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Portland Labrador

Porter's Master Hunter Tests

Oregon Hunting Retriever Club - May 2009 Test #1

We come into this test, 0 for 4 in Master tests, and we went out in the first series less than a week ago.  I know that Porter has the ability and training to play at this level, if I can just get him to work with me, and hold up my end of the TEAM.  After our breakthrough in running the ladder drill (see Salem Test for details) I feel we can DO THIS!

The first series is a land triple with an out of order flyer and an honor, and a double blind.  The center bird, live flyer, is the deepest bird and goes down first, right to left. 
The right hand bird is down second, with a pop and throw left to right
...and the third bird down was the left hand bird, right to left.  This resulted in the working dog running across the field of vision of the honor dog. 
The blinds were to the right of the holding blind on the left hand mark and under the arc on the right hand mark (which also had a diversion shot when the dog was coming back with the right hand mark.
(here's Beckett picking up the blind)
Porter came to the line early as the #8 dog.  His flyer, instead of going out to the left like the others, cut directly back.  He watched it, then the right, then left hand marks.  He went to the left and picked it up without too much ado.  Same with the bird on the right.  He went out on the center flyer, took a good line, but didn't hunt quite deep enough.  He worked his way into the area where the others had fallen, made a move back to the right and then worked his way to the left.  I didn't want to get in a position where he was all over the place and out of control so I hit him with a sit whistle and handled him back to the flyer. 
Porter ran the blinds in a decent manner, not succumbing to the suction of the holding blind or the old fall.  I don't recall anything particularly bad or good, just solid work.  On to the second series.
The second series was a land/water triple with a walk-up.  I've got a video of Porter running the second series, but it's in a format that doesn't work for me to load to the website.  I'll try and get that converted.
As the dog is walking up to the line, there's a duck call, the dog is commanded to sit as there's a shot and a bird is thrown, right to left, over a large bank of blackberry bushes that runs parallel to the line, from a hidden blind (which is an understatement, since all the dog sees is a bird flying over the hedge).  Then the center bird is a hand throw, left to right, to the edge of some water.  The third bird is the deepest, at about 60 yards, and is a flyer going left to right.
The challenge here is the walk up with an in-your-face bird out of nowhere, and also the fact that sometimes the flyer "forget" things.
While Porter's results on the second series were solid, there were a few issues that caused me some concern.  He sat for the walkup and marked the first bird; but I saw once again an issue that I've been dealing with, head swinging.  He swung to the second mark so quickly I wasn't sure he had even seen the first bird land.  He then marked the flyer.  He ran well to all three birds and got them with no hunt.  Then, returning with the third bird, he dropped the bird at the line and rolled it, but picked it back up again and sat with it (causing some serious "pucker factor" on my part, you can be sure).  Fortunately, this was accomplished without me passing out, so the judges didn't know what I had gone through the previous week and probably just marked it as repositioning the bird, or something to watch for in the next series (at least that's how I hoped they saw it).  On to the third series.
The third series was a double with a blind, across a small piece of water, with a tough little blind into a pocket on the left.  The first bird was deep down the center, left to right, with the second bird coming from behind a tree on the right, right to left.  After the dog returns with the first bird, it runs the blind, and then picks up the second bird.
We moved from the holding blind, to the line, and the picture on the right is Porter, marking the first bird down as the judge signals for the second bird.  Porter watched both marks and I sent him for the go bird (pics below)
After the issues last week's issue at the line with the bird, and playing a bit in the second series, I was very happy to see this on his return (see below).  Porter, coming to heel and holding the bird nicely!
Then we lined up for the blind, which was off about 11 o'clock to the left
The line to the blind went over a log in the water, but offered the opportunity to slip left instead and then push the dog right, towards the blind.  On one hand, you should challenge the line to the blind (all three series featured good use of cover to push the dogs offline ); however, you can also get into a situation where you try too hard to hold the line to the blind and end up imploding.  That said, I lined him up to the blind, he took a good line towards the log and started to drift left.  I hit the sit whistle, cast him towards the log, and with one more whistle, pushed him over the log on a line to the blind.

So, now we're one bird away from finishing our first Master test.  Porter comes back with the blind, delivers the bird, and lines up for the memory bird.  As he leaves the water he drifts to the right of the line.  He gets to the right depth and sets up a hunt, but was too far right.  After a couple of loops, and the memory of previous tests where I waited too long on the whistle, I hit the whistle and handled him quickly to the bird (at least it felt that way).

So, now we're done and waiting for the results.  Since we ran eighth in a field of 50+ dogs (even though there weren't that may left, we had to wait awhile.  Plenty of time to go back and forth, we passed...we didn't pass...surely we passed...oh yeah, he did that, we probably didn't pass...but we did that really well, we may have passed...
Well, you get the idea.
As I watched the rest of the dogs, it seemed that a lot of them handled on that last mark.  While each dog is judged on it's own performance, I felt that it had to tip things in our favor that a lot of dogs were handling.  See, I'm still doing it.

The final word was that...YES, we passed.  Porter had gotten his first Master Ribbon. 
After a LOT of work to get here, it was very sweet.

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