11 Questions with ................
This is the first in our series of 11 question with…………………… Our first victim (I mean kind subject) is Debbie Zurick who has been Secretary for the WCSS since 1998 . Debbie trains, works and trials her dogs (Clumbers, Springers, Cockers and Labradors) throughout the year as well as being a influential member of the WCSS. Debbie lives in Somerset with her husband John (interview coming soon) and an unspecified number of dogs.
1. How did you get involved with Clumbers?
Back in 1991 when my father was in hospital, I bought him a copy of Country Life which had Clumbers on the front cover and an article about Working Clumbers featuring James Darley. My father said he was going to have a brace of Clumbers when he got out but sadly he died of cancer without achieving this goal. Fast forward three years and I rang James Darley; now look at me! Hopefully Dad would be proud, maybe a bit shocked at the number of Clumbers I have!
2. What got you into dogs?
Going rough shooting with my father. He had always had Springers and Labradors; taking them out wildfowling was something we both loved, and you really need a good working dog for that kind of shooting.
3. How often do you enter tests and trials and do you enjoy them?
Tests and trials are something strangely enough I do quite enjoy. People get nervous, as do I, but it’s a gauge to the level of your training and where you are with your dogs. It’s very satisfying when you come away with even a Certificate of Merit from a test or trial. You clock up a lot of miles going to trials, and lots very early mornings but it's worth it. The banter with fellow participants, the confidence it builds in the dogs and their training and the comparison with everyone else really helps identify areas to work on, as well as showing how far you've come.
4. What’s the most embarrassing thing your dog has ever done?
That has to be Titus who peed on a judges’ leg, but we still got an award so that was alright! The judge kindly forgave me.
5. What’s the best thing one of your dog has ever done?
A proud moment was when Titus got an AV award- 4th place running against Springers and Cockers, his very first one, down in Devon. It was shortly after my friend Clive had died, who had had Titus and done some training with him, so on my way back I phoned his widow to tell her what Titus had just done, and what he would have done with Clive had he still been alive.
6. How often do you train your dog/dogs?
If you can do just 10mins per day then that really helps, even if it’s just training basics around the food bowl at feeding time or if your able to get out with them in the field to do some hunting and some retrieves. The basics are so important and that 10 minutes will pay dividends later, provided you do it every day.
7. What is the most important training tip/tips you can give?
· Consistent as possible each day
· Get them keen on retrieving first, its very important with Clumbers
· Make it fun
· Have eye contact, however you do this, be it with tit bits or tennis balls
· Good recall whistle
8. When is the best time to introduce game to your training?
Well it varies depending on the ability of the dog and what stage of training you are with the dog. It’s not a simple case of saying an age. So much depends on the dog, the training you’ve done together and its confidence with dummies. It can be that when you first introduce game sometimes they can go off dummies, so it makes sense to get as much done with dummies before moving on. Then I have a freezer full of cold game and introduce that first, before moving onto warm game from partridge days in September.
9. What do you look for when choosing a puppy?
In my many years I have chosen many puppies, I suppose you look for markings that please you and conformation, the shape and the body, of the puppy but I look for a puppy that wants to be with me, that wants to interact with me. I get down on the floor with the litter and interact with them to see which one wants to be with me and paying me attention and will give me some eye contact. It’s nice to be able to run them on for a little while but if I’m forced to choose one earlier then I don’t want to pick until they are 6 or 7 weeks. As a breeder most of the time I am lucky and get to see them everyday and I can start to see their personalities, and how they are changing and developing as a person.
10. Dogs or bitches?
Dogs every time for me! Even though we have mixed kennels, I do find dogs will, if you blow the whistle, look at you and ask “what do you want me to do?” Bitches can be a bit more aloof, and it can be more difficult to get their attention quickly, even if in the end they do, normally, respond. Dogs are more honest, and you don’t have to worry about seasons. If I wasn’t breeding then I’d have a kennel of just dogs.
11. What type of shooting do you do over your dogs and how often?
I’m out probably 3 times per week picking up with my dogs, but I also really enjoy grabbing a gun at the weekend, taking a dog out of its kennel and going rough shooting to find something for the pot. Occasionally we get to do a nice driven or walked up day somewhere. Sometimes I can be out more often, I’m in a very lucky position to be able to take my dogs out regularly, which not everyone can. I’ve got 39 days booked now but probably another 20 days to add to that!
Interview by Sarah Watters-Carver with Debbie Zurick