The Surrey DTS championship PD trial took place in July, and in line with this year’s very wet summer they had a mixture of sunshine and showers. With nine entered and only eight running all nosework took place on the Friday. It was very much a case of the luck of the draw with some people having sunshine while others suffered a downpour, and most tracks were exposed to the rain at some time. This took its toll and despite the very good grassland which gave everyone their best chance, half of the original entry went out on the nosework, and one more was lost on control the following day, leaving only three on qualifying marks going into the patrol round, although a few of the others also worked as non-qualifiers.
The PD round took place in a large hedged field which was flat for the most part, but then fell away downhill so that the bottom end was not visible from the top allowing judge John Wykes to set some of the tests out of sight of the handler. He had decided on a lock out which meant that no-one knew what to expect, and ably assisted by his wife Kate as scribe and Karen Warner as steward, he set an interesting and challenging round which started with the chase. The ‘criminal’ walked a short distance while the handler challenged and then took off at a run downhill to the bottom corner of the field which was out of sight of the handler. Once the dog had stopped the criminal the handler was sent to take charge of the situation and escort the criminal back.
Next came the quarter which was extensive and included searching the boundary, an area marked off by incident tape, a water trough and the entrance through a gate into another field. All of this required quite a bit of handler involvement and a dog that listened and took commands. Once the dog had located the two ‘criminals’ standing by a style about ten metres into the adjoining field and out of sight of the handler they joined their dog once again and searched the two men, one of which had a penknife hidden in one of his socks, which proved quite elusive with only two handlers finding it. After searching the men and their location they were escorted back, and during this escort another man entered the field and started to shout and distract the handler and dog, at which point one of the original two turned and attacked the handler. The dog was required to prevent this attack, but at the same time the man who had distracted the team also advanced on the handler, and the dog was required to also stop him, and then be sent after the other man who had continued walking away. The exercise finished when all three men were in ‘custody’.
The test of courage came next and this started with a man appearing round the side of a barn in the corner of the field and, after challenging the handler, he ran back behind the barn and the dog was sent. As the dog arrived two other criminals joined the first and all had cardboard boxes which they used to defend themselves and stop the dog from biting. This made it very difficult for the dogs to judge the bite and the criminals had been instructed to keep the dog out if possible. The recall was the same as the chase which meant that when the dog was called it was out of sight, and handlers had no way of knowing if their dog had responded until it appeared. Only one handler resisted giving an extra command!
With only three qualifiers at the start of the round there was a definite possibility that it would finish with none, but Lee Payne and WT Ch Little Rough Rhinestone managed to hold it together and qualify and thus took the ticket as the only qualifier.
Despite the less than summery weather and the logistics of getting agility equipment and vehicles on and off waterlogged fields the Surrey trial was as successful as usual. For us there was one special piece of good news when we heard from Hilary Mercer that Stardell Rana having her first attempt at CDex qualified and won the stake. Although I am sure that this great result is all down to Hilary’s hard work it is good for us, as her breeders, to bask in reflected glory.
Our next outing will be to Scarborough but unfortunately we are struggling with land to train on. None of the hayfields have been cut due to the wet weather and so all our usual places are knee-deep in dead seedy grass. We did manage to find one large field to work on last week but had to follow the cattle on so it was covered in cow pats, thistles and docks so not ideal, but luckily one of our friends came to the rescue with a recently cut silage field so we did manage to get a track and a couple of sendaways. Let’s hope that it soon stops raining long enough for our farmer to cut his fields not only for our sake and also for his.