The Master test this past weekend was pretty tricky. Saturday was hotter than blazes with temperatures in the 90′s, bright sun and high humidity. There were 44 dogs running in our flight so the first series took a long time to run. Thunder was far down in the running order and did not run the first series until the full heat of the day.
The first series was a walk up to a land triple–2 dead birds and a shot flyer.
The triple was a bit tricky because the walk up bird was 38 yards to the left. New AKC rules have shortened the distance to that mark and there is no duck call. The dog must walk at heel in the direction of where the bird will come out and then the handler either says “sit” or blows a whistle to sit the dog while the bird is in the air. It can be difficult for a dog to stay steady for a bird launched this close to them while they are moving. Once the first bird is down, the handler must turn his body and hopefully the dog, to see the middle bird which was a shot flyer. This bird was quite a way out in the field, down a hill. The dogs had to break through some heavy cover of sorghum and sunflowers to get to it. A few dogs broke on this bird. Once the middle bird was down, the handler had to turn all the way to his right so the dog would see the third bird which was on top of the hill. The gunner station was below the hill and not really visible to the dog. Dogs had a lot of trouble marking that third bird. Some went out to that bird, but then switched to get that middle bird (mark #2) when they could not come up with mark #3.
Thunder got a bit of a bad break on this series because he got a “no bird” on the shot flyer when the gunners missed it. He had to go back three dogs and do the walk up and watch the marks again. No birds are really tough for Thunder and tend to get him over excited and scramble his brain. I think he would have had a good shot at picking up this triple clean but with so much going on, he needed to be handled to that middle bird (#2). He did an excellent job picking up the first bird he was sent to retrieve (mark #3). He pinned it and did not need to hunt that one at all. But he hunted a lot for that middle bird (#2 shot flyer) and eventually his handler put him on the bird. When he brought the bird back, it was in poor condition. The gunners had really shot it. I guess they wanted to make sure it was dead, but Thunder is not used to retrieving something that resembles road kill. Mark #1 was close so no problem for Thunder.
Some pictures of the first series:
Thunder did a good job on a tricky test and was through to the 2nd series. More on that tomorrow.