April 2015 Newsletter

President:  Donald Flanagan

1st VP:      Rafael Aguilar

2nd VP:     Trevor Niarchos

Treasurer: Colleen Scruggs

Secretary: Steve Looser

Board Members:

Pam Felgenhauer
Ed Marr
Kenn Scruggs
Mary Sarmiento

Donald Flanagan and Boomer at their first hunt test

Calendar of Events

General Membership and Board Meeting
Wednesday, April 13, 7:00 PM
Animal Medical Center
600 Broadway, El Cajon

Rattlesnake Avoidance Clinic
Saturday, May 9
Country Kennels 
16922 Rio Maria Rd., Lakeside, CA

Training Day
Saturday, May 23, 8:00 AM
Prado Recreation Dog Park, Chino Hills, CA

News and Notes

Annual Banquet
Photos courtesy of Verland Nolta

We had a great time at our annual banquet this year. Pam and Mary did a wonderful job putting it together. Thank you to you, and to all the volunteers who helped make it a success. The food was great, as you can see here:

Can somebody explain this, please? I think I heard that this was a "thank-you" gift?

We also had some great raffle items (Congratulations to Ruth Weiss, who won the gun safe!)...and one not-so-great mystery box!

There were awards, trophies, t-shirts, and thank yous. Randy Domingos was named Member of the Year, and was presented with a fantastic photo of him and Wyatt. Thank you again, Randy, for all that you continue to do on behalf of the club! No, the picture to the left is not Randy (that's Ed Marr, with the travelling trophy!).

For more photos, click here. If anyone would like an image file large enough for print, just email Verland  with the size photo you intend to print and heíll send 
the proper size, no charge, totally FREE! Thank you, Verland, for photographing the event.

-Donald Flanagan

Club-Themed Swag

San Diego Sporting Dog Club tee shirts, hoodies and stickers with the new logo are available in limited supply. Get them while you can.

Short sleeve shirts sizes Med. - XL are $17 each.  Currently we have;
Medium in black and in blaze orange.
Large in blaze orange.
XL in black and in blaze orange.

Short sleeve shirts sizes XXL - XXXL are $19 each.  Currently we have;
XXL in black, blue and blaze orange.
XXXL in blaze orange and in blue.

Long sleeve shirts sizes Med. - XL are $20 each. Currently we have;
Medium in sand and in blaze orange.
Large in sand and in ash grey.

Long sleeve shirts sizes XXL - XXXL are $22 each.  Currently we have;
XXL in sand.
XXXL in black.

Pull over hoodies are $26 each, sizes Med. - XL,
Medium in ash grey.
Large in ash grey.
XL in blaze orange.

Sizes 2XL and up are $30.
XXL in blaze orange, ash grey and in navy blue.
XXXl in navy blue.

Stickers are $2.50 each.

We have 4 hats from a previous order that are available.  Hats are $15 each.

2 blaze with camo bills.  Both have a black lab head.
2 camo over blaze with a flying pheasant.

The Board of Directors and General Meeting Reports

Click here to view the minutes of the February meeting.
Click here to view the minutes of the March meeting.

The Board of Directors and General Meeting Reports

Trying Something New

Upland hunting season is long over. Finding someplace to train your dog is getting harder and harder with the closure of DFG and BLM land to training, emergence of rattlesnakes, and the dreaded foxtails. So I figure I would try something new to keep my dog in shape and work on his hunting skills. Thus began my entry into the world of Retriever Hunt Tests.

To many hunters, the words "Retriever Hunt Test" bring out images of suburbanites who want to do something with their Labs and Golden Retrievers. They have never held a shotgun let alone actually shot a wild bird in the field or marsh. They join clubs to learn how to train
their dogs or pay a professional to do it for them. I have to admit I myself held this bias, really an ignorance of what really happens at hunt tests.

I have a fifteen-month-old lab named Rio. To say Rio has been a challenge would be an understatement. He has constant puppy brain and is either fantastic on drills or a complete idiot. To make matters worse he is a pointing lab so not only do I work on retrieving drills,
I have to work on his pointing, and steadiness to wing and shot. That being said, I have enjoyed working with him since he arrived from Wyoming.

My goal is to get Rio ready for an American Pointing Lab Hunting test. A big part of the test is the water portion which is much like a Senior Retriever Test. So I figured I better start doing some water work with Rio. First Problem: There is not a whole lot of accessible water to train your dogs in Southern California. The five year drought has only made things worse with most small ponds drying up.

Enter Pam and Mary. Whenever I have a question about Labs I go to my main club contact, Pam. I asked her about hunt tests and she allowed me to tag along with her and Mary to Prado to watch them train. I received a lot of information about the junior hunt test and ran my dog a couple of times on the drills. I recognized a problem with Rio right away. He did not know how to swim very well. I was sure he was going to drown a couple times, but somehow he made it back to shore with the bumper.

Enter Brad and Caroline. Pam and Mary got me hooked up with team Tater to work on some of the finer drills for Rioís junior hunt test. Watching their dogs work was truly inspirational. Their dogs actually listened to commands! Stop, Over, Back, etc. Brad set up his launchers
and pretty soon had Rio retrieving in the water and on land. Training with Brad and Caroline gave me some confidence that Rio could pass his junior hunt test.

Over the next two weeks I trained Rio on short retrieves, long retrieves, water retrieves, and water to land to water retrieves. I trained him to retrieve bumpers, frozen ducks, unfrozen ducks, and even quail, pheasant, and chukar. He is officially a retrieving fool.

The long awaited day of April 12th has arrived. I packed my truck the night before and had a difficult time falling asleep, anxious of how Rio would do the following day. I wake up my better half, load up the dog and make the hour and fifteen minute drive north to Prado. I notice two interesting details when we arrive. First there is a very long line at the gate. Second, I have never seen so many women with dogs. In fact, at least half of the people running dogs are women.

I find my check-in location and prepare for the day's competition. There are only labs and goldens at the junior hunt test station. Most of the competitors know each other and I am the new guy. I talk to a few of the participants to try to find out what is expected in the
test. Some of the competitors are seasoned pros while others have only done the test one or two times. Dogs range from seven month old puppies to older show dogs that are trying to broaden their resume. Some dogs are overweight house dogs while other are trim and slim field dogs.

The first step is land retrieves. Two stations are set up, one is for a launched dead duck and the other is for a released duck shot in the air. Both retrieves are singles so you do one station and then move on to the other station. I have been practicing retrieves between fifty
and a hundred yards. I am pleasantly surprised that these retrieves are only about thirty yards. Rio is the sixth dog to participate and handles both retrieves without a problem.

Then itís on to the water retrieves. This is the station where dogs start to fail. The failures are either bank runners that do not go into the water, become confused by decoys placed in the water, or cannot find the bird on land after swimming across the water. I start to get a
little nervous realizing that Rio has never had to swim through decoys to get a bird. Major training error signs start to flash in my head.

Finally itís Rioís turn. I walk him to the line. Wait for the bird to be launched and release him. He bounds in the water and swims on a perfect line to the launched duck. Then is distracted by a decoy and becomes confused. I try to get him back on track with a back command but now his puppy brain kicks in and he starts to search everywhere for the duck. This includes on land, in water, and all around the pond. Everywhere except where the duck is sitting in the water. I finally decide to put an end to the misery and call him back to me.

I am now frustrated and embarrassed by Rio, wishing I could slink back to my truck unnoticed. Not my finest hour as a competitor. To make matters worse the dog after me passes the test with flying colors. Earlier I had talked to the owner about her dog. She was so excited to be running her dog today. It had just passed obedience training and this was her second junior hunt test of the weekend. I asked if he was a hunting dog. She explained that she was not a hunter and did not even own a hunting license.

What I learned: Hunt Tests are just what they say they are: tests. Tests measure a specific skill, and in Retriever Hunt Tests, a very specific skill. Do hunt test simulate real hunting situations? Sort of. They do teach hunters to be able to handle their dogs in predictable situations. On the other hand, if a hunter got out of his blind and spent five minutes
using whistle and hand commands to locate a downed bird he would probably be told to shut the heck up and get back in his blind.

In this era of anti-hunting, can hunters afford to look down their noses at Retriever Hunt Test participants? I think not. We need to get as many allies on our side as possible if we want to continue our sport. Can your seasoned dog be beaten by a dog that has never even seen a wild duck? You bet it can. Does this take anything away from your dog? Nope, just our own egos. My ego took a major hit today, but I learned a lot which will help me in the future. Will I try another retriever hunt test? I am not sure this type of testing is for me. But, I will always admire a well-trained dog, no matter what it is doing.

-Joel Vexler

Editor's note: I've entered Boomer in a total of three hunt tests. He passed his first Junior hunt test. Then, I entered him in a NAHRA Hunter test (this would fall somewhere between AKC Junior and Senior in difficulty). Unfortunately, he broke on the second bird, and I couldn't call him off of it. 30 seconds into the test, it was over! Later, I entered him in an AKC Senior test. It started off with a double, with a dead bird falling on land, and a live flyer falling in the water. He broke on the flyer, but I was able to bring him under control in time. He retrieved both birds. Then, he had to complete a water blind which would take him past where the flyer had fallen. He diverted toward that area. I stopped him, and cast him in the right direction, but he kept going back to the area of the flier. After a couple of these, he stopped listening to my whistle, and ignored me altogether. And it was, again, my turn to take the walk of shame!

Hunt tests may not be a realistic representation of a hunting scenario (no matter the club or venue, and in spite of all pretensions to the contrary), but the bottom line is that they are a valid way to test for certain characteristics and training goals that are sought after in a hunting companion: trainability, prey drive, memory, perseverance, obedience, sitting quietly in the blind until released for a retrieve, handling, and more. And as we know, they do quite a good job at revealing the gaping holes in our dogs' training (steadiness and obedience for Boomer, and exposure to decoys and distractions for Rio). Yes, for some people, it's just another game, and some people just want another set of initials to put after their dog's name in order to impress potential puppy buyers.  But as Joel points out we need them too. If you've never tried a hunt test, you should- even if it's just to point out the weakness in your training regimen!

-Donald Flanagan

Around the Fire Hydrant

Newsletter Submissions:
To submit an article, brag, recipe or want ad to the SDSDC Newsletter please send an E-Mail to Donald Flanagan.

Dog Portraits and other Art
Have your best friend and hunting partner immortalized in a commissioned painting. Visit the website of SDSDC member Ron Dotson. His work is now in private collections both nationally and internationally. If you are interested in any of his works or commissioning a painting, please contact him by e-mail or by phone at (619) 925-2606. 

Denise Rich is also an accomplished artist and club member.  Denise is also known as "The Official Happy Cow" artist. In 2006 she was commissioned by the California Milk Advisory Board to paint their famous Happy Cows of the Real California Milk campaign. In addition to cows, Denise paints dogs, pets, or really anything.  If you are interested in any of her works or commissioning a painting, please contact her at her studio at (619) 933-5935.  Or send her an e-mail.  Please visit her website to see some of her work.

Health Supplements for You and Your Dog!
Donna Sarmiento has a new business endeavor called Nature's Tails, distributing quality health products for the care, comfort, and well being of both you and your pets! These include calming, healing, and joint products for humans and dogs, as well as other edibles for your pets. Visit for more information.

Training Opportunities:
Pam is holding basic obedience classes for puppies and adults, behavior issues, rescued dogs, AKC Canine Good Citizen classes and Puppy Star classes. Also available for private in home lessons. Email Pam for details.

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