A few weeks ago Finn Howard asked how long we have been hunt testing and how we got involved. I promised to answer, but then got very busy. Maybe it is good that I put it off until now because Sunday was a sort of “full circle” moment. Have to warn you though, it is a bit of a long story.
When we got Thunder in 2006 we were looking for a hunting dog to hunt waterfowl and upland. We wanted to start our puppy out right so we enrolled him in a “Personal Gun Dog” training program. I think he was around six months old. The class was for both retriever and pointing breeds and focused on upland hunting. The first couple of weeks were basic obedience lessons with the group. The trainer took a real liking to Thunder and after a couple of weeks the group lessons became private lessons which consisted of simulated hunting in the field. The trainer introduced Thunder to gunfire and birds and Thunder did the rest.
Working The Field
Retrieving A Bird
Delivering The Bird
Last Training Session
Hunting season kicked in and Thunder did both waterfowl and pheasant hunting. I don’t have a ton of pictures from these hunts since I wasn’t there, but it wasn’t long before Thunder figured out that hunting stuff meant BIRDS!
Ready To Go Grouse Hunting In The Upper Peninsula Michigan
Thunder On A Pheasant Hunt At 9 Months Old
Thunder is first and foremost a hunting dog, but in June of the next year (2007), the Michigan Chesapeake Bay Retriever Club held a Working Dog test. This is a test for a certification from The American Chesapeake Club. The entry-level test is back-to-back singles on land and water with a shot flyer. We entered Thunder to try it out. Thunder had no formal retriever training at this point aside from the gun dog training the previous year. The little training we did was to make sure he would come back when called and hopefully with the bird. It wasn’t necessary for the dog to deliver the bird to hand, just bring it close. I don’t have any pictures because the day of the test it was a driving rain storm. Thunder passed. Of course we were thrilled.
There were dogs running the higher stakes that day. A couple were running WDX and one was running the highest stake, the WDQ. We watched them through the pouring rain. They were amazing. Here we were with our young dog just hoping that he would go out, pick up a bird, and bring it back. He was unruly walking to the line. When the birds went off you better have a very good grip on his collar or he would be off before the duck hit the ground/water.
Those higher level dogs were coming to the line at heel and off lead. They were steady and marking two and three birds. And there was this thing called handling where the guy with the dog used whistles and hand signals to direct the dog to the bird. I never knew a dog could be trained to do that kind of thing. The handler made it look easy. On that day, I could never imagine our dog could do THAT. Hubby was bitten by the hunt test bug and so was I. Our journey began.
We sent Thunder off for six weeks to a trainer for force fetch and when he came home we started to run tests. Boy did we have a lot to learn about training and testing. Thunder passed his first JH in 2007. Hubby did some training with an AKC judge who lived close to us. She helped him learn about hunt tests and hunt test training. He also joined an HRC club looking for training partners, but at that time, few people who owned labs were interested in helping a newbie with a chessie. We kept training. We threw a lot of single marks. Thunder finished his JH title the next summer.
First Junior Hunter Pass
In 2010 we wanted to get Thunder, and now Storm, to the next level of training and testing, but we had no idea how to do it. Sometimes you have to push the dog when they are learning handling, but we did not want to push too hard. We sought out a professional trainer to help us. We have spent many hours training with him and with a group and just the two of us. We have trained in rain, blistering heat, and snow.
Yesterday watching Thunder run the WDQ test was a full circle moment for me. Thunder did a fabulous job on the test. He nailed the marks. The land double and land blind were straight forward. The combination land/water triple were not long marks, but there were factors that could have thrown him off and they didn’t. The water blind was close to one of the marks, but his handling was very nice. All these years later, our dog was doing THAT!
Thunder Land Mark
Thunder Delivering The Bird To His Handler In The Holding Blind So The Water Blind Could Be Planted
Congratulation to Thunder’s trainer/handler and to Thunder–
Ch HR SRR’s North Point Thunder Bay SH WDQ CGC
New Working Dog Qualified (WDQ)
Thanks so much to everyone who worked hard to put the test on Sunday. It was a beautiful day. Thanks to Cindy and Gary for breeding such a wonderful boy. And a special thanks to Darrin Morman of Farpoint Retrievers for helping to get Thunder to this level. We would never have gotten this far without his help.
And thanks for the question Finn Howard.