Friday, February 29, 2008

Evolution of Laddie's Whistle Sit

I've been thinking about our current work in the T-drill as the latest stage in the continuing evolution of Laddie's whistle sit (WS):
  • Laddie was trained to sit on a whistle from the first week I got him, when he was seven weeks old. He was willing to sit at distance from the beginning, and was continuously reinforced for every sit throughout his development, continuing into the present.
  • Laddie was introduced to the WS in the context of handling by means of the pinball drill I invented for Lumi. The intent was that the WS would come to predict a highly reinforced recall, or an angle back (which seems to be fun for Laddie in itself) that also predicted another WS, thus the cast being reinforced by the WS acting as a tertiary reinforcer.
  • When I added dummies to the pinball drill, the value of the WS initially increased because it predicted a retrieve, which is of even higher value to Laddie than the reinforced recall.
  • However, in time, the evolving quality of the WS changed direction and declined. I believe that that was because Laddie gradually realized that the WS delayed access to the retrieve, and experimenting showed him that he could get to the retrieve faster by ignoring the whistle sit. Removing extrinsic reinforcement for such retrieves did not improve matters because the retrieve itself remained paramount to Laddie.
  • When Laddie's group training resulted in added excitement and diversions such as dummies over duck scent, a cage of live pigeons at the flyer station, or even friendly humans throwing at other stations from the mark Laddie was running, the quality Laddie's WS declined even further.
  • In private training, drills such as the wagon wheel and the diversion drill, intended to repair the WS while working on other concepts such as lining in the presence of diversions, were apparently too complex and demanding for the WS to take on a clearly rewarding association. The WS became entirely unreliable.
  • Switching Laddie to a steady diet of T-drills (which I originally called "diamond drills"), the WS remained weak at first, and on a small diamond course, the articles needed to be pinned to avoid Laddie picking them up after ignoring whistles to sit.
  • Then, with the pinning and later with the introduction of a larger course, Laddie apparently came to view a correct response to the whistle as the only way to retrieve. While his reliability began to improve, he went through a day of apparent avoidance behavior suggesting a lowered level of motivation for the training.
  • At last, with ongoing sessions of high value extrinsic +R, combined with stretched out distances to give Laddie a chance to stretch his own legs, invigorating weather conditions, and a consistent pattern of the WS always predicting an opportunity to retrieve, Laddie seems to be delighting in the retrieves and other extrinsic +R for the WS. In addition, Laddie also seems to be discovering the mental stimulation of watching me to see which way I'm going to cast him. This discovered self-reinforcing quality of the WS itself, separate from any reward that may follow the behavior, is suggested by Laddie's hyper-alert and joyous expression as he spins on the whistle and lowers himself into a sit, legs splayed and muscles tensed. His body language seems to say, "Which way, Daddy, which way?"

Private Training

Today was another set of four series spread over two sessions. The sessions were as follows:
  • Series A: Laddie T-drill with 30-yard legs from "pitchers mound" to each "base"
  • Series B: Lumi triple blind, with concept of large delta in distances of the blinds
  • Series C: Laddie T-drill with 20-yard legs
  • Series D: Lumi diversion drill (DD), throws-toward-line (TTL) from the right
Conditions. Overcast, temps in low 40s, SSE wind 8 MPH.

Series A. At the Fair Hill new home construction site we chose as the permanent site for Laddie's T-drills. However, I've since learned that I misunderstood the dimensions, so for this series, I shrunk the legs from P to the poles from 40 yards each to 30 yards.

It turned out to be an opportune misunderstanding, because in Laddie's case, 40 yards legs were actually easier than 20 yard legs, so the larger course gave us a way of ramping up Laddie's whistle sit (WS) skill. After a few sessions at 40 yards, today showed us that he was ready for the raise in criteria to a smaller course.

Although the dimensions shrank, we used the same SL and orientation as previous T-drills at this location. As always when sending Laddie to a blind or pile, I sent him randomly from either heel. I figure someday we'll encounter a blind when I want to send him from a particular side for some reason, so I want him equally comfortable with either side.

In private correspondence, Alice suggested that we use 3- and 4-rep sequences to increase the challenge for Laddie responding correctly to WSs and casts. For this series, we used seven dummies: two each at poles 1 and 3, five at pole 2. That represented a slight increase in how long Laddie would need to perform compared to our most recent T-drills, and also gave us an opportunity to test whether Laddie would respond correctly to a "back" after patternizing on the same "over". The sequence we planned was:
  1. WS at P, then "over" to the left
  2. WS at P, then "over" to the left
  3. WS at P, then a left "back"
  4. Straight thru to pole 2
  5. WS at P, then "over" to the right
  6. WS at P, then "over" to the right
  7. WS at P, then a right "back"
Laddie did great on every WS and every cast, except that on #3, he spun to the right instead of the left. I didn't stop him, but on #7, I again cued a left "back" to make sure Laddie could spin that way, and he took the cast correctly that time.

Once again, I used a high level of extrinsic positive reinforcement on every rep, and once again, Laddie remained exuberant throughout the drill.

Series B. A triple blind for Laddie elsewhere at the Fair Hill construction site:
  1. 80 yards
  2. 100 yards, crossing an excavated pit
  3. 280 yards
Pyramid configuration:
  • #1 30° to the right of #3
  • #2 45° to the left of #3
Like our previous triple blinds, this series was intended to expose Lumi to a particular concept she might encounter in competition. Today's concept was the contrast between the first two rather short blinds, and the third blind, three times as long and near Lumi's maximum experience with distance for a blind.

I was happy with Lumi's performance:
  • On #1, she veered right and needed two angle backs to the pole.
  • On #2, she reached the edge of the excavation and veered right to stay on level ground. I whistled sit and cast her on a left angle back into the pit. She took the cast and lined the blind from there.
  • On #3, she veered slightly left at around 180 yards. At around 220 yards, I whistled sit and cast her on a right angle back. She took the cast and lined the blind from there.
I was also happy with Lumi's demeanor, which was cheerful and energetic throughout the series.

Series C. Another Laddie T-drill, this time with 20-yard legs, finally back down to the length recommended by Alice for this phase of the drill. Again, we used the same SL and orientation as previous T-drills at this location.

Once again we used seven white dummies, this time with one each at poles 1 and 3, and five at pole 2. Once again we also used a sequence intended to test and exercise Laddie's responsiveness to WSs and casts:
  1. WS at P, then right back
  2. WS at P, then "over" right
  3. WS at P, then "over" left
  4. Straight thru to pole 2
  5. Straight thru to pole 2
  6. Straight thru to pole 2
  7. WS at P, then left back
  • On #1, Laddie was slow to respond to the whistle, but still stopped before reaching pole 2.
  • All remaining WSs were crisp, including the challenging WS on #7 after three straight runs to pole 2 without being stopped.
  • On #7, Laddie flash-casted to pole 3 instead of spinning left and going back to pole 2. Surprised, I took too long to whistle again, and he almost reached pole 3, yet responded beautifully when I finally whistled. He then took my angle back cast to pole 2.
  • Laddie's attitude and speed were excellent throughout out the drill.
Series D. Lumi's DD TTL from the right side.

This DD was the fourth in a series of DDs over the last four days:
  1. TTL from the left
  2. TTL from the right
  3. TTL from the left
  4. TTL from the right (today)
In DDs 1 and 3, Lumi lined every run to the pile. But in DD 2, she veered right on three of the four send-outs to the pile. The main thing I was looking for in today's DD was whether she would line all of her runs to piles as she did in DDs 1 and 3 or go back to veering as she did in DD 2.

The answer to that particular question was that Lumi lined every mark and every sight blind, never requiring a WS throughout the drill.

I had planned on Nate only throwing two marks for Lumi at increasing distances from the start line, but Lumi seemed comfortable physically, so when circumstances called for it, we ended up running four marks instead:
  1. 35 yards from start line (SL), 20 yards from backline (BL). Nate threw a duck on an unexpectedly short throw, resulting on a wide angle between the mark and the BL. As a result, the pile run was not much of a challenge.
  2. 55 yards from SL, 15 yards from BL. Nate threw a pigeon on an unexpectedly long throw, resulting in the bird landing on the BL. Lumi had no trouble with the mark or the pile run, but I couldn't determine whether she would have been diverted, so I asked Nate to move further from the BL and rethrow after Lumi ran the pile.
  3. 55 yards from SL, 20 yards from BL, good throw of a duck. Laddie lined the easy mark but was slow to pick up the duck, possibly beginning to chew it. I called, "Stop that! Give it!" and Lumi immediately picked the duck up and delivered it with no further show of resource guarding. I decided not to use any of the extrinsic reinforcement I've been using on all her retrieves, gambling that the result would be to make the resource guarding less likely in the future while maintaining a high quality delivery. To test that hypothesis, I asked Nate to move even further from the SL and throw yet one more mark after Lumi ran the pile.
  4. 65 yards from SL, 20 yards from BL, good throw of a pigeon. I usually auto-whistle recall both dogs on pick-ups these days, but on this mark, I made a point of not whistling. Lumi made a great, running pick-up and delivery, and we celebrated extensively on her return, then made the last run to the pile.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Private Training

Today was again structured with four series, two in the morning, two in the afternoon:
  • Series A. Lumi, triple blind at Layhill Park
  • Series B. Laddie, T-drill at construction site off MD-108, including one duck
  • Series C. Lumi, diversion drill (DD), throw toward line (TTL) from the right
Conditions. Sunny, low 20s, NW winds 13-20 MPH.

Series A. Lumi on triple blind:
  1. 60 yards to edge of a woods
  2. 130 yards to middle of a ballfield, between two trees at halfway point
  3. 170 yards to top of a hill, with a 10-foot diagonal upslope at 80 yards, and obstacles on either side at 120 yards; the obstacles were playground equipment on the left and bleachers on the right
The blinds were run right to left:
  • #2 was 45° to the left of #1
  • #3 was 45° to the left of #2
From having watched many dogs at group training run blinds, to me Lumi seemed to run all of these fairly normally, though not as I expected. That is, while she had no overwhelming problem with any of them, she needed three casts for #1, because she kept being pulled by something to the right, whereas she lined #3 and required no casts on the blind I thought would be most difficult.

The challenge on #2 was that I wanted her to go through the keyhole formed by the two trees, and she tried to go around, first to the left, then to the right. On the right, she actually got past the trees, so I called her back, moved her to the left with an "over", and then cast her straight back. That was the last cast she needed.

Lumi's spirits once again seemed high the entire time.

Series B. This was approximately the same T-drill we ran twice yesterday without a problem, run in the same location. The only changes were as follows:
  • Instead of putting down extra articles, I put down exactly the ones I planned for Laddie to pick up: one at pole 1, three at pole 2, and one at pole 3.
  • Instead of using all white dummies, I substituted a dead pigeon at pole 3.
The sequence was as follows:
  1. Run thru to pole 2.
  2. Stop at P, then spin right and "back" to pole 2.
  3. Stop at P, then "over" to pole 1.
  4. Stop at P, then "over" to pole 3 (the duck at last!).
  5. Run thru to pole 2.
Every retrieve was reinforced with a hey-hey throw of whatever article was retrieved, the dummy retrieves were reinforced with a game of tug, and every retrieve was reinforced with a chunk of fast-food "cheeseburger".

Laddie never slipped a whistle sit. He refused the cast (that is, ran the wrong way) the first time we got to step #2, in that he interpreted my "back" visual cue as an "over". The instant I saw which way he was running, I whistled recall and he veered around and came back to me. Then we re-ran it and he did fine.

I have noticed that Laddie is very fast coming out of his sit when I cue, and I believe that what happened was that he saw my right arm start to move and broke to the right before waiting to see that I was actually lifting it straight up. The rest of the day, I compensated by exaggerating my movements more so that "back" and "over" would be more distinct from one another from the beginning of the movement.

Laddie never even glanced at the bird at pole 3 until I actually sent him to it as step #4. The wind was coming from between poles 1 and 2, so he wasn't being bombarded by pigeon scent. Perhaps he would have been more distracted if the bird had been at pole 1, or perhaps he is becoming better able to focus on where he is sent even with diversions present. Anyway, that's the goal.

After some avoidance behavior on Tuesday afternoon, based on yesterday's and today's sessions, Laddie seems to be loving the T-drill, responding not only with a high degree of accuracy but also with his trademark over-the-top enthusiasm.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Private Training: T-drills, Blinds, Diversion Drills

This morning, we had the first of two planned sessions:
  • Series A. Lumi, triple blind
  • Series B. Laddie, T-drill
This afternoon, we added:
  • Series C. Lumi, diversion drill (TTL from the left side)
  • Series D. Laddie, T-drill
The Training Site. For the morning session, I drove to a nearby new homes construction site and found a huge field, at least 300x400 yards, probably larger, with construction equipment and debris in only a few isolated areas and nothing that looked dangerous. The footing was low cover, somewhat irregular but seemingly sound. While it lacked obstacles, hills, or other challenging training features, it seemed like an ideal place for some easy field work.

At first, I was only going to use if for Lumi's triple blind. I was then planning to return to our neighborhood lacrosse field for Laddie's T-drill.

As mentioned in yesterday's blog, Alice had suggested that we run all Laddie's T-drills on the same course, using the same lines of sight for each session. Although I had selected the lacrosse field as our permanent site for Laddie's T-drills, I got to thinking that he had quite a bit of trouble with the drill we ran there yesterday afternoon, and I thought that part of the problem might have been the location. Therefore I decided to set up a T-drill at the construction site and see how Laddie would do there. We won't be able to use it forever, since they'll eventually build homes there, but it might be available in its present condition for several weeks, long enough for us to complete Laddie's current stage of T-drill training.

Conditions. Temps in the mid-30s, westerly winds 15-30 MPH, overcast. The wind was thrilling, full of life and excitement. I felt it, and knew that both my dogs felt it, too.

Series A. Lumi's triple blind:
  1. 100 yards
  2. 170 yards, at a 45° angle to the right of #1
  3. 250 yards, at a 30° angle to the right of #2
Because the field was almost featureless, and because the orange lining poles and dummies were nearly invisible even to me and probably more so to Lumi at those distances, Lumi required more casts than she would if she had spotted a tree, lining pole, or other feature to run toward, or if she had been able to follow the scent of other dogs who had run the same blinds before her.

Lumi was responsive on all whistle sits (WSs) and casts and had little difficulty with the blinds. Although this drill presented little challenge, hopefully some learning took place about angles and distances Lumi might someday face in competition. In addition, it was a good opportunity for Lumi to see my handling as the entire source of information about how to find the blind, rather than being able to take advantage of sight or scent clues.

Series B. Laddie's T-drill:
  • Four poles, each placed 40 yards from "pitcher's mound" P, which was unmarked.
  • The poles were:
    • SL (start line)
    • Pole 1 ("first base")
    • Pole 2 ("second base")
    • Pole 3 ("third base")
With Laddie's motivational issue yesterday uppermost in my mind, I wanted him not too tired, but also not to full of energy for the drill. So after I planned the course and placed the poles, I got him out of the van to run around while I carried a bundle of white dummies back out to the course for placement.

Laddie took off over the small ridge between the van and the field, and by the time I cleared the ridge, I saw him 100 yards out racing around the "bases", visiting each pole as he often likes to do when first brought out to a training location.

Next, he took off for the outer edges of the fields, burning off energy and airing as needed.

At last, although I hadn't called him, he came racing happily back to me. I tossed him a chunk of food to reinforce the auto-recall, slipped on his lead, and together we rounded the course and placed the dummies. Finally we walked to center point P and then to SL, so that the backline would be the freshest scent.

I placed a total of ten dummies, two at #1 and #3 and six at #2. Then we started, and Laddie was doing so wonderfully that I decided I wouldn't have Laddie retrieve all of them, for several reasons:
  • I wanted the whole session to remain high quality and didn't want to press my luck that Laddie could sustain that performance level for that long.
  • As a boon to motivation for future sessions, I wanted to put him away wanting more.
  • I wondered if possibly ten is too many retrieves for Laddie's motivational level for this particular drill at this particular time in Laddie's development.
Instead of retrieving all ten, Laddie retrieved a total of six:
  • Two to #2 with no whistle
  • One each to P with a WS, then an "over" to #1 and #3
  • Two to P with a WS, followed by a spin once to the left, once to the right, and a "back" to #2
These were run in a random sequence, and as always on blinds and pile work, I also sent Laddie randomly from left and right heel. I used no verbal cues for any of the casts (perhaps I should have, to help Laddie rehearse their meaning), but I did use an auto recall whistle at each pick-up.

In order to improve Laddie's odds for success, I used a long whistle rather than my preferred short tweet for the WSs. Aside from that, no other compensations, such as moving up or pinned dummies, were needed.

With an eye toward creating the most positive possible association with Laddie's WSs, I had Laddie run straight to me with each dummy rather than taking the time to swing to heel and sit. As he arrived and pushed the dummy into my outstretched hands, I grabbed it and threw it for him once or twice, then played some tug complete with growling, and finally tossed him a chunk of food as I took the dummy and tossed it behind the SL pole while moving with Laddie into position for the next send-out.

The results of this morning's T-drill: Laddie never exhibited a hint of the veering, stopping, sniffing, grass-chewing behaviors I characterized as possible avoidance in yesterday's sessions. Laddie's performance today was flawless — never slipping a whistle nor refusing a cast — and spectacular in its exuberance, both his after-burner running and his spinning, hyper-alert whistle sits.

Series C. Returning to a different area of the same field, we ran the toward-the-line (TTL) diversion drill (DD) described in previous blog entries, with a couple of minor differences:
  1. For the first send-out, I left Lumi at the start line, walked the 80 yards to the pile of dummies, picked one up and tossed a little way in the air, letting it fall back into the pile, then walked back and lined Lumi up. I cued "dead bird" to put her focus on the pile, then put my hand over forehead and sent her with "back". Even though Nate was sitting in his chair to the right of backline, Lumi ran straight to the pile, picked up a dummy, and ran back with it. So that way of getting Lumi off on the right foot seemed to be effective.
  2. Instead of having Nate throw from three positions, each marked retrieve followed by a send to the pile, I only had him throw from two positions: 35 yards and 60 yards from the start line. That meant a total of only five short retrieves. The hope is that as Lumi learns that she won't be getting much work in each session, it will increase her motivation and hopefully encourage a top level of performance.
In today's DD drill, like the one two days ago but not the one yesterday, Lumi never veered on any of the sends to the pile, so we never needed a sit whistle. Her performance was enthusiastic and fun-loving at all times, and she seemed eager for more work as I took her back to the van. Hopefully that hunger for more will carry forward into tomorrow's and future sessions.

Series D. My description of Series B is also an almost exact description of how Series D went, with these minor differences:
  • The afternoon was sunnier than the morning, but also colder, bitingly so. It didn't bother the dogs, but I had to bundle up more.
  • It turns out that the new permanent T-drill course I laid out has the dog and handler at the start line facing the sun in the late afternoon. Luckily, it didn't seem to affect Laddie's performance adversely.
  • After the first two long sit whistles, I felt confident enough in Laddie's WS that I tried a short tweet on the next rep. Laddie responded instantly to it and I used short whistles the remainder of the session.
Once again, Laddie responded correctly and enthusiastically to every cue, performing with irrepressible joy.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Private Training: T-drill, blinds, and diversion

Today we again had two outdoor sessions, early afternoon and late afternoon, the latter with Nate as helper. In each session, each dog had one series, for a total of four series:
  • Series A: Laddie on T-drill
  • Series B: Lumi on triple blind
  • Series C: Laddie on T-drill
  • Series D: Lumi on diversion drill
All work was done in a steady rain, with temps in the mid-40s and wind calm. Series A and C were done at the neighborhood lacrosse field, which I've selected as our fixed location for T-drill and later configurations built onto it. Series B was at a new homes construction site in low, clumpy cover and irregular footing, and Series D was on the ballfields at Sundown Park, with different lines of sight than we've used before.

I chose a fixed location for the T-drills per Alice's advice in yesterday evening's correspondence. The training plan for the T-drill was based on Alice's accompanying instructions, similar to but in several ways different from the diamond drills I ran Laddie on yesterday.

Laddie's T-drill was constructed as follows:
  • Pole P at 40 yards from the start line
  • Pole 1 at 40 yards to the right of pole P
  • Pole 2 at 40 yards behind pole P
  • Pole 3 at 40 yards to the left of pole P
When I lengthened the T-drill from 20 yards (center to each pile) yesterday to 40 yards today, Laddie's whistle sit (WS) problems disappeared. We did two sessions today, a total of 17 sends, about a dozen of them with a WS at the center, and Laddie didn't slip one of them. He also didn't refuse a single cast.

However, he developed a new problem, what looks to me like an avoidance behavior. It started near the end of the first session, then resumed in the second session and became so frequent that I finally quit the session after 7 retrieves with 3 still to go.

The behavior was that when sent out, he'd veer immediately to left or right about 45 degrees, stop after about 20 feet, and begin sniffing or eating the grass or something in the grass. If it was avoidance, I don't know what he was avoiding. Some possibilities:
  • Were the whistles hurting his ears? From cleaning his ears, I can see that he's fighting an infection in both ears. We're seeing the vet on Thursday.
  • Was he bored being sent the same direction from the same starting point over and over? Based on past experience, I don't tend to believe that dogs get bored, but maybe I'm wrong.
  • Did he, like Lumi in the past, find so many WSs at the center point on the way to dummies at pole 2 demotivating?
Lumi did great on her triple blind. I found a site almost exactly like one of your diagrams -- a wide ditch where I could send her straight across and at an angle in both directions. She didn't seem to square the ditch. Her biggest problem was some white soil-lining material sticking out of the ground to the right of the rightmost line. She was convinced that was where I was sending her and took three casts, ending with a straight "over", to pull her off that line.

When we did the throw-toward-line (TTL) diversion drill (DD) later, Lumi's performance on the retrieves to the dummy pile had problems she didn't have yesterday. Yesterday, with the throws from the left side, she lined every send to the pile and never needed to be handled once. Today, with the throws from the right side, she veered to Nate on the first send-out before she'd had a mark, and then veered to the fall on the first two of the three pile send-outs after marks. She handled fine the first two times to get her back on line, but on the third veer (after the second mark), it took three SWs before she sat. I don't know if I should be worried about her veering increasing from yesterday to today, but I don't think it's a good sign that her WSs deteriorated that way.

Tomorrow I plan to do another TTL from the left, and then the next day another from the right, hoping to get enough data points to understand the trend lines better. Maybe a more experienced trainer would already understand what's going on.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Private Training: Blinds, Handling, and Diversions

I've decided that at least for now, Lumi and Laddie need different kinds of work, so beginning today, I put them on different tracks. Lumi will be working on cold blinds and diversion drills, while Laddie will be working on handling drills that reinforce high quality whistle sits, alternating with retrieval drills that do not depend on a solid whistle sit for the training to be useful.

Today, we had two outdoor sessions, one in the morning at the Needwood Park's archery range, and one in the afternoon at Sundown Park with Nate helping.

The sessions were structured as follows:

Series A (morning, Laddie): a diamond drill.

Series B (morning, Lumi): a triple blind.

Series C (afternoon, Laddie): another diamond drill.

Series D (afternoon, Lumi): a diversion drill, with toward-the-line thrown birds, and dummies at the pile.

Descriptions of the series follow:

Series A. Laddie's diamond drill:
  • Pole P at the "pitcher's mound", 20 yards from the start line ("home plate")
  • Pole 1 at "first base", 20 yards from pole P
  • Pole 2 at "second base", 20 yards from pole P
  • Pole 3 at "third base", 20 yards from pole P
Initially, I pinned birds (dead pigeons) at poles 1, 2, and 3. Later, I unpinned one bird at a time in random order. Also later, I replaced the bird at pole 2 with an orange dummy, sometimes pinned and sometimes unpinned.

Each rep was identical. I would send Laddie from somewhere on the line between the start line and pole P to pole P and whistle sit when he arrived. If he sat "correctly", I would then either recall him or cast him to an unpinned article at pole 1, 2, or 3. If he took the cast correctly and brought me the article, I'd reinforce with praise, hey-hey throws, and food. If Laddie was incorrect on his sit or his cast, I dealt with it in two possible ways:
  1. Twice, I allowed him to reach pole 2 and try unsuccessfully to pick up the pinned bird or dummy. He'd quit after a pull or two, I'd call "here", and he'd come back. I'd then line him back up again for another send out.
  2. The other times, I'd call out "no here", he'd come back, and I'd line him back up again for another send out.
My standards for "correct" allowed for slower sits in the earlier reps. As Laddie improved, I gradually raised my standard to faster sits, though never reaching the immediate sit we'll ultimately aim for in this first session.

After a few reps of Laddie not stopping at pole P, I made three adjustments:
  1. I moved our start line closer to pole P, since Laddie is more responsive the closer he is to me.
  2. I used a longer, more piercing whistle.
  3. I whistled before Laddie arrived at pole P so that he could decelerate in order to stop at pole P.
Laddie's responsiveness to whistle sits, and even some casts, was inaccurate at the beginning, as I expected based on recent sessions. But he made steady progress over about 15 reps, and by the end, his whistle sit was noticeably better and his casts were reliable. By the last few reps, I was confident that Laddie would not attempt a retrieve if I stopped him with "no here", so I unpinned all the articles and sent him one by one to retrieve each of them. In that last group of three, his whistle sit and casts were all quite good. His motivation remained high throughout the drill.

Series B. Lumi's triple blind:
  1. 100 yards to a visible (at least to me) orange dummy; sighting by means of a white utility pole next to the dummy
  2. 120 yards to a dummy on the downside of a ridge and therefore not visible from the start line; sighting by means of a particular tree in the woods behind the blind
  3. 140 yards to a duck behind cover and not visible from the start line; sighting because #3 was in the same line as #1
#2 was 60° to the left of #1/#3. The field was mostly open lawn, but had occasional trees and kiosks for archery targets on either side of both sight lines.

Because these were all easy blinds, I kept Lumi on a tight line for all of them. Lumi required two casts for #1 and two for #2. She went off line on #3 and took several casts to get on again: "That can't be right, I've already picked up that blind." But once she got back on the line, she continued past the white pole and even past the bird, turning back and picking it up when she caught its scent.

I reinforced each retrieve with praise and food, and Lumi's motivation was high the entire session, with one exception. During the return on #3, I decided to sit whistle twice. Lumi responded immediately but was a little slow starting again when I called her. The feeling was, "What did I do wrong, Daddy?" We played when she finished her delivery and her spirits were buoyant as we returned to the van.

Series C. A second diamond drill for Laddie, virtually identical in dimensions and performance to Series A. One minor difference was that I started pole 2 with a pinned dummy rather than a pigeon.

Laddie's performance on Series C was almost the same as Series A, although we did not need to move as close to pole P to prime the pump. In other words, he did not pick up where he had left off, but rather reverted to a less skillful level and then re-learned the skills again. I'll expect that to continue for the next few sessions, until a day will come where Laddie will be responsive from the first whistle. At that point we can begin to gradually increase distances.

Series D. Lumi's diversion drill:
  • A pile of white dummies at 80 yards.
  • Nate, wearing a white sweatshirt, throws all marks as pigeons or ducks, using a gunshot before each throw.
  • Lumi does a total of five retrieves:
    • With Nate sitting in a chair 30 yards from the start line and 15 yards to the left of the start line, I send Lumi to the dummies.
    • Nate throws a mark halfway to the center line, which Lumi retrieves.
    • I send Lumi to the dummies.
    • Nate moves his chair to 45 yards from the start line and throws another mark, which Lumi retrieves.
    • I send Lumi to the dummies.
    • Nate moves his chair to 60 yards from the start line and throws another mark, which Lumi retrieves.
    • I send Lumi to the dummies.
Lumi had no difficulty with this drill. She ran to each mark and each "blind" on a straight line and brought back whatever she was sent to. Granted she ran faster to the birds than to the dummies, but aside from that, I saw little to work on.

While we could continue Lumi's work on this drill in a thorough progression — throw from both sides, throw away from the line, throw over the line — I think it might be more beneficial to raise the difficulty level so that Lumi at least occasionally takes a detour and needs handling. Possibilities I have thought of include:
  • Reversing the drill, since Lumi did try skipping a thrown dummy once when we tried that last week and might try it again from time to time
  • Increasing distances
  • Using true blinds where Lumi does not know where the dummies are
  • Introducing poison birds, that is, marks that are thrown but not retrieved until after a dummy is first retrieved from a pile
Hopefully Alice and Jody can give me guidance on how they feel it would be best to proceed with Lumi's diversion proofing.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Holodeck Training

Holodeck Program
based on guidance from Alice Woodyard and Jody Baker


  • Bring high-value treats for Lumi during group work.
  • Both dogs:
    • 32-yard pile work to two birds and two dummies on long line.
    • Bird-foot dril: orange dummy prepositioned at 30 yards, a bir thrown to 15 yards on either side, retrieve the dummy, then the birds.
  • White jacket.
  • Load pockets: pistol, ammo, ear protectors, radio.
  • Ask what Laddie was doing when he got to the pigeon crate last week.
  • No multiples.
  • No blinds.
  • Consider running long gun first, possibly with short guns retired (to be reviewed with Alice and Jody).
  • Cue "mark" before each throw, then send as quickly as possible.
  • If Lumi looks away from the fall before I send her, cue "mark" again.
  • Auto-whistle recall on the first two marks of each training day. Based on how Lumi does, consider switching to contingent whistle for the remaining marks of the day.
  • Attempted break?
  • Head swinging, before or after throws? Which throws?
  • Did dog return uncued? Auto-whistle? Contingent whistle? Voice? Walk out?
  • If the dog did not come straight back, why (for example, RG, parading, Super D, zoomies, diversion)?
  • If possible, borrow a crate of pigeons and run both dogs thru a distraction-proofing drill.
  • If that's not available, run both dogs on wagon wheel, bird foot, or bail-out drills.
Conditions. Sunny, breezy, temps in the 20s when we arrived at 8:00 AM, in the 40s when we left at 4:00 PM.

Before Group Training. Both dogs:
  • Pile work at 30 yards: duck, pigeon, two dummies.
  • Bird foot drill with thrown white dummy in center (40'), birds on either side (20').
  • Poorman duck at 80 yards.
LUMI: No problem, great spirits.

LADDIE: Inconsistent:
  • Pile: Mild resource guarding on birds from pile (delayed pick-up, head throwing). Then, instead of picking up dummy after both birds were gone, started to hunt. Responded to "give it" with retrieve of the dummy, then no problem on the second dummy.
  • Bird foot drill: Took five tries and major modification to get Laddie to pick up dummy first. Handling grade: D.
  • Poorman: Good but not laser mark, good return until 20' from me, slowed, but then delivered when cued.
From my notes during the session: "Laddie has lost all precision on whistle work. I think that he now needs remedial work on handling, not diversion work."

Series A. Lumi ran as the tenth dog:
  1. 170 yard dead pigeon over scent from pigeon flyers, thrown from keyhole into high cover
  2. 120 yard dead duck, thrown by gunner next to tree into high cover
  3. 260 yard dead duck, thrown on a sharp angle in, by gunner next to tree and in line with sun, into shadowy depression
The starting line was atop a mound. Configuration was pyramid:
  • #1 was 45° to the right of #3.
  • #2 was 30° to the left of #3.
Every other dog besides Lumi running a single or a single plus a double ran #3 first. I suspect the sun was a factor on #3 until later in the morning:
  • Nearly all of the first 20 or so dogs needed help — waving and calling "hey-hey" — from the thrower to find the thrower from the start line.
  • Several also needed help finding the fall.
  • Several of those needed help almost as soon as they left the start line.
I used an auto-whistle recall on every mark, but it did not appear necessary. As in the warm-up work, Lumi showed no hint of resource guarding. I concluded that Lumi was ready for a flyer.

Thrower helped Lumi on hunt for #3. I didn't request it and don't know if it was needed.

At the line, Lumi could not find the #3 station, even with sustained hey-heys and waving, until I called for the throw. She found it when the gun fired and seemed to know the line to the fall when sent.

I had Lumi honor with a loose slip lead. She was steady on the first two throws of the triple that followed us, but tried ot break with the running dog on the flyer.

Aside from that, Lumi was off lead all day — coming to the start line, at the line, and leaving the line — without difficulty.

Lumi did not turn her head off the fall on any of the three throws.

Pigeon Flyer. I asked one of the gunners to shoot a flyer for Lumi. It was the only cripple of the day, after two dozen clean kills. Lumi chased it down and brought it back without any sign of resource guarding.

1000 Pleasures Drill. Between the two group series, I borrowed a crate that still had a pigeon in it in order to run a diversion drill that Alice had designed for Laddie:
  • The crate 30 yards in front of the start line
  • A pile of dead birds 50 yards from the start line, 30° to the right of the crate
  • A pile of dummies 35 yards from the start line, 5° to the left of the crate
  • A pile of dummies 70 yards from the start line, 30° to the left of the crate
In terms of learning to deal with the crate, Laddie seemed to do fine. He took casts off it to the nearest dummy pile a few times, and eventually took lines directly to the pile.

In terms of the overall drill, Laddie did badly: poor lining, poor responses to sit whistles. In addition, when I accidentally placed a dummy in the pile where birds had originally been placed and sent Laddie to that pile, he took the line but ran past the dummy, instead beginning to hunt for a bird. After a couple of unsuccessful "give its", I ran out and tossed the dummy in the air, then cued Laddie to pick it up again. This time, he picked it right up.

So in addition to needing remedial work on the whistle sit, Laddie also needs remedial work on picking up a dummy over bird scent.

Series B. Like many of the other dogs, Lumi ran this series as a double:
  1. 160 yards, a duck thrown into a stand of trees (memory bird)
  2. 140 yards, a pigeon thrown into low cover (go bird)
The start line was atop a mound. Lume needed to hunt a little for the memory bird, but aside from that, had no problem with the double. In addition, I used no auto-whistle and no whistle was needed.

Lumi did not turn her head off the fall on either of the throws except when I turned from #1 to #2.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Private Training: Reverse Diversion Drill

After taking yesterday off because the ground was covered in a layer of ice, this morning the dogs and I, with Nate as helper, trained at Needwood Park for a change of scenery.

As in previous diversion drill sessions, we had a pile of articles at a pole 80 yards from the start line, simulating a blind, and we had Nate throwing marks. Today, Nate was throwing the marks toward the center line from right to left. Nate was placed to the right of the center line at various angles and distances from the start line, with the earlier marks thrown at wider angles and closer to the start line, the later marks at narrower angles and closer to the pile.

In other ways, today's work was considerably different from our previous sessions of the diversion drill:
  • In previous sessions, Lumi played a secondary role. In today's session, she was given the same challenges as Laddie, though not quite as many reps.
  • In previous sessions, Nate threw birds as marks, and the pile contained dummies. That is the normal picture a dog would face in group training. In today's session, on Alice's advice, the articles were reversed: The marks were dummies and the "blind" was a pile of birds. Alice felt that this would improve Lumi's motivation now that she was going to be running the drill, and Alice was also curious to learn how Laddie would handle the change, as was I.
  • To prep Lumi for the work, we began with a send to the pile with Nate off the field, a send to the pile with Nate standing near the center line, and a send to the pile after Nate fired a gunshot but without throwing anything. Laddie's only prep was a single run to the pile. Thereafter, every sequence was run as follows:
    • Nate stands, I cue "mark" to the dog.
    • Nate fires gun, throws dummy toward center line, and sits down.
    • I send dog to the mark that Nate has just thrown.
    • When dog delivers dummy, I line dog up toward the pile and cue "dead bird".
    • I send dog to the pile.
  • In previous sessions, Laddie was able to honor while Lumi ran her few short retrieves, which were always in the proximity of a thrower. In today's session, Laddie broke both times I sent Lumi to the pile with Nate off the field, after which I put Laddie in the van until Lumi's training was done. Then, although Lumi probably could have honored, I put her in the van while running Laddie.
Lumi's Performance. In terms of correctly choosing whether to retrieve the mark or the "blind", Lumi made good progress in today's work. She had no trouble with any of the runs to the pile, and remembered that "dead bird" meant she should move her focus to the pile if she was looking at the thrower, me, or anywhere else when I cued it. She also responded correctly to "mark" every time, following the throw with her eyes and holding her focus until sent.

However, on the first attempt at a mark, Lumi ran past the dummy she had been sent to, barely glancing at it while running straight to the pile. I whistled sit while that was happening, but she picked up a bird, turned to face me, and then sat. Long ago we trained the cue "drop it", which we haven't used in years, and Lumi gets frequent practice with "leave it", but she responded to neither of those cues to drop the bird when I called them from the line. Finally, I walked to her, took the bird from her mouth and threw it back in the pile (really a pile area, since none of the articles in a field training pile touch each other), and walked her back to the start line on lead. The lead was unnecessary and never became taut, but I used it to send a clearer message that what Lumi had done this time was not correct.

In the three marks and three runs to the pile that I subsequently sent Lumi on, she never made another mistake. However, she did glance over her shoulder at the pile of birds while returning to me with each dummy.

I was pleased to see that Lumi showed no hint of physical discomfort and remained highly motivated throughout the drill. She didn't return automatically with any of the birds, but she didn't try to chew any of them and became increasingly resposive to recalls with the birds as the drill progressed. I used hey-hey dummies and tug after some of her returns, and that might have helped.

Laddie's Performance. I would say that in today's session, Laddie's performance was weaker than it has been in previous sessions of the diversion drill in several respects, reflecting the greater difficulty of the "reverse" set up for Laddie as well as Lumi's increased role.

First, he was unable to honor Lumi's send to the pile, twice breaking from his sit and easily outrunning her.

Later, when he had his turn, he had no problem on sends to the pile. However, on his first mark, he ran to the dummy, picked it up, and ran with it to the pile, where he quickly swapped it for a bird. As soon as he took off in the wrong direction from the fall with the dummy in his mouth, I whistled sit and then tried a verbal, but Laddie was unresponsive until he had the bird. Then he turned to face me and sat with the bird in his mouth. As with Lumi, I walked to him, took the bird and threw it in the pile, and walked him back to the start line on lead.

I could see that Nate's position was too difficult for Laddie to succeed, and moved him closer to the start line and further from the center line for the next rep. On subsequent reps, I moved Nate closer and closer to the pile, so that the last fall was less than 30 yards from the pile.

After the first time, Laddie continued to run straight to the dummy after every throw, and never again ran all the way back to the pile with it, but he did take big loops every time he picked up a dummy, usually toward the pile but one time at the end, back and away from the center line. I whistled several times when he headed in the wrong direction, and he did not respond to a single whistle by sitting. He would just loop back toward me and complete his delivery.

On the positive side, Laddie seemed to have an excellent grasp of both "mark" and "dead bird", and showed little resource guarding with the birds, just a bit of head tossing. Despite the looping returns with the dummies, Laddie clearly grew in his understanding of how to perform when a mark was thrown with diversions present.

Conclusion. While some learning may have taken place about how to retrieve marks in the presence of diversions, I would say today was useless in terms of developing either dog's responsiveness to handling.

Since both dogs have shown excellent responsiveness to sit whistles in the wagon wheel drill and others, even with the articles much closer together, today's drill was clearly far more difficult.

One major difference from other drills was the presence of a thrower and gunfire. I would have guessed that those factors would have made performance on the dummy retrieves better, since both dogs have a great deal of experience retrieving thrown dummies. However, the excitement level was also higher than in solo training, so perhaps the dogs' excitement significantly inhibited their responsiveness to the whistle.

The other major difference was the distances: While we have run wagon wheels and other drills to similar distances as the closer marks thrown today, we have never run them nearly as far as today's pile of birds at 80 yards from the start line. Discounting the dogs' excitement level, it seems that both dogs are subject to going out of control when a high-value diversion is available sufficiently distant from the handler. That seems consistent with other recent incidents in which Laddie has gone out of control.

Plans for Future Sessions. It seems that today's drill may provide us with a powerful tool to proof the dogs against going out of control, which is the most serious problem we currently face (though resource guarding birds is a close second)

We need to modify it so that the dogs continue to try to reach the pile went sent to a mark, but at distances where they are once again responsive to handling cues. Over a series of sessions, we can gradually increase the distances.

We may find that distance is not the only variable we need to modify. It may be that the dogs will learn the throw-toward-line pattern so well that they no longer attempt to divert to the pile, giving us no opportunity to practice handling. To avoid that happening, we may be able to trigger the need for control by cycling the drill pattern thru throw-away-from-line, throw-over-line, and throw-onto-line and also switching to the opposite side of the center line.

Ultimately, the diversion drill in all its configurations promises to provide an outstanding education for both dogs in how to retrieve as directed in the presence of diversions. Whether it will also provide significant opportunity for developing responsiveness to handling remains to be seen.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Private Training: Diversion Drill

Today we continued with Alice's diversion drill, with a pile of dummies at 80 yards. In today's session, Nate threw birds toward the center line from the left, from distances of 30, 45, and 60 yards from the start line, firing the pistol before each throw.

We began with Laddie retrieving a single dummy from the pile. After that, at each distance, the sequence was:
  1. Lumi would get a thrown mark.
  2. Laddie would retrieve a dummy.
  3. Laddie would get a thrown mark.
  4. Laddie would retrieve another dummy.
After the diversion drill, we did two series of pile work at 32 yards. Both dogs ran all the articles in each series, Lumi first, then Laddie. The first series was run with the dog on a long line, the second with no line. The first series was two pigeons, two ducks, two canvas dummies, two 3" white dummies, and two 2" white dummies. The second series was one pigeon, one duck, one 3" white dummy, and one 2" white dummy.

After Lumi ran the second pile work series, I threw her a single poorman mark of a bird at 130 yards. I did the same for Laddie after he ran the second pile work series.

Notes on Performance. Today's performance on the diversion drill was almost routine. With a single exception, Laddie lined every send-out to the dummies, and never snaked or otherwise diverted on his returns.

Both dogs retrieved birds well during diversion drill until the longest distance, at which time Lumi had a breakdown and attempted to chew a bird, her third retrieve of the day. I walked her back to the start line and had Nate throw the same mark for her again, and again she tried to chew the bird, so I put her in the van for awhile.

When I brought Lumi out of the van to run the first pile work series on a long line, she was not prompt in picking up the first bird and I used the line to pull her away from the pile, then called "here" to bring her to heel. For every other retrieve in both pile work series as well as the long mark, she was like a new dog, picking up articles on the fly and galloping straight back with them.

Laddie had no trouble with any of the birds all day, other than his usual head-throwing and looping finishes, both of which are gradually diminishing from day to day. In the first pile work series, he attempted to shop twice in a row on the dummies, and in both cases, I used the long line to pull him away, then called "here" to bring him to heel without a dummy. After that, he didn't attempt to shop again and did great on all his retrieves on the long line. Except for the breakdown mentioned below, Laddie did well on all his retrieves off line as well, both the second pile work series and the 130 yard poorman mark.

Based on Alice's discussion of lining ceremonies in recent correspondence, I began using "dead bird" to cue each retrieve to a pile for both dogs in all today's work. Near the end of the day, despite no training of the cue other than my using the phrase in context, I experimented with cueing "dead bird" when the dog was not looking at the pile we were working on. Both dogs consistently responded by instantly turning their focus to the pile and going into a state of alert, waiting anxiously to be sent.

The Bad News. Laddie's response on whistle sits today was entirely unsatisfactory. I only needed them three times, and two of the three cases, Laddie ignored them:
  1. On one of his send-outs to the dummies, he veered left. I sat him, then cast him to the dummies, and he did fine.
  2. On one of his send-outs to the dummies, he ran right past them and kept running. I whistled sit and recall, then called him by voice, and he ignored all of it. After about 50 yards, he looped around, ran past the dummies coming the other way, grabbed a dummy on the run, and ran back to me.
  3. During the second pile work series, after Laddie had retrieved the birds but had not yet retrieved any of the dummies, he again ran past the pile of dummies and continued another 100 yards, seemingly hunting the fall where I had thrown Lumi's long mark.
For both failures #2 and #3, I simply sent Laddie to the pile again and he did fine.

In both cases, I could speculate that Laddie's zoomies were a way to avoid retrieving another dummy, or at least to take a break from retrieving dummies. Laddie did the lion's share of the retrieving in the diversion drill, and the first pile work series was another ten articles. In addition, he had been pulled away from the pile twice in the first pile work series, which may have also engendered an avoidance response.

Laddie had ten retrieves of 30-80 yards on the diversion drill, ten of 32 yards on the first pile work series, four more of 32 yards on the second pile work series, and a single of 130 yards, a total of 25 retrieves over the period of 1-1/2 hours. Perhaps with a lighter load, he wouldn't have had those breakdowns.

Despite some signs of progress in all of today's work for both dogs, our primary goal at this time to is to train Laddie in a rock solid whistle sit. The fact that we only needed three whistle sits all day made today's work less than ideal for that goal. Laddie's poor responses on two of the three showed that with respect to that goal, we have our work cut out for us.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Private Training: Diversion Drill

This afternoon, in light snowfall and with temps in the high 20s, the dogs and I went out with Nate, again, as our helper.

In this session we picked up where we left off yesterday afternoon on Alice's diversion drill, this time finishing the next two stages:
  1. Throwing dummies away from the center line instead of toward it, with Nate at distances of 30, 45, and 60 yards from the start line and 5 yards to the right of the center line.
  2. Throwing birds over the center line, with Nate at distances of 30 and 60 yards from the start line, again 5 yards to the right of the center line.
Today, the distance was 80 yards along the center line from the start line to the lining pole and the pile of white dummies.

The first four retrieves were a ramp-up:
  1. With Nate standing in front of chair, I sent Laddie to the dummies.
  2. After Nate fired a gunshot but did not throw anything, I sent Laddie to the dummies.
  3. After Nate threw a bird without a gunshot, I sent Lumi to the bird.
  4. With Nate sitting, I sent Laddie to the dummies.
After that, we followed the identical series at each of the five locations mentioned above:
  1. After Nate fired a gunshot and threw a bird, I sent Lumi to the bird.
  2. With Nate sitting, I sent Laddie to the dummies.
  3. After Nate fired a gunshot and threw a bird, I sent Laddie to the bird.
  4. With Nate sitting, I sent Laddie to the dummies.
Notes on Performance. Lumi's performance was better than yesterday's. Like yesterday, she lined every mark, but today, she returned on a canter with every bird. The one area with significant room for improvement was her pick-ups. First, they were not automatic, and second, even with a recall whistle, she spent too much time evaluating how to best pick the bird up. I know she is capable of picking a bird up on the fly, and that is what we want to get to. When we have time, we might do some pile work with a long line to work on that.

Laddie's performance was better than yesterday's as well. He didn't snake on a single return, and he didn't go out of control at any time. He was responsive to most whistle sits, only occasionally requiring a second whistle. Like yesterday, nearly all of his casts took him straight to the dummies.

His one area of significant weakness was on his returns with the birds. He did a lot of head throwing and avoidance of completing the return. He never went completely out of control, but I can imagine that at greater distance, or if more highly excited such as in a competitive situation, he might stall entirely. Even more than Lumi, I think Laddie would benefit from some pile work on a long line.

A Question of Priorities. Today, Laddie also exhibited what might or might not be considered a deterioration in his behavior compared to yesterday. Yesterday, Laddie lined about half of his retrieves of dummies, and required handling on the other half. I couldn't spot any pattern as to when he needed help and when he didn't. Today, Laddie only lined his retrieves of the dummies three times: on the first two steps of the ramp-up, and on one rep where I took Laddie well to the opposite side of the center line from where the last fall was before sending him.

Because our goal with the diversion drill is primarily to practice handling Laddie in the presence of diversions, that "deterioration" was actually helpful to our goal, because Laddie required handling on virtually every send out to the dummies rather than only half of them.

Also, looking at it from the dog's point of view, I could imagine that Laddie had some trouble keeping track of when a bird was down and when not, and may have decided that the safest course was to always run to the last fall and depend on my handling to correct his course if he was wrong.

To me, that does not seem like the ideal performance. The rule I really want for Lumi and Laddie is for them to run in the direction I send them regardless of diversions or other factors such as hills, wind, obstacles, etc.

I believe that I could improve Laddie's performance toward that ideal by using a whistle sit and recall any time Laddie went off line, moving to the side or closer to the pile of dummies as necessary to maintain a high rate of success, then gradually moving our send-outs closer and closer to the original start line.

However, Alice did not include any such procedure in her instructions for this drill, and she may actually prefer that Laddie not line his dummy retrieves so that we can get in more handling practice, perhaps the theory being that we can work on his lining later. I'll look forward to private correspondence from Alice addressing that question.

Private Training: Single-Dog Diversion Drill

Since I plan for both dogs to train with Nate as our helper this afternoon, I decided to leave Lumi at home to rest while Laddie and I went to train with Barbara and Deuce at Needwood Park.

Conditions were overcast with winds calm and temps in the low 20s. We ran Deuce, then Laddie, then Deuce again.

Deuce is making nice progress on Hunt Test-style marks. In home training, Barbara is working on getting him able to give up desirable articles, and when he's ready, we'll start working him with birds. He's also developing a nice whistle sit. Probably the highlight of the day for training Deuce, who loves dog play, was when he went out for a mark just as a pedestrian walking two Airedales showed up about the same distance from Deuce as Barbara. Deuce picked up the dummy and looked long and hard at the Airedales, but eventually he responded to Barbara's repeated recall whistles without ever taking a step toward the Airedales. Good dog!

Because I didn't have Lumi with me, and because Deuce isn't trained to play the same role that Lumi does in Alice's diversion drill, I decided to use a modified version of the drill that only required one dog. The bad news was that this turned out to be quite an advanced drill, right at the edge of Laddie's ability to succeed, and therefore involved more frustration than I like to see in a training session. The good news is that Laddie made significant progress between the first and last reps, and showed no hint of being demotivated.

The drill, which simulated a dog being sent to a blind after one or more marks have been thrown but not yet retrieved, was as follows:
  1. I put a start line pole and "blind" pole 80 yards apart, with a pile of white dummies, visible from the start line, at the base of the "blind" pole.
  2. I placed a chair and a bag of birds 50 yards from the start line, on a 30° angle to the left of the line to the pile of dummies (the center line).
  3. I had Laddie run the pile of dummies with Barbara sitting in the chair.
  4. I had Barbara stand and fire a gunshot, then ran Laddie to the pile.
  5. I had Barbara throw a bird 10 yards toward the center line (no gunshot), then ran Laddie first to the pile of dummies, then to the bird.
  6. I had Barbara fire a gunshot, then throw a bird 10 yards toward the center line, then ran Laddie first to the pile of dummies, then to the bird.
  7. We repeated step 6 several times.
Beginning with step 4, Laddie nearly always veered to the left when sent. I would then whistle sit, he would sit (even if he had reached the bird), and I would cast him to dummies. In almost every case, he responded to the first whistle sit and took a single cast to the dummies.

I was unable to get Laddie's focus off of the thrown birds from the original start line at 80 yards, so on every rep, I found that I had to walk some distance along the center line until Laddie was able to look at the correct target long enough for me to send him. The distance I had to walk each rep gradually diminished, but never reached the point where I could send him from the original start line.

The first time Laddie ran to the bird, I ran behind him, and when I whistled sit, I was only a few feet away. The look of surprise on his face when he spun around and saw that I was right there was kind of comical. He sat promptly and took the cast to the dummies, still looking a bit bewildered. "I thought I left Daddy at the start line. What was he doing standing next to the bird with me?" I didn't feel I needed to run behind him again.

On a later rep, Laddie managed to reach the bird by the time I whistled, and he picked it up before responding to the sit whistle. I walked to him, took the bird, dropped it on the ground beside him to the left, walked 20 yards back toward the start line, and cast him to the right toward the dummies. He took the cast, I ran the rest of the way to the start line and cheered him when he delivered the dummy, then sent him to the bird.

In contrast to yesterday's diversion drill, Laddie did not snake a single time on his returns from the pile of dummies, nor did he ever veer to the side of the center line away from the bird when sent. He may have run straight to the pile once or twice without trying for the bird, but I don't have a clear memory of that ever happening.

I would have preferred that by the end, he was regularly running straight to the dummies when sent. On the other hand, it may have been more productive this way, since Laddie got a lot of practice with whistle sits and casts away from a diversion.

It must have been quite frustrating to Laddie being repeatedly cued not to get the bird when first thrown, even when he was already right there, but being required to retrieve a dummy first. I suspect Lumi would have shut down rather than continuing to play such a frustrating game, assuming she found it as frustrating as Laddie (which she probably wouldn't have at this stage in her development). But Laddie showed no drop in enthusiasm for the game, and it was clear that he was gradually figuring out that the sooner he retrieved the dummy I sent him to, the sooner he would get to pick up his beloved bird.

When Barbara threw the last bird, and Laddie continued to swerve toward the bird when first sent to the dummies, I sent him back to the pile of dummies three times before I sent him to the bird. We finally ran out of dummies. I'd have preferred to continue sending him to the pile until a time came when he went straight there, and then sent him to the bird. I think that would be salient lesson for him.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Private Training: Diversion Drill

Today, we ran Alice Woodyard's diversion drill with a better understanding of the set-up. We trained on a large ballfield. Conditions were cloudy, cold, and windy, with the direction of the wind constantly changing. Whenever I ran one dog, I had the other dog sit behind us to honor.

The steps we followed were as follows:
  1. I placed a pole as our start line, and a second pole 75 yards away.
  2. I placed a pile of white dummies at the second pole, and periodically replenished it with more white dummies.
  3. I ran Laddie to the pile.
  4. I had Nate stand 40 yards from the start line and 10 yards to the right of the line to the pile ("the center line"), and ran Laddie to the pile.
  5. With Nate in the same position, I had him fire a dry shot and ran Laddie to the pile.
  6. I had Nate set up with his chair and a bag of birds 30 yards from the start line and 20 yards to the right of the center line.
  7. I had Nate throw a bird for Lumi. His throw was in the direction of the pile, but remained to the right of the center line. I did not have him fire a shot.
  8. I ran Laddie to the pile.
  9. I had Nate throw another bird for Lumi, but this time with a shot. As before, his throw was in the direction of the pile, but remained to the right of the center line.
  10. I ran Laddie to the pile.
  11. I had Nate throw the same mark for Laddie that he had just thrown for Lumi, again with a gunshot.
  12. I ran Laddie to the pile.
  13. I had Nate move his chair and bird bag to a point 45 yards from the start line and 15 yards to the right of the center line.
  14. We repeated steps 8 thru 12 at the new location.
  15. I had Nate move his chair and bird bag to a point 60 yards from the start line and 10 yards to the right of the center line.
  16. We repeated steps 8 thru 12 at the new location.
In addition to the diversion drill, I also did some pile work with both dogs at another location in the same park:
  1. With Lumi on my left and Laddie on my right, I sent them alternately to a pile of birds 15 yards in front of us. The order was Lumi, Laddie, Lumi, Laddie, Laddie.
  2. Then I had the dogs switch sides and sent them alternately to another pile of birds at the same location. The order was Laddie, Lumi, Laddie, Lumi, Laddie.
Notes on Performance. Unlike yesterday's attempt at a diversion drill, today's session went exactly as Alice had predicted it would go. The drill was not so easy that the dogs breezed thru it, but not so difficult that they couldn't succeed and learn in the process.

Laddie's runs to the pile did not get better or worse during the diversion drill. About half the time he ran straight to the pile, the other half he veered, usually to the right, sometimes to the left, and I would handle him as soon as he got off line. I saw no pattern as to when he went offline and when he didn't. In all cases where he went offline, he was immediately and enthusiastically responsive to every whistle sit and every cast, and in every case but one, a single cast got him to the pile. One time he got past the pile and I used a recall whistle and an "over" to get him to it.

While Laddie didn't show improvement or decline in his lining to the pile, he did show improement in his returns with the dummies. He snaked around a bit on his early returns, prompting me to use multiple recall whistles to bring him back. By the last few retrieves from the pile, he had stopped doing that.

Neither dog had any difficulty pinning the thrown marks. But both dogs displayed low-grade resource guarding, possibly because Nate was throwing pigeons in most cases rather than ducks. When we ran the pile work at the end with both pigeons and ducks, both dogs' performance steadily improved, and their last several pick-ups and returns were excellent.

Next time, I think we should run a pile drill before the diversion drill as a warm-up, hopefully resulting in higher quality pick-ups and returns during the diversion drill. If that doesn't work, the next time after that, we might do the pile drill before the diversion drill with a long line.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Private Training: Diversion Drill

This was our first day training with Nate as our thrower. We were attempting to follow a written description of a diversion drill designed by Alice Woodyard, but I later found out that I had not positioned Nate correctly. Nonetheless, I'll describe what we did.

With Lumi and Laddie sitting near the start line, I placed two piles of five white dummies 30 yards from the start line on lines at 90° angles to one another.

I placed Nate and a cooler of dead birds five yards behind the pile to the left and tried to send Laddie to the pile. He veered to the left immediately after being sent, ran to the area of what would have been a fall if Nate had been throwing, and then went out of control, running to the woods, out into the field, over to the other pile of dummies, anywhere but the desired pile in front of Nate. He was unresponsive to whistle sit and any recall for some time.

I tried moving halfway to the pile to send him, and the same thing happened. Then I tried it about one yard from the pile and again the same thing happened.

Finally, I put Laddie into a sit, walked to the pile, threw one of the dummies straight in the air, walked back to Laddie, and sent him. This time he retrieved the dummy easily. I then ran with him to the halfway point and then the start line to send him to the pile, and each time he easily retrieved a dummy.

Next, I put Laddie in a sit behind me and had Nate throw three single marks with dead birds for Lumi, alternating sides. Because I wasn't sure if Laddie could honor Lumi's marks, I didn't have Nate use a gunshot, just quietly toss the birds.

Then I put Lumi back into a sit behind us, brought up Laddie, and tried to send him to the pile again. As before, he went out of control.

I was highly excited by the opportunity to finally have a regular helper who would throw birds, and was taken aback by Laddie's inexplicable inability to retrieve from the pile even from a few feet away, and shocked by his total lack of responsiveness once sent. Rather than beating my head against the wall, I decided to change the drill for today into a dummies-over-duck-scent drill.

To do that, I had Nate throw birds to each side for Lumi, then dummies to each side for Laddie, at both of the two piles with no gunfire. We then repeated it with Nate firing the pistol before every throw. Neither dog had any problem with any of those retrieves and we called it a day.

Comments. I realized later that the factor that seemed to be confusing Laddie so badly was having Nate standing behind the pile. That is not a picture either dog has ever retrieved to. Laddie has a long history of retrieving from piles, and a long history of retrieving thrown marks, but he has no history of running straight toward a thrower in the field and then stopping short to retrieve from a pile.

Checking with Alice via email later, I learned that that had not been the intent of her description. Obviously, we won't pursue trying to get Laddie to retrieve from a pile with the thrower behind it in the future.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Private Training: Distraction-Proofing the Return

Several hours after running with the group training, when we returned home I asked my son Eric to help me with a distraction-proofing drill while it was still light out.

We trained on a nearby ballfield as follows:
  1. I positioned Eric in one area and asked him to play fetch and tug with Lumi while remaining in that spot.
  2. I then took Laddie on lead to a spot about 50 yards away, took off the lead, and began throwing a random sequence of articles: a white dummy, a pigeon, and a duck. As he picked up each article, I whistled recall. I tried rewarding the first few retrieves with food but it didn't seem important to Laddie so I stopped doing it quickly. After each throw, I'd watch Laddie as he was returning with the article. If he came straight back without paying attention to Eric and Lumi, I moved us a step closer to them for the next throw. If he seemed to be drawn to them, I moved us a step further away for the next throw.
  3. Only once did Laddie break away from our game and try to join Eric and Lumi. He returned to me when I called him and didn't attempt it again.
  4. Over time, we got closer and closer to Eric and Lumi, and at last I was throwing the articles over Eric's head and Laddie was swerving around or running between Eric and Lumi to get to the article and then back to me. We did that about ten times and then Laddie and I ran back to the van.
  5. Next, I began throwing pigeons and ducks for Lumi in a fixed location, whistling recall at each pick-up. Meanwhile Eric practiced recall with Josh, his BC, on a long line. Eric would call Josh to him, and when Josh arrived, Eric would throw a treat several feet away. Once Josh got the treat, Eric would call him again.
  6. As when I was training Laddie, Eric moved closer to Lumi and me a step at a time, as long as Josh wasn't glancing at us. I wasn't watching them, but Eric told me later that he thought Josh made good progress.
  7. Although this was intended as a distraction-proofing drill for Josh, it also turned out to be a good retrieval drill for Lumi. When we started, she was returning promptly when I'd throw a duck, but she'd take her time picking up the pigeon. By the end of our session, she was picking the pigeons up quickly, too.
It is my intent to run similar drills every day possible between now and next Sunday's group training. It's my hope that Laddie's returns will be noticeably improved compared to this morning's group session. This may also help to groove Lumi's retrieves and prepare her more quickly for retrieving flyers.

Holodeck Training

Holodeck Program
based on guidance from Alice Woodyard and Jody Baker


  • Let Lumi rest after airing her with Laddie.
  • To reduce likelihood of zoomies by giving Laddie some work, and to gauge Laddie's responsiveness, run him on two semicircle wagon wheels:
    • First drill: dummies thrown at 15 yards, birds thrown at 10 yards.
    • Second drill: dummies prepositioned at 50 yards, birds thrown at 15 yards.
    • In each drill, have Laddie pick up all the dummies first, then the birds.
    • Auto-whistle return on every pick-up.
    • If Laddie swerves to any bird, whistle sit and cast away.
    • If Laddie is not 100% responsive on every whistle sit, every cast, and every recall whistle, do not run him with the group.
  • White jacket.
  • Put on Laddie's collar.
  • Load pockets: pistol, ammo, ear protectors, slip cord for Laddie, radio.
  • No birds for Laddie until his resource guarding has completely stopped in private training, and until he's had some good group sessions with dummies; therefore, make sure the gunners have dummies with them when they go out.
  • Arrange to run Laddie first.
  • No multiples for either dog until that dog has had some good series running singles.
  • No blinds with the group, since that would let the dogs continue to practice hunting for the article rather than responding to a whistle.
  • Run shortest mark first, longest last.
  • With Laddie, use a slip cord to prevent a break.
  • With Lumi, cue "mark" before each throw, then send as quickly as possible.
  • If Lumi looks away from the fall before I send her, radio to the thrower to pick up and throw again.
  • Auto-whistle recall on the first two marks of each training day. Based on how the dogs do, consider switching to contingent whistle for the remaining marks of the day.
  • After pick-up, anything but coming right back is bad. Attempt a whistle sit followed by a whistle recall, and if necessary, a verbal recall. If I cannot gain control quickly, walk out, take away the article, put dog on lead, and put dog in van for remainder of training day.
  • Attempted break?
  • Head swinging, before or after throws? Which throws?
  • Did dog return uncued? Auto-whistle? Contingent whistle? Voice? Walk out?
  • If the dog did not come straight back, why (for example, RG, parading, Super D, zoomies, diversion)?
Conditions. Temps in mid 40's, overcast, wind 5-10 MPH from variable directions so it felt colder. Ground damp but no standing water where the group was training.

Before Group Training. As planned, Lumi rested in the van while I ran wagon wheels with Laddie. We ran more than I had originally planned. Laddie did well at lining to the article sent to, and on the few occasions where he veered to a duck, he was 100% responsive to whistle sits and casts. He apparently found the field highly distracting, and while he was eventually 100% responsive to recalls, it not always on the first whistle or verbal cue.

Group Training. The group ran a single triple with two blinds, one slightly to the left of the leftmost mark, the other down the center of the course taking the dog right next to the middle Gun, which had a holding blind so the thrower could retire for those trainers who wanted it.

Lumi ran the three marks as singles, shortest to longest. Laddie ran only two marks, also shortest to longest. I didn't have Laddie run the right mark because that's where flyers were being thrown and I didn't want him to be distracted by the cage of pigeons there. It didn't work, since he was still distracted by the pigeons on the other two marks, but that was the idea.

Neither dog is running blinds with the group right now.

I used no slip cord for Lumi. I used a slip cord for Laddie on the first mark, and when he made no attempt to break, I didn't use a slip cord on the second mark. Neither dog attempted a break the whole day.

I auto-whistled every pick-up.

The course was an indent configuration as follows:
  1. 70 yards into high grass
  2. 140 yards into high grass (this was the flyer station and the mark that Laddie didn't run)
  3. 220 yards into an open area
The course was narrow:
  • #2 was 45° to the right of #1.
  • #3 was slightly to the left of #1.
Here's how the dogs did:


Laddie ran as the first dog and retrieved white dummies. I walked him to the start line and back on a lead.

He pinned #1 and picked the dummy up immediately, but then started to run toward the flyer station. When I called "here", he veered back around toward me and delivered the dummy.

He also pinned #3 and ran the line exceptionally well. The line between the start line and the fall for #3 included a mulch mound, and Laddie was the only dog the whole day who ran over the top of the mound to get to the mark. Again, he picked the dummy up immediately and then ran toward the flyer station. But in this case, he did not respond to whistle sit, whistle recall, or verbal recall, and when he arrived at the pigeon cage, he dropped the dummy and began playing at the cage, being fended off by the gunners there. Meanwhile, I had begun running out in that direction, calling "here" several times. When I had gone out 50 yards, Laddie finally picked up the dummy and came running toward me. I turned and ran back to the start line, and Laddie completed his delivery there.

The following week, I asked one of the gunners at the flyer station for details on what had taken place. The guy said that when Laddie arrived, he dropped his dummy near the cage and sniffed the cage. The birds fluttered and Laddie jumped back. The gunner threw a dead pigeon, and Laddie ran to it and picked it up. Laddie then spotted the dummy, dropped the bird, picked up the dummy, and ran to the handler (me) with it.


Lumi ran as the third dog and retrieved dead ducks. I walked her off-lead, except that as we were returning to the van and the gunners were firing guns for the next dog, I noted Lumi's body language and put on her lead for fear she might run back into the field for those marks.

During the series as planned, I released Lumi quickly after each throw, and she didn't look away from any of the falls.

On #1 and #3, she returned immediately. On #2, I could not see her behind the high grass and received no signal from the gunners. After about five seconds of not seeing any movement, I decided that she must have the bird by now and called "here". She immediately came running out of the high cover with the bird. As far as I could tell, she completely ignored the cage of pigeons.

On #3, Lumi ran over one slope of the mulch mound, the only dog besides Laddie not to run around the mound all day.

Once again this week, Lumi seemed unable to see the long thrower, even with waving and calling hey-hey. As I attempted to line her up, she focused either on the middle thrower to the right or the stand of trees, backed by a barn, to the left. After several attempts to line her up on the long thrower, I finally called for the throw while she was looking at the middle Gun, which was not too far to the right of the long Gun. As soon as Lumi heard the gunshot, she shifted her focus to the correct thrower, kept her eyes on the fall, and once I sent her, raced straight out to the mark, detouring only slightly at the mulch mound.

I felt Lumi ran an excellent series. As we were walking back to the van, one of the other trainers, who had expressed concern about Lumi's recall in the past, smiled nicely and said, "Looks like she's got the concept!"

After Group Training. One of the other trainers offered to throw walking singles for Laddie. Using white dummies and throwing each dummy after a gunshot, he threw singles of 60, 100, and 140 yards. I did not use a slip cord, and Laddie was steady on all the marks. I auto-whistled recall on each pick-up.

In each case, Laddie pinned the mark, picked up the dummy uncued and without hesitation, and then, despite the recall whistle, instead of running back toward me, Laddie turned toward the right in the direction of the thrower. Each time it happened, I called "here" repeatedly until he began running toward me, but even on the return, he sometimes swerved to the right again. I'm not sure why he was doing it, but it was most severe on the first mark and least severe on the last.

Training Group Advice. In the course of conversations with other trainers at the group, I received several suggestions:
  1. One trainer repeated a suggestion he's made before, that I send my dogs on the long mark first, not last. Today, he related his own experience in this area. He told me that his first dog was trained initially for Hunt Tests, with much shorter marks, and that dog had great difficulty learning to find the long Gun when they began training for Field Trials. In contrast, his younger dog trained for Field Trials from the beginning, and this trainer had the younger dog run the long mark first when they were running singles. It turns out the younger dog doesn't have the problem that the older dog has in finding the long Gun. I didn't argue with him, but my thought is that it was the older dog's lack of experience with long marks, not the fact that the guy had the younger dog run long marks first, that accounts for the difference in their abilities to find the long Gun.
  2. When I asked a senior trainer about retiring all throwers except the one who was throwing while running my dogs on longer marks first, he said he did not think that was wise, that the dog needs to learn to run past other throwers. I didn't argue, but my thought is that that is an advanced skill and the dog doesn't need to learn the advanced version of the skill from the beginning. A way to ramp up to running longer marks first would be to run them with the other throwers retired the first few times. The dog would still be aware the stations were there, but they wouldn't be as distracting if the throwers were hidden. After the dogs were successful that way, they could be sent while the other throwers were visible.
  3. I asked one of the senior trainers whether he thought Laddie would get better or worse on his returns if I continued training with the group. He answered, "I think he'll get worse." But when I said, "So you think I should stop training him with the group," he said that that was not what he was saying. He then explained that the group session isn't for training, it's for testing to see whether the yard work you were doing during the week was having good results. If you come back the next week and the dog is performing better, you know you're addressing the problem. If not, you know you're not. That seemed like good advice, but I'm not sure it completely explains why he said that he thinks Laddie will get worse. Did he mean, If the only training we do is to come to group training, Laddie will get worse? Maybe that's what he meant. I hope so. Of course if it's not what he meant, I hope he's wrong.
Comments. In previous group training, we worked on particular skills — such as multiples and steadiness — while others subtly, and then precipitously, declined. When that happened, I took the dog out of group training to prevent permanent damage to the dog's development as a field competitor. As far as I can see, that was not happening in today's session.

Lumi's performance was solid, suggesting that she may be ready for another raise in criteria. Some of the areas where Lumi is not working at the same level as the advanced dogs are retrieving flyers, running blinds, running multiples, and running longer marks before shorter ones. The problems with having her start doing any of those are:
  • Retrieving flyers. The risk is that she will begin to resource guard again, and after that will not even be solid on dead birds or possibly even dummies. I think we should stick with dead birds for the time being.
  • Running blinds. The risk is that she will practice using sight, scent, and hunting skills, rather than cues coming from me, to find the blinds. Because finding the blind is reinforcing, running blinds that way reinforces incorrect concepts of how to do it. I think we should stick to private drills that require responding to my cues to meet with success.
  • Running multiples. The risk is that Lumi's recent tendency to look away from the fall before being sent on singles will become an entrenched head-swinging behavior, eventually detracting from her ability to perform on marked retrieves. I think we should stick to singles at group training until we have a well-established ability to maintain focus until specifically cued to turn away from the fall.
  • Running longer marks first. The risk is that Lumi will run to the short thrower, then swerve to the long thrower (possibly requiring help), and finally succeed with the retrieve. It's possible that the success might train her to run such marks that way. However, it seems more likely that this mistake, if it occurs, will not be self-reinforcing since it inserts a delay in getting to the bird, and that therefore Lumi will do it less and less with experience. I also think that I could improve her chances of learning the skill correctly if I arrange for the shorter Guns to hide while running the longer marks. In fact, I've purchased three camo umbrellas that could be used for that purpose. The only problem is that some of the other trainers do not agree with that procedure and I'll have to ask them to help me train in a way that they don't agree with. Perhaps if I emphasize that it will only be for the first few times, that will resolve their concerns.
In conclusion, pending guidance from Alice and Jody, I believe that the next raise in criteria we should try is running longer marks first. I'm not sure how soon we should try that.

As for Laddie, he showed solid progress from the last time we trained with a group. Today, he displayed no resource guarding, no parading, no stalling, no rolling in the grass, and responsive to all recalls except trying to call him away from a cage of pigeons from 140 yards.

The question for me is whether the times he detoured on his return were self-reinforcing. If they were, then we must once again suspend group training until we can solve the problem. If they were not, then it is only a matter of training the correct behavior during the week and testing it at group training as suggested by one of the group trainers, because even if it occasionally occurs, if it is not self-reinforcing, and the correct behavior is self-reinforcing, then the incorrect behavior will ultimately extinguish.

Given the importance of group training, and the possibility that the group will be working on increasingly difficult set-ups in the coming weeks with the risk of leaving Laddie too far behind to join this year if he does not start soon, I am leaning toward the decision that we should continue group training, at least for one more week.

During the next few days, we will focus our private training on a single task: distraction-proofing the retrieve, so that Laddie learns to return immediately with the article no matter what diversions might be present in the environment. Another way of saying that, I guess, is to further strengthen Laddie's recall.

If we are successful, next Sunday Laddie should show distinct improvement, hopefully returning immediately on every retrieve. If, in spite of an intense distraction-proofing effort, Laddie again fails to return, that may indicate that not returning is so self-reinforcing that our private training can't overcome it as long as he continues to rehearse it with the group on Sundays. If that turns out to be the case, we'll know that it's time to suspend group training again.

I hope that's not what happens.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Private Training: Wagon Wheel

Today I thought I'd try out the warm up drills I plan to use tomorrow morning before group training. Tomorrow, I'll be resting Lumi before group training and only running Laddie on the drills, but today I ran both dogs on the drills.

Once out on the ballfield, I decided to modify the drills somewhat from what I had originally planned. The version I ended up with was in two series, Series A and Series B. I ran Lumi, then Laddie, on each series.

Conditions were sunny with temps in the high 30s and wind calm. The ground was damp but not too muddy.

Series A. A semicircle of white dummies and ducks, prepositioned and separated by 45° angles:
  1. Dummy at 20 yards
  2. Duck at 15 yards
  3. Dummy at 20 yards
  4. Duck at 15 yards
  5. Dummy at 20 yards
I had the dog pick up the dummies first, then the ducks. To increase difficulty for #1 and #5, I sent the dog from the same side of me as the ducks. Neither dog had any difficulty with Series A, so that I never had to whistle sit or cast. I used an auto-whistle recall on every article, and both dogs delivered each article immediately and enthusiastically. I intermittently reinforced deliveries with food.

Series B. A semicircle of white dummies and ducks separated by 45° angles:
  1. Dummy prepositioned at 50 yards
  2. Duck thrown to 15 yards
  3. Dummy prepositioned at 50 yards
  4. Duck thrown to 15 yards
  5. Dummy prepositioned at 50 yards
I prepositioned the dummies, then brought the dog to the start line and threw the ducks. Next, I had the dog pick up the dummies, which were invisible or barely visible to the dogs from the start line, then the ducks. To further increase difficulty for #1 and #5, I sent the dog from the same side of me as the ducks.

When sent to #1 and #5, both dogs swerved to the ducks, but both dogs were 100% responsive on whistle sits and casts away from the ducks and back toward the dummies. I used an auto-whistle recall on every article, and both dogs delivered each article immediately and enthusiastically. I intermittently reinforced deliveries with food.

When we returned home, I updated the second drill in tomorrow's Holodeck Program based on today's experience, reducing distances but adding thrown, rather than prepositioned, ducks.
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