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Versatility – An Interview with Lynn Winchester

Reprinted with permission of Chiridion Wild Wings, Inc.,
from the Springer ExprESS, Volume 1, Number 4, Fall 1999

ExprESS: Tell us about Smokey’s parents and why you chose Cody for Jessica.

Lynn: Jessica (Alynn’s Jessica of Wedgewood) was from my breeding and co-owned by me and owned by a toddler. When the family went on extended vacations, I kept Jessica often. Her temperament was superb, she had her OFA and eye certifications plus other good qualifies that needed to be passed on to future generations.

Selecting that special stud is always difficult. I wanted a mentally and physically sound dog, of course, plus all the certifications, excellent temperament, not tightly linebred, good movement and attitude (which is different from temperament), a smooth mover with style. Cody (A/C Ch. Serenade’s Family Tradition) had all these qualities; however, the clincher was when I asked Anne Hutchinson how Cody’s temperament was, she replied, “He’s owned by a three-year-old .” That sold me. Although this was an outcross breeding, the strong qualities of both the sire and dam came through. Of the five puppies, two were shown and are champions.

ExprESS: How, why, and at what age did you select Smokey from the litter?

Lynn: Smokey chose me weeks before I chose him. From the time the pups were on their feet and playing, Smokey would hang out on my lap. Although I wanted to be objective in my pick, Smoke had always been my favorite. He had that certain something that you can’t put into words. When the selection was made at eight weeks, it was obvious — he was the one with the good angles, balance, topline, and movement. From the beginning he carried himself proudly and with a willingness to accept new experiences.

ExprESS: Did you give him any special socialization or training when he was a young puppy?

Lynn: My dogs go with me about four days a week or more on realtor or family errands. We’re gone most of the day. Puppies often ride in the front seat so I can play with feet, mouths, talk to them — hands-on sorts of things. He went to puppy school, socials, and a few trips to strip malls to meet and greet strangers. I tried to expose him to a variety of situations as a puppy as I feel those are confidence building blocks.

At six weeks “come, yes, no, off, good dog” are always good training words. You have to have some control and respect to lead.

ExprESS: Do you train by any particular ‘method? “and if so, which one and why?

Lynn: Smokey has not been trained in any particular method. As a show dog, he went to practice sessions where a trained eye could help us both, and the interaction with other dogs and people is also important, as are fun matches. I don’t bait much as I am not good at it, so in the ring, praise is the reward.

Over the years I have put CDs and CDXs on Springers and always from an eight-week pet class. This works best, as it gives the basics and then I can practice. We usually qualify in the 190s, which is where I like to be. My goal is not a High in Trial but to do well. My idea of success is to accomplish my goal and to enjoy the process.

We approached tracking the same way. Smokey started at four months, and we did take lessons and then practiced.

Agility is in its infancy, so techniques, theories, and styles are continually changing. One takes what works for you and your dog and your style develops from there.

I like to imprint early. Smokey chased his first clipped-wing bird at 10 weeks. A good guide to field training is the book HUP by James B. Spencer. We use that, plus friends get together and we have club activities on a regular basis. I am lucky to have two spaniel clubs in the area that do field work, which gives us a chance to experience different cover. We are not in the field year-round because weather and time do not permit.

ExprESS: How many activities do you and Smokey work on in any given week?

Lynn: All three of my dogs have multiple activities. We train twice a week in the field and, while there, lay TDX beginning tracks. We practice agility two to three times a week, and we have also started utility work. My dogs enjoy and thrive on doing things with me. After Smokey learned one activity, another was introduced, then another, so all were at different stages. And so the learning process continues.

I do admit, however, I had piled too much on my plate when I entered him in a three-day show in Best of Breed, open obedience, and agility. My brain and time conflicts were on major overload.

ExprESS: When did you realize Smokey could “do it all”?

Lynn: Smokey’s “do it all” career wasn’t planned — it just evolved with new exposures. When introducing a pup to a new experience, you observe his reaction. He was introduced to birds at 10 weeks, and he was so proud of himself when be got it and brought it back to me. He began tracking at four months; show stuff started at six weeks with the stack, lead work, and puppy commands. Obedience came last. He was so much fun to work with and has really spoiled me. He did many activities easily — CD and CDX were in three consecutive shows, tracking in the first try, novice agility in the first four shows, Canadian Champion at 10 months in three shows and two days, American Champion with two five-point majors, junior hunter title in the first four shows, senior hunter four out of five shows, WD and WDX first tries, And he is only five years old!

He is willing to try new activities, likes the attention, listens, understands, and wants to please, so we have been able to have fun in many areas. Perhaps part of his success is in not being a dominant male (although he is intact) which allows him to focus more on what we are doing. In reflecting, introducing Smokey to different sports at an early age imprinted for the future.

ErprESS: What are Smokey’s and your favorite and least favorite activities and why?

Lynn: Smokey’s favorite activities are field, tracking, and agility. He tried lure coursing but saw no reason to chase a rabbit on a string.

ExprESS: Describe Smokey’s conditioning regimen.

Lynn: Our workouts aren’t structured. I try to fit activities in and around my work schedule. We go for early three-mile walks about three times a week (weather permitting) and short neighborhood walks daily. With the field, tracking, and agility practices, he is always in excellent condition. He is hardly ever on a lead so muscles stretch and build.

ExprESS: You have been involved in Springers for many years. Compare Smokey with your other dogs through the years.

Lynn: I got my first Springer in 1963 and have always done multiple activities with them. Obviously Smokey is one of my most loved Springers. There have been three others who were also very special and all are from the same line. The common threads have been dogs who listen, think, are not afraid of new experiences, are easy-going, friendly, and have a very close bond with me. Being a team and having mutual trust and respect is what it is all about.

ExprESS: What’s next for Smokey?

Lynn: Smokey sincerely loves to do it all. He’s an action guy — ready and willing to try something new. Currently we are working on utility, but because we’re not “attention trained,” we’re traveling a distance for instruction. It will be awhile before we’re a team as the handler needs to get her timing down. But we’re having fun and enjoying our work together. We’re also trying TDX work and are just getting started.

We have several more opportunities to explore. We’re beginning TDX and have sampled some master field work, and he’s enjoying all of it. My daughter says he’s multi-tasking.

ExprESS: Do you have a younger dog coming along?

Lynn: I have two younger Springers coming along. Marty (Alynn’s Time Traveler) is three years old and has her TD, CD, SH, MX, and AXJ. We’re working on our TDX and MXJ and will start master hunter work in the spring. Spirit (Serenade’s Spirit of Alynn), now five months old, has been tracking and retrieving birds on land and water since she was nine weeks old. We’re starting to practice for the show ring, and again I look for situations that are positive for her. She too is a busy pup and multiple jobs are fun for both of us.
All three dogs want their turn — now!

ExprESS: what advice can you give about selecting, raising training, conditioning, and competing with a multi-purpose Springer?

Lynn: In selecting a puppy, look for the things that you are most interested in having, be it house pet, hunter, or show dog. I look for conformation, temperament, attitude, and willingness to please. If the dog is lacking in structure, this will limit his performance and impact his quality of life as an older dog. Temperament to me means lots of things, including willingness to please and not being possessive, submissive, or aggressive. Attitude plays a big role. Are new situations fun or frightening? Is the dog willing to try or does he have to he coaxed into it– on your knees?

A dog has such a different attitude when he has been allowed to be a big part of your world. Going places, doing things, and experiencing new opportunities, meeting four and two-legged folks helps to make him more confident and happy. I try to take my dogs with me a lot, but I am watchful as some situations are unforeseen and you need to be there to take charge. I think most of us train on a daily basis, if only small things. A come, stay, or wait – it’s all training. I don’t drill, it’s not fun for anyone, and it can suck an attitude down the drain for good.

Training has to be fun for both of you. Back off or quit if you are muscling your dog to get the results you want. There is no joy in the blue ribbon if there was no joy or happiness in the team effort. Do ask yourself, are WE having a good time?

Conditioning has always been a daily walk or activity. It’s a lifestyle. Coat conditioning is fairly simple. I don’t use lots of products on the coat and do very little blow drying. I believe in good dog food and fresh vegetables.

From the beginning Smokey was selected for his qualities mentioned above. His destiny was to be a breed champion. As tracking was a natural step that was next in training. I had to have obedience to gain control in the field and agility. Many of these sports we do on the same day as it fits my work schedule.

This may sound like a lot of work to some, and to others it will be a way of enjoying a variety of experiences with your dog. Springers can do it all. The question is, “How much are we willing to do with our Springers?”