Oct 12, 2012, 1:02 AM EDT
By Jerry Sather
With nearly 700 dogs scheduled to run in the American Kennel Club Master National hunt test starting next week in Alabama we know the early series will have to be two things. One — they will have to be short, efficient set-ups that will move a lot of dogs through quickly. Two – there will need to be a degree of difficulty such as to eliminate a number of dogs to whittle it down to a manageable field in a few series
For anyone who hasn’t been to a hunt test, the way it works is that all entered dogs must run the same first set-up. Then after that series is complete, call-backs are posted or announced. Dogs that completed the first series well enough are called back to run the next series, and so on. The field is reduced in size by the number of dogs dropped after each series. In a regular weekend hunt test, entries usually range from 30 to 50 dogs or so. Nearly 700 at the National Master makes it the hunt test of all hunt tests which is why it’s scheduled to run over the course of 11 days to determine the qualifiers. (Remember, in hunt tests there is no first, second or third place – it’s all about meeting the standards of the test.
With such a large entry, the early Master National set-ups will be shorter, but more technical than we generally see in a lot of weekend hunt tests. So, as we started to discuss in last week’s post, we’ve been gearing our training as of late to shorter, more technical work.
For example, we expect to see a number of key hole blinds. That means the dog is sent on a blind retrieve for which the perfect line is through a narrow opening in cover or terrain. Assuring the dog takes this line is always a challenge, but it’s even more so when the wind and terrain are used to make that line unnatural for the dog to take. Remember, dogs will tend to drift downhill and downwind. Judges will use terrain and wind to challenge the dog’s ability to stay on line during a retrieve.
That means we’ve been training daily on keyhole type set ups on land, in the water, and both in combination. We’re trying to expand the dogs’ mental files so when they look out from the line and see a keyhole set up they remember, “Ah! I’ve seen this before! I’m supposed to go through … there!” And they take the line through that opening without even being handled.
Because efficiency is so important at the Master National test, history shows they tend to create set ups that are easy manageable and manipulated. For example, we expect to see a lot of set ups that use those big round hay bales to create challenges to the dogs. In preparing for the tests, we’ve been doing a great deal of training around and on those bales. We get the dogs used to being around them, near them, on them, seeing them in the distance, etc. Again, this goes back to the same thing we do before hunting trips say with field blinds or pit blinds. We train using the same things we expect the dogs to see in the field.
We hope our stay at the Master National is long and productive. All 11 days would be great! We’ll keep you posted on how it goes!
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