As if I didn't have enough to do, I recently became voted in as Secretary/Treasurer of the PRTA at the annual meeting at the National.
The PRTA is the Professional Retriever Trainers Association and we promote ethical standards and conduct for professional dog trainers, have a voice in the world of Field Trials and Hunt Tests and award annual land grants.
Before I took on this position, I have been organizing the monthly Ask The Pro column in the Retriever News and doing the PRTA website. The Ask The Pro work has been daunting and I think I will have to delegate it off in the next year or so before I get burned out. The PRTA website is nothing fancy, as I have no web development training, but it is better than what they had (hint: nothing).
And now add Secretary/Treasurer to the duties.
As much as I moan, I actually enjoy the work. I re-did the PRTA homepage, did a TON of work in Quickbooks and went through a stack of PRTA mail this morning…all before I force fetched my first dog at 8am. Thankfully Kenny does the morning chores in Texas so I can do some of this extra work.
The moral of the story is: check out the PRTA website. www.prta.net
The membership list is a list of pros that are not just paid members, but fellow professional trainers that were accepted into the Association based on a vote of acceptance from their peers. These guys and gals are the best of the best. They put on 5-8 Field Trials a year, give away all their money to Field Trial clubs, the NRC/NARC and Retriever Hall Of Fame and try to influence the direction of Field Trials in a positive way.
A great Association that is under recognized in the sport of Field Trials.
Having a great time at the National in Cheraw, South Carolina. I have never been to South Carolina before, so lots to look at and see.
We pre-Nationaled at Sandhill Kennels in Georgia for a week. This is Al Arthur's kennel and it is quite gorgeous there. Lots of work was done, yet lots of fun was to be had during the week of pre-National.
Handlers at the National waiting to be invited to the line for series 4/5 yesterday.
Luckiest Man Alive having a look at the line. He is running a young dog we train named Riot.
This is what Libby's foot looks like now. Truly, it's kinda weird looking. She has been back in training for 2 weeks and you would never know that it was gone watching her. The nicknames are aplenty though...but "Lucky" still reigns.
I ran Darbi as test dog in one series of a Derby on her 11th birthday.
She crept and almost broke. Made me smile. That alone was worth it.
What really got me though, was that she had no recognition of the "long" gun when I was lining her up for it. She just couldn't see it. It wasn't all that long, and not hard to see...but it reminded me the main reason why we retired her...she couldn't see the long guns anymore. But I was most shocked at how much it has deteriorated since this spring. Instead of not being able to see the long gun in the Open (looonnnnggg ones), she can't see the long gun in the derby. Big change for the worse.
I lined her up as best I could and sent her...and her great training took her right to the bird and she pinned it. I wonder how much she covered for me in the last months she ran trials on training alone?
Sad for me...my horse Zed has been sold and is on to a great, new home. He could be a bit of a nut at times and he was hard to train the first couple of years...but he brought me so much enjoyment. He was never, ever unsafe...the steering and the brakes were just not always working.
This is my NEW horse Odie!! He was only two weeks off the racetrack when this picture was taken and he was pretty incredible on our first ride. The anti-Zed, really. I am so looking forward to having a less"hot" horse to ride and I could already tell that Odie will not need two laps to get stopped after a jump like Zed.
After that maiden ride, I turned out Odie in the pasture at our house for a couple of months to have a well deserved vacation after his racing career. I can see him outside my window as I type this. Even though he's only here for a couple more weeks before he goes in for training...it has been so much fun having him around.
I just picked Libby up from the vet...WITH her toe still attached.
She was supposed to have the toe removed today but my vet, Dr. Wonderful, called me to say he was apprehensive and he'd like to reschedule. You see, this is what I love about my vet. He is anxious to do a great job because he knows Libby is an athlete and a return to full work is the goal. He has consulted multiple orthopedic vets and came to the conclusion that he would like one of them there for the surgery.
We are rescheduled for Tuesday when Dr. Wonderful will do the toe removal, along with an orthopedic colleague.
Luckiest Man Alive says he doesn't know what all the fuss is about and he could remove the toe himself no problem with some kitchen utensils, but I doubt his method would have much finesse.
I imagine the rest of the year is a wash for Libby, however she may be back for a couple of trials in October. I told Dr. Wonderful that I'll do whatever it takes to have her for next year and all the years after that. The rest of this year just doesn't matter in the big picture.
Miss Libby just could not stand it. It has been too long since she's had one of her "accidents". Here we go again.
Just to recount "Lucky", as she's known in some circles, has had:
-broken jaw at 8 weeks
-broken leg at 9 weeks
-almost had her tongue partially amputated at 11 week
-EMERGENCY spay at 16 months
-qualified for Canadian National with 10 staples in her side as a 2 year old
Libby came off the truck limping on a hind leg today. First terrifying thought was a torn ACL, but a quick exam by me led me to believe she had broken a toe. No big deal, right? Wrong.
I took her to the vet and this is what they saw.
An outside toe on one of her hind feet is fractured in 4 places. It's smashed. (The crooked toe to the left of it is no deal-they just moved the toe there for the x-ray).
The vet said they would splint it, consult an ortho vet and we would go from there.
We have NO idea how she did that. Playing in the yard in the morning? It happened before she had any field training for the day.
The ortho vet consult result is that they are suggesting amputation of the toe. It is a non weight bearing toe and apparently she will be no worse for wear after the skin flap heals. Side effects of not amputating is that her toe may never heal properly, re-fracture easily and have a long, slow and potentially unsuccessful healing process. Not to mention the arthritis she will get in that toe some day.
I've been given my options. Amputate or splint and hope for the best.
Apparently Libby won't even know that her toe is gone...but I will know and it's hard for me to fathom.
I need to digest this all over the week-end. It hasn't really sunk in yet.
Miikka's kid Gordy made the US Derby List! If you remember he's the pup I kept from the Arson x Miikka litter and his "official" name is Elmingos Controlled Power Play.
I raised Gordy up until about 5 months old and then he went to his forever home. He was a delight to raise and continues to be a delight to be around. Such personality!!! He's a spitting image of his dad and his Dad was an awesome specimen.
Gordy has a very bright future ahead of him. I think he's on 9 Derby finishes in a row and has one left before he ages out. He's a very bright and consistent young dog that doesn't make many mistakes.
Miss Libby and I made it to the last series of the Open this past week-end at a trial in Montana. She had run a great trial up until then. She was the only 3 year old in the last series and it certainly was not a 3 year old test. I needed to get Momma Darbi off the truck to pull that test off....years of experience and wisdom.
Trust me when I say Momma D would have been very happy if that was the case. She's been driving me a little bonkers lately with her...ahhh...exuberance.
Libby tried her little heart out, but she got confused. Very happy with her effort.
One point that I forgot to make a couple of blogs ago when it comes to raising puppies, is about pups and water.
I remember I had a young pup at a Field Trial once and he was only about 9 weeks old. Someone, who thought they were important, came up to me and asked if I had introduced the pup to the water yet? I responded that I had not. They told me I was making a big mistake and I needed to hurry up. Huh?
Different strokes for different folks, but I doubt this certain pup's ability to get off the point at a trial in October when it is 5 years old has anything to do with how quickly I put him in the water out of the womb or not.
My belief on pups and water is that they will get in when they are ready. Yes, I don't make a big deal about it.
Everyone is in such a hurry when raising pups. It is as if some people think they will have a better dog if they can do water retrieves at 3 months vs 5 months vs 7 months. I know people that put little life jackets on their tiny puppies, put them in the water and then they send me videos of the puppy swimming around with a terrified look on its face. Yes, your puppy got in the water before my puppy...how wonderful.
I start taking pups down to the water's edge as soon as I can, depending on the weather. And when I get there I don't do much. I don't wade out up to my knees and I don't make a big fuss about it. I may toss a twig in the water, or invite Miikka with us to show us how it's done, but it's a low stress, high fun environment.
Some pups swim early and some swim late. I've never had a problem raising a pup this way and invariably they start swimming around on their own sooner or later.
No pup that I've raised has been "bad" in the water yet...in fact they have all been quite good water dogs. Is this because of how I introduce them to water...maybe, I doubt it...I think what I do is teach them not to HATE the water though.
Dogs are good in the water for a variety of reasons. Pre-disposition/genetics, early training, never being allowed to cheat (throwing cheating marks before we have the tools to deal with a cheat) and a CLEAR understanding of the water in Basics.
Again, how a pup is raised and how well it's Basics are done will determine a dog's water attitude for the most part. We can make a great water dog hate the water if are not careful, but we can also make an average water dog good and reliable with thoughtful training.
This is four Open finishes in a row for her, with three placements! She needs the coveted win to qualify for the US National in South Carolina this November. Wins in Opens are hard to come by...VERY hard...so I'm not holding my breath, but I will keep my fingers crossed.
This is all very impressive for a 3 year old dog.
We had a great week-end at Horsetooth Retrievers. First, Second, Fourth and Fifth (Reserve JAM) in the Open...and three of those four dogs are three and younger. And we won the Qualifying too!
Our future looks bright and all the (mucho, mucho) hard work is paying off. We have an exciting truck of dogs and they just keep coming. Willie and Gordy in the Derby look great, and we have a few Basics dogs that are making us smile every day....including my home-raised Rip.
Being a pro is a tough, tough life. It is exhausting, demanding, never-ending and all-encompassing but it's week-ends like this that make it all worth while...and then some.
If you've ever looked at our training website (www.horsetoothretrievers.com), you'd notice that I try to promptly post results from the trials that we run.
I posted these from our last trial:
COLORADO WOMEN’S OPEN 2nd - Elmingo’s Flip Your Lid QUALIFYING 1st - Horsetooth’s Center Ice 4th - Horsetooth’s Otto Know DERBY 3rd - Elmingos Controlled Power Play JAM - Horsetooth’s Willie T Wiffic
I raised every one of those dogs. There is an art to raising a puppy for sure. I think I do a good job, but I've also had lots of practice...13 puppies in 3 years at last count I think.
I am now raising Hattie and am already on the hunt for my next pup to raise.
Things I've learned from raising pups:
-get one from the best bitch you can afford. Sires are great and there are some I am really fond of, but by and all, the best dogs I've raised have been out of the best bitches.
-don't fret about anything when they're young. I had one dog I raised that was a STAR as a puppy. She looked like the second coming of Lean Mac. Then the more work we started doing and the harder the tests became...she just fell apart and we washed her out. She hated the yard and hated the job. We did everything to make her love it, but she didn't like retrieving with rules and that was that. On the other hand, one pup I raised did NOT retrieve, even by 5 months old. He would wander out at a walk, shuffle around and maybe pick it up. I didn't fret and stopped retrieving with him completely until he showed me he was ready. I let him be a puppy and raised him the best way I knew how. He is now 9 months old and a retrieving fool. He is stylish and fun and LOVES his yard work in the morning. He looks like he's going to be very nice. It goes to show that they are just little guys. One has to be careful not to teach them to hate retrieving and I think I could have done that easily with this little guy if I had pushed him.
-I only teach the mechanics of the retrieve when they're young and nothing else. Go out, pick it up and bring it back. A dog cannot be advanced without the mechanics down. If they go out great, pick it up and then play keep away...everything else stops until I get them returning reliably. And I stay at 20 yards on short grass until we got this part down cold.
-Pups need to learn to learn. Teach them everything. I taught Willie to shake a paw for example. It is a parlour trick, but she was so wanting to learn MORE, MORE, MORE as a young puppy that I tried to teach her new things all the time.
-Noise (and general obnoxiousness) on the line needs to be dealt with as SOON as it shows up. It IS a big deal and it is not at all cute if they are thrashing and screaming while we're throwing puppy bumpers.
-Most importantly, just let them be a puppy. I think the best pups are raised in the house. So much more opportunity to learn. Do no get on the counter, do not jump on people, wait at the door while I go out and on and on and on. I let them have toys (many, many toys) and play and run. There is THEIR time and there is MY time. I don't bother them on their time, but I expect compliance on my time.
I have oodles and oodles I could say about this, but the most important part of a dog's life is the first year. How they are raised and how their Basic Training is done can create or prohibit success of the dog at any level.
I am an Amateur at heart. You see, my horse WON a blue ribbon at a show a couple of weeks ago with his trainer, so you know what I did...I brought him home.
My trainer gave me the same look that Luckiest Man Alive gives some people when I asked "Can I bring him home for a week"? I didn't care. I wanted to enjoy him.
I've had Zed 2 1/2 years and I've never had him home. Why not, I thought. We have the room and a safe place to keep him.
Some random horse photos from the past week or so.
Heading out on the evening ride with the "girls".
Going for a swim after the ride...everyone but Zed that is. He wanted no part of it.
Zed at a show with his trainer. Since I don't get to ride very much, I don't have the "legs" to do a show. But...I'm planning on showing Zed in August now that I'm home for a bit and able to ride more.
Zed in my front yard...literally...after the show. Picture from my deck.
The new sign at Horsetooth Retrievers.
Peek-A-Boo...with Hattie snot on the window.
Hattie at the most recent horse show. It was a hot day and she was very tired from all the visiting. I tied her up for a second so I could take some pics of Zed showing. Looks like the tying was unnecessary....she wasn't going anywhere.