9th May 2009
Hosted by David & Jane Barker of Tarndair
Approximately 25 Wires, the majority of which form part of the extended Leib family and the first ever Tarndair Litter, began to arrive from 9am. The handlers ranged from novice to experienced, as did the dogs, and all were interested in finding out more about what their dogs were capable of and what they as handlers could aim for.
Like me however, they may have wondered exactly what they signed up for as we walked up the lane from the car parking area (think deserted scene from an episode of 'Survivors') to an idyllic country cottage set up for a family garden party. Here were tables dressed in Cath Kidston style fabrics, a freshly laid lawn, gravel paths, beautiful children, a coffee hut, and ‘hang on a moment’ a man in camouflage gear? Oh, and women in boots, with training dummies slung about their person, a stall selling gundog items and ‘Oh OK, everything is quite normal’ several gorgeous dogs and people I recognise.
Even if I've never met them before, the touch of Mallard in some of these dogs and the familiar expressions of devotion on their owners faces is unmistakeable and marks them all as fellow ‘wire clan’. We really don’t need badges, tattoos or neon signs to find each other do we?
Despite the surreal moments (Spacehoppers anyone?) within minutes it became apparent we were in safe and competent hands. Pip, Kevin and Diane facilitated the event and, after a short introduction and briefing we completed an exercise for heelwork and steadiness. Anyone who has done any training will recognise this exercise where each dog weaves in an out of the others.
It’s an excellent test of control – handler and dog – but also affords me with the opportunity to gawp at each dog as it goes by. Yep, there goes Mallard’s head, Flori’s expression, Yendah’s eyes. The winner of Friday’s puppy class strolls by, next you spot a superb tailset or a fabulous coat but then you start to notice one or two things dotted around the paddock that hint of exercises to come. A pile of straw bales dotted with brush seems fairly obvious but the strip of builders fence takes some thinking about.
For the next session the puppies (including several from Jane and David’s lovely Tarndair litter) went to work at the top of the paddock with Diane whilst Kevin and Pip took the remaining adults and more experienced youngsters to observe and practise retrieves. Kevin’s group worked in the lane (remember the builders fence?) whilst we worked with Pip in the open space.
Following Pip's demonstration and L Kaleb’s perfect execution Ylai’s seen retrieve was great but there was no time to get smug about that as the split retrieve was something else entirely! Pip's instructions were clear and the demonstrations were enormously helpful but I wish someone had bought a tape recorder or video camera. Sometimes I could tell exactly what went wrong (dropped lead on dogs head) but other times I really needed someone to point it out (stepped forward too early). The training techniques that drip from Pip’s lips are invaluable but when you need so many they are really difficult to keep in your head! Thanks goodness for the folder with crib sheet – and bless the person that produced those.
I was in a group with Jules (L.Yeva), Susanne (L Kaleb), Joan (L.Joska) and between us all we managed each step with various degrees of proficiency. We rolled a few eyeballs, congratulated each other, admired techniques and, in my case, made mental notes to improve next time. Ylai did a fabulous blind retrieve when he located a dummy on top of the straw bales and gamely climbed up to collect it. However, he and I do need to practise a clean and more precise delivery.
A short episode to perfect our dummy throwing technique was more like an lesson in semaphore and I distinctly recall seeing planes. If the farmer complains about one landing in the field next door please blame Pip!
The water exercise was next and this belonged to Andy who, with L.Ekko, manfully demonstrated just how committed he is. Or have I got the order of words wrong?! Watching him stride into the ditch, fully clothed, to show Ekko what to do was quite something, particularly as he would obviously then be spending the remainder of the day in wet shoes. Most of the dogs in our now combined adult group had a go at this exercise. With coaching from Pip and good dummy placement by Kevin the proficient dogs like Kaleb, Starsky (L.Zsaru), L.Arek and Minnie showed just how good they are. Motivated by a competitive spirit Ylai soon felt confident enough to leap in, as did Oska (L.Joska), although Yeva and L.Marci were less keen at this stage to get wet or dirty.
After a picnic lunch on the lawn during which we met more of Flo's and Mallards’s beautiful pups, our group moved across the road for an introduction to gunshot and an opportunity to practise quartering. This was something that really illustrated these dog’s natural instincts. Pip was heard to remark on more than one occasion that the dogs did exceptionally well despite their handlers! Learning to trust your dog was an important message of the whole day but never more easily observed than here. If you pay attention you can really see what the dog is attempting to do and narration from David who, with Flori, regularly works these fields really brought home the skill involved in working with an HPR.
Ylai managed to demonstrate a good sit to shot and, despite tiptoeing through the thistle and round the stinging nettles, was able to locate the dummy. With 6 dogs in the line, a few demo dogs, and one quartering in front it was a fabulous opportunity to see the differences and similarities in each dogs approach to hunting. I understood exactly what Pip means when she says you should watch and learn from your dog (or 'did she mean someone else dog'? I wonder idly, as Ylai sits and eats flies…)
During afternoon tea there was a chance to catch up with the puppy group, some of whom had come to join us at the end of the field to practise ‘sit to shot’. We heard that L.Yvie had taken to the water exercise like the proverbial duck and there were many more tales of success from them all about walking to heel, off lead control and dummy pick ups. With the youngest at only five and a half months these pups really showed what they are capable of.
I must confess that from tea onward the rest of the day passed me by in a happy blur of dog talk. We concluded the afternoon with a demonstration of pointing by Minnie and Pearl (L.Kinga). Ylai does this beautifully too – but it appears that sometimes, just sometimes, it's 'Ouch thistles' rather than 'Ooh look'. There was an opportunity to handle cold game, a highly instructive interlude with a wing and a fishing rod, and then there was the scurry. I’m amazed that some of the dogs were still able to compete at speed (although there was also a prize for the slowest) but speed they did. The fastest scurry was L.Manney who brought it home in 11 seconds. What a boy! It was so nice to spend time with this happy bunch of Wires and their owners and I can honestly say that I’ve rarely enjoyed a dog-day more than this one. The weather obviously played a part, if only to provide the right conditions for the event, but it was much more about the people and the dogs.
Big thanks must go to Jane and David of Tarndair for throwing open your house and garden to us all, your generosity and warmth is overwhelming. Pip and Kevin thank you for your sharing your knowledge and expertise to provide such an enjoyable and informative training day – I learnt a lot. Perhaps to be more accurate I've reached a level of Conscious Incompetence (level 2 in the four stages of learning) so at least I now know what I don’t know…
Personal thanks to Jules who gave Ylai and I a place to stay for
the weekend and did all the driving. Ylai's heartfelt appreciation
of the guest facilities is a whole other story…
Finally a big thank you to Diane - your dedication and commitment to this breed is contagious and there is now a growing network of Leiborschy linked people and dogs to share it with. Long may it continue.
Finally, finally again, to Dolly (Tarndair Mulberry) who, whilst sitting innocently among the cakes and trying to disguise her crumb-filled mouthful, single handedly reminded us all about the need to remain vigilant and to maintain a sense of humour. Three cheers to Dolly Mabel, a girl after my own heart!!
Rebecca (Leiborschy Ylai)