Dogs and desserted beaches….

DSC_0098

The Footpath

For most of the year the beaches around Ireland are desserted by the general public and this morning was no exception. A strong east wind that has been persistantly hitting our coastline for more than a week now has scared off all but the hardiest of souls.

Dogwalker's heaven.

Dogwalker’s heaven.

As I headed down the path that leads to the beach that strong seabreeze bit into my face clearing away all thoughts of morning weariness. It was fighting with the sea as the tide pulled it away from shore, kicking the water into high foamy peaks.

Full gallop to water

Full gallop to water

Uisce and Mossy were at heel  they could smell the sea. They lifted their heads into the wind and snorted as the cold air was drawn into their nostrils.  We stood on the strand just for a moment to gather our bearings and take in the view. The tide was well out leaving that endless expanse of flat empty strand to roll away in the distance. On and on it goes until it hits the cliffs of Gormanstown some three miles away and no body, not a single being, except me and my two dogs to share it with. This has to be dogwalker’s heaven.

DSC_0113

I released the dogs, there was no hesitation, off they went pulling in the ground as they galloped at full pace towards the water in the distance. Eager to dive headlong into the surf and shake the water from their coats.

DSC_0106

Tomorrow is a showday but today, for my chesapeakes, is preparation day….

Advertisements

Early gundog training.

DSC_0046

Uisce aged 1 year

For a long time I was stubbornly resistant to the idea of needing a gundog to be trained to the highest level it could be and perhaps there’s still a tiny part of me that will always remain so, rather like my chessies which is why I love them so much. However, I have found I enjoy the challenge of learning to train them in a way that they find fun and exciting and in doing so fulfilling their potential as working dogs in the future.

I have concentrated on getting a nice clean hand delivery with Uisce more so than I did with my previous dogs. It was always an aspect I let slide, preferring instead to concentrate on a nice prompt return. I have also found that by separating out the different aspects of a retrieve and working on each one to it’s conclusion Uisce has been able to maintain focus and momentum without flattening out. This can be a  problem sometimes with chessies as they get bored easily with long repetitive training sessions. The sessions therefore have been shorter but more frequent something which I think has also helped in keeping her enthusiasm levels up.

Keeping an enthusiastic chessie in training is key.

Keeping an enthusiastic chessie in training is key.

After battling for the last few years with two pushy young male chessies it has been interesting to again work with the softer attitude of a female. Again something that I need to be conscious of when I move her forward to more challenges in training.

Everything in her training so far has been geared towards building her confidence even the colour of the dummy which makes it easier for her to see when sent for a memory retrieve.

I have learnt much in the year since she was born thanks to the help and guidance from some wonderful gundog trainers, from watching competition work and from assessing my own dogs work and their attitude to it.

I suppose the most valuable lesson I have learnt is that there is and never should be a time limit on how long it takes to train a dog, each will learn in their own way and in their own time. There are no mistakes just different ways of doing things.

Enjoy your brown dogs everyone and make training fun!

http://youtu.be/EKNDDQ-R8o4

Work AND Show can co-exist.

DSC_2434

…he hides behind no mass of coat….

Today the dog that stands before you  on the green carpet  is a showdog. He hides behind no mass of coat or flashy eyecatching movement. He is a functional no nonsense breed of dog and He has come as a representative of everything that is great about the breed from which he developed.

All those noble dogs that spend their winters working hard along a frozen foreshore watching and waiting in the fading light for the geese and duck to come. A loyal hunting companion whose superior scenting abilities and tenacious spirit make him equally proficient in pursuit of upland game and perhaps most important of all a valued and trusted family member.

DSC_0474

All those noble dogs that spend their Winter waiting….

Stand back for a moment and take the time to fully appreciate perfection in simplicity. As you let your eye follow down along his body the story behind the dog may start to reveal itself. His demeanour , as he stands before you, is one of power and confidence. He does not feel the need to greet with the eager exuberance of a puppy. This is a working dog and although his face may still bear the scars of a Winter spent hunting heavy cover, the tools of his trade, the very reasons this breed has been made the way he has, are immediately evident….that nose that will hunt a diving duck through the thick swathes of elephant grass has wide clean nostrils,the length in his muzzle and sculpted bones of his jawline give a clue to his ability to carry his quarry with a gentle mouth. His body is fit and lean, he was not built for speed but power and stamina.  The confidence that saw him through a season of taking on the heavy winter waters, tidal estuaries or following on the tail of a wounded cock pheasant no matter how deep the cover is borne out in his easy, fluid movement around the ring,  in the way he carries his head and watches his master with an alert and happy attitude.

DSC_0762

His confidence is seen in the way he carries himself.

There are many who fail to see the relevance of showing dogs in relation to what is required in the working field. It is all too easy to look at the finished picture of the dog before them standing on the carpet at Crufts and see only a groomed dog presented to perfection and forget the story behind how they and their breed come to be there……perhaps then the BASC gamekeepers classes go some way to reminding us that working AND Showing gundogs can sit in the same sentence.

DSC_0440

Work AND Show can co-exist.

For the last three years, along with entering the breed classes at Crufts we have also competed in the BASC gamekeepers classes. It is a separate competition which runs concurrently with the breed classes. Every dog entered has to have written confirmation from the gamekeeper that they have worked with during the shooting season. The classes are big, over 20 in most cases , and they cover all the subgroups in gundogs. The vast majority of these gundogs also compete in their respective breed classes.

DSC_3210

Chester, competed in gamekeepers aged 11.

Mossy and Chester were the only two representatives of our breed that stood in the  BASC Gamekeepers classes at Crufts in 2013. That year out of a class of 27 dogs made up of Flatcoats, Goldens, a Curlycoat and Nova- scotias it was a proud moment when Mossy was pulled 2nd behind the eventual overall winner. It was an even prouder moment that his father Chester, at the age of 11 years, was there also and testament to the fact that age does not limit fit for function.

In 2014 Mossy and his half sister Uisce pushed the boundaries one step further in the BASC Gamekeepers classes. For the first time in the history of the breed Mossy won The Shooting Gazette trophy for Best Any Variety Retriever Dog and Uisce won the Marsh Trophy for Best AnyVariety Retriever Bitch.

DSC_4162

Uisce and Mossy in BASC gamekeepers Crufts 2014.

To be associated with a breed where form and function remain so inextricably intertwined is something I feel passionately about and proud that when we hand back the trophies this year the names of the two Chesapeakes also carry the titles of Show Champion and Champion.