Speciality Show Part 2–WD and WDX
On the last day of the Specialty Show the American Chesapeake Club held Working Dog, Working Dog Excellent, and Working Dog Qualified certification tests. From the American Chesapeake Club’s website:
The primary objective in the establishment of this program is to encourage the development and use of those natural working and retrieving abilities for which the Chesapeake Bay Retriever was originally bred. Additionally, it is hoped that the program will provide another available means to help determine future breeding stock.
Dogs must be at least six months of age and American Kennel Club (AKC) or Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) registered.
We entered Storm in the WD stakes as an extension of the Junior and Started Hunt Tests that she had been doing all summer. The WD test is back to back singles on land and water. There is a shot flier on land and one on water. Dogs do not have to deliver to hand and do not need to be steady so the handler can hold the dog at the line to prevent the dog from leaving the line before the judge has released it. The dog cannot be handled so must see the fall and retrieve the fall without the handler directing the dog to the position of the fall. The WD/X/Q tests use Field Trial rules so unlike hunt tests, the gunners are not behind blinds and wear white. Decoys are not used and they do not use a duck call to attract the dog’s attention to the area of the fall (there is only a gun shot to attract attention to the fall).
Because all of the stakes (WD, WDX and WDQ) had to be held on the same day, the four judges decided to split the 23 dogs running WD into two groups and have one group running the land portion while the other group was running the water portion. The land and the water tests were somewhat close to one another which meant that the dogs were in close proximity to gunfire from the other test and to multiple whistles. In addition, the tests were held at a gun club where there was a shooting range in close proximity which meant even more gunfire. On top of that, it was a very windy day so noise and scent were swirling around. While it wasn’t an unreasonable test, all of the extra things going on made for a challenging test.
Most dogs seemed very focused to me. I thought this was great because I am sure many were like Thunder and Storm and had been cooped up in a hotel room for the last three days while the conformation show was going on. If dogs got into trouble for the WD test, it seemed to me that it was because they were not thrilled about going into the pond. Most dogs did fine with their marking and most picked up the duck once they got to it.
Storm was sent to do the water portion of the test first. Her first mark landed very close to the edge of the pond, so in Chessie fashion, she took the quickest route to the fall and ran the bank to a closer position, jumped in the pond, got the duck and came out at the same spot she went in. Her second water mark was the shot flier. She went straight out to it and back, only dropping the bird to shake (UGH!), but other than that she did very well. Her land marks were clean (including the shot flier).
I was only able to get video of her second water mark, (remember to click the Full Screen icon to see the video full screen). Storm was rewarded with her WD ribbon for a job well done!
Thunder was entered in the Working Dog Excellent (WDX) test. This test requires a double on land (one shot flier) and a double on water (both dead birds), dogs must be steady and deliver to hand. We have been training double marks with Thunder in preparation for the Senior Hunter tests, but this was the first time he would be doing them in an actual test situation. We have also been working on his steadiness. We were a little concerned about whether he would remain steady because he had had enough of the hotel room and was anxious to GO! Again, the 13 dogs taking the WDX test were spilt into two groups and Thunder was assigned to take the water portion first.
The water was fairly straight forward, except the conditions had deteriorated somewhat because the wind was really blowing by early afternoon. This meant that the memory bird (the long mark) which was thrown on water did not remain where it was thrown and in most cases, floated on shore and was hard to see. To top it off, they were cutting a bean field across the road and every time the combine came by it kicked up a lot of dust from the cut beans which was blown over the test by the wind, almost making a haze. I have video of Thunder waiting for his water marks. The long (memory) mark is off the camera to the right at the far side of the pond. The “go” bird is straight down the left side in the same place that it was thrown for the WD dogs.
I was holding my breath when Thunder was waiting for his marks, but he did not “break” and waited patiently for the judges to release him and his handler to send him. He swam straight out and back for
the first mark (one of the few dogs that did not run the bank on this mark). So far so good. He was sent to the memory bird and started out great, but right then that combine came by and there was a lot a wind, and he flared off to the left to look for the bird on in the grass just off the bank of the pond, (he must have winded something). I think he always knew that the bird was on the back far right bank of the pond, but didn’t trust it due to everything else that was going on. Pretty soon he gave up on the grass and went into hunting dog mode. He tried to get to the mark using the back bank of the pond, but that was blocked by trees (he couldn’t see the mark on the shore anymore). He tried to get through the stand of trees at the back of the pond, but that was wasn’t clear, so even though he disappeared in there for a bit, he soon re-emerged. He then came back in the direction of his handler and swam back across the pond and finally found the bird on the bank. Although it wasn’t pretty, it was a pass. His land was much better and he went on to be awarded his WDX!
In the video you can hear the wind, the multiple whistles and the multiple gunshots which made this test quite difficult.
From what I could see, many dogs had trouble with remaining steady. Between the wind swirling the scent of the birds, a shot flier and the multiple gunshots, those dogs just wanted to go, Go, GO! This tests allows one controlled break, but some dogs would not come back when called if they broke, or they missed the second mark because they were being called back. Another problem I saw, the memory bird on land was thrown on to cut grass, but behind a patch of higher cover. Some of the dogs did not drive through that cover, so could not see and find that bird. On water, if the dog was at all hesitant to enter the water on the first mark, they lost precious time before that memory bird was floating off toward the shore and became invisible. If the dog did not have good hunting skills, that second mark was lost to them.
In the end, out of 13 dogs which ran this test, only 2 passed. I was so happy that Thunder was one of the two! He did a great job!
And now it is hunting season so no more tests or shows for this year!