Posts Categorised: Field

We ran in the hunt test at Indian Meadows in Snyder, CO on May 5-6, 2018. Thanks to Platte Valley HRC for hosting the event!

Tisket only needed two passes to complete her Started Hunting Retriever (SHR) title, so she was entered both days.

The first land mark on Saturday was in fairly heavy cover and a bit shorter than what we’d practiced. Many dogs, including Tisket, overran the mark and had to work their way back, while honoring their noses. Tisket ran back and forth in the area where she thought the bird had dropped, in an effort to pick up the scent. You could tell when she did catch the scent because her nose looked like it had been snagged by a fish hook.

She ran straight to the second mark – “stepped on it” – and brought the bird back to me. The land marks were done, next up were the water marks!

Kathy, Marcie (with Clooney) and Troy
Big water entry to retrieve a bird

The water marks were set up at the end of a spit of land. The first mark was to the right and across a channel into a marshy area to give a slight splash when the birds landed. The second mark was to the left in open water on a good-sized pond.

Tisket did great on the first mark, except she had to check the decoys on the way back. She never dropped her bird, but had to bump each decoy with her nose to make sure it wasn’t real.

The open water swim was out and back, despite the slight chop due to the wind.

Another pass for Tisket!

On Sunday we started with the water marks and Tisket’s daughter, Wynk, got to run her first hunt test.

Both marks were across a channel – wider than yesterday’s location – and onto a sandy bank with sparse grass.

Tisket was out and back quickly on both birds. Very nice retrieves.

Wynk came out raring to go! There wasn’t room for a running start, but she leaped into the water with a big entry and picked up each bird in turn. No time wasted hunting around – she knew exactly where her birds were.

On to the land marks for both girls!

It was hot and starting to get muggy with a thunderstorm brewing to the west by the time we got the land series set up. Didn’t bother either girl in the least.

Tisket ran first again. Out, scoop up the bird and back in no time. The second bird landed in a little swale and she overran it by a yard or two, but turned quickly, scooped it up and back to me. No question that she picked up another pass and that was enough for her title!

Wynk came out raring to go again. Good, because I was wilting with the heat and humidity. Although she’s not very tall, she motored her way to each mark and surprised a few people with her speed. Out and back quickly on the first mark. Slide and turn as she tried to pick up the second bird without stopping. No question; she likes this game!

Wynk says, "I can do both - field dog and show dog."
People at hunt tests are like Labs - fun and happy to help!

Overall, great weekend.

Tisket finished her title, Wynk got her first pass and my truck didn’t stay stuck for long!

Dove Opening Day

Enjoyed dove opening day with my friend, Tom Osborne! And of course we had Arwen and Woody with us doing all the work.

Arwen, at 10-1/2, still has what it takes. She not only handled her main duty of fetching the birds we shot, but also worked as a “traffic cop.” In the beginning, the birds seemed to know where we were and took a detour. So, homo sapiens decided to send canis familiaris about 50 yards away to direct the birds our way.

It worked! Arwen took my cast and went up on a ridge where her shiny, black coat gave the birds the idea they should fly somewhere else. hee hee

It turned out to be a gorgeous evening with lots of birds flying!

We had a great weekend – despite the heat and wind near Boone, CO. Arwen passed a tough Finished test, Tory passed his 3rd Seasoned test, and Jazzy got to run two Started tests and passed both!

The Finished test started with a wide-open triple “dove” hunt and a diversion as the dog was coming in with the last bird. Then a blind retrieve with lots of suction to the dike and old falls. Arwen did fabulously! I, on the other hand, “missed” every bird I shot at.

Afterward we decided to try for ducks. This series was a mind-bender of trying to remember which bird is shot at by which handler and which dog gets to retrieve.

It started off with a buddy on the honor bucket with his dog as Arwen and I walked down the muddy path to the pond. On the way, a duck comes sailin’ in from the left. Both handlers take a shot at it, but remembering not to shoot in the direction of the other handler! The honor dog picked up that bird while the working dog had to watch.

Once we got settled on a bucket, a duck came in from over our right shoulder and quickly thereafter another duck came in from the left. Both handlers shot at the birds. Arwen picked up the left bird after a long swim and then rooted the right bird out of the reeds.

Somehow with all that “shooting” we put down another bird way off to the left. The line to the blind was just off the beach with suction to the shore and to the old fall. Couple whistles and Arwen picked up that bird.

Time for a new “buddy.” As he came down the path with his dog, we moved to the honor bucket. But this dog was amped! When he came into sight Arwen must have figured she’d need a headstart to beat him to HER birds and took a few steps toward the water during the double, but luckily decided not to go any further! Good dog!

English Labs, American, field-type, show dog – how can there be so many different styles of dogs and all be considered Labradors? My guess is that the breed is just too popular – what is it, 15 years now that they’ve been the #1 breed in America per the AKC? Distinctive styles have evolved to suit everyone’s varying tastes, and I’m not saying that’s a good thing, it just is.

The English Labs tend to have heavy bodies, blocky heads and short legs. This is where most of the current show dogs come from. I think they’re a product of the more is better syndrome – the standard calls for a broad head, so let’s make it massive, etc. They’re also a product of what wins – a dog wins Best of Breed at a prestigious show and people sign up in droves to breed to him in hopes of duplicating him and his wins. Unfortunately some of these dogs have become caricatures of the original Labs who were bred to be field dogs. A 120 pound, 22″ dog with profuse coat wouldn’t be my first choice to chase wild ringnecks in South Dakota.

On the other hand, American Labs tend to be tall and slender with whip-like tails and lots of energy. These are the field dogs who can spend all day hunting or running multiple marks at tremendous distances and still want more. They too are products of the more is better and the whatever wins syndromes. These dogs are generally bred for their abilities rather than their looks – trainability, marking ability, and intelligence. These breedings are all about trying to produce field trial winners with less regard for the dog’s structure or appearance.

I’ve seen an adult female Lab who had the height, bone structure and even head shape of a Whippet. I’ve also seen a huge adult male Lab who had heavy bone, massive head, thick coat and, except for the height difference, could have been mistaken for a Newfoundland.

To be fair, dogs from both ends of the spectrum fill particular needs and are loved and cherished by their owners. Plus there are many dogs that fall somewhere between the two extremes. However the extremes are quite different from the classic Lab – a medium sized dog who loved to retrieve.

I imagine owners of both styles are asked, “What breed of dog is that?” If that’s the case then those dogs are not “typy.” Type equals that which makes a Lab distinguishable from a Golden or a Rottie or a German Shepherd. According to the Labrador standard, the “most distinguishing characteristics of the Labrador Retriever are its short, dense, weather resistant coat; an ‘otter’ tail; a clean-cut head with broad back skull and moderate stop; powerful jaws; and its ‘kind’ friendly eyes, expressing character, intelligence and good temperament.”

Here are a couple of classic Labs:

First, is Dual CH-NFC-AFC-Can CH Shed of Arden, (the black dog) a great Lab of the past. He not only earned a show championship in two countries, but was also a three-time National Field Champion! Shed was not so tall and lanky as many of the field dogs of today, nor was he so blocky as most of the current show dogs.

Another great from the past was CH Shamrock Acres Light Brigade. “Briggs was an outstanding show dog and sire. He produced 93 AKC Champions and won 12 Best in Show awards and 75 Sporting Group placements.” Compared to show dogs today he had way more leg and less substance, but look at those shoulders and the balance! I’d bet he moved exceptionally well.

By the way, most of my dogs have both of these famous boys in their pedigree!

I am happy to see some progress – or at least interest – in returning to the moderate Lab, one not overdone or underdone in body style and that still has the desire to retrieve.

A well-respected, long-time show breeder told me recently that the dog can be pretty, but MUST have the desire to retrieve to be a true Lab.

I’m trying to work with Breaker a little each day though it’s tough to do all this with just the knowledge I’ve gotten from Joe, Brian and yourself. I’m trying as best I can! I hope to see you again soon!!

Sarah

 

Hi Sarah –

For Breaker, just keep working on the basics. Work on obedience – heel, sit, come and down. You can do this at home.

Throw marks in different areas and different lengths (watch out for snakes). If he has any trouble with longer marks, see if you can get someone to help by throwing.

Pick out a nice place with fairly short cover and at least 100-150 yards of open area. Have your thrower stay at the same place while you move back with each throw. Start at a distance a little shorter than his best comfort zone – maybe 30 yards – have him sit while the thrower tosses the bumper.

As Breaker picks it up, you back up about 5-10 yards while encouraging him to come to you. Throw the same mark again and run him from this longer position. If he’s doing well, back up another 5-10 yards as he’s coming to you.

Do 3-4 of these at every opportunity and gradually increase the distance. When he’s comfortable out to 150 yards or so on short cover, go back to the shorter distance (30 yards +/-) but this time in higher cover and start increasing the distance again. Probably best to increase by a shorter amount each time because finding bumpers in cover is much more challenging.

Also work on his steadiness. Hold his collar, but require him to sit still and quiet until you release him.

When he’s doing really well and you think he won’t break, slip a short (~ 2′) length of cord like clothesline through his collar and hold both ends with slack in it so he doesn’t feel you holding him. If he breaks, stop him with the cord and have the thrower pick up the bumper. Try again. Only release him for the retrieve if he stays steady. Also vary the amount of time he has to sit after the bumper lands (1 or 2 seconds up to 6 or 7 seconds on occasion).

Also vary the type of ground and cover you work him on. For example, use a ballfield for increasing distance with short cover. Then try to find some place with plenty of cover.

Look for a small ditch – but make sure it’s very visible to him. Look for a creek or pond. Look for a hillside and throw marks up, down and across (not in the same session tho).

Try throwing downwind and crosswind marks (not into the wind because he will smell the bumper early and could start quartering). Basically give him experience picking up bumpers and birds in as many situations as you can find.

When he’s doing well and has all his teeth in – he should by now – you can start on force fetch. Some dogs will need to stop picking up marks until force fetch is completed just because they get pissy over HAVING to pick up something. Other dogs don’t care.

Just make sure once you start force fetch you see it through to the end, otherwise the dogs wind up learning they don’t have to fetch and won’t fetch unless they feel like it. Tough to correct!

Hope to see you soon!

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