Sage Monkey

Sage Monkey

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Preparing for the NAVHDA Utility Test: Duck Search and Field Test

Helena Vom Sparta: Call name Sadie

Today is one of those days where at some point I ask myself how the heck did I end up here? I can't remember if I asked that question today at 3:30am this morning when Jim and I got up to drive to Montgomery, NY to train at the Rocktavern NAVHDA clinic or maybe it was when I had a shotgun draped over my shoulder in camo boots holding a soaking wet dead duck in my hand. All I know is a few short years ago I never thought I would be into hunting, getting dog kisses and doing insane things just for the love of my German Shorthaired Pointer. This whole bird dog thing really infects you, sucks you in and warps your brain. I may not know how I got here but I'm sure glad I made it.

One of the people who is partially to blame for this addiction is pictured above with his DK dog Sadie. This culprit is no other than Bob Corsaro. Bob is the owner of Nobelles Kennel in Ridgewood, NJ. He has been involved with bird dogs for 30 years. He is the breeder of our beloved Cleo. He also happens to be our shepperd on this bird dog journey. In the last 2 years we have learned so much from Bob and he at times has really gone out of his way to guide us through this process. Cleo is our first hunting dog. One of the things that I am undeniably grateful for is that I did a ton of research before we purchased our GSP. All of that research lead us to Nobelles. Anyone can breed dogs....but not everyone can be a trainer and resourceful guide.

So today when we arrived in NY we worked on two portions of the upcoming NAVHDA UT test: Fieldwork and the duck search. Up first this morning was Bob with Sadie. Sadie is 26 months old and has been tested within the German system. She has received a Derby prize 1, a Solms Prize 1 and is rated SG1 in the Zuchtschaus. She's an amazing dog and if Bob's not careful I may steal her someday. She's a real doll. She had a great morning pointing and retrieving birds and I was so stoked Bob let me tag along with him while training to get some pics of her in action.

Next up was Steve Fiasco with Cleo's brother and litter mate Bruin. Bru is a real handsome boy who had a good day in the field. He had an amazing first retrieve today and did an excellent job of delivering the bird to hand.

This location in NY is where Cleo, Bruin and Sadie will test for their UT test this fall. Below is a picture of Steve working with Bruin in anticipation of that. During training you are able to work your dog whether its on the whoa command, staying steady to the shot or retrieving. But come the big test day the dogs will be on their own.

Cleo was up last for our group of friends. She had a pretty nice day day in the field. The one thing I will say about Cleo is she has a great nose. She really lives for finding birds. Her retrieving has come a long way but we still need to continue to work her on staying steady. She did remain steady on two of the three birds she found today. But as Bob pointed out today as soon as that bird flies up towards or over head her head she wants to go.

Cleo loves the ear flapped back point. 

Cleo cleared for landing.....

The next part of the morning was spent working on the Duck Search Portion of the Utility Test. The point of the duck search is to test the ability of the versatile dog to locate wounded waterfowl. Per the NAVHDA Handbook the actual test will be set up as follows: "At a pond or marsh of at least one acre with sufficient vegetation to allow the duck to get out of sight, yet open enough to allow free movement of the bird, is selected. Portions of the area must be of swimming depth for a dog. With dog and handler both out of sight, a healthy pen-raised mallard or other wild species of duck is rendered flightless by pulling, not cutting, the primary feathers of one wing. One of the Judges will toss the duck out well into or past the cover at the edge of the water." As Bob can't really train for the duck search without a kayak. 

Today the unlucky bastard in the kayak was Steve. He did a great job, got soaked and almost went for a swim at least once or twice. He was also unmercifully heckled by Bob which was rather hilarious. Sorry Steve. For this portion of training we had 3 ducks designated for each handler/dog. Each duck was in various stages of mobility. One duck had its wings taped entirely to render it flightless, it could only swim, another duck had its wings taped as well but not as extensively to it could flap and still dive under the water, the third duck's was kinda dead so that the dog would be guaranteed to find it and therefore be successful today. 

The picture above is Sadie on her duck search. She was out in the water for a long time, almost 15 minutes. At the test the dog is not actually required to retrieve the duck but they want it to search for at least 10 minutes. The NAVHDA Handbook states, "The capable dog will systematically search likely cover and, if conditions are appropriate, will find and follow the scent path left as the duck moves through the aquatic cover and over stretches of open water. If the scent is lost, the dog should not mill around aimlessly at the spot, but should start a systematic search to relocate the scent." 

Sadie with a successful duck retrieve

You can see in the pictures above part of the pond was covered in this awful green scum stuff. Watching the dogs swim through it made them look like gators in the everglades. It was also gross and kinda smelly. Sadie had an impressive search and Cleo was the next up to give it a shot. 

Cleo's first attempt started off not so well. Bob fired the shot gun, Jim released Cleo but after entering the water she did not swim out to look for the duck. She seemed rather confused and stayed close to the shore. When she was getting force broke to retrieve we would take her to the pond and throw in a duck for her. She apparently was hanging out and waiting for her duck. Agh!! But Bob had Steve Kayak in closer and put out a duck for her to see. Once she saw that it all clicked and she managed to figure it out and have a nice search.

Her second search was even better than the first. She swam out far and you could see she caught the scent on the water and gave pursuit to a duck. Once she caught it she brought it back to hand. Jim was one happy camper! Last up was Bruin. As Steve says sometimes Bru forgets he is a dog and thinks he is a fish. He did a great job today and had some nice retrieves. 

This is a great pic of Steve paddling in with Bruin on his last search and retrieve. 

A few months back we did duck searches but the dogs were no where near as successful as they had been today. It just goes to show that we are making progress. You can read about the first duck search experience here:  Preparing for the NAVHDA Utility Test: Waterwork and then some. So we will be conducting quite a few more duck searches between now and the UT Test this September. 

I would also like to share an experience I had today as well. I basically got the crap kicked out of me by a Brittany Spaniel. It was quite the experience and I feel that there are some things to learn from it.
The adorable pups shown above are owned by the momma dog that attacked me this morning. The situation was a total bummer. The puppies were put out in a fenced in area. You can see from the picture above that there were people around occasionally looking at the pups throughout the morning. They were really flippin cute. I mean who doesn't love puppies??? So I went over to the pups to see their cuteness and their mom who was not on a leash or a lead pretty much bum rushed me and attacked me. To say the least I think I got off easy, my jeans were ruined and tore open in the back and I now am sporting 2 gigantic purple welts on my butt and a bloody bite on the back of my leg. but in hindsight it could have been worse and thank god it was just a Brittany and not a larger dog. The owner of the pups and momma dog felt awful and I felt bad that the entire situation had occurred too. So in hindsight this is what I learned:

1. Don't ever assume any dog or puppy is friendly. Even if they are at an event or seem sweet and cute. This is common sense but sometimes its easy to forget when you get caught up in the moment.

2. Always keep your dog on a leash or a lead. Just don't assume you will know or be able to control your dog or someone else's in every situation. Had another dog been near that pen there most likely would have a dog fight as opposed to me getting lit up like Christmas.

3. There's no point in being pissed at the dog. She's probably under most circumstances the sweetest dog in the world but for whatever reason she felt I was a threat and did what she and all mothers are programmed to do which is protect their young.

4.  Don't get mad, embarrassed or lash out. Sometimes things happen that are less than desirable but if you learn from them and move on then your no worse for the wear and you will most likely never allow yourself to be in another situation where it can occur again to you or someone else. 


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