First, in yesterday’s post I wrote that Thunder had to go back and start the test over due to a “no bird”. I should have explained the term more clearly. A “no bird” occurs when there is a problem with the bird being launched (no bird) so that the dog is unable to mark it. It can happen with either the dead bird or the shot flyer station. The people working the test are only human and sometimes mistakes occur. The judges have the sole discretion whether to call a “no bird” and usually they take into account the level of the test and whether the dog had a chance to see the fall. In Thunder’s case, the gunners missed the bird and it got away so there was no bird for him to retrieve. The dog is usually sent back in line 3 dogs before the dog comes back to watch the marks again. This allows the dog time to compose itself. The dog must be steady and once it has seen the test, that can be difficult. Also once the dog sees a particular bird launched, it may become fixed on that bird and miss the rest of the marks.
A Master test consists of three series. This particular test it took a long time to run the first series. The second series did not start until almost 3pm. The second series was a triple, a land blind, a water blind and an honor.
This triple was quite challenging. The first mark was to the right and up on the side of a hill. The dogs had to swim through a bit of water to get to the mark. Since it was the first mark down, the dogs had to remember the tricky location of that bird while they watched the other two marks fall. The middle bird was straight ahead and the bird to the left was on the edge of a corn field.
Finn asked whether the same person shoots for each dog. The way the AKC hunt tests are set up, there are people in each station out in the field, (which I indicated in red on the drawing). They call a duck call, launch the bird, and fire a shot to get the dog’s attention. There can be one or more people in each station. Throughout the test you may have people changing out within each station because they may need a break, or to run their dog. The handler who is running the dog does not actually shoot at anything. It is a non firing gun and simulated shooting, (the handler just aims the gun). HRC tests are different from AKC tests because the handler actually fires a blank load at the birds and there is no duck call or shot in the field to cue the dog to look for a mark. The dog must follow the swing of the gun.
Back to the test this past weekend. Thunder did not get to run the test until early Sunday morning. He was the third dog to run that morning and the third dog in a row to be knocked out. The bird to the right messed with his mind. He was great on mark #3 and absolutely pinned it. He lined up with the bird to the right (mark #1), went out that direction, but curved around and picked up the middle bird (mark #2). His handler sent him again to the right hand bird and first he spied the flag for the blind and went to it. There was no bird there so he hunted further up on the hill, but could not find the bird. He never winded it and just watching him, I could tell that mark was just beyond his experience. Those types of marks, where he has to swim and exit the water, are still very hard for him. We train them, and he is improving, but depending how they are set, they can really mess with his mind. He was out of the test at that point and did not get to run the blinds.
Some pictures of his work:
It has been a bit frustrating running these Master tests considering that Thunder breezed through Senior. Since Thunder was out so early in the morning, we went to watch a bit of the Senior test and cheer on some of our pals. Looking at the Senior test, we could really see how far Thunder has come. That Senior test might have proved a challenge for Thunder last year, but those marks are no comparison to the difficult ones he has been running in Masters.
He is entered in a test this weekend, but we are working the test so we are not sure how he will do.