Tips for WC/WCX Handlers
By Glenda Brown
Strongly motivated dogs with a lot of desire, but with limited training, sometimes pass a WC. It happens. But the more training and retrieving experience your dog has, the more your “luck” will increase. “ By putting the time and effort into thoroughly training your dog, you increase the odds of your dog being successful. In addition, if your dog is well trained, your confidence level and enjoyment of the event increases, and you and your trained dog work as a team.
OBEDIENCE: A GOOD FOUNDATION
The key elements of passing the WC and WCX tests are simple; read the rules and train your dog. The foundation for training your dog in the field is obedience training. One of the biggest problems for failing to pass is not that the dog has no basic instincts or cannot mark, it is lack of obedience training. A dog may have done a beautiful job of marking the bird, and then it plays with the bird, drops the bird, or even plays keep away! These are all obedience (training) problems. Working the dog in the yard on basic obedience, then transferring that obedience work to the field should help clean up many of these problems.
Even if you live in an urban environment, obedience work can be done in the backyard, a schoolyard, or a local park. Do not go to the field until your dog knows and responds well to basic obedience commands anywhere and is solid in the backyard. There are obedience classes and many good training books available. Ask the local Golden club or kennel club for a recommendation for obedience classes, and check out the Recommended Reading and Viewing on the GRCA web site for obedience books and videos.
Learn the various field terms in order to make the most of training opportunities. A Glossary of Field Terms is available on the GRCA Website under Events – Field.
TRAINING THE RETRIEVE
Whether you believe in a “force” fetch or an “induced” retrieve, or just relying on your dog’s willingness to retrieve, it is important that your dog realize that when he is sent to fetch, it is not a choice but a command.
Since a winger may be used in a WCX (although this must be announced in the premium) if at all possible, you should expose your dog to seeing birds thrown from a winger. If you can join a training group that has one, that is ideal. You can encourage your club to use one for a training day. The person who is the “gun” at the winger station should make a throwing motion with their arm just as they are kicking the release mechanism. This simulates a throw from a gunner. The two big advantages of a winger is a consistent throw for everyone, and even someone who doesn’t have a strong throwing arm, can still be a good worker by manning the winger.
The Marks: When you come to the line with your dog, make sure your dog sees all the gun stations, and be sure he is focused on the one that is to be thrown first (the memory bird) before you call for that bird to be thrown. Do not send your dog until he/she is focused on the mark. You do not have to send your dog the exact moment the judge gives your number. Make sure the dog is looking where you want it to go before sending on his/her name. Many times novice handlers become nervous and send their dog immediately. It is not a timed event. Sometimes a handler may be looking at the mark, but the dog is looking behind at something interesting in the gallery. In his hurry, the handler sends the dog before it has had a chance to refocus on where the bird landed, thus decreasing his chances for success.
The Honor: The WCX test includes an “honor.” After running the marks, the dog must hold steady near the line with his handler while another dog runs the marks. After all the enthusiastic encouragement to retrieve, holding steady while another dog works can be tricky. They need to learn the concept of “It’s not your turn.” Practice, practice, practice.
A Recast: One thing many handlers (and some judges) do not understand is when a recast is allowed. A recast may be given if when the dog is sent he does not go or he only goes out a few feet and then returns to the handler. If the judges feel this was due to confusion—such as sending the dog on another dog’s name; saying the dog’s name too softly; or something happened to distract the dog as it was being sent and the dog wasn’t sure whether or not it was actually sent—the judges may allow a recast. This means you can resend the dog. It does not mean you can try to resend the dog numerous times until it may eventually go. It is not confusion if the dog will not go after repeatedly being told to go. Nor does a recast mean that a dog can go out in the field, set up a hunt, and then return to its handler without the bird and you are given another opportunity to send the dog. This, too, is not confusion. This is lack of perseverance or blinking of the bird.
The more practice you can get before running your first test, the more relaxed and confident both you and your dog will be. Don’t run a WC/WCX hoping you can pass. Enter one knowing that you have a very strong probability of your dog passing.
Always keep in perspective why you are there. This is supposed to be fun for both you and your dog. Pass or Fail, relish spending a day in the field with your dog and your friends.