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Discussion Starter #1
firstly i know this is being emailed and talked about with several people,, so if i am talking to you outside this post,, please dont feel like you need to duplicate your replies
Am just putting it out there as it were so see what people's differing opinions are.

right,,, as some people may or may not know, we did our first proper test on sunday just gone.. Was a Novice and i have got 2 issues in the main that are now going to be the focus of my winter training. so much so that i originally wanted to pick up this winter, however the test bug,, along with lots of other bugs on sunday has well and trully bitten me !!

1) sending over water for blinds,, and general dirrecting once on the water. This was completely my fault, as we have never done either,, so Alfie's face when i tried to stop him and send him back after he hunted the water really nicely was so sad. I couldn't do it to him anymore, so i called the poor little fella back.

So that one is not such an issue,, i had loads of fishing line and all sorts to stop him getting to dummies, if i have tried to call him off them.
and i can work out a training plan for that.

2) Now this one i am sure will stir up various opinions. As the day went on every single shot he heard got him more and more fired up. I think most people will probably agree that he was one of the quickest dogs there, but thats only good if its controllable speed. I could dirrect him nicely (well ish) once he was out in the field,,, but as soon as we were at each test judge and that lead came off, he was like a rocket ready to be fired. His head was so low and his muscles must have been burning like crazy. He knew he was going to be sent.....

Now i dont think this is unsteadyness bearing in mind that in his first ever test scenario non training 4 dog walk up, he scored 18 !!!!!
the walk up for sure could have been better,,,, his eyes were glued on the dummy thrower and not me, but he heal was ok, and he sat and stayed sta on each shot
he never lifted his @rse from the deck when the other dogs were sent.. but he was fired and ready to go in a millisecond if his name was called.

This over drive of what i have now renamed it,, Alfiedrive,,, made lining him up for blinds a little tricky as he was rediculously blinkered and didn't really give much thought to what i was asking him to do on the initial line out,,, dont get me wrong, he went the way i lined him up to go,, but veered off to the dirrection he wanted to after 30 feet or so.

The strange thing was,, on both occasions,, i stopped him and re dirrected once he was out there,, and he became much easier to control then as it almost seemed like the explosion has gone off and he had become the more easily controlled dog again.

Even in training scenarios i have never ever seen him this fired up,,, although we dont train with shot in our group training, but we do train with spaniels charging around him and dummies being thrown all around him.

so my question is this,,,,,

Has anyone got any tips for chilling him out slightly.
as i am struggling with this one to know how to work on this.

I love the drive he has,,, and he got some really lovely comments and he was the best choc of the day ;-) but even on ndnh tests where i may not have the same issues with the water,, i know this alfiedrive will still be there and will cause us lost marks.
 

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Do very, very few marked retrieves and the ones that you do, you need to vary alot like the distance so short ones and longer ones.

I would do mainly only blinds with him for a couple of reasons:

1) he doesn't see them drop so doesn't anticipate to be sent
2) this will strengthen your long distance control as he will have to take directions from you in order to try and find the retrieve.
3) this will also help when having to direct on water.

Another good exorcise would be the '3 card trick' (sit the dog up and throw a dummy to his left, right and over his head) - again, he can't guess which one you'll send him for and I would also suggest that indeed instead of sending him for one of the dummies, call him to you by whistle: you'd be surprised how though that can be with a dog that's 120% switched on.

When that is all 100% and his attention on you has improved, then it's time to 'pull him off dummies' as in sending him for one dummy, stop him and re-direct him for another. Just beware that you may need help for this one as in not over doing it as under normal circumstances, you don't really want to 'pull them off' as if done too much or wrongly, can cause many other problems..

Treat him like a spaniel :lol: and make sure to 'out smarten' him and be his centre of his universe :wink:

Natasha
 

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1/ Distractions and handling on water. With distractions that is really only practise. I’m betting in almost every test of that type, because all the dogs want to go in the water it will be the water last! So work on that principle! Lots of retrieves along the bank. With handling on water, I try not to. Train for straight lines. Unless it finds the dummy/bird or told to do something, it should continue in a straight line until it has gone all the way round the world and back to you from behind!! If my dog had deviated a little I’d let it swim until it made the far bank then redirect there. As an exercise, try to avoid retrieving from water. Try to almost always send right over and out the other side, with just the very odd one actually on water.

2/ Because he is more solid at other times I would try to use a starting pistol more. Imagine this. Picking up on a shoot we have nearly a 5 to 1 cartridge to kill rate so most shots mean nothing. Add to this, with 4 picking up only around 1 in 20 shots is going to be Amy’s so you can see the sort of numbers.

Regards, John
 

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My first thought Andy is I wouldn't take him picking up yet - or if I did it would be completely under control and I would probably not allow him to pick anything. From what you describe picking up will be like lighting the touchpaper.

My description of unsteadiness would be as you describe. Not necessarily moving but about to explode and it is a dangerous situation, although at the moment you are managing to control it.

The situation you describe on blinds, would be where I would be telling him to stay (or whatever command you use) then taking two steps forward, then taking my time to look at the scenary, or have a ***, or manicure my nails, then put my arm out giving him a long straight line to run along including leg stretched back towards his head, then I might decide to stand up again and have a good stretch and another look at the countryside, then position myself again, and if all is cool and calm in the Alfie department I might send him. Slow everything that you are doing down and do it at your speed, not at his. Do not worry about losing his drive too much. He is not a pup and if it is there now it will come back, but you need to be in the driving seat and have full control of the throttle.

You need to get him working in groups with shot much more in my opinion so it does not get him so wound up. I really don't do very much training without shot with my older dogs. It needs to become an everyday occurence.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
we train with shot on our own all the time,, but then he doesn't have that competitive over drive that he showed on sunday.

and unfortunatly our regular group training doesn't use shot just now,,, so again he doesn't show that same Alfie drive as sunday.

I dont know if i will use him for picking up at all to be honest this year. and if we do take him,, i think i would have him on lead and just sat there all day without getting one bird.

He did settle down a little towards the end of the day and as his first test i guess i have to give him inexperience points, but even so i am very aware of the problem,,, so dont worry about him hooning around a shoot at Alfie speed.

So we are pretty much saying,, group training with lots of shot is the way forward then.... and as he realises he will natually steady up...
He cottoned on so quick that as soon as that lead came off it was his go....
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Sorry missed Natasha's post.

can do 3 card trick no problem,, and i can recall him on it as well.

although i did notice that we struggle to say send back,, if there is only a mark left and right,,

I will often send for a left,, stop half way,, then send for the right,, and he is good at that.

I deff see your point as far as not as many marks.
he gets a lot of those,,,,, so i see thinking about it now,, why he is going into "i got it covered sort of mode"
ok,, so less marks,, more blinds,,, more making him unsure of what i am going to ask of him,,,, slowing everything down to my speed and not his,
 

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In my opinion yes Andy. Using shot with just him there or one other will not cut it. You need to be in a line of dogs with him having to wait his turn and, personally I would not allow that to be first.

I expect you remember my post about the lead being a crutch for the handler. Although obviously if you need to use it to keep the dog under control especially in a shoot situation then you must. As an example though Pepper will be going out on the shoot for the first time this season and I know that he is steady enough to sit with me off lead during a drive.
 

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Andy, am not at all surprised to hear your dog went up a gear on Sunday. If he hadn’t I’d think there was something wrong! Unfortunately it is very hard to train at home for such days. You can get together as a group, fire dummies left, right and centre but your dog will most likely not be fooled. Part of the reason why I think is your demeanour. Dogs pick up a lot on how we feel, and recreating the same nerves/adrenaline/excitement etc at home that we feel on a test day is nigh impossible.

In my very limited experience, I have found that the more tests you do, the more relaxed your dog becomes. He never slows down but, he does tune in a bit more. Last Sunday was the first time Barney actually fell asleep on me (and vice versa) whilst we waited for the last test of the day. I was thrilled because it meant that at long last we had actually chilled out at a test.

I think more experience at tests will help a lot. He will not lose his edge or enthusiasm but you both will gain a better understanding of what is expected; quicker reactions and lightning fast Plan B’s when things occasionally go pear shaped. You will also know from the outset when confronted with a Test what you may or may not come unstuck with and be armed and ready!

You started with a Novice Test, as did I last year. Back then the general consensus was ‘well done for giving it a go’ and I would heartily say the same to you. Like you I came away actually feeling quite positive. I caught the bug good and proper too. However I was acutely aware of our failings (which were many more than yours) but saw that as a good thing and felt more determined than ever to train for success. It was also suggested that I next try NDNH and to be honest that was excellent advice. It felt less of a mountain to climb; did our confidence no end of good and also really made sure we had the basics nailed (or not in some cases as it turned out!). Sometimes there is no rushing these things, well for me there wasn’t but then again I don’t have your dog and haven’t seen him run…. So I may be talking out of turn.

Regarding the blind over the lake, I have to be honest here and say that has taken me a long time to nail. It didn’t happen over night that my boy on one command of ‘over’ swam the lake and got out of the other side without any other command. I have been training ‘over’ for a long, long time. My boy is not the most confident dog out there, so everything I do has to be pretty much a success otherwise he feels it. As a result I started with small steps and built up gradually over time. Handling in water to be honest shouldn’t require any different training to on land. In fact, it should be an easy transition. There are no different commands. If your dog has truly nailed the stop whistle, hunt command and directions etc on land then he should do it in water. End of. If he is ignoring you or not understanding then I would say he hasn’t quite got what you are asking of him. I only started doing water retrieves of any complexity in April this year. You know the sort of thing; two/three dummy work; blinds; marks on islands, distractions etc. I went to a trainer who had a huge lake to do this. I expected my dog to struggle. He didn’t. He did exactly what I asked him to do in the water as he would on land, so stopping, re directing, going back etc. It really was as simple as that but then I have been training my boy for quite a while now, and we are slow without a doubt compared to some, and I didn’t bring in any complex water stuff until I knew he was totally there on his commands on dry land.

I would be thrilled to have a dog with so much drive as Alfie. Even if his *rse ever did leave the ground slightly but he didn’t move that is OK in a test, is it not? Although you obviously don’t want a dog that makes you feel like you’re sitting on a knifes edge all the time. I have seen many dogs in a line up that look and sound similar to Alfie. Personally I wouldn’t worry and I certainly wouldn’t want to squash his enthusiasm, just as long as you know that he’s not going to run in. The difference between you and some more experienced other similar dogs is that not only will they go out like a rocket but they will also put the brakes on and go from 100mph to 0mph in a second and then take directions. Likewise when lined up for a blind, they will go straight and strong until the dummy is found etc etc. I think again, what you describe particularly with regards to the blind is Alfie’s lack of experience. A more experienced dog, with as much drive as Alfie’s would not stop or veer off at 30m, he would keep going. To me it sounds like you just need to further build his confidence up with blinds and such like, which is not too much of a problem, just time.

Fast dogs win prizes. There is no doubt about that. So I would be very pleased with his drive and speed. You may have some rough edges that need smoothing over, that’s all. Rome was not built in a day. Worth noting that some dogs do feel the pressure we put on them and then switch off, be careful about this. Alfie may be fine but always remember to be fair and honestly ask and appraise your dog in terms of ‘does he really understand what I’m asking’? ‘Am I expecting too much at this stage?’ There is nothing, absolutely nothing wrong with revisiting the basics from time to time or going back over old ground just to make sure. My journey for example has been one of two steps forward one step back or sometimes, vice versa and many a time I have gone back to square one. That’s the joy of being a novice handler with a novice dog lol! Hand on heart, this was the first walk up I did that my boy’s heelwork and marking was spot on, scoring us 20. That was all a result of an awful lot of recent retraining on ‘heel’, which I am notoriously bad at and do so like to sweep under the carpet if I can and then say a little prayer to ‘lady luck’ on the day. Although I went backwards with my training, it certainly helped us go forward!

Again well done on your test, you did a VERY credible performance. Far, far better than my first attempt. You should be as pleased as punch. Clearly you and Alfie are going to be the team to beat in the very near future :wink: .
 

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I partly agree with the more exposure to shot in training situations, the reason being that - depending on your dog and it's overall temperament - it could make the problem even worse :( I went down that route with a dog 7 years ago thinking that surely he would understand that shots didn't meant anything for him to retrieve or do but it made it worse: he shakes, he's like a coiled spring and if he thinks that other dogs a taking too long to retrieve (because he knows exactly where it is :lol: )he will let out the odd bark 8O

He's 9 years now and I take pity on him sometimes and takes him duck shooting but evening flights only - I can't use him for much els if there's going to be shot's fired.

I guess that's the joy of dog training: what works for some dogs may not always work for others - all depends on how good you are, 'reading' your dog :wink:

Natasha
 

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Discussion Starter #10
thankyou Helen,, means a lot.

i think overall i am pleased with how we did,,, I was pleased that my nerves were not really that bad,
I am a sucker at thinking, If Alf does that in training,, he can do it all the time,, and thats clearly by biggest problem.

I know what he can do,,, and i know he could be good one day,, but i struggle to understand things from his perspective sometimes and sunday i did a lot of watching and a lot of listening and the day really did help me a lot.

Blinds with distractions often aren't perfect and i think test scenario's like this do exactly what they say on the tin and maybe even magnify things a little in that it really did show me that his out run and marking are good,, his drive is great, but other things do need work,, and not just me and him working,, but around other just as keen to retrieve dogs.

We have only been going to group training maybe 5 or 6 times,, as we noticed that he is a very different dog when there is that competition there.
3 months ago he would have run in,, no doubt about it,, so the work is all coming good, but again a bad trait on me is that i want it all, and i want it too soon.

I'm not sure i agree with the directions on water thing.....
I assumed exactly what you said and hence i was expecting to do ok at that one,, so it did surprise me a little.

but even with me at the waters edge giving a simple back,, he was not having it. he had searched the water,, he even swam very different in that he head was up and his front legs splashing as he was thinking the dummy would be on the water........I know his directions including back are ok,, sure not 100% but they are ok...

i think it means more so that he has not been put in that environment before and therefore other thoughts ie dummy must be on the water as it always is,,,,, were going though his head.

I see your point, and agree to a point,, just dont think its quite as black and white as that......

I think with me and Alf and this may be right or wrong, i dont know,,, But i dont think i will every have him 100% doing exactly what i say 100% of the time.
He is a confident little thing and we have made many mistakes along the lines... He does think he knows it all and therefore i think its maybe always going to be a case of needing a little more control than those point and shoot and they go in a perfect line dogs,,, I guess i'm saying he has that little bit more "i know what i am doing dad" perhaps than others.

good think or bad !!! i dunno,,, maybe a bit of both

so the way i see it,,, is he has heard a shot,, and there is a lake in front of him,,, he has never retrieved over water unless it was a mark,, so why on earth this time would the dummy be on the far bank....
dont get me wrong, when i pushed him back, he did spin back around and look behind him,,,, maybe at that point i should have repeated the command to build his confidence and try to keep pushing him that way.

Speaking of ndnh,, we are now running in one on sunday this week, and yes this novice has boosted my confidence for that a lot,,, but by no means am i thinking these problems will not surface in that.

I see also what Natasha you are saying,,, I have written both Alfie's trainers a novel so am hoping that with lots of effort over winter,, he'll come good maybe next year
 

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Thanks for posting Andy, I've found your questions and the replies really interesting to read :D
 

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Just one more thing because I can't help myself :oops: .

I wouldn't dream of using distractions on blinds until my dog is running out in a straight line of say 100 yards. I think people are far too quick to put them into there training when the dog clearly isn't ready for them.

All training should be set up in such a way that a dog succeeds in what it is trying to do, distractions can make it fail. I save them for much much later on!
 

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Well,

Overall I think you have a nice dog on your hands and the problem is not him or his attitude but the way you set up your training.

The first thing they told me about training on water is that once your pup enters the water confidently to always send over water and not in water.
Getting to hunt shorter is easier than pushing them back. So, I would advise that whatever you do, always send your dog over water and don't let it hunt in water, it has proven that it can do that already.

About the 3-card trick or whatever it's called. Why on earth would you send your dog left, then stop him halfway and send him right? The 3-card trick is meant to get your dog familiar with directions and to let them gain confidence in complying to directions by always finding a dummy.
By stopping him halfway and re-directing you are training him to be hesitant on the direction. He has to acknowledge it, but there is always a change you might change your mind. So, the dog starts thinking and that can easily change to hesitating.
If you give your dog a direction, always let it find something in that direction. If he goes the other way, then you can stop and give the same direction again.

In general, I would not switch from a lot of marks to mostly blinds on short term. I would definately limit the number of marks, maybe leave them behind full stop for a while, but I would introduce memory retrieves. Put a dummy down while he sees it, walk back a distance and send him for it. Increase the distance gradually. Then introduce 2 memories in different places, again increase the distance gradually, make sure that there is no possibility to switch so keep a minimum of 90° seperation (to begin with).
Then maybe add a 3rd memory or put 2 memories in the same area.

Whatever you do, keep it simple and make sure your dog has easy success. Gradually make the memories longer in time to increase difficulty. When you introduce blinds, make them a lot easier at first than memories, but put them in the same position as you have put your memories before.

Regards

Dave
 

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The way I dealt with a dog with 'hot feet = a blind was put out behind me and a shot fired with a mark in front, that mark was left and we turn for the blind behind, the dog stopped expecting to go out for the mark and had to remember it instead. I think tests and scurries makes dogs 'lead aware' = when lead comes off it is time for a retrieve. Working in a group and keep taking lead on and off - whether it is your turn or not helps with this.
The other thing which fires dogs up is watching the dogs that go first. Bang, dog goes, bang another dog has a go. A 'hot' dog will be getting more and more eager. Hang at the back of the spare dogs and try to distract your dog.
Sherry
 

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Dave, the stopping and re-directing is not done when doing the 3-card trick - when we talk re-directing it is at a distance and when the dog is in full speed. It can be necessary to re-direct a dog when picking-up especially on partridges as they're very good at playing dead. Stopping and re-directing on dummies should be done only very spare-some as - as you rightly point out - you don't want the dog to get 'sticky' or start 'spinning' but it is one of the only ways that you can check if you've got the working relationship between you and your dog 100% spot on: that stop whistle needs to be 110% especially if your dog gets tempted by a hare getting up and decides to chaise it :wink:

Natasha
 

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I also think that 'overeagerness' soon becomes 'unsteadiness' even more so if that 'overeager' dog is on the 'real' thing before all their basics are in place firmly.
All dogs go up several gears on game. So a fast dog turns into a rocket.
Another thing which fires dogs up is water retrieves. I had a dog which was so slow on dummies, he was virtually stopping, however, if we had a water retrieve first, he would be quite quick and eager!
Once on game, he became a different dog, fast and efficient.
Sherry
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Dave,,, you absolutly right,,

we had a pet dog who was petrified of water until he was over a year old,, so to even see him swimming is a miracle.
We always did retrieves on water to get him in there and get his confience up entering the water.

I have no issue with that one,, I know why he is like he is and know what i have to do on that one. Thats 100% my fault.

As far as sending him one way and then stopping and sending the other.

put yourself in a shooting environment,,
2 birds down,,, you send your dog onto one,, the other bird gets up and pegs it.
In my opinion is a useful training technique that both our trainers use.
It has also been explained to me in that it keeps the dog almost second guessing,, not knowing what is going to happen next and therefore trying to get some of this independance stuff out of him.

So to a non confident dog then yes i could see he would start to hesitate,, but with Alf, its not having that impact and even if it does,, we know exactly what we need to do should we need to stop the hesitation

i might send left, send right,, then recall,, and this is purely so that he is responding to me at all times.

If he knows there is a dummy out there,, and i recalled him,, he was always very slow at recall as he knew the dummy was still out there and he hadn't got it.

By not letting him have every retrieve if i send him one way or another,, it means that i know i can still send him another way if i need to,, i can also recall him in now at good speed. He doesn;t know what i am going to ask him to do from one minute to the next,, so therefore its meaning he has to pay far more attention to me.

As far as the memories to get that straight line going back on blinds.. already on it in exactly the way you describe mate. Will be a slow process but i have all winter,, so no bother there.

Sherry,, you describe Alf as if you know him, lol.
agree 100% on the lead thing,, as soon as i leant down to start taking it off, he pulls out of it himself as he so knows whats about to happen,,, and yes also 100% on the shot, dog goes, shot another dog goes while he has to sit there and wait. Having his lead on i think actually makes him worse,, but not a great deal you can do about that one on a test day.

He did get a little moany however walking him away settled him.

I know we have lots of problems,, and i know that pretty much all our my fault,,,,, so thankyou for your patients and advice.
 

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I can really empathise with you Andy. My older dog, who was also my first dog, has bags of drive and speed and as an inexperienced handler I’ve always battled with keeping that under control at tests.

I can say he’s definitely mellowed over time and having had a fair few tests under his belt now has helped – but there are definitely things you can do training wise.

There’s been some great advice already in this thread – I would say with a dog like that you really need take your time over every retrieve- stupidly so sometimes. Be VERY precise in the way you set him up.

Insist he is in exactly the position you want him in – not an inch further forward or back, bum on the floor, head in the right place, no shuffling of feet. If he’s pumped up – stand there until he chills out a bit more – no matter how long it takes! Try and make a rule with yourself that you’re not going to send him for ANYTHING ever, until he’s in this frame of mind. Easier said than done I know! When you're lining him up and pointing, try not to get into a rhythm. Vary the length of time you wait before sending him.

If you could get help from someone with a launcher to get him excited, you could practise walking up to a retrieve with the lead on (as in a test situation) – if he pulls walk him back and start again – if he tries to wriggle out of the lead as you’re taking it off then just leave it on – let him settle and try again – do this as many times as you need to. Try not to get worked up yourself about these things – even if it’s the only thing you achieve in the session he’ll have learnt something!! The beauty of having a dog with so much enthusiasm for the retrieve is you can use that to your advantage. He will learn that he doesn’t get his reward until he does things properly.

I would go back to basics with the blinds for a while – lots of long straight lines. Once he’s consistently going the distances, over boundaries then add the distractions back in. The same with the water work. Forget directions and 'ins'– get him going over super confidently. I actually teach a command ‘over’ with mine when it comes to water. This can be useful if he does start hunting on the water I yell ‘over’ and often without looking at me he’ll swim to the other side.

There’s no reason why you can’t make significant progress over the winter – good luck! :D
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Cheers Neil,

think the most tricky thing will be to actualy get him as wound up as he was on sunday in a training environment.
We always train with shot,,, and launchers but because muct of it is on his own,, he doesn't get anywhere near as wound up.

Agree on the blinds,, these need a lot of work over winter.

Long lines such as paths,,, hedgelines etc, they are fine...pushing him into a corner,, also fine,, but its when it comes to sending him into open areas,,, thats our issue,,,,, and we know that needs a lot of work.

See what your saying about the over command,, although i use that to get him over fences...

I am fairly confident that by him not having anymore retrieves on water, and them all being over,, we should get over this.
 

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Just a quickie post to say all the very best for this weekend Andy. Will be keeping all fingers and paws crossed for you :wink:
 
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