As soon as I sit, she immediately focuses back on station 3. I get back up. At this point I have no idea if I'm even allowed to go up and down on the bucket like that, but I paid $75 for this test and drove 12 hours just to get there... I WAS NOT SENDING MY DOG UNTIL SHE WAS LOOKING WHERE I WANTED!!! She focuses again and I sit "good girl Pebbles." I am about to signal and she shifts again. It was so quick and I got mad at myself for not sending her sooner. I stand again. This time I reposition her next to my bucket and she is looking straight again. I sit. She stays focused and I signal. The duck call suddenly keeps her attention. I feel good.
The judge says "dog" and I send her. She doesn't head straight through the grass, but stays pretty on line but to the left of where she needs to be. She makes it to the left bank and as she hits the area of bird 2 I get nervous she will stop, but instead she enters the water again and heads toward bird 4. I am happy! 10 feet before the bird- where the marshy grass starts concealing the bird, she exits the water on the other side. At this point she takes a nice jaunt towards bird 2, but way further out (her distance was great! It was my pep talk :). She then heads back towards the bird like it has a flashing light on it telling her where it was. She grabs the bird with a small hunt in the marsh area and I am whistling her back. I am jumping up and down inside and I am so proud of my dog. "Good girl Pebbles. You did so good!" I imagine the judges are rolling their eyes behind me at this point. I may have said more to her than "good girl", but I'm not admitting it in this blog I didn't care. She had the 4th bird. I was just___________ (whip out the thesaurus and pick a word for happy/excited). I call her back and she swims almost the whole way back in the water. She did exit to avoid the wall of grass and brought me the bird. My 4th nerdy 2 handed grab of the day. I handed it to the judge. Immediately I hear Tom Jones playing in my head and I'm doing a dance that only people who watched The Fresh Prince Of Bel-air could appreciate Maybe not that obnoxious, but I was excited!!!
Now we just have to wait for the remaining dogs to finish. It was great to get all 4 birds, but I had no idea if we qualified. Did Pebbles hunt to much for bird 4? Did I take to long between the 3/4th bird focusing her? Was I allowed to stand/sit multiple times on the bucket? I had these questions briefly, but really I was totally proud of my dog and I didn't care. As time passed, it was also increasingly clear that this was a hard test.
In the end we passed! 14 Golden Retrievers were entered that day and only 3 qualified. I haven't checked officially, but 43 dogs total did the test and I bet easily under 20 of those qualified. I was still in awe that we were one of them.
At this point I really need to thank a few people. Without Adrienne Hardin (www.rogueretrievers.com) This adventure would not have been possible. I can only imagine she was nervous for our trip, but I had total confidence in how well she had prepared the dog... and me too! She did a fantastic job of training Pebbles for Hunt Tests. And, after I had my baby, she ran her in the tests until I had the guts to do it. I cannot thank her enough for making this such a positive experience for both myself and my dog. Also, I will never admit to anyone how many times I re watched previous hunt tests. I could literally picture me doing the things I needed to do.
Zach and Leah will never read this, but it is amazing to me that Zach at 12 years, babysat his 4 month old sister all day so that I could play around for a day. Also, my husband who might read this and was willing to send me away for the weekend while he stayed home with the other 2 kids. Though from the phone calls I got they had plenty of adventure themselves
I have no idea if I was able to explain the mish mash of feelings and events that I wanted to. But if you have read this really long thing, I just want everyone to understand the immense joy that can come from learning something with your dog. I will often talk to people about how amazing service and therapy dogs are. They really are life changing to the people that have them. What about our own pet dogs though? What are other ways that they can enrich our own life?
I think back to our first golden "Goldie" and I cannot help but smile. She was the perfect family pet. Put up with lots of kid stuff, but my goodness she was not pretty. Also, not very active. But seriously the best pet ever!
My next golden was "Shasta." She was prettier than Goldie (people who saw them together would sometimes ask if they were really both golden retrievers) and VERY well trained around the house. When I got her it was with specific intentions that I would show her. When she was just not conformation quality is when I was thinking it would be fun to try Rally. She was so well trained at home. I didn't even practice leading up to the show because I knew she could do it. We headed to the Canby fairgrounds and suddenly she didn't even know how to sit! What the heck was I supposed to do? Needless to say that day I had the only golden in the history of forever that couldn't do ANYTHING in the Rally ring. I was embarrassed. I still loved my dog but both our tails were tucked at that point. It was that day that put me on my quest to find trainers that could help me with my goals. It was what started to help me evaluate litters for what I needed to produce in order to make sure it didn't happen again. And it is what ultimately has led me down a path that has forever changed the bond that I had formerly had with my dogs.
Think about your kids. Every day you challenge them and they challenge you. Each day you have the opportunity to teach, listen, learn and discipline them. You have the biggest deciding factor in their success. (That scares me YOUR DOG IS NO DIFFERENT.
Every day your dog will look to you to teach them new things, good behaviors, and to direct them in how you'd like them to act. In return they will always listen and not judge. The human/dog relationship is always a give and take, but I am convinced they give me much more than I can ever give them back.
Believe me, I know not every person wants to do any sort of dog competition. In fact, most don't. But, I urge all of you reading this to just look into them. It doesn't matter what you choose. All will enhance your relationship with your dog. All will produce better behavior in your house and as a well behaved member of the family. Better yet, the dog that you treat as a member of your family has a mind that is kept sharp! If you are interested, a great place to start is with Rally. It is really fun for both owner and dog. It teaches great partnerships. www.akc.org has more information as well as just googling it. As always, if you have ANY questions about how to get started in a dog sport, or in finding a good trainer PLEASE ASK ME! I am so willing to pass on information. I know you can't tell that I love doing things with my dogs based on my lead in story to this, but I do. Each dog has a different personality and every time we try something new, I get the joy of unlocking another dimension to my dog that I didn't even know existed.
Have a great day and give your golden a hug for me