Gundog Training Marks Clubs First Event out of Lockdown.
Updated: May 9
After a what has seemed like a lifetime due to Covid, The Spanish Water Dog Club were finally able to host their first event since 2019 in the form of a Gundog Working Test practice day. This event, kindly organised by Jane Appleton with huge support provided by Judy Hempstead as our Trainer, was designed to help familiarise dogs with the requirements for the Gundog working test, also aiding them in gaining familiarity with the surroundings where the test is scheduled to take place later in the year.
Sunday 25th April 2021 saw handlers and dogs alike descend upon the beautiful surroundings of Oxfordshire to the varied landscape of Field Barn Farm. Offering a range of well-kept flat farmland amidst longer vegetation at hedgerows and grassy areas, the farm also provided a small river running through the land. The banks of the river were nicely overgrown, without presenting too much in the way of off-putting branches and although there were a few nettles to challenge some dogs, the gentle current of the stream provided some cool relief and an excellent opportunity to test their abilities. Whilst the sun shone to keep it a dry day for the handlers, the weather also brought with it a cool breeze day which, at times, helped to make the dogs work that little bit harder by driving the scent of the retrieves away from their noses.
Following a short briefing on health and safety and Covid precautions, the training began. Under the watchful eye of Judy of Whipcurl Canine Resolve, the first of exercises saw handlers and dogs walking together in a controlled line, first on lead then off, walking to heel. This helped to settle them down into that training/working mode. Having covered the initial length of the field they were working in, with a few stop commands thrown in for good measure, the group about turned and headed back towards their next exercise. Sat resolutely in a line, shots from a starting pistol were fired at a distance by John, who was assisting Judy, followed by a dummy launcher propelling a dummy high into the long grass in front of them. This important skill for testing steadiness to shot was handled superbly by all dogs and was welcome practice for an exercise that cannot often be trained in home surroundings.
Already in position, training advanced on to completing some retrieves. Shots were fired and dummies thrown into the long grass for handlers to take it in turns to send their dogs out for the retrieve. It was clear just how excited and willing to work these dogs were, with a couple of them breaking ranks eager for an extra go, but handlers soon turned them about to re-join the line. Expert advice was offered by Judy to help encourage the retrieves to be returned to hand.
The morning moved on to water exercises, which presented a challenge to some of the dogs. The final goal of the exercise was for the dogs to complete a retrieve of the dummy from the opposite side of the bank back to their handlers, but this was built up to with a series of retrieves from within the water first. Initially a dummy was thrown into the water to encourage a crossing of the river. It was clear that some of the dogs were little nervous to engage the water, making their way to the bottom of the bank but reluctant to venture out to complete the retrieve. In these cases John was required to deploy his 3 year old Irish Water Spaniel, who was ably standing by, in order to recover the dummy. Reassessing their needs, Judy patiently worked with both dog and handler, first offering dummies in the water closer to the edge of the bank the dogs were on, followed by walking the dogs to the opposite side of the bank and encouraging them to return back to their handlers. This achieved the desired effect, seeing those that were nervous confidently making the journey across the river. The exercise bought a mixed bag of results, but there was clear progression from when the dogs first started, with some successful retrieves being attained both from within the water and across the bank and some useful tips to be taken away and practiced on.
Probably the most enjoyable part of the day for the handlers involved directing their dogs to hunt through the long grass in the blind retrieves. A variety of dummies were thrown out, before the dogs were sent with their noses down to complete the recovery. With the prevailing breeze, it also tested the handlers abilities to provide clear direction for the dogs to get on to the dummies, but under Judy’s guidance all were rewarded with dummies being returned to hand.
This exercise concluded the training, with some reflection provided by Judy to the group on the abilities of the breed and their pleasing willingness to work. The day was not only enjoyed by SWD’s but also a Lagotto Romagnolo, who had been invited to make up the numbers and provide some healthy competition in the field. All handlers and dogs benefited from working in the company of others, which is just as important as one to one training completed at home.
The club would like to say a big thank you to Judy and John for providing their time and guidance on the day, and to the owners of Field Barn Farm for providing the grounds to enable the training to place. A huge thank you must also go to Jane Appleton, who organised and rearranged the event to ensure compliance to Covid regulations and also to Lee for attending the event as our photographer.
A Gundog Test for Working Minority Spaniels has been planned for 27th June 2021 at the same venue. This promises to be an exciting day for the Spanish Water Dog Club as we have not done this since 2017. Details will be posted to the club website along with links to the schedule. Entries will be limited to a maximum of 30 dogs, so ensure you keep an eye out and enter early. On the meantime enjoy your continued training, we hope to see you at the test!