First test of the season and our all-lady team won second at the Hectorkirk charity team challenge in North Yorkshire. It was good ground, set up for testing the dog at all levels. Thanks go to CAB for their generosity to the prize winners, and Dog & Field working dog food.
There may not be too many working tests this year due to corona virus, so it was good to get Druid out into a competition to see how he does.
I put a lot of training into him after the end of the shooting season and before the start of the test season, which realistically is only about 6 weeks (in the worst of the winter weather with little or no daylight after work). The dogs are always a bit wild after picking up for 5 or 6 months, and the transition from finding game to finding a canvas bag full of sawdust can be difficult - I know what the dogs prefer. Working tests are about precision and handling with a judge at your shoulder watching your every move, there is a lot more team work required between dog and handler to find the dummy. Dogs can be used to being more self-employed picking up, where they are often just told to go and get on with it without little intervention from the handler. So having to get the dog's head back into taking pressure (instruction) from the handler needs work. At a shoot you often do not know where the fallen game is, at a test you are given the location. To expect a dog to go in a straight line indicated by the handler and to not deviate unless told, is a big ask after they have been running around unseen without the handler looking for shot game for months.
The Scottish selection for the Skinners International Retrievers competition is late March and your dog must be as good as he can be by then to be in the running for the Scotland Team. We got through to the second round last year and I had been working hard on improving the things we did poorly last time. Unfortunately Skinners has been cancelled this year but I'm glad my hard work didn't go to waste.
You are only as good as your last retrieve, and Druid did very well on the last exercise of the charity team test. So I will enjoy the warm glow until next time when it all goes belly up and you are brought back down to earth with a thud. But as they say, the more you practice the luckier you get.......................................