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MULLENSCOTE BLOG - NOV/DEC 2011

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Hi Everyone!  We're well underway with the shooting season now - how I envy you all!  I don't get out shooting or working my dogs nearly as much as I would like to, but the compensation is that I spend a lot of my time with you and your dogs helping you to achieve whatever it is that you want from your shooting companions.

Many of you will have been aware that over the past few months Annie Buckley has been juggling her role as Head Trainer here at Mullenscote with care of her sick parents.  This, and other circumstances, has led Annie to the decision that the time has come to leave us. Annie has been with us for 10 years during which time she has proved to be a major asset at our display demonstrations and through her work leading our dog training activities.  She will be missed by staff and customers alike.

Howard Kirby, as Principal, has adjusted his responsibilities, standing back from Shooting School management to fully embrace the leadership of Mullenscote Dog Training Centre to ensure a seamless transition for our customers.

Here's what's been happening recently at Mullenscote Dog Training Centre plus news of our New Year's Day Scurry event together with a few training tips on steadiness.  Enjoy!

The Gundog Event of the Year – the Mullenscote New Year's Day Open Scurry Challenge!

Many of you will have heard about or perhaps even joined us for our New Year's Scurry event in January 2011 and will know that it was a huge success. There were loads of dogs of all shapes, sizes and breeds, plenty of hot mulled wine, hot food and gundog events to match every ability of handlers and dogs alike. It really was a brilliant and fun event, so much so that we're going to do it all again next year, only this time it'll be even bigger, better and more exciting. As the name suggests, it's all going to happen on New Year's Day 2012 here at Mullenscote, as the following day will also be a bank holiday. So we can think of no better way to clear the head after the previous evening's celebrations whilst, at the same time, having a really fun day out with your dog and other like-minded people.

This year we intend to raise the bar again by putting on trade stands, more scurry events, air rifle & archery competitions and hot refreshments. The day will start at 10 a.m. and finish at about 2 p.m. with prize giving. Bob Parnell and his Scurry Bandits will be joining us again bringing their expertise to the events.

To make the event an even bigger success, we are looking for companies (or individuals) to sponsor an event for the amount of £80.00 plus an engraved trophy or prize for 1st place. The sponsor can have a scurry event named after them - for example "The Working Dog Company's New Year Dummy Dash". If you can sponsor an event, we would offer you a free pitch for your trade stand. You and/or your company don't necessarily have to be dog-related in any way – but it'll be a brilliant way to reach out to a wide cross section of dog owners and companies from far and wide. 

We're particularly pleased to welcome Sherlocks of Chichester's involvement with the New Year's Day event. Howard says "It's just brilliant to have the involvement of Sherlocks here at Mullenscote Dog Training Centre. We worked alongside Tony and Sarah at the Bisley Live Show: they are such nice people and their experience, service and the build quality of the Sherlocks' range of kennels is immediately obvious."

In addition to trade stands, cold & hot refreshments, a variety of competitions, there'll be other attractions aimed at keeping the little ones amused! We'll be running some fun competitions on our air rifle Field Range as well as letting anyone having a go at archery. Naturally, there'll be supervision at both stands to ensure that everyone remains safe.

We also will need time keepers and scorers / stewards for each event. So if you could spare an hour or so we will keep you supplied with hot tea and cake. Training will be given on the day, but a good sense of humour, an ability to use a stop watch and a warm pair of boots is all you'll need!

So, if you would like either to sponsor or offer your services to help on the day, please email me on howard@lainsshootingschool.co.uk mentioning in the title "New Year Scurry Event".

Howard's Trialing Success!

I had a great day out a few weeks ago taking part in a Novice Cocker trial near Frome in Somerset. I took my little black cocker, Link, along for his very first outing in the trialing world. I drew the last run and was a bit worried that the long wait for the other 15 competitors to run would affect Link. In fact, the early numbers didn't have much game to flush and some finished their 1st run without finding any game at all. Thankfully, when it came to our turn, conditions were better and we found game. Not only that, I was delighted with Link's performance. He was never off the whistle, he was hard hunting, I was able to vary his quartering patterns according to the cover we were moving through and only use the whistle to demonstrate his responsiveness to the judges. He was sharp to the flushes in both runs and only required minimal handling on to the birds which he delivered well. I was really, really happy that Link and I were awarded 2nd place in his 1st trial. We now look forward to even better and bigger performances in the future.

Stephen Harrison accompanied me to the trial and has written a short piece below on what it was like to attend a trial. For those of you who have never been to one, or who are contemplating competing with your dog, it's well worth a read!

What really happens at a Gundog Trial...

When Howard invited me to come and watch him and Link take part in a Novice Cocker Spaniel trial a few weeks ago, I didn't really know what to expect. I've competed with my spaniel, but never at this level, so I was secretly hoping that I would come away thinking "Poppy and I could do that". That was the first of many preconceived notions that I had to throw out after seeing what really happens! I had heard that dog trialing is not really a spectator sport and can be incredibly competitive. I arrived expecting to see the various competitors glaring at each other and being stand-offish as they prepared to compete - my 2nd preconceived notion to go out the window!  I found myself amongst a really friendly, welcoming bunch of people bound together by a common passion and talent for training dogs. Everyone introduced themselves to me as a newcomer – the Secretary, Stewards, Judges, other competitors – and they were all welcoming! When it became clear that I was a trialing virgin, I was invited to watch the runs from a position no more than 10 metres behind the competitors. This was a rare privilege to see the 16 handlers and dogs at close quarters as they completed 2 runs each.

As soon as the 1st combination started their 1st run, I realised that the difference between me and my Poppy and these handlers with their dogs was huge! Bang went my initial thought that Poppy and I could compete alongside these guys!  What really impressed me was the sight of cocker spaniels, who are world-renowned for having no off switch, for being full on, head strong, impulsive etc – yet here they were all quartering and hunting hard within a few feet of their handlers under total control, sitting smartly to flush and shot and delivering perfectly to hand. I remembered what had happened with Poppy a few days earlier and grimaced at the comparison!

But it was the demeanour of the handlers that taught me most. When I'm competing (or even out on a shooting day) and Poppy runs in or quarters too wide & deep or does something else wrong, I tend to get stressed and annoyed – and I'm sure that this anxiety transfers directly to the dog and things get worse, not better. At the trial, the handlers were, quite frankly, laid back!  Of course, everyone wanted to do well, but it wasn't a "Do or Die" thing. When one of the dogs did run in (which itself made me realise that even the best dogs can mess up!), there was no shouting, frantic whistling, charging after the dog (a regular sight at some of the shoots I work at!). None of the other handlers took pleasure in witnessing a fellow competitor's misfortune – they had all been there themselves. It was all just dealt with calmly, efficiently and without fuss. And after said dog and handler were put out of the competition as a result, I assumed the handler would be fuming at his dog (like I would have been) and be angry that his long journey to compete had been wasted. Not a bit of it! He just said "That's the way it goes sometimes. You have many good days and some bad days. There's no such thing as a good dog that hasn't run in or messed up. I know my dog will do better next time. Now we're going to stay and watch all the other dogs to pick up a few tips".

But the biggest preconception to die a death that day was that trialers are harsh on their dogs and that the dogs  work as they do only out of fear of what will happen if they mess up. Wrong! I know when a dog is fearful and when a dog is enjoying itself. And I can assure everyone reading this that the handlers, dogs, observers, officials – in fact everyone really enjoyed the day.

The icing on the cake was that Howard and Link performed brilliantly and were awarded 2nd place. I was going to tell Howard that if I had been handling Link, we would have won 1st place. Then I remembered that everything else I had thought about trialing that day had been nonsense. And so was this! I kept quiet.

Cocker for Sale!

We have a Black Cocker Dog for sale. Jed is a 17 month old black, really nice, fast & powerful cocker spaniel. Jed has been trained to walk to heel, sit, stay, retrieve & take direction. He's bred from excellent field trial working lines. Will need further work to finish him, but is well and truly on the way to success. Jed is ready to go out shooting this season. Jed comes with the Mullenscote Handler Training Package. We will introduce you to Jed, take you through the range of skills that the dog possesses and remain available to you for one-to-one advice and training help right through the 1st shooting season and beyond.

Call me if you're interested in taking ownership of one this well-trained, biddable, hard hunting spaniel.

Gundog Training Courses at Mullenscote

Here's a quick overview of the courses we have planned in the near future together with some guidelines for entry requirements. If in doubt, give the office a call on 01264 889467 and we'll be happy to advise:

* Our experience shows that dogs aged over 12 months that have not yet mastered the basics covered in the Foundation Training Course will almost certainly have ingrained behavioural patterns that are best addressed by one-to-one training – hence the upper age limit of 12 months for the Foundation Training Course.

Shooting School goes Wireless

We are in the process of moving to a Wireless Clay Release system on the Shooting School The firm Promatic have now installed their Wi-fi release system on our Sporting Layout. This continues to offer a self-release system both for individuals and groups whilst allowing us to move away from our bulky counter boxes to a Credit Card. It also goes a long away towards reducing the miles of release cable threaded around the shooting cable - rabbits love chewing these which is a real nuisance!  Come and try it out next time you're up to break some clays!

New Shooting Stand in Place

A new Bowman ABT trap and Shooting Stand gives you game shooters the opportunity to shoot  a simulated driven pheasant target that will present itself across an arc that will give everyone essential shooting practice on targets that are driven high overhead, as well as left and right crossers. The stand can be operated by individual shooters or small groups.

Start your Xmas shopping early!

Why not take the stress out of finding a Christmas present? This year, you'll not have to ask yourself "What do I get the gundog enthusiast who already has everything?"  That's because we're offering you the opportunity to buy both of our Gundog Training DVDs "Establishing the Basics" and "Get On" for the reduced price of £18 + £2 p&p.  These DVDs do what it says on the tin: they take the novice gundog owner right through establishing the basics of sit, stay, heelwork etc and then, in the 2nd DVD, move on to cover the more advanced techniques of training & handling a gundog. Together, they'll form an indispensable reference for the lucky recipient as they progress with their little bundle of fur!

If you would like to take advantage of this special offer, just call us on 01264 889467 and leave your Xmas worries behind!

And finally… Steady as she Goes - Part 1

Observe a well trained Spaniel whilst he's hunting and the slightest movement under his feet brings him to an instant sit to the flush, the merest whiff of scent stops an HPR in his tracks and brings him on point and a well educated retriever sits like a rock at the peg whilst birds fall around him. In each case, you are witnessing a well trained dog demonstrating total self control; the gundog term for this is Steadiness.

Running in is the term used to describe a dog that does the opposite and very often is frowned upon in the shooting field. So what do we do if our dog training goes wrong and our dog learns to run in? Prevention is always better than cure.  Establishing the basics from the outset of training will always be the best option.  However, this is where there appears to be conflicting advice!

During puppy training, we actively encourage a youngster to 'run in', to chase a ball or dummy: this serves to engage, stimulate and enhance the pup's genetic prey drive, a natural instinct to chase and catch quarry.

Having established the retrieve, it is now time to teach the pup to sit and wait for instruction before being sent.   From this point onwards, training will condition the puppy to offer this behaviour. 

Training completed: you're out in the shooting field: a bird is shot, hits the ground and runs. Duty bound, you put the dog straight on to the bird, complete the retrieve: job well done!  You sit the dog back up; another bird is shot and away goes your dog.  "Damn! Blast! Ruination! My dog has just run in."

It is essential that we collect pricked birds as quickly and as efficiently as possible, but this job is best carried out by an older and more experienced dog.  Once a youngster has learnt that it can run in, we are going to need to re-visit the training field to reshape his behaviour.

Fixing the Problem

Start at the beginning! Is your dog steady to a thrown dummy? If he is, then does he mange to control himself if you roll a tennis ball past him? The movement created by a ball is often the catalyst that makes the dog move - don't forget that this is a perfectly natural reaction. Your dog has got it into his head that everything that moves is for him. Redress this balance by using a one in ten ratio when retrieving (for those of us with a poor memory that means just send him for an occasional retrieve, opting to pick most by hand!).

Keep an eye out for more news on the website and watch out for next month's blog when we'll look at some more tips and techniques to help put things right!. Hope to see you soon at Mullenscote soon. Until then, Keep Training!
Howard

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