by Gill Smitherman
I have always felt that it is important to preserve the ‘dual purpose’ ability of our breed and have always made some attempt to train my dogs; this has been more successful with some than others. Having passed the Show Gundog Working Certificate with Maisie (Ch Levelmoor Lanosa of Seaheart) in December 2007 I thought I would spend the next twelve months training for the FCRS Shooting Dog Certificate (SDC). The SDC is designed to assess the working ability of dog in the field and register those that are most likely to pass on the right inheritable characteristics to their progeny. Dogs are required to tenderly retrieve to hand, retrieve fur or feather, be steady and quiet whilst sitting in a line at a drive (to get an A they must be off the lead at all times and sit steadily without interference from the handler) Walk reasonably to heal, be able to hunt and pick game from open ground and cover, retrieve from water and be under control at all times.
For those of you that have seen Maisie at a show, you’re probably wondering why on earth I would think she could do this? After all at a show control is something she finds very difficult!! Maisie however is a bit of a Jeckyll and Hyde and is hardly recognisable as the same dog!!
So after 12 months of hard training we headed off to the Long Whatton Shoot managed by Gamekeeper Brian Twigger (Mr Dawn Hall to some of you!!) and with kind permission of Lord and Lady Crawshaw. As I arrived I met my fellow competitor, Casper Jonson with is young dog Sherlock (Vortex Tornado at Misticmaker) and we exercised the dogs before joining the beaters and picking up team for a much needed pre-shoot coffee. Judges Derek Capel and John Kahlow arrived and we headed off for the first drive, my stomach was churning and hands shaking, please Maisie don’t have one of your ‘doo’s’!! We lined up behind the guns, I went with John and Capser went with Derek at the other end of the drive, we were joined my Lord Crashaw and his two dogs and a couple of spectators!! In the distance we could hear the beaters and Maisie ears were about in the middle of her head eyes focused on the horizon. The first birds came into view and Maisie watched each one, head craning left and right to see where they landed, thankfully her bum stayed rooted to the floor!! The whistle blew and John instructed me to send my dog for a bird that had come down to our left, I sent Maisie and off she flew, picked a lovely cock bird and nicely back to had, Phew!! After picking a couple more birds we then walked towards the wood and along the hedge as the dogs hunted to find any un-picked birds.
After a couple more drives John and Derek took Casper and I off to test our dogs on the water, unfortunately it was frozen over and we were told we didn’t have to send the dogs in unless we wanted to, but as most Flatcoat owners know, Ice is not normally a deterrent for our breed and as it was not that thick both dogs obliged and passed the water test.
The final drive was a real test of steadiness, lined up across a filed we were again joined by Lord Crawshaw and his dogs, looking down the hill towards the gun and beaters, half way through the drive a hare appeared from behind the guns and slowly ran up the hill towards the dogs!! Maisie please stay was all that was going though my head!! But I need not have worried and all six dogs sat steadily and watched the cheeky hare run past along the line and up into the woods. With the rest of the shoots picking up team we swept the field, hedges and wood and then headed back to Whatton Hall.
The two judges had a quick chat and compared notes and that informed Casper and I that both dogs had passed and been awarded a grade A. I could have cried and must have had the biggest smile on my face. Maisie joins just a handful of Champions that have gained there SDC, the only other bitch being Helen Fox’s Wistosa Sings the Blues to Blacktoft. I am so proud of Maisie for demonstrating that she truly is a Dual Purpose dog and would encourage anyone to have a go, after all what have you got to loose?
Gill Smitherman and a very talented Maisie Moo