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A Tipple and a Test

A week ago Effie (Lowhouse Thyme to give her her posh KC name ) and I entered our first Puppy Working Test which is for dogs up to 18 months of age. Now don’t for a minute think that I had ideas above my station but the evening after we finished Cunningshot Cumbria’s fantastic three day holiday at Broadoak on a bit of a high, Mike and I met up with some friends for a mini break and under the influence of a couple of negronis and not a small amount of wine I found out at breakfast the next morning that I had agreed to try the puppy test at Galloway Gundogs and there was no way I was being allowed to wriggle my way out of it !

Luckily on our way home, Sandra messaged me and said she had a free day at the weekend and were the grounds free to put on a workshop? Working Test Training please I said and we rustled up a few of us and cracked on. This workshop was in hindsight utterly invaluable and meant we arrived well prepared and had a good idea of what to expect, knew all about registering and the etiquette involved. We’ll organise another one, so if anyone wants to know what it’s all about or has aspirations to compete I would highly recommend this workshop. Even though Sandra is the opposite of scary, when she has her judges hat on and is putting you through your paces it does put pressure on, strangely more than the test day itself so I found it a perfect warm up.

In conjunction with our regular weekly class with Emma plus another workshop with Sandra and a quick visit to the borders for lunch and a run through of a puppy test with the friends who started all this, by the time the day came around we were ready to go !


An early start….got up at 530, bit of breakfast and we got to Mossdale, nr Castle Douglas by 9am. Registered and made sure the organisers knew that Mike was available for dummy throwing duties.

All three tests Puppy, Novice and Open were run alongside each other, it was a long day for the puppies but was great to watch the different levels of handlers and dogs. Waiting your turn was sociable and everyone was super friendly.

Tried to remember what I had been told; smile and say good morning to the judge, make sure dog toileted etc. and HAVE YOUR WHISTLE READY***, SHUT UP, KEEP QUIET! DON’T TALK!!! I don’t know whether it was my past experience competing with horses or the ambience of Galloway Gundog Assoc. or I was just in shock from the early start but I was very very chilled about it all, and Effie as always was laidback too.

Test 1 was heelwork in a Triangle and a memory retrieve. Now heelwork and I are not a match made in heaven but Effie came to us at 6 months already walking nicely on a lead which helped and we have done our homework since, it paid off well and she walked beautifully at heel… picked the retrieve and delivered to hand and the judge said ‘just what I’m looking for, very nice full marks’. Well this is a doddle thought I, I walked away and gave Effie a big cuddle and a kiss and then she had a poo (right on time).. what a start. At this point I was buzzing and planning on getting my training vest embroidered with our logo, the thought even crossed my mind to go and enter a spaniel, two of which were waiting impatiently in the truck, but as we all know it doesn’t take much for me to get carried away! Score : 25/25

Then comes Test 2, which was a double mark at a short distance…. Totally expected to nail this and hindsight says I maybe wasn’t on the ball enough, she ran over both of them and I forgot my hunt whistle and the embroidered training vest was put on the back burner. ‘Does she know hunt whistle’ said the judge, ‘yes but I forgot it’ I replied (see *** above) ‘ handler error’ said the judge but she was steady to the mark, hunted well and delivered to hand. 10/25

Then we had lunch and compared notes with Barbara and Tony who were in novice and open and Tracey who was running her WCS in puppy and novice spaniels, Mike came back and assured us he had upheld his reputation as a top notch tosser (backed up by Tony and Barbara’s experience at test 1), had our sarnies and a cuppa, the weather was gorgeous and it was a perfect day.

Afternoon, brought Test 4, which was a little heelwork and a mark, Effie didn’t turn with me very well, she skipped in front of me which I thought we had fixed and ran over the retrieves a bit, then picked, had a wee 😳 but held the dummy, was pretty happy with her and I don’t think I cocked up too badly, again nice delivery to hand and suspect most of the dropped points were handler error and the wee . 20/25

Test 3. The judge threw the retrieve from Effies side (I don’t think she’s ever had a dummy thrown from there) , he smacked the dummy and made an excellent pheasant noise then threw it just in front of some bushes which was in front of a bit of woodland, she totally missed the mark as she was still looking in awe at the man who made the excellent noise but went out straight when I sent her then ran over it into the wooded area, I whistled her in and remembered my hunt whistle and she hunted and picked, again delivered to hand but it took a bit too long. 15/25

I had also entered novice, but just picked two of the tests to try, she scored quite well in both and don’t think she’s too far off being able to try all four tests at that level, she actually found the novice level more challenging and worked better. 10/20 and 15/20.

Overall there was tons of good stuff to take out of the day, we didn't get any zeros and I’m so happy I went, plus full points for heelwork ....😊😊😊. Effie was steady as a rock, no signs of running in, she went out in straight lines with lots of enthusiasm, and she delivered to hand every time and was very very relaxed between tests and super well behaved, can’t believe a young inexperienced dog had such lovely manners (I may be comparing her to the spaniels 😱🐶) I was super proud of her. The ground was very boggy in places and she was up to her knees in black mud so that was new for her and she was a little princessy and showponyish in bog and thistles. Effie needs more experience with marking and so do I and I need to remember to practise short as well as long retrieves. I need more handling experience, it’s difficult to know when to intervene and when not, especially when I’m trying to keep quiet, but I think if we went back again this weekend with the benefit of hindsight we could definitely claw back a good few points although we may still be a little way off the embroidered training vest, BUT if things fell our way we could well be up there… it’s all about a little luck on the day.

We waited for the raffle and prize giving and won a box of chocolates so didn’t come away empty handed. Tony and Boris won the Open Retriever with a very impressive and polished performance, they made it all look so easy, and Barbara came second in Novice with Archie who was super stylish in his first working test, Tracy and Dolly were second in puppy spaniel, so good results all round. Prize giving was great fun, lots of cheers, nice banter and applause, even for the raffle prizes, GGA is good people!

I would highly recommend trying a test at a club such as Galloway which had such a good atmosphere, having people there who I knew really helped as well, thanks so much Barbara and Tony for your encouragement and support, Barbara told me she was proud of me, people don’t say that very often!! There is another test at the end of June, pretty sure Effie will be in season but I’m going to try and see if I can get a stupid spaniel ready …. See what I mean about getting carried away 😳😝😱 !!

I chatted to Andy Gray who is one of the GGA organisers and said we may have some people who would be interested in joining and coming along so he gave me membership forms for you. Let me know if you’re interested in joining, it’s brilliant to support these clubs and if we go together it’s really a lovely day out and not in the least intimidating, there are not too many opportunities this year so we should make the most of it.

PS You don’t need your dog to be KC registered at GGA!

PPS I got a suntan in Scotland !!!!!!!

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