Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Spaniel Training; Buccleuch, Windrift, & Ginger

Sometimes the stars align, and good luck is bestowed upon us. Lately, I'm happy to say, good luck has come my way a few times. It started with finding a puppy, and rolled right on from there. One piece of luck to come my way was the opportunity to get to attend a Spaniel training clinic being hosted by Christine Lavier of Windrift Springer Spaniels in Cochranton Pa.

Christine owns a beautiful property, both wooded and fields, ideal for birddog training with ravines, fences, and waterways. She's got a pigeon coop, and pens for both pheasant and quail, as well a a kennel, and barn. Tucked away in farm country, it's a perfect venue for a training clinic. But it gets better. Christine imported David Lisett, from Buccleuch Estate in Scotland to teach us all his tricks of the trade. David is well know in the spaniel community, as a 7 time championship winner in the UK, and Ireland, and from his spaniel training DVD set.

The clinic format was to work the younger dogs, 4-12mos, in the morning, and the older dogs, 1-2yrs, after lunch on both Friday and Saturday, Sunday would be reserved for older dogs, and trial dogs. Of course before each session David talked a bit about his training philosophy, answered questions, and even solicited suggestions. A very approachable, soft spoken, and funny guy, David was adamant that the dog owners in attendance voice their concerns and suggestions, wanting to be as productive as possible when addressing each dog owners issue.

While it seemed like David may have imported a little Scottish weather with him, switching from showers with an occasional clap of thunder, to hot & sunny, and back again, the crowd remained enthusiastic. Springers were the order of the day, with a sprinkling of Cockers, and a Golden, an American Water Dog, and a Portugese Water Spaniel tossed in for color. The drilling included some basic marked retrieves, non-slip steadiness, fence handling, scenting, and some steady to flush. My personal favorite event was on the morning of the first day, when David demonstrated some puppy socialization, and bonding drills with my new pup, Ginger.

Performances of note; that is, those that stuck the most in my head. Gus, a springer from the Pittsburgh area, navigated the fence masterfully. Tess, a springer from Massachusetts, handled her first retrieve of a live bird beautifully, and then went on to absolutely rock the steady to flush drill like a pro. Cramer, the Golden ( from somewhere in Pa), did a fantastic job scent trailing and retrieving a live pigeon. Christine too, handled a young male who's name I've forgotten through an impressive series of drills teaching the dog to take a hand signal. And not to be forgotten; Luke, the American Water Dog who's a local boy to the area, did almost everything asked of him, and never showed any signs of quitting when things got tough.

Unfortunately, I did not stay for the third day, though I'd have liked to see the older dogs work. As I was picking up a puppy, I felt it would be wisest to depart early, as a 10 hour drive with a 9 week old pup is not assured to go smoothly. However, it did. Christine will be hosting this event next year, and David will be returning, so I too, will make the trip. This time I'll have a somewhat older dog, and hopefully she'll be somewhat impressive. Either way, she'll be fun.

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