Amber was born on May 13, 1998 and died (from cancer) on July 6th, 2011 at the age of 13. She was a Golden Retriever. Her real name was "Wing Amber from the Go-Getters". She was from the Go-Getters kennel in Bergeijk, in the very South of The Netherlands (Holland), very near the Belgian border: Petra Kolen-Hartman is the breeder of the dog. I suggest you go and have a look at her site. And please sign her guest book. I know she'll be tickled pink!! Petra breeds Golden Retrievers especially for the hunt. There are only two or three breeders in Holland that still specialize in working dogs like that. The Golden Retriever from her kennels is smaller than the average Golden. The maximum height of the bitch is around 51 centimeters, where the standard is about 56 centimeters. Again: this makes it easier for the dog to do its job in the field and in thick undergrowth. Amber was trained for the hunting-certificates. Weekly in the dog school Multi-Dog but naturally also each day at least an hour, the whole year round, no matter what weather, in the woods around my home town. Okay, there's play too off course! She has participated in about ten competitions and gained five official KNJV (Koninklijke Nederlandse Jagers Vereniging = Royal Dutch Hunters Association) Certificates, namely two C-certificates and three B-certificates. She has trained for her A-certificate. But that was just fun. For her mostly and she loved it! Next to that, she had first price in one of the competitions in 2000. She won the first price with 78 out of the possible 80 points and thus was the best of 75 other dogs!
What are the tests?
To start off with: each competitor receives a duck at the beginning. This duck is checked thoroughly to make sure there are no wounds. It is imperative that the dog has a "soft mouth", in other words: it must not inflict wounds by biting too hard. If it does, the dog is disqualified.
The tests of certificate C must be concluded first successfully, to be able to gain the B or A certificate on that same day. These are:
The dog is leashed and must stay next (left) to the handler with the head or shoulder next to the knee while walking an "8" of about 10 meters. When the handler stops, the dog must sit down automatically without an order, nicely next to the handler and not a little forward or behind. Then the dog is taken off the leash and the same "8" is walked, while the dog must keep the same position next to the handler, again sitting down when the handler stops..
The dog is sitting next to the handler (left side). When the handler gives an order, the dog must run away for at least 30 meters, if possible in a straight line. Then the handler gives a whistle signal, upon which the dog must immediately return in a straight line to end up sitting in front of the handler.
The dog is ordered to lay down and the handler goes away out of sight. The dog must remain lying down, without being restless on the same spot for two minutes, without being able to see or hear his handler. When the handler returns, the dog must remain lying down, until the handler stands next to him and he receives the command: "Sit".
The dog is sitting next (left) to the handler, unleashed. At a distance of about 25 meters a rabbit is thrown on the ground. On a command of the handler he must run to the rabbit, pick it up without hesitation and return in a straight line, ending up sitting in front of the handler, still with the rabbit in the mouth, offering it to the handler.
The dog is sitting free of the leash next to the handler (left side). A riffle is fired, upon which a duck is thrown into the water, at a distance of about 10 meters. Upon a command, the dog must go into the water, swim to the duck, pick it up and swim back to the edge, come out and return to the handler, without hesitation and without shaking out, sit down with the duck in the mouth, offering it to the handler. He must not let go, until the handler takes the duck out of the dog's mouth.
That's the C-certificate. As I said you must have it before you can go for the B- or A-certificate. Each extra order you give, or even a gesture, is 2 points off the score. And you must have at least 6 points out of ten, otherwise you have a nil. And that's the end of the day! You can go home...
Now for the B-certificate!
The dog is led to the edge of a thickly wooded and shrubby plot. At about 40 meters away a duck has been laid down. The handler leading the dog does not know where, nor does the dog. After the command to find the duck, the dog goes into the wood where it can no longer see his handler. This person has to remain hidden and quiet. The dog now has to find the duck solely on the nose and it's smelling power, return with the duck directly to the handler and end up sitting in front of him or her, with the duck in the mouth. The total time in which this is accomplished is about two-three minutes.
The dog is sitting on the left of the handler, free of the leash. At 60 meters distance a riffle is fired and at the same time a duck is thrown away. The dog is not allowed to "jump in" (go away without an order), otherwise you have a nil score. When the handler gets a signal from the trial judge, he gives a command to the dog to retrieve. The dog runs in a straight line to the spot where the duck fell (usually it cannot see the dropping spot), and without any search for it, pick up the duck and return to the handler in a straight line ending up sitting in front of him offering the duck.
The dog sits to the left of the handler, free of the leash on the edge of a stream or canal or pond of about 15 meters width minimum. On the other side a duck has been hidden in the shrubs at about 40 meters away from the water's edge. It can not be seen when the dog climbs out of the water. On a command the dog must swim straight to the other side. It then gets the shouted command to search and it has to find the duck purely by using it's nose, pick it up, return to the water's edge, swim back and come out of the water without hesitation or shaking itself out, ending up sitting in front of the handler offering the duck.
Now for the best performance, the A-test. For this you must have gained the C- and B-certificate that same day!
The dog is sitting left of the handler, unleashed of course. At about 100 - 200 meters away a duck or dove has been laid down, without the dog's knowledge. The handler knows the spot though! The wind comes from behind if possible. The dog is sent forward and must keep running in a straight line in the indicated direction, until it receives a special whistle signal, upon which he sits down immediately, looking at the handler. He now gets an arm signal to go left or right upon which again he must keep going in that direction until he gets the "sit" whistle again. And so on, until the dog is directed so near to the bird that he can smell it. He must then pick it up and bring it back to the handler in the manner described above.
A duck has been drawn over the ground, maybe even over water, for a long distance (more than 100 meters). There are a few bends in the trail and it goes through paddock and wooded areas. The dog has not seen the trail being made. The dog sits down a short distance away from the beginning of the trail, next to the handler and at a command, it must find the beginning of the trail and then follow the smell of the duck correctly even through the bends, thus finding the duck and return it to the handler in the manner described above. Maybe the dog will have to start by swimming over water first after which it gets the command to search for the trail, upon which he must find the beginning of the trail without help and then follow it.
So there you have it. It's not easy for the dog, nor for that matter, for the handler!!
There is of course the real hunt. My wife and I hunt and I work the dog as well. Amber often has to do hard work, retrieving the duck or hare, especially when she has to find it in thickly reeded water edges or heavy undergrowth. However, she has never failed us!
And this is how it all started!
Copyright © 1998-2012. Luuk Francken
Created: October 1998. Updated: mei 7 2012