This is a recap of the Master test from this past weekend. It is a bit long, but there are pictures, if you scroll down.
One of the reasons that Master tests are so difficult is that they throw a lot of things at the dogs at once. The test is three series over two days, (as compared to Senior which is only two series over one day). Tests usually have a land series, water series, and a land and water series. Each series can have marks and blinds. According to the rules there must be two triples, a land blind, a water blind, a walk up, a diversion and an honor. A big mistake on any part of any series will end the test for the dog.
This Master test wasn’t super difficult. There were challenging parts, but nothing to blow a dog’s mind. I wasn’t present for the first series, but I am told it presented a challenge for the dogs. It was a land triple in heavy cover with a shot flyer as the first bird down. There was also a land blind and an honor. Thunder picked up the “Go” bird, then his handler let him have the flyer. Thunder went right to the area, but had trouble digging that bird out of the high cover. I am told that a lot of dogs had trouble with that bird. Thunder was eventually handled to that mark. Darn, a handle. Not the way to start. However, he was clean on the last mark and did a nice job with the blind. He just needed to complete the honor to move on to the next series. (Honor=sit and wait while the marks are thrown for another dog.) The honor was where Thunder messed up on his first Master test. This time Thunder did a nice honor so on to series 2. There were a lot of dogs ahead of Thunder, so he would run series 2 the next day.
Series 2 had a lot going on. It was a land/water triple with a diversion shot, a land blind and a water blind. Due to the heat and lack of rain a lot of the ponds are more like mud/muck ponds. As a result, the water was really just running water. This is a very crude drawing. I was not present when the test dog was run the day before so my drawing is how I saw the test from my vantage point in the gallery. I am sure it is not exact, but it is an idea.
The dogs ran the marks first. The marks went down 1-2-3. Thunder picked them up 3-1-2, (the two outside marks and then the middle mark). The difficulty with this triple was that if a dog did not want to go into the water, there was ample opportunity to run the bank. Running the bank is normally not accepted in a Master level test. The dogs should follow the path I indicated with the black lines. Mark #1 gave a lot of dogs trouble. They did a lot of hunting on that one. Mark #2 also gave some dogs trouble and they got behind it and hunted out of the pond. The water blind was very close to mark #2, (not as close to mark #3 as it came out on my drawing). The blind was not placed until the dog was coming back from the last mark but the scent was still drawing dogs over. A diversion shot was fired as the dog was coming back with mark #1.
The dog before Thunder walked up to the line and was not at all focused on the marks. After all three marks were down, his handler sent him and he would not go into the water. The test was over for that dog. Unfortunately two marks were in the water which meant that they had to get another dog to pick them up. It was several minutes before they could get a dog. Thunder and his handler were waiting. It was hot. With Masters it is not uncommon that they need to pick up marks before the next dog can run. It is just something you have to deal with. But it was hot and it was still morning.
Finally it was Thunder’s turn. He nailed the “Go” bird (mark #3). He had a very small hunt in mark #1 and got a bit past mark #2, but just past before he caught the scent and picked it up. Mark #2 fell in the muck on the edge of the pond and it was tough to see it which is why Thunder initially passed over it. Thunder took very nice lines both out to the marks and back. Nice straight lines. This test was right up Thunder’s alley because it looked very much like a hunting situation. In fact he stopped to really look when the diversion shot went off. There might be another duck, right?
Here are pictures from the second series:
It was time for Thunder to run the blinds. The land blind was first. I do not have pictures because I could not really see from where I was sitting. Thunder did a nice job and had one handle to the blind. The water blind was a challenge because it was so close to the where mark #2 fell and it required an angle entry to the water. If the dog was pulled back to mark #2 that could mess up its line to the blind and possibly result in a failing score. Thunder did a nice angle entry. His handler moved him carefully past that old fall and in no time he had the blind.
A strange thing happened on Thunder’s way back from the water blind. The gunner in the station for mark #2 accidentally launched a bird as Thunder was passing by. In Masters dogs should be trained to a certain level where this kind of misfire should not matter to them, but it could have messed Thunder up. The bird was right behind him and he turned and looked at it. He was a good dog though and did not drop the bird he had in his mouth and continued back to his handler. He had completed series 2. He did an awesome job!
The last series was fairly simple. A walk-up and a mark almost in the dog’s face. If the dog was prone to break, this could do it. A walk-up is when the dog is walking at heel, rather than seated at heel, when the mark is thrown. The handler can either say “sit” or blow his whistle to sit the dog. The handler can not speak to the dog again until released by the judges. The AKC recently changed the rules concerning walk-ups. There is a maximum distance for walk-up marks. Originally the judges set the mark too far and had to readjust it closer.
I figured Thunder would do fine on this. He has done a million walk-ups between HRC tests and the Senior tests he ran last year. It wasn’t a particularly difficult double so as long as he did not try to make it harder than it was, he would be OK. Sure enough, he was clean.
Other than that first mark, he picked up all other marks cleanly (no handles) and he did great on the two blinds that I saw. I was watching Thunder with a couple other people from our training group which really helped me since I was a bit nervous for handler and dog. No problem…a PASS!
Here are a couple of pictures of Mark #1 series 3:
I am very proud of Thunder and his trainer-handler for earning their first Master Pass. Thanks to the Club and judges for a great test. One pass down, four more to go!