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  1. #1

    First Field Trial

    So, after many years of walking in the gallery, observing, photographing, and being clueless about field trialing, I bellied up to the bar.

    I entered my puppy "Bocephus" in the cover dog puppy trial at the Gladwin Field Trial Area, the "Chuck Pagano Puppy Classic".

    Bo received "honourable mention" in a field of 15 puppies.

    As anyone familiar with trialing knows, 'Puppy' is relative. The dogs can be up to (I think) 1 year old.
    Bo is about 11 mos, and is the sole survivor of my disastrous litter last May.

    I thought it might be nice to talk about what the experience was like.

    For a complete nube.

    Probably the most surprising thing was the pace you must maintain on foot. More than 2 MPH. Uphill, across aspen cuts, down a woodland trail, etc. Moving quite quickly. For 30 minutes.

    Wheww!

    And, a sort of tunnel vision sets in, as you try to keep forging down the course, all the while trying to let a semi-wild animal dig as deeply into fabulous grouse cover, as you dare.

    All the while trying to bring them around in front to impress the judges with their speed, range, handling, and bird sense.

    The intensity is so great, that time, and where the course leads, are a blurr. So, I can't really say I have any recollection of what I did, or how I did it.

    But, when it was time to pick 'em up, My little guy came right to me for a scratch and his lead.
    Some of the other pups don't recall all that well yet.

    "Playing the game" part of trialing is hard to keep track of during a brace. I was quite surprised when a couple points of strategy managed to become clear to me mid-brace.

    And as I have said here before, I don't care for "singing".

    Working a dog at the limits of bell range requires some coaxing, but an endless stream of singing is really tough for me to concentrate under. I should probably characterize it as an "outpouring of boundless enthusiasm" with extra emphasis on "enthusiasm".

    I have always had pretty good bird dogs, and I'm not afraid to "bring 'em to the line". But this endeavor isn't about that. It's about expanding my enjoyment of my bird dogs, and joining a structure that makes me train more. I've felt for years that it isn't fair to a dog to only unleash then a few times a year.

    I'd very much like to hear about the cerebral portion of trialing, and your experiences as a newbie.

    I was very surprised at the mental burden I was carrying during the brace.
    "Chemists make good solutions"

  2. #2
    Greg, I am happy for you, that you gave field trialing a go. The mental burden will ease as some of what you had to consciously process becomes sub conscious. However every brace you ever run will likely involve a decision that has to be made in the moment. Some will not work as hoped, but you and the dog are doing something different every time on the ground.

    An example, this past weekend while running a dog in the all age portion of a trial, my dog was running a big race and I could feel her getting bolder about her range. The course was making a turn and going thru a tough spot at the same time. I called her to come in for water, she either did not hear me or was too driven to be bothered with water. So, I loped the horse hard to the front and caught her. Then we watered and took a short reset period. That got her thru the tough section and made certain she would run cool for the remainder of the hour. Had I not done that, it may have all turned out fine. But I didn't like the looks of things, so I acted. There will be some sort of spontaneous decision most braces.

    Singing for your dog is an audible lighthouse for your dog. That lets the dog know where you are and where you are headed. I'm not a big singer either, but there are times, when you don't know exactly where your dog is but you know it is hunting well. A verbal signal from you that all is ok and here is where I am, helps your dog tremendously.

    I got some advice from Harold Ray a number of years ago. He said it is the handler's job to put on a show for the judges. Part of that show is making it look as easy as possible. Convey confidence in your dog at every chance. That tells the judges that you know your dog is well up to the task. Even when you are quite certain the wheels are coming off, hide it from the judges. If they do come off, your panic wasn't going to stop it. If you pull thru,, then the judges will be duly impressed by both you and the dog.

    Good luck, field trials are an ever challenging endeavor with your dog.
    Give me a dog that will run and a horse that will walk

  3. #3
    Something I've always found a bit strange about puppy trials: They sometimes have a winner without a find. Based on potential, how the dog ran, etc. Meanwhile, other dogs do have finds. Seems to me I'd be hoping that dog with potential could potentially find birds.

  4. #4
    Nothing strange about that at all. In wild bird trials,,, the puppies are run after everything else has been run. Normally the puppy courses are set up for running the braces as efficiently as possible. This means the courses by this time in the trial are often largely barren of birds. So they OFTEN have a winner without a find.

    The puppies are judged by their athleticism, ambition, observable physical traits. There will be plenty of time to discern if they are bird finders. This is like grade school basketball, it is a long ways from the main event.

    Winning a puppy event is nice enough, but no one puts very much emphasis on a dog's puppy record. Puppy events are a good way to introduce new trialers, with new dogs to the field trial sport.
    Give me a dog that will run and a horse that will walk

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Brown View Post
    Something I've always found a bit strange about puppy trials: They sometimes have a winner without a find. Based on potential, how the dog ran, etc. Meanwhile, other dogs do have finds. Seems to me I'd be hoping that dog with potential could potentially find birds.
    Larry, check your post. Everyone wants a bird dog to point birds. Puppy stakes can be train wrecks if birds are on the course. During a puppy stake, I've seen a puppy pointing a bird and have his brace mate roll him. The pointing pup ran off and the outlaw chased the bird. Stuff like that is common if birds are on the course. That's not the experience you want for either pup. Crashes like that are common when birds are present.

    However, puppy stakes can be fun. Gait, handle, class, independence without getting lost, intelligent ground race, energy, and the willingness to leave a bracemate alone while hunting are some things you look at when considering puppy potential. Fall derby class pups should be finding and pointing birds at field trials. Not puppy stake pups.

    I enjoy puppy stakes because the puppies are still innocent, they're having fun and they're excited, and you can see their early raw potential, but I won't run my puppies when birds are on the course any more.
    Last edited by Brad Hire; April 11th, 2017 at 09:31 AM.

  6. #6
    For sure, since the break-away is in close proximity, the pups can tangle. And some pups are younger, and more easily distracted. So, attempting to "get them ahead, and about their business", is a task the handler has to be ready to take a hand in right at the start.

    Somebody should have told me that! HAH!

    So, for a minute or two (It's such a fog, How the heck do I know how long it went on for?)
    You have two pups that are new to seeing horses, never on the course before, and they are being cut loose to rip it.
    Of course they want to interact with each other. That's what puppies do.

    Getting them to disregard each other and start looking for birds is (I guess), a first hurdle in a puppy brace.

    So, you have to intervene in some way to get the ball rolling forward.

    That wasn't in the manual.
    "Chemists make good solutions"

  7. #7
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    Greg, the focus and mental burden will wear you out more than your pace. Next fall, if you get your derby around with a nice find, the mental burden of waiting on the announcement will drain you even more. Beware the addiction.

  8. #8
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    Puppy interaction on the breakaway is common. Hopefully, it's playing or a little tagging for a minute or two, and no serious intimidation or bracemate interference. One of the primary reasons to run puppies at field trials is to get their minds right.

  9. #9
    Yeah, Brad.
    Trialing is just another way for me to have fun with my dogs.

    I doubt I can sacrifice the time to do it as much as I'd like.
    There are many cover dog trials within a reasonable distance from where I live.

    Several people have said I need a stop watch, but truthfully, I have no clue where or how I'd use it.
    I'm sort of on the search for a bell I can hear a little further away.
    With industrial tinnitus and hearing loss; singing, terrain, and distance, all work to make it hard to hear the dog down in the covers. I can improve my fitness (skinny dogs and fat hunters, as it were) and lessen that burden pretty easily.
    The sound deficits IDK.
    "Chemists make good solutions"

  10. #10
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    A question about what's allowed at a trial. Many hunters with pointy dog use an electronic collar. Is that allowed in a field trial?
    "God and Soldier we adore, In time of danger, not before.
    The danger passed and all things righted, God is forgotten and the Soldier slighted."
    Rudyard Kipling

    You rush a miracle man, you get lousy miracles.

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