Monday, March 31, 2008

Delivery Shaping

Today's training was limited to a morning solo session (Series A), which took place in light rain at Sundown Park. The series was as follows:
  • Series A. Delivery shaping on poorman marks (Laddie, with Lumi resting in the van)
Series A. I was fortunate enough to have son Ray videograph the morning session for us. Here's his excellent video:

video

Additional comments on this session appeared in the DogTrek and PositiveGunDogs lists for this date.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

FCR Training Day

When the dogs and I arrived at Cheltenham to train with the field trial group, we discovered that a Flat Coat Retriever club was using the property this morning. I knew several of the participants and was given permission to join their training day activities.

The club had divided into three groups: puppies, junior dogs, and senior dogs. Since neither of my dogs has a JH title, I decided to try both Lumi and Laddie out in the junior group. I ran them in the first series, but the set-up was so easy for Lumi that I decided on a change for the second series: I took my turn throwing for the juniors, ran Laddie with the juniors again, and then we moved over to the seniors to run Lumi.

As a result, we ran the following series:
  • Series A. Three junior marks (both dogs)
  • Series B. Three junior marks (Laddie)
  • Series C. Two senior marks and a blind (Lumi)
Conditions. With temps in the 50s and a stiff wind, it was chilly, mostly cloudy day.

Series A.
Run with all dummies, this series was set up as follows:
  1. 30 yards
  2. 70 yards
  3. 90 yards
Notes on the configuration (pyramid):
  • #1 was 30° to the right of #3.
  • #2 was 60° to the left of #3.
  • The SL was on high ground.
  • The line to #2 and #3 crossed a strip of high grass.
  • All falls were on open ground.
  • The series was run as a JH, with duck calls, pistol shots while the dummy was in the air, throwers wearing dark clothing, and camo holding blinds at all stations.
LUMI

For Lumi, I asked to run this set-up as a single to #1, followed by a double, with #3 as the memory-bird and #2 as the go-bird.

I ran Lumi without a slip cord. She was a little antsy at the SL but didn't creep or break.

Her only problem was that, when it was time to run #3 as the memory-bird, Lumi took an initial line to #1 instead. I called her back with "here", then lined her up and sent her again. This time, she seemed to remember the mark and pinned it, as she had #1 and #2.

Lumi made no effort to cheat around either strip of high cover in either direction.

LADDIE


For Laddie, we ran this as three singles: #1, #2, #3.

Laddie was high as a kite for this series. I ran him on a slip cord, and he attempted to break on every mark, though he practices constantly without a slip cord and almost never breaks.

Laddie pinned every mark, but after picking up the dummy on #2, he ran behind the throwers station and then turned to home, despite my automatic recall whistle and calls of "here". He then did the same thing again on #3.

Laddie made no effort to cheat around either strip of high cover in either direction.

Laddie swung to heel and sat immediately on every return, and did not drop a dummy.

Series B. This was Laddie's second series with the junior group, again run with dummies:
  1. 50 yards
  2. 100 yards
  3. 120 yards
Notes on the configuration (another pyramid):
  • #1 was 90° to the leftof #3.
  • #2 was 60° to the right of #3.
  • All falls were on open ground.
  • The series was again run as a JH.
Because Laddie had not come straight back on two of the marks in Series A, I decided that for Series B, I would use a shadowing strategy once suggested by Alice.

The shadowing strategy worked as follows. On each mark, I walked Laddie from the SL to a point halfway to the throwers station, then called for the throw. As Laddie sprinted to the fall, I ran after him and whistled recall. In each case, he completed his pick-up, then spun around and came dashing back, and together we raced to the SL.

For Series B, I again ran Laddie on a slip cord. This time he crept on two of the marks but it looked like he would not have broken.

Laddie had good deliveries on every mark, again with no drops. Concerned that Laddie might start anticipating my taking the dummy and dropping dummies again in the future, I used two walk-offs.

Series C.
When Lumi and I joined the senior group for Lumi's second series, the set-up was as follows:
  1. 70 yards (white dummy)
  2. 110 yards, 90° to the left of #1 (white dummy)
  • An 80-yard blind, orange lining pole and orange dummy, 5 yards inside the treeline to the right of mark #1
Although Lumi could have done the short, easy double, we haven't practiced the combination of doubles and blinds, so I had Lumi run the course as two singles followed by the blind.

The singles were easy for Lumi.

On the other hand, the short blind turned out to be extremely difficult. Lumi meandered from the SL when first sent, then immediately became almost out of control, requiring repeated cueing on nearly every whistle and voice.

I'm not certain why Lumi's responsiveness fell apart on this blind. Granted, the blind ended in the woods, something we have not practiced and now know to, but Lumi actually wanted to go into those woods when running the blind, just not at the point where I intended to cast her.

Perhaps the problem was that Lumi hasn't run blinds with groups of people and dogs for several months, only marks. The context of group training was sufficiently different from private training that she no longer understood how to respond to handling in a group setting. If that's the case, the cure will hopefully be nothing more complicated than continuing to run easy blinds in a group setting until Lumi becomes comfortable with them.

Shadowing. Although the shadowing strategy I used for running Laddie on Series B is hard on my legs and feet, it seems to be a good way to run Laddie on group marks, where without the shadowing the excitement level seems to lead Laddie to turn toward the thrower on marks longer than about 30 yards. Hopefully, after we've run a few marks that way, he'll be able to run longer and longer marks without shadowing, until eventually shadowing is no longer needed at all.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Delivery Shaping, Blinds and a Mark

This morning, we returned to the Oaks field for continued shaping of Laddie's delivery (Series A and C), and for another series of blinds and marks for Lumi, starting with a blind (Series B). Nate helped as thrower for Series B and C, and a new helper, John, took videos of Series B and part of Series C. In summary:
  • Series A. Delivery shaping (Laddie)
  • Series B. Two blinds and a mark (Lumi)
  • Series C. Delivery shaping (Laddie)
Series A. This series was conducted with no helper, and had little formal structure. It consisted of me throwing poorman marks for Laddie and then shaping his delivery as he returned with each article. We used white dummies and birds, and distances of 20-60 yards.

The training operated primarily on two principles:
  1. Using the walk-off strategy (described previously), so that Laddie could no longer assume that every time he sat to deliver an article, I would necessarily take that article. The purpose was to defeat Laddie's previously learned anticipatory response of loosening his grip and pushing the article forward in his mouth, even before he arrived at the SL with the article, in anticipation that I was about to take it and reward him for the delivery.
  2. Using a kind of Premack differential reinforcement to shape a firm, deep hold of the article: A correct response was rewarded by me taking the article and immediately setting Laddie up for another retrieve; an incorrect response was marked with a verbal such as "nope" and me running away and calling him to come and try his delivery again. Laddie was learning that to get what he wanted — another throw — he needed to give me what I wanted — a high-quality hold.
Series B. This was a mark and blind drill for Lumi, made up of the following series:
  1. 80-yard blind to an orange lining pole and an orange dummy
  2. 100-yard mark to a white dummy, from a station with a stickman and a chair as well as Nate as the thrower, thrown as TTL to #3
  3. 230-yard blind to a surveyor's flag and a bird
This was a pyramid configuration:
  • #1 was 45° to the left of #3.
  • #2 was 30° to the right of #3.
As an additional diversion, a second stickman was positioned 60 yards out between #1 and #3.

Here is a video of Series B:

video

NOTES
  • Lumi again seemed confused by being sent out on a blind before the thrower in the field had thrown a mark. I plan to continue running such sequences until she becomes comfortable with them.
  • Our new helper John, acting as videographer, provided good zoom close-ups at times but unfortunately lost Lumi from the frame during most of her lovely run-back on the last return.
  • Lumi becomes less responsive to a whistle sit at longer distances, something that may require remedial training, or may repair itself as she continues to see that sitting is the only way to get to what she wants. For now, I resort to verbal cues when she's too far out and too distracted to respond to the whistle.
  • My amateurish handling is probably evident in many ways. One example is that with Lumi 170 yards out and running thru what appears to be a deer nesting area, I inadvertently whistle recall when I'm trying to whistle an insistent sit. I get neither.
  • In editing the video, I included two instances of reinforcement for Lumi's nice work on the series at the end: a happy throw with a bird, and a couple of bites of meat from my pocket. She seems to enjoy both rewards.
Series C. After shaping Laddie's delivery on short poorman marks in Series A, I took advantage of having Nate available to continue the shaping in a picture more consistent with a competitive setting: longer marks and a real thrower. The sequence was as follows:
  1. 30 yards (white dummy)
  2. 80 yards, with stickman at station (bird)
  3. 100 yards, with chair and stickman at station (white dummy)
  4. 130 yards (bird)
The lines to these marks were each separated by approximately 30°. The physical placement of the stations, left to right, was #4, #2, #3, #1.

Because we were working with a single dummy and a single bird, Series C was actually run as two mini-series: #1 and #2, then #3 and #4 followed by some additional shaping. John captured the second half of the series, beginning with mark #3, in the following video:

video

NOTES
  • With regard to mark #3, see also the next section, "Running toward the Thrower."
  • After Laddie returns with #3, I take a few moments for some additional shaping of the delivery. When Laddie disappointingly drops the dummy in his initial delivery, I call him to heel several times and tap on the dummy to confirm that each time, he has a solid grip. His incentive for hanging on while I'm tapping is that he can't get another retrieve until I take the dummy, and he's now learning that I won't take the dummy unless he's holding on tight. When he finally offers a solid grip, I take the dummy at last and set up forthe next throw, the reward Laddie has been craving.
  • The video for #4 shows that, while reasonably steady, Laddie has an occasional creep, especially when a bird is thrown. I would prefer to nip this in the bud, but this is one of those cases where I feel we can only train one thing at a time, and obviously the present focus is on the delivery.
  • Because of Laddie's run toward the thrower on #3, I decided to maintain a steady stream of prompts and praise for his return on #4. I was rewarded by a nice beeline. It's possible that Laddie would have done just as well on his return on #4 without my prompts, but I wanted to minimize the chances that some other problem would sneak in while we were trying to concentrate on Laddie's delivery.
  • In the final shaping sequence, you can tell which holds are solid because those are the ones in which I take the bird. At one point, he has three correct responses in a row. The best measure of his progress, in the short time we've been concentrating on his delivery, is that in that final shaping sequence beginning with the adequate delivery of #4, Laddie never drops the bird a single time.
  • In several places in the video, Laddie appears to be leaning away from me. As you can see by the lining pole at the SL, which was actually sticking straight out of the ground, Laddie's "lean" is actually an optical illusion caused by the camera being held on an angle.
Running toward the Thrower. Today Laddie had an unfortunate backslide: On mark #3 of Series C, Laddie picked up the dummy and then ran toward Nate instead of heading straight home. That was a serious lapse, and I do not mean to marginalize it.

But I think it's worth mentioning that in this situation, Laddie was retrieving a dummy in our most distracting training venue, while nearby, little Nate — who as one of our youngest neighbors has always been a magnet for all the dogs in our family — was at the chair and a stickman holding the bird he would be throwing for mark #4. All of that made Nate a particularly tempting destination. Beyond that, Nate inappropriately began to walk toward station #4, and therefore toward Laddie, while Laddie was right in the middle of his pick-up of #3.

Laddie has not been running toward the thrower for some time, but all that suction was too much for him today.

Additional Delivery Shaping. Laddie has months of previous experience with poor deliveries, so the last few days, I've been taking every opportunity to work on that aspect of Laddie's retrieve. In the evenings, that has included using walk-offs while running little poorman marks in the living room, interspersing the training with bites of his dinner. At outdoor training sessions, it has also included throwing down a pigeon or duck and inviting Laddie to "get your bird" each time we walked back and forth between the van and our training area. As Laddie walks beside me with the bird in his mouth, at random intervals I say "sit", and if he sits with a good hold, I take the bird and throw it for him to bounce over and pick up. If he pushes the duck forward in his mouth or loosens his grip on it, I say "nope, c'mon" and resume walking.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Delivery Shaping, Blinds and a Mark

Today, we had a single session in late afternoon, with my nephew Evan acting as helper. We trained on a field at the Beltsville Agricultural Center, and had time for two series:
  • Series A. A series of 14 marks used for continued shaping of Laddie's delivery
  • Series B. Two blinds and a mark for Lumi
Series A. This was primarily a shaping session to strengthen Laddie's conditioning for a firm hold when delivering the retrieved article. Evan threw four groups of three short marks each, two dummies and one bird in pseudo-random order. We then ended the series with two longer marks of a dummy and a bird. Lumi honored the entire time.

The groupings of Evan's throws were as follows:
  • #1-3 thrown as walking singles in an arc proceeding right to left, 20-yard retrieves, dummy-dummy-bird
  • #4-6 thrown as walking singles in an arc proceeding left to right, 25-yard retrieves, dummy-bird-dummy
  • #7-9 thrown as walking singles in an arc proceeding right to left, 30 yard retrieves, bird-dummy-dummy
  • #10-12 thrown as walking singles in an arc proceeding left to right, 35-yard retrieves, dummy-dummy-bird
  • #13 thrown as a 90-yard single (dummy)
  • #14 thrown as a 130-yard single (bird)
I used the walk-off technique described in yesterday's blog entry 2-4 times per return. As a refinement of the technique, I watched for Laddie to maintain a good hold, and immediately took the bird or dummy when he did so.

This added a Premack effect to the conditioning value of the walk-off, which is to make it impossible for Laddie to predict whether I'm going to take the article after each sit. Once Laddie realized that sometimes I would take the article and sometimes I would not, he would sit and face Evan, wanting another opportunity to retrieve. He was learning, "Want Evan to throw? Then maintain a good hold on your article when you sit down."

I especially watched for Laddie pushing the article forward in his mouth, and if he did so, I'd say "nope!", run a few feet away, and call him. As Laddie caught onto the shaping rules, his demeanor began to say, "Oh, no, Daddy, I don't want to play that game, I want to retrieve," and his holds became increasingly better.

Series B. With Laddie in the van and Evan distracting Lumi from watching me, I set up the following series for Lumi:
  1. 80-yard blind (white dummy marked by surveyor's flag)
  2. 60-yard mark (bird) acting as TTL for #3
  3. 200-yard blind (orange lining pole, bird)
Lumi has become accustomed to running a mark before her first blind in this kind of drill, and seemed confused by being sent out on "back" before any throw. We need to practice that pattern with throwers in the field.

Based on correspondence with Alice and Jody, I again used a partial-come-in (PCI) when Lumi began digging back in today's work, on both #1 (fixating on Evan, who was holding a bird and had not thrown yet) and #3 (fixating on the woods to our right, or perhaps toward my scent line from planting the blind).

Alice had recommended that I use a verbal rather than whistle cue for the PCI, and yesterday I had accidentally whistled instead, and noticed that Lumi showed a distinct drop in motivation.

Today I remembered to use a verbal "here" instead of a recall whistle for the PCIs, and found that this was significantly better for Lumi's morale. In both cases today, Lumi leapt out of her sit and came galloping toward me. When she was in a favorable position, I blew a WS and cast her to the blind. In both case, she then lined the retrieve.

I guess the whistle recall is confusing or demoralizing to Lumi because, at this stage in her development, she thinks a recall whistle during a blind means "bring the article," and she doesn't have an article yet. The cue seems illogical, which is confusing, and also makes her worry that now she won't get to complete the retrieve. "Here" doesn't imply any article, and without that point of confusion, Lumi can respond to the cue with enthusiasm, leading to the opportunity to complete the retrieve.

Eventually, Lumi will learn that a whistle recall without the article is used for an angle-in, and because she'll see that it facilitates the retrieve, it will no longer be demoralizing. But even then, as Alice explained in a thorough discussion of this topic in private correspondence, the verbal "here" is the correct cue for a PCI for a number of reasons. Alice wrote:
The idea is to interrupt the dog’s determination/focus on digging back – which determination is resulting in the cast refusal. You want the partial come-in to make it easier for the dog to succeed on the next cast, thus putting him back on track with YOUR game rather than what’s sloshing around in his head at the moment.

Classically speaking, the verbal HERE takes the handler input out of the “normal mainstream blind” mode better – much better – than a whistle, in a game where the dog is expecting whistles. It gets the dog’s attenion as an “interruptive stimulus” better than the whistle—mainly because it is NOT a whistle, and therefore not “business as usual”. A come in whistle is something that the dog, especially after some experience with cold blinds, is apt to view as just a direction to move slightly toward the handler and pick up a blind. You don’t want him coming in and hunting for something in this circumstance, you want him coming in with his head up and his eyes on you, paying attention to you.

You want him to recognize that he’s going the “wrong” way by digging back and to therefore get ready for a recognizably different set of instructions.

Also, what many don’t realize, is that the come-in whistle comes to take on CR+ properties with experienced cold blind dogs. The longer a dog runs cold blinds, the more he learns that the come-in whistle predicts “something nearby to pick up.” In effect it becomes a conditioned +R predicting the +R of the retrieve. You HARDLY want that association when you use the partial recall to gain better control and better attention on a blind.

Hence using the verbal Here avoids all those traps. It avoids inadvertantly communicating to the dog “+R about to happen near your face” as it does so often when running cold blinds.

Also you can put nuances of authority into a verbal that most trainers have trouble doing with a whistle. You can make the Here loud, soft, neutral, not neutral, suggestive, non-threatening, “impatient” etc.

Lastly, to the extent that a dog finds being called in unpleasant (apparently yours do), you don’t want them making this association with the come-in whistle in general, which you want them to view as neutral and helpful input to direct them ever closer to the retrieve object (typcally it’s given because the dog overran the blind or might do so – being on the upwind side by 10 inches -- but is still close to the blind). You can avoid “polluting” your come-in whistle -- when used for the partial recall purpose to fix a cast refusal -- if you use the verbal for that purpose.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Delivery, Marks and Blinds, the Walk-off

Based on correspondence yesterday and this morning, today's work with Laddie was focused on his delivery. The work all took place at the Oaks field, the most distracting venue of the local training locations we've found. It consisted of a Series A of delivery drills for Laddie, Lumi honoring the entire time, followed by returning home to pick up Nate and then heading back to the same field. When we returned, Lumi ran a Series B of marks and blinds with Laddie in the van, and then Laddie had Series C, more delivery drills, this time with Nate throwing and Lumi waiting in the van.

While I was setting up Series C, Laddie found something disgusting to roll in, so after Series C, I dropped Nate off back at home and then the dogs and I went to a nearby creek so they could play in the water a little and Laddie could get cleaned up.

The day's series were as follows:
  • Series A. Delivery drills for Laddie
  • Series B. Two marks and two blinds for Lumi
  • Series C. More delivery drills for Laddie
Series A. For series A, I set up one easy wagon wheel after another. Each wagon wheel consisted of two birds and two dummies, over a 180° arc, at a distance of 15 yards. Each wagon wheel had a different SL and different falls so that Laddie would not be retrieving to old falls. Sometimes the wagon wheel was run left to right, sometimes right to left. The sequence of birds and dummies, and the side I sent Laddie out from, also changed randomly.

In each case, my focus was entirely on the quality of Laddie's delivery. Without covering every detail, I was trying to gradually shape an immediate swing to heel and sit, followed by a hold until I had a firm grip of the article and cued "out", at which time Laddie was to pull his head back and release the article.

With this focused work, I watched for a problem I had seen in Lumi in the past with tennis balls, and which I continue to see with DW Renee's Golden, Gabriel, namely, a poor response to "out". That problem was difficult to fix with Lumi and I had hoped to avoid it with Laddie by always providing quality reinforcement for releasing any article on retrieves, going back to Laddie's earliest days with me.

Today, I came to realize that I had solved the problem with Laddie all too well. I might have expected Laddie to have a problem with "out" because he is greedy to an obnoxious degree with other dogs' toys and shows resource guarding behaviors when retrieving, especially with birds. But when I began to understand what I was seeing, I realized that Laddie actually had the opposite problem: Instead of a firm hold, Laddie begins to anticipate "out" as much as 20 or 30 yards before he even arrives at the SL, pushes the article to the front of his mouth and begins to carry it in a light grip (sometimes dropping it), continues to carry it lightly as he swings to heel and sits (again sometimes dropping it), and then releases it the instant my hand comes near, requiring me to move quickly to avoid the article dropping to the ground before I have a good grip.

Once I realized what was happening, I experimented extensively with ways to defeat the problem. For example, after he sat I would walk in a circle around him, or pet him, or crouch down in front of him and get face to face with him, or applaud and cheer like a gallery at a competition, all the while with Laddie holding the article in his mouth.

For the dummies, I also tried taking the rope in my hand and pulling a little, inviting a game of tug. That was a strategy I've used with Lumi but I decided today that it doesn't seem to produce the right effect in Laddie, since he gets too excited and starts jumping around too much, losing the sense of a calm delivery.

One of the more effective strategies I used was today tap on the dummy, and later the bird, making a gentle effort to knock the article out of Laddie's mouth as he sat holding it. Of course I was successful in doing so at first, so I'd say "no, give it, sit" and we'd try again. Over the course of the day, he stopped dropping it as readily so this strategy paid some dividends, but the best strategy I came up with today didn't come until later, after we had completed Series C.

During Series A, I also experimented with physically inserting the dummy or bird into the back of Laddie's mouth if he dropped it or pushed it to the front. I've seen other trainers do that, and I've done it a few times with Lumi, but I regret doing it with Laddie and don't plan to do it again. It was clearly confusing to him having me do that, and it didn't seem to clarify his understanding in the least. No matter how many times I pushed the article in, he'd just push it back out again. It became adversarial rather than an exercise in building reinforcement history for a correct response. It was not the kind of training I want to engage in.

However, I did find another strategy during Series A that seemed to help Laddie's comprehension for delivering birds. Instead of having him pick the bird up from the ground and deliver it, which gave him plenty of time to push it to the front of his mouth or even led to him picking it up gingerly in the first place, I'd throw the bird high for him to leap up and grab it. When Laddie catches a bird that way, he tends to catch it deep in his mouth, and as soon as he'd land, I step beside him, cue "sit, hold", and try to get my hand on the bird before he had a chance to push it forward. Then I'd quickly say, "good, out" as he released the bird and pulled his mouth away. I don't think this strategy would be enough by itself, or at least it would take a long time before he completely gave up pushing the article forward, but because he loves leaping up and catching that way, I think it builds a positive association for holding the bird deep in his mouth, anyway.

Series B. Lumi has now had quite a few sessions of three marks and four blinds. To reduce long-term wear and tear, I decided that today two marks and two blinds would be enough:
  1. 60-yard mark (bird, thrown toward the line to #2)
  2. 80-yard blind (orange dummy, orange lining pole)
  3. 180-yard mark (bird, thrown away from the line to #4)
  4. 200-yard blind (orange dummy, orange lining pole)
Lumi pinned #1 and #3 and lined #2. For #4, she needed several casts, but she never slipped a whistle not refused a cast. Her motivation seemed high throughout the series.

When Series B was over, I said to Lumi as I often do at the end of a series, "get your bird", and she chose one of the birds fom the ground and carried it the 200 yards to the van, walking jauntily beside me the whole way. That became my inspiration for a new training strategy for Laddie after Series C.

Series C. For this Series, I had Nate throw a series of 20-yard marks while walking in a semi-circle around the SL. For each mark, he'd fire the pistol and throw, sometimes angling in, sometimes angling out, and sometimes flat. This was done for a total of 12 marks, thrown in groups of three, each group consisting of a bird and two dummies in random order, and also with Nate walking and throwing sometimes to the left, sometimes to the right. I'd send Laddie from the appropriate side depending on which direction Nate was throwing.

After those 12 short marks, I also had Nate throw two 100-yard singles 45° apart as a reward for Laddie's progress.

Series C was shorter than Series A, with less experimenting. By now, Laddie was able to maintain his hold even if I tapped on the article, and the strategy of throwing the bird for Laddie to catch it deep in his mouth and trying to reinforce that way of holding it seemed to be shaping a deeper carrying position for the retrieves as well. Laddie was making progress, but he still tended to hold both dummies and birds too gently while sitting, and to release them too soon as I reached for them. It seemed clear that re-training Laddie's delivery was going to take considerable time.

Then something happened that gave me cause for optimism that it might go faster after all.

Breakthough: the Walk-Off. As we were returning to the van after the last mark, I decided to try Laddie out on "get your bird". I was reluctant to do so because I was concerned that he might start chewing it rather than just carrying it, but I quickly saw that my concern was misplaced. Glancing over at him, I saw that Laddie looked much like Lumi when she's carrying a bird back to the van. He trotted lightly beside me with head high, a purposed retriever with his prey held deeply and firmly in his mouth.

Suddenly I had an inspiration. I cued "sit", stepped close to Laddie's side, and as I did so, he quickly pushed the bird forward in his mouth, anticipating "out" and a likely opportunity for a retrieve. But I didn't take the bird! Instead, I stepped briskly forward, waved him out of his sit, and said with a laugh, "come on, bring your bird." Lo and behold, he shifted the bird to the back of his mouth again and resumed trotting along beside me.

I did this several more times, and soon Laddie realized that it was pointless to push the bird forward because I wasn't going to take it. Thereafter, he kept it in the back of his mouth as he sat waiting for me to step away again.

Once that became a pattern, I began to add gestures of reaching for the bird, very slightly at first, eventually actually touching it. But after each gesture, I'd start forward again without ever taking it. Laddie became better and better at holding the bird deep the entire time.

I believe that for the immediate future, the best strategy would be for Laddie to never know, even if I put my hand on a retrieval article, whether I'm actually going to cue "out" and take the article, or instead pull my hand away and start walking forward cueing Laddie to join me. Since he seems to enjoy carrying his bird like a big dog, cueing him to come out of the sit and walk with me will hopefully act as positive reinforcement for him to keep the bird in the desired position until I actually cue "out".

Unfortunately, Laddie has rehearsed his incorrect delivery behavior many times over the last few months, so I don't expect to solve this problem overnight. But today's results were promising, and if Laddie never knows whether or not I'm going to cue "out", we may have a strategy that will show results fairly quickly despite his previous history. I can then hope that a new delivery pattern, reinforced many times in the days to come by pleasant outcomes whether I take the bird or not, will eventually become Laddie's new habit of delivery.

I think this technique deserves a name. I think I'll call it a walk-off.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Angle-in, Diversion Drill, Marks and Blinds, Marks

In today's morning session, both dogs got some easy practice on the angle-in cast at our neighborhood lacross field. In the afternoon, we went to Fair Hill with Nate, where Laddie continued thru the diversion drill (DD) process, Lumi had another series of marks and blinds, and Laddie had a series of three marks. The series were as follows:
  • Series A. Angle-in drill (both dogs)
  • Series B. DD with throws away from the line (TAL), left-to-right (Laddie)
  • Series C. Three marks and four blinds (Lumi)
  • Series D. Three marks (Laddie)
Series A. This was intended as an easy, low-stress drill to develop confidence in the angle-in cast. We were working on lawn to minimize distractions from the objective of the drill.

First I placed an SL pole and three target poles separated by nearly 90° from one another. Proceeding clockwise:
  1. 20 yards
  2. 40 yards
  3. 60 yards
Next, I ran first Lumi, then Laddie, thru the identical drill, using a single orange dummy and a single bird:
  • Bring dog to heel facing #1.
  • Throw dummy 15° to the left of #1, 10 yards from the SL.
  • Send dog to #1, WS.
  • Cue angle-in to left.
  • Dog retrieves dummy and delivers to heel.
  • Happy throw with bird.
  • Repeat for #2, except that the dummy is thrown to the right of #2.
  • Repeat for #3, with the dummy thrown to the left of #3 and a different sequence after delivery.
For #3, instead of a happy throw with the bird, the reinforcement sequence for delivery was a poorman mark with the orange dummy, interrupted by WSOR with bird. The purpose was to continue intermittent reinforcement with WSOR-with-bird in other contexts besides the double-T drill, since WSOR-with-bird seems to have played an important role in improving Laddie's returns and may have also improved Lumi's speed of pick-ups.

Lumi did fine on today's angle-in drill, with excellent performance and motivation. Her only problem was that on #3, she ran to the dummy rather than the pole when sent from heel. I handled her to the pole.

Laddie also did fine on today's angle-in drill, with excellent performance and Laddie's usual over-the-top exuberance. His only problem was that on #2, he interpreted the angle-in cast as a cast to pole #3, since from that angle the course resembled a pinball set-up. I stopped him with a WS, re-cued the angle-in, and this time he got it right.

Series B. This was Laddie's first DD with throws away from the line (TAL). For this DD, Nate was throwing right to left from a position on the left side of the line. He threw from 30, 45, and 60 yards. As usual, he wore white, sat in a chair when he wasn't throwing, and fired a gunshot before each throw.

Laddie had no difficulty with this drill. He lined the four runs to the pile, and pinned the three marks.

The only difficulty Laddie had was related to a change I made in his handling. Based on correspondence with Alice and Jody, I avoided all extrinsic reinforcement on Laddie's retrieves, which included silence as he was returning from each fall. I realized after the drill that that change correlated to something new in Laddie's behavior: He slowed down considerably on his returns, sometimes only trotting or even walking, instead of his customary exuberant gallop. I don't think this was because he was demotivated, though it may have appeared that way and perhaps it was. I think it's more likely that it was because he was not certain he was performing correctly, and was showing hesitance.

I decided that I made too precipitous a change, and decided that for the marks he would run in Series D, I still would not use extrinsic reinforcement at the time of delivery, but I would return to calling out "Good job!" and so forth as he came racing back with the article. Over time, I'll reduce that and perhaps eventually fade it out, once he's not dependent on that information to know that he'll be rewarded (by another retrieve) for a good return and delivery.

Series C. For this series, Lumi ran a series of three marks (birds) and four blinds (orange dummies marked by orange lining poles), in the following order:
  1. 60 yard mark (thrown away from the line to #2)
  2. 80 yard blind
  3. 100 yard mark (thrown over the line to #4)
  4. 120 yard blind
  5. 140 yard mark (thrown toward the line to #6)
  6. 160 yard blind
  7. 200 yard blind
The three marks were all thrown by Nate right to left, using positions marked by a chair and two stickmen.

Lumi's performance was good to excellent on all the retrieves except #2. On #2, she slipped a series of whistles, went into hunt mode, and picked up the dummy despite my repeated whistles for her to sit. Once she had the dummy, I called out "sit", walked out, slipped on her lead, picked up the dummy she had dropped as I approached, and walked her back to the SL.

The only other difficulty she had was that she began digging back at 20 yards out during #7, that is, sitting on the whistle and taking the cast but then immediately swerving back to her old, incorrect line. With a number of strategies — including quick whistles, helpful casts (over instead of angle back), and calling in a few yards before recasting — she finally broke out of that and ran the remaining 180 yards on a line directly to the blind.

Series D. To finish the day, Nate threw three birds for Laddie at the 80-120-160 yard positions from the first three blinds in Series C. For Series D, the lining poles for those three positions were replaced by a chair and two stickmen.

Laddie pinned all three marks and showed his thrilling, tumbling pick-ups, and his returns were also excellent until he got close to the SL. Then he showed some of his playful behavior rather than the crisp deliveries we need to develop.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Disciplined Casting, De-Cheating for High Grass, Diversion Drill, SBLB Drill

This morning, we trained at our permanent double-T drill course at Fair Hill first, then moved to another home site across the lane for some work with high grass. In the afternoon, we went to Sundown Park for Laddie's diversion drill and Lumi's short-bird-long-bird drill. The series were as follows:
  • Series A. Disciplined casting (DC) on the double-T course (Laddie only)
  • Series B. Three short blinds requiring entries to high cover (both dogs)
  • Series C. De-cheating drill on high cover (both dogs)
  • Series D. Diversion drill (DD), throw-toward-line (TTL), right to left (Laddie only)
  • Series E. Short-bird-long-bird (SBLB) drill (Lumi only)
Series A. Although Laddie showed good progress on DC yesterday, I felt he still could use more practice with it on our double-T course. Using the full 110-yard backline the entire time, Laddie ran the following series without difficulty:
  1. Thru to P2, WS-on-return (WSOR) with no thrown bird at P, DC over to P1, WSOR (thrown bird, delivery, send to bird)
  2. Thru to P2, WSOR (no bird) in front of Q, angle back to Q3, WSOR (bird)
  3. WS at P, over to P1 (pick-up), WSOR near Q, DC over to Q1, WSOR (bird)
  4. Thru to P2, WSOR (no bird) at P, angle-in right (throw not seen), WSOR (2 birds thrown during the stop)
  5. Thru to P2, no stop on return, poorman single with bird
Site with High Grass. Both dogs have seen high grass at group training (various sites), and private training at Cheltenham, many times since last spring, but today I discovered a home site in the Fair Hill new home construction area with similar terrain to those locations. The site is covered in dry, clumpy, ankle-high grass but also includes several large patches of waist-high grass. Other areas of the site are too overgrown with prickly vegetation. The site is roughly 150 yards square, but because of the overgrown patches, I haven't been able to isolate too many usable lines suitable for running the dogs. The site does, however, seem to have ample opportunity for short drills thru high grass.

Series B. Because both dogs have fairly extensive experience running marks thru strips of tall grass, I did not expect the grass to be a problem. My goal was to work on Lumi's apparent confusion yesterday at being cast to an obscured dummy with no lining pole, and to use the same course as an easy triple blind for Laddie now that he has completed, or at least nearly completed, his work on the double-T.

The course I set up was:
  1. 40 yards to orange dummy behind a patch of high grass, no lining pole
  2. 50 yards thru a large patch of high grass to an orange dummy and orange lining pole
  3. 60 yards to an orange dummy in a small patch of high grass, no lining pole
Lumi running first had no slipped whistles and took all casts into open ground, but to my surprise was confused by the large patch of high grass on #2 and avoided casts into it. She would turn toward the edge of the grass, take a step, then turn to try to go around it. I moved close until at last I was close enough for her to take the cast, but there were several refusals before I got close enough.

Laddie slipped one whistle, stopped on the quick second whistle. He stopped the first time on all other WSs. Like Lumi, he attempted to cheat around the high cover on #2, but soon took the cast more easily than Lumi.

Series C. Once I realized that both dogs were tending to cheat around high grass, I ran both of them on a first, simple de-cheating drill:
  1. With the dog in a sit facing me, I threw an orange dummy left-to-right 10 yards over a strip of high grass to the dog's right side. Leaving the dog in a sit, I backed away ten yards (actually, I turned my back and walked forward 10 yards, then turned back to face the dog), then cast the dog with "over" to the dummy.
  2. Same as #1, except that the throw was right-to-left over the strip of high grass and I backed away 25 yards.
  3. Same as #2, except that the throw was again left-to-right and I backed away 50 yards.
Laddie had no problem with this drill. Lumi was reluctant to enter the tall grass on #1 and #3, but took the cast the second time on each one. She had no problem with #2.

When the weather warms up, we plan to start some de-cheating drills with water. Since it's still too cold for that, this seems like a convenient time to do similar kinds of drills with high grass. Some of the things I think we should work on:
  • More work with "over" at greater distances, including casting "over" after sending out from heel
  • Lining from heel thru high grass
  • Angle back into high grass
  • Angle in into high grass
  • DC over thru high grass after send-out and pick-up
  • DC angle-in thru high grass after send-out and pick-up
Series D. Continuing with the diversion drill sequence recommended by Alice, today Nate threw toward the line (TTL) right to left. Laddie's performance was joyous and accurate, on both the marks and the send-outs to the pile.

Series E. Today we tried the short-bird-long-bird drill recommended by Alice. With three throwing stations only slightly offset from one another, Nate threw three birds:
  1. 40 yards, right to left
  2. 100 yards, left to right
  3. 160 yards, right to left
During the entire time, a stickman and a chair remained at the station for #1. After Lumi retrieved #1, she and I went to play in a nearby wood while Nate walked to the station for #2, then called "ready" when he arrived. After Lumi retrieved #2, she and I again went away to play while Nate walked to the station for #3.

Although Lumi has shown some difficulty in picking out the long gun at group training, she had no difficulty picking out Nate for any of these marks. As soon as we came to the line each time, she immediately fixed her focus on Nate, and never took her eyes off the fall until sent. She didn't seem at all distracted by the gear at #1 when Nate was throwing #2 and #3. She pinned every mark, and raced back with every bird.

It was good to see Lumi's exuberance, since she has seemed comparatively down in our handling work.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Disciplined Casting, Y-drill, Blinds

With Renee's mother in the hospital, I did not want to be away all day at group training. In addition, Nate and Bryan were unavailable to help today, so so the dogs and I had two solo training sessions. We went to Fair Hill for Series A in the morning, then to Sundown Park for Series B and C in the afternoon. The series were as follows:
  • Series A. Both dogs, second session of disciplined casting on the double-T course
  • Series B. Lumi, triple blind working on keyhole concept
  • Series C. Laddie, three cold blinds in what I call a Y-drill
Conditions. The day was sunny and cool with wind calm. Both locations were on lawn.

Series A. Because both dogs have been reliable on initial lines, whistle sits, and casting for some time, I decided to keep today's drill short and focused entirely on disciplined casting (DC), in which the dog is first sent to an article, and is then blown to a WS and cast after picking up the article. To focus on DC:
  • The course included a single at Q1, P1, P3, and Q3 with no poles. The dogs retrieved any of those.
  • The course included six dummies at P2.
  • All send-outs were thru-to-P2, with no WSs before the dog picked up a dummy at P2.
Here's the series I planned to use with both dogs:
  1. 40-yard backline (BL): Thru to P2, WS-on-return (WSOR) at P, over to P1, WS, thrown bird, delivery, send to bird
  2. 70-yard BL: Thru to P2, WSOR at Q, over to Q3, WS, thrown bird, delivery, send to bird
  3. 110-yard BL: Thru to P2, no stop on return, poorman single with a bird
  4. 110-yard BL: Thru to P2, WSOR at Q, over to Q1, WS, thrown bird, delivery, send to bird
  5. 110-yard BL: Thru to P2, WSOR at P, over to P3, WS, thrown bird, delivery, send to bird
  6. 110-yard BL: Thru to P2, no stop on return, poorman double with two birds
Although Laddie had shown complete reliability on WS when not carrying an article in previous T and double-T drills, he slipped 3-4 whistles when carrying a bird. Whe he did not stop on the first whistle, he always stopped when I then blew a second, more insistent whistle.

Lumi stopped without my whistling on her return from #3, probably based on the large percentage of WSORs we have been doing lately, and possibly also feeling stressed by the new concept of the DC. I called her in, threw a bird for her, and we repeated #3. She did the same thing. Then another repeat, and another. Finally, the fourth time we ran #3, she ran all the way out, picked up a dummy, and ran all the way back. I rewarded with food and a poorman single and called it quits.

Series B. This afternoon at Sundown Park, Laddie ran three Y-drills, my name for a drill in which Laddie is sent to a lining pole with a pinned orange dummy, then stopped and cast to different lining pole with an orange dummy to be retrieved. The idea is that if Laddie slips the whistle and attempts to retrieve the dummy he was originally sent to, the slipped whistle is punished by being unable to retrieve the dummy.

The course we ran today's Y-drill was as follows:
  • An orange dummy pinned with an orange lining pole at 60 yards
  • Three blinds with orange lining poles and orange dummies:
  1. 80 yards, 30° to the left of the line to the pinned dummy (PD)
  2. 120 yards, 15° to the left of the line to the PD
  3. 120 yards, 30° to the right of the line to the PD
Woods were to the right of our course, acting as suction on #3.

For #1, Laddie was sent to the PD, then stopped and cast to #1. He had no trouble with that.

For #2, Laddie was sent to the PD, then stopped and cast to #2. Instead of running to #2, he ran back to the pole at #1. I blew a WS before he reached #1, but he did not stop until he reached the pole. Then he stopped. Although this was a slipped whistle, I did not see it as an out-of-control behavior because he has trained dozens of times on pinball drills, and except for being stopped before picking up the pinned dummy, this was identical to a pinball drill.

For #3, I sent Laddie on a line to #3 but he was pulled to the right by the woods. He slowed but did not instantly stop on my whistle, so I blew again and this time he did stop. He then took the left angle back directly to #3.

It appears that Laddie's work on the T-drill makes Y-drill unnecessary, since the purpose of the pinned dummy is to punish a slipped whistle and Laddie never attempted to pick up the pinnned dummy. It also appears that we need to keep the blinds short and easy to make sure that Laddie's responsiveness to whistles strengthens, reinforced by success, rather than weakens from succeeding with incorrect responses.

Series C. This was a triple blind for Lumi, with orange dummies at 60-100-200 yards, in each case through a keyhole generally formed by trees on either side of the line to the blind. On #1, I placed the dummy in underbrush making it difficult to see until Lumi was close, and used no lining pole. On #3, a tree was to the left of the line to the blind, while the first-base fence for a baseball field was to the right of the blind.

Lumi had no slipped whistles on this course, but she had several refused casts and several returns to her old direction after initially taking a cast (which I believe is called scalloping). In addition, her slow speed and body language indicated stress, poor motivation, or both. She seemed confused by the lack of a lining pole on #1, and repeatedly entered the baseball field rather than taking the line between the tree and the fence.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Disciplined Casting

Because DW Renee's mother went into the hospital for surgery yesterday, the dogs and I did no training yesterday, and had only a single session today, on our double-T course at Fair Hill.

I tried both dogs out on disciplined casting (DC) today, stopping and casting them after they had picked up the dummy at P2. Not realizing how confusing it would be, I tried it out on Laddie (who runs first while Lumi honors) on the full double-T course, and he was totally flummoxed. So we did some work on a small T and then he had no trouble with it.

Learning my lesson, I started Lumi out on a small T and she also had no trouble with it.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Double-T, Laddie on DD, Marks and Blinds, Marks

Today We had Series A in the morning at Fair Hill, then Series B, C, and D at Oaks in the afternoon with Nate and Bryan. Bryan took the video of Series B shown below. The day's series were as follows:
  • Series A. Both dogs, double-T, including angle-ins with the dummies thrown while the dogs were running out
  • Series B. Laddie's first diversion drill (DD) since beginning to train on the T and double-T: TTL thrown left to right.
  • Series C. Lumi, three marks and four blinds at 80-120-160-200 yards.
  • Series D. Laddie, three marks at 80-160-120 yards.
Conditions. Today was sunny but blustery, with a high temp in the 50s and with wind gusts up to 30 MPH from variable directions. The wind turned out to be a significant distraction in both sessions today, reducing the quality of work with both dogs as well. It proved distracting for me as trainer and handler, and reduced the quality of my work, too.

Discovering that a high wind could be so distracting for the dogs and me was a learning experience in itself.

Series A. This was planned as our second double-T with the angle-in. Today, we ran the angle-ins by throwing the dummy while the dog was running toward P2, rather than first letting the dog see a throw. The terrain was such that the dog could not see it lying on the ground from the position of the WS, and had to come in and angle in the direction indicated by my arm position without be able to see the dummy until the dog got close.

As mentioned above, the high wind, which kept changing directions but was mostly a headwind on out T-drill course, turned out to be quite disruptive to our work.

As on previous days, we used a lot of whistle-sit-on-return (WSOR) and double-WSOR (DWSOR). After each sit, I would throw a bird, then whistle recall. The dog would deliver the dummy picked up at P2, and I'd then send the dog to the bird or birds that had been thrown. Besides building morale and improving performance on the pick-ups and returns, the DWSOR also acted as a mini-double memory drill.

The planned sequence was as follows:
  1. Thru to P2, WSOR
  2. Thru to P2, DWSOR
  3. WS at P, left back to P2, WSOR
  4. Thru to P2
  5. WS at P, right back to P2
  6. Thru to P2, WSOR
  7. Thru to P2, DWSOR
  8. WS at Q, angle in right
  9. Thru to P2
  10. WS at Q, angle in left
  11. Thru to P2, WSOR
  12. Thru to P2, DWSOR
  13. WS at Q, over to Q3, WSOR
  14. Thru to P2
  15. WS at Q, over to Q1
The dogs were sent from the following sides:
LLLLLRRRRRLLLLL
Laddie's performance was excellent. The only problem was that three times on his way to P2, he ran to Q and the diverted toward Q1. I believe these lapses were a loss of concentration resulting from the difficult wind conditions.

Lumi was even more affected by the wind, and had four WILs in the first five send-outs. I decided to run a good thru-to-P2 with a DWSOR.

I had tentatively decided not to run Lumi on the double-T any more and work on other things with her in that time slot, but after correspondence with Alice, I decided that we'd do some disciplined casting, where the dog takes additional handling after picking up the dummy, before discontinuing Lumi's double-T.

Series B. This was Laddie's first work on the diversion drill (DD) since we discontinued several weeks ago and started work on the T-drill instead. Now that Laddie is doing so well on the double-T at Fair Hill, and with marks in the afternoon in the distraction-filled field at Oaks, I felt it was time for Laddie to begin working thru the DD again. We began with throws-toward-line (TTL), the birds thrown left to right.

Here's a video of Laddie on Series B:

video

Notes on the DD:
  • I didn't think about it at the time, but this is a more challenging locale for the DD than our previous work on the DD with both Laddie and Lumi. Challenges include:
    • The thick, clumpy cover, which hides both the thrown birds and the white dummies in the 80-yard pile
    • The distracting scent of deer and other inhabitants of the Oaks field
    • Above all, the roaring wind that accompanied today's training
  • We did not start with a run-thru to the pile with Nate out of the picture, nor with a dry shot as we had in Laddie's previous DD training. Because of Laddie's solid lining on the double-T and previous experience with the DD, I felt he was ready to line to the pile, which was on an 80-yard backline, as soon as we began. That judgment turned out to be correct.
  • We were working with frozen birds, two pigeons and a duck. As the video shows, Laddie had some difficulty maintaining his grip on the birds, especially the duck.
  • Although I attempted to use our WSOR with birds during this drill, the combination of using the WSOR in a drill where we've never used it before, and the distracting wind, resulted in some poor timing on my part.
  • Laddie appears to slip a whistle at one point, when I'm maneuvering him into heel on one of the WSOR deliveries and I inadvertently blow a single tweet. Ideally Laddie would have sat on reflex, but the context was so unusual for a WS — and I didn't actually intend that he sit at that moment — that I ignored the lapse.
  • Laddie also slips a whistle on a later WSOR. When I finally realize he's not going to stop, I blow another WS to which he does respond.
  • On the third send to the pile, Laddie becomes distracted by the terrain (possibly the fall from the first mark) and then turns to face me. Uncertain how to respond, I blow a WS and cast him toward the pile. He takes the cast but on too flat an angle, then responds well to a second WS and cast that takes him the rest of the way.
  • The video includes some horseplay after one of the early returns, and a cool leap at 6:30.
  • Laddie creeps on all Nate's throws in today's drill, and on that last one, I take him out of the game for a moment by repositioning as a mild punishment. I didn't want to get too distracted from the lessons of the DD, but I'm moving toward a zero-tolerance attitude even when creeping occurs when we'e working on other things.

Series C. This was another marks-and-blinds drill for Lumi. All the marks were birds, all the blinds orange dummies at the base of orange lining poles. The sequence was as follows:
  1. Mark thrown away from the line (TAL) for #2
  2. 80-yard blind
  3. Mark thrown toward the line (TTL) for #4
  4. 120-yard blind
  5. Mark thrown over the line (TOL) for #6
  6. 160-yard blind
  7. 200-yard blind
The blinds were, from left to right, 120-200-160-80 yards, separated by 30°. A chair marked the thrower's position for #1. Stickmen marked #3 and #5.

Lumi's performance was good, but not as good as some of our previous marks-and-blinds drills. The additional distance may have been a factor, but I believe that the primary factor was the high wind, which was generally a headwind for the drill. The difficulties Lumi had were as follows:
  • On #1, Lumi overran the bird and needed a big hunt to find it. She didn't need any help.
  • On #7, Lumi became fixated on the 120-yard blind position she had retrieved from earlier, and required half a dozen casts to abandon that location and head toward the 200-yard blind.
  • Two or three times, Lumi slipped whistles on #6 and #7. I believe that the sound of the whistle may have been unusually faint, because of the wind direction and even more because of being drowned out by the noise from the wind.
Series D. For the last series, Laddie ran three marks built on the same course as Series C:
  1. 80-yards (bird), marked by a chair
  2. 160-yards (dummy), marked by a stickman and carried by the wind as an angle-in
  3. 120-yards (bird), marked by a stickman
Laddie pinned all three marks, which I thought was good for this terrain, the thick, clumpy cover into which the thrown articles would sink and become invisible from the SL. His pick-ups and returns were also excellent on #1 and #3.

Unfortunately, however, Laddie went OOC after picking up #2 for a few moments, running back toward Nate and the stickman and ignoring whistle and verbal recall, before suddenly turning back toward me for an excellent return and delivery. Why the lapse? I think it was a combination of reasons:
  • The highly distracting environment of the Oaks field, which is inhabited by a large herd of deer and probably other wildlife
  • The longer distance than we've used in previous marks at Oaks
  • The fact that #2 was a dummy, while Nate was holding a bird bag with a strong bird scent, and the area had already been used for the TOL bird when Lumi was running
  • The wind direction, which was blowing those scents from Nate to the fall of the #2 retrieve
  • Above all, the loud and blustery gusts of wind, which significantly affected my concentration and, I would assume, my dogs' concentration as well

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Double-T with Angle-in

Though a light jacket was enough for today's mild temperatures, it rained all day. We trained on our double-T course at Fair Hill in the morning, but as the rain got heavier, we cancelled our afternoon training.

Today we added the angle-in to the handling cues we were practicing.

Based on previous practice sessions, we also incorporated a majority of send-outs to P2 without blowing WS on the way out. In addition, we used a large number of WS-on-returns (WSORs) and double WSORs (DWSORs). For the DWSORs, I'd stop the dog twice and throw a bird in a different direction each time. Then I'd whistle the dog in to deliver and send the dog to each of the birds, first sending the dog to the last bird thrown, then to the earlier bird thrown.

The combination of straight-thru send-outs and WSORs with birds seemed to greatly increase motivation in both dogs. In Laddie's case, shopping was greatly curtailed, and in Lumi's case, she seemed more confident on her send-outs.

The sequence was as follows:
  1. Thru to P2, WSOR
  2. Thru to P2, WSOR
  3. Thru to P2, DWSOR
  4. WS at P, left back to P2, WSOR
  5. WS at P, right back to P2, WSOR
  6. Thru to P2
  7. Thru to P2, DWSOR
  8. Thru to P2, WSOR
  9. WS between P and P2, throw dummy toward Q1 with dog watching, angle-in right
  10. WS at Q, throw dummy toward Q1 while dog's back turned, angle-in right
  11. Thru to P2, DWSOR
  12. Thru to P2
  13. Thru to P2, WSOR
  14. WS at Q, throw dummy toward Q3 with dog watching, angle-in left
  15. WS at Q, throw dummy toward Q3 while dog's back turned, angle-in left
  16. WS at Q, over to Q1
I understood the directions for how to practice the angle-in as stopping the dog nearly at P2, then cueing an angle-in to a dummy thrown between Q1 (or Q3) and the SL.

However, when I tried that with Laddie on #9, he was confused about whether to pick up P1, Q1, or the new dummy in front of Q1, since all of those were angle-ins from that stopped position.

To eliminate that confusion, I stopped Laddie at Q on the remaining angle-in retrieves, and also stopped Lumi at Q on all of her angle-in retrieves.

In addition to maintaining a high level of motivation, both dogs made almost no mistakes on this drill: no WILs, no slipped whistles. They each had a single refused cast at different points, and in each case were responsive to additional WSs and casts to the correct target.

One last note: I don't think I mentioned that about three days ago, I stopped using lining poles at any position other than P2 and the SL. I didn't notice any decline in performance, and it seemed a more realistic preparation for handling to cold blinds.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Double-T, Marks, Marks and Blinds

Today's schedule was the same as yesterday, both in terms of locations (Fair Hill in the morning, Oaks in the afternoon) and in terms of the sequence of activities:
  • Series A. Both dogs, double-T drill
  • Series B. Laddie, marks (60-80-100)
  • Series C. Lumi, marks and blinds (100-120-140-160)
  • Series D. Laddie, marks (100-120-140)
Series A. Based on a suggestion from Alice, I brought along some birds for use as reinforcers for the whistle-stop-on-return (WSOR) maneuver (known as disciplined casting transition, or DCT, in previous journal entries). I had originally planned only 2-3 WSORs, but when I saw their effect on Laddie and later Lumi, I changed the sequence on the fly to incorporate more of them.

The WSORs were run as follows:
  1. Dog is returning toward SL with a dummy.
  2. I blow WS. This could be at P, at Q, or as close as 20 feet from SL.
  3. I throw a bird toward one side or the other of the SL.
  4. I whistle recall.
  5. As the dog approaches, I turn to face the thrown bird.
  6. The dog delivers at heel.
  7. I send the dog to the bird.
I also ran two variations of the WSOR. The first was WSOR-throw-WSOR-no-throw, in which I blew WS twice during the dog's return, and threw a bird while the dog was in the first sit. The second was double-WSOR, in which I blew WS twice and threw a bird to a different location each time the dog was in the sit. When the dog delivered the original dummy, the dog was then sent to each of the birds.

We did not run a third variation, WSOR-no-throw-WSOR-throw. I realized later that Alice had said that variation would be easier than the other two, but it turns out neither dog has had a problem with any WSOR (or, previously, DCT) variation that we have tried.

The double-WSOR was so exciting that both dogs took at least two WILs on the following send-out before getting the line right. The bird scent on the ground may also have been a factor, though blown minds seemed to be the main issue. While double-WSOR wasn't great for their accuracy, it seemed to crank up their motivation level higher than ever on the double-T drill.

Overall, the WSORs with birds and their variations seemed to improve nearly every phase of the dogs' performance: focus at the SL (especially on the later send-outs), speed on send-out (more noticeable with Lumi, since Laddie had showed only microscopic slowdown anyway), and speed of pick-up (more noticeable with Laddie, who likes to shop but did almost none of it today, whereas Lumi stopped shopping some weeks ago). It almost seemed that the dogs were disappointed when I did not cue a WSOR on a few of the returns.

The sequence both dogs ran today was as follows:
  1. Thru to P2, WSOR
  2. Thru to P2, WSOR
  3. Thru to P2
  4. WS at Q, over to Q3, WSOR
  5. WS at Q, over to Q1
  6. Thru to P2, WSOR
  7. Thru to P2, WSOR-throw-WSOR-no-throw
  8. Thru to P2
  9. WS at P, over to P1, WSOR
  10. WS at P, over to P3
  11. Thru to P2, double-WSOR
  12. Thru to P2, WSOR
  13. Thru to P2
  14. WS at P, right back to P2, WSOR
  15. WS at P, left back to P2
Series B. Like yesterday, Series B was a sequence of six marks for Laddie, alternating birds and dummies thrown from three stations so that each throw had a different fall. Today's stations were 20 yards longer than yesterday's: 60-80-100 yards. Today's configuration was a pyramid. The stations were marked with a chair and two stickmen. Throws were angled back requiring Laddie to run past the thrower on the way out and on the way back.

After seeing the effect on WSORs on the dogs' double-T performance, I decided to try it on each of Laddie's marks this afternoon. After two retrieves — one bird and one dummy, each interrupted on the return with a WS, a throw of a bird, a recall for delivering the original mark, and a send-out to the thrown bird — Laddie was like a new dog. The remainder of the day, every return was a laser.

Series C. Like yesterday, Series C was a combination of three marks and four blinds for Lumi. The marks were all birds, the blinds were all orange dummies positioned at orange lining poles. I used WSORs with some of Lumi's returns, and may have seen some improvement in picking up birds, but it's hard to tell because Lumi was already getting pretty good.

The distances of the four blinds were 100-120-140-160 yards, in a fairly tight overall angle (less than 90°) in random order. The marks were thrown as various combinations of TTL, TAL, and TOL with respect to the lines to the blinds from positions marked with a chair and two stickmen. The sequence was:
  1. Mark
  2. Blind
  3. Mark
  4. Blind
  5. Mark
  6. Blind
  7. Blind
Lumi was a bit confused on some of the send-outs on blinds, and in one case scalloped rather than holding the line she had been cast on, requiring a series of several casts to the same side to get her moving that direction. But those seemed like minor and normal problems given Lumi's inexperience with mixed marks and blinds, and I'd expect both of them to improve as Lumi gains confidence in our communication with one another.

Series D. Like yesterday, I ran one last series for Laddie with three marks thrown from the shortest of the four blind poles from Series C. A chair and two stickmen were placed where those three blind poles had been. The distances were 100-120-140 yards, with the shortest to the right and the longest to the left. The articles were bird-dummy-bird, and the throws were angled back.

The WSORs from Series B had seemed to work a miracle. Every return in Series D was a laser run at full gallop, never stopping to play, yet screeching to a halt when I would blow a WS. I did so on #1 and #2. On #3, I let Laddie come all the way to me, then threw a bird I had waiting as soon as he completed his delivery. I think throwing a bird with the WSOR is more reinforcing for Laddie — I'm not sure why that would be — but I also think it's important that he not be able to predict what specific reinforcer I have in store for him, since we won't be able to use a WSOR with a thrown bird in competition.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Double-T, Marks and Blinds, Marks

Today seemed an especially productive day of training, each dog getting exactly what that dog needed at this moment in the dog's development. The morning session (Series A) was at Fair Hill construction site, our permanent site for the double-T drill. The afternoon session (Series B, C, and D) was at the field next to Oaks Landfill, a field apparently rich in distracting scents and so useful for distraction-proofing.

The series were as follows:
  • Series A. Both dogs, double-T drill on the 110-yard backline
  • Series B. Laddie, short marks for distraction-proofing (40-60-80 yards)
  • Series C. Lumi, marks combined with blinds (80-100-120-140 yards)
  • Series D. Laddie, more short marks (80-100-120 yards)
Series A. This was our second session on the double-T drill. In an attempt to improve motivation, and also to give Lumi more practice lining straight to P2, I used a sequence of 14 retrieves with only two overs (we didn't pick up P1 or P3) and two backs.

In rereading Alice's suggestions for the double-T, I noticed that I had not been doing one thing she had suggested, occasionally calling the dogs back from a WS without casting them to a dummy. Today I included a couple of those in the sequence as well.

This was what I came up with:
  1. Thru
  2. Thru
  3. Q1
  4. Thru, then disciplined casting transition (DCT) on return
  5. Thru
  6. Q3
  7. WS at P, then recall
  8. Thru
  9. Right back
  10. Thru, then DCT on return
  11. Thru
  12. Left back
  13. WS at P, then recall
  14. Thru
As usual lately, I ran Laddie first with Lumi honoring, then put Laddie in the van to run Lumi.

LADDIE

Laddie didn't do too badly, but not as well as last time. He diverted to P1 on three of the intended "Thru's". He seemed confused and demotivated by the two recalls without a dummy. Since it seemed to be punishing, I think I'll save it in the future for things I want to discourage such as slipped whistles rather than when they're doing everything correctly. Today, he had no slipped whistles, as well as no WILs nor refused casts.

LUMI

Lumi also had no WILs for the first time at 110 yards, no slipped whistles, no refused casts. However, Lumi's send-outs continuously slowed down. The DCTs do not seem to be a problem for either dog, and may even be reinforcing, but recall without a dummy is a killer.

On #14, I decided to send Lumi, then as soon as she took a couple of steps, break into a run beside her as though racing her to P2. She perked right up and galloped the rest of the way, leaving me behind. I think I'll try doing this intermittently in the future with both dogs, any time I see one of them slowing down on send-outs.

Series B. I set up three stations at 40-60-80 yards (indent configuration, the 40-yard mark in the center) for Nate to throw from at the Oaks field to work on distraction-proofing his returns on marks. We placed a chair at the 40-yard station, stickmen at the other two. I then had Nate stand well in front of each station and throw on a sharp angle back so that the articles fell at the same level as the chair and stickmen. He threw three birds and three dummies in the following sequence:
  1. A bird left to right at 40 yards
  2. A dummy right to left at 60 yards
  3. A bird left to right at 80 yards
  4. A dummy right to left at 80 yards
  5. A bird left to right at 60 yards
  6. A dummy right to left at 40 yards
Laddie showed slight RG as he got close to me with the birds. Everything else was great. In particular, he never veered toward Nate or anywhere else offline on any of the returns.

Series C. This was Lumi's first drill combining marks and blinds, following a diagram suggested by Alice. While I put Laddie in the van, I asked Nate to make up a course with four blinds at 80-100-120-140 yards in random sequence and at various angles of his choice. Next I placed the two stickmen and chair for Nate to throw from, positioned so that Lumi would have at least one TAL, one TTL, and one TOL. We then ran the sequence:
  1. Mark
  2. Blind
  3. Mark
  4. Blind
  5. Mark
  6. Blind
  7. Blind
Lumi did great. On the marks, she pinned every mark with no sign of RG. On the blinds, she had no slipped whistles, no refused casts.

Series D. Laddie did so well on Series C that I decided to capitalize on our success and run a similar drill at longer distances. I used the three shorter blind posts from Series C (80-100-120 yards), replacing the posts with the chair and stickmen. I had Nate throw bird, then dummy, then bird.

Laddie did even better in Series D than in Series B, with virtually no RG. As before, he did not run toward Nate nor any other diversion on any of his marks.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Holodeck Training

Holodeck Program
based on guidance from Alice Woodyard and Jody Baker

BEFORE OTHER TRAINERS ARRIVE

  • Bring birds for solo training.
  • Bring high-value treats.
  • Both dogs:
    • Two birds and two dummies on a long line for both dogs.
    • Short poorman marks to two birds and two dummies over bird scent.
  • White jacket.
  • Put collars on both dogs.
  • Load pockets: pistol, ammo, slip cord.
RUNNING LUMI
  • No triples until Lumi is solid on a few doubles at group training.
  • No running Lumi on a blind until we've progressed thru diversion drills in private training.
  • Run long gun last.
  • Use slip cord for flyers and honoring.
  • Cue "sit, mark" before first throw of each series.
  • 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.
RUNNING LADDIE
  • Evaluate whether Laddie can run some version of the set-up without going OOC. If not confident, don't run him.
  • If I decide to run him, run him with dummies for a couple of weeks.
  • No multiples, no blinds.
  • Run shortest to longest as singles.
  • Use slip cord for all marks.
  • Cue "sit, mark" before first throw of each series.
  • Auto-whistle recall on the first two marks of each training day. Based on how Laddie does, consider switching to contingent whistle for the remaining marks of the day.
RECORD KEEPING PER MARK
  • 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)?
AFTER GROUP TRAINING
  • Pay for flyer if used.
Before Group Training

Each dog:
  1. One poorman mark across elbow-high water. Laddie cheated thru narrows both directions (I made no effort to handle), Lumi went straight both directions without handling.
  2. One poorman mark across shallow pond and into a clump of reeds.
  3. One poorman mark thru high cover.
Great pickups, enthusiastic send-outs and returns by both dogs on all marks. Only exception was some hesitancy on both dogs' part to re-enter water on return from #2. Not severe, both dogs responded to "here".

Series A

This was run as a triple by some dogs, in other ways by others. The marks were as follows:
  1. 70 yards thru high cover
  2. 120 yards thru high cover
  3. 210 yards across a channel, then thru a point of water with thick cover of reeds on the left
The configuration — pyramid:
  • #1 was 30° to the right of #3
  • #2 was 75° to the left of #3
LADDIE

Laddie, running as the first dog, ran #1, then #2 as singles with dummies. His ran straight to each dummy and picked it up immediately, then ran toward the thrower in each case. After I whistled and called repeatedly, he turned and then came straight back on the run. No parading, no visiting other stations.

LUMI

Lumi ran the outer marks as a double. The throws were #2 (the memory-bird), then #1 (the go-bird). Then she ran #3 as a single.

#1 was a pigeon flyer, #2 and #3 were ducks.

#1 fell on the far side of a channel, Lumi being one of only two or three dogs this happened to. She hunted around on the near shore, apparently hoping to find something to retrieve there even though she knew where the flyer had landed. Not finding anything, she swam across and retrieved the flyer.

She ran #2 beautifully.

#3 was one of the most difficult marks Lumi has ever run. I thought she did wonderfully, though it wasn't perfect. At the SL, she had trouble finding the thrower, but unlike previous training days, once the thrower waved and called hey-heys, Lumi was able to spot him and keep her focus on him. Once released, she ran straight toward the fall, entered the water into the channel as soon as she reached it, and swam across. She then cheated around the point, wading thru the shallows and the reeds on the left. Nearly all other dogs tried to do the same thing, and in some cases the handlers whistled them to sit and then cast them into the water. I didn't try that. Cheating got her off line and required a hunt for the bird, but she needed no help finding the bird. She came back the same way she came, again entering the channel without hesitation, this time carrying the duck. She dropped the bird to shake when she came out of the water, then picked it up and came running.

Lumi was on a slip cord only for the double, because of the flyer. She did not attempt to break on any of the marks, and showed no hint of RG with any of the birds.

Between Series A and B

During the lunch break, I discussed Laddie's behavior after picking up dummies with one of the other trainers. He grabbed three bumpers and a pistol, and we walked to a nearby field to try an experiment. As I handled Laddie, Charlie threw walking singles:
  • At 50 yards, right to left, straight across rather than angling in or back
  • At 75 yards, left to right, angling slightly back
  • At 100 yards, right to left, with a sharp angle back
On the first throw, Laddie came straight back to me. On the second, Laddie took one step toward Charlie, then came running back. On the third, Laddie ran all the way to Charlie before turning to me and running back.

Charlie's observation: "Laddie's running toward the first white coat he sees."

Series B

This was another triple in a different part of the property. The marks were as follows:
  1. 150 yards, at higher elevation than the SL and thrown into high cover, with woods 50 yards to the left
  2. 170 yards, crossing a diagonal strip of high cover
  3. 310 yards, thru standing water, thrown from a mound obscued by trees into open but sunken ground not visible until the dog cleared a small ridge 290 yards from the SL
The SL was also on a mound, and the configuration was another pyramid:
  • #1 was 75° to the left of #3
  • #2 was 45° to the right of #3
The sight line between #1 and #3 was a barn 200 yards from the SL, with several carpenters at work on the siding.

LADDIE

Laddie again ran as the first dog, and ran all the marks as singles with bumpers: #1, then #2, then #3.

On #1, he ran straight to the fall, picked up the bumper, then ran past the thrower toward the woods. I ran out to him, and even though he had turned and come running toward me, I slipped on his lead, took the bumper, and walked him back to the SL.

On #2, after a laser mark, Laddie ran away from the SL at first, circled around the cover, and then raced back to me with the dummy. I don't know if he was freelancing or cheating around the cover.

On #3, Laddie ran straight out, picked the dummy up immediately, and ran straight back. During his return, I maintained a near continuous series of recall whistles and voice cues. I believe #3 is the longest mark Laddie has ever run. I have no idea why only on this last mark of the day, Laddie came straight back with the dummy.

LUMI

Despite the distances, this was one of the easier triples we've seen with this group, and it seemed like a good opportunity for Lumi to try it as a triple. I had the marks, which were all ducks, thrown longest to shortest, then tried to have Lumi retrieve them in the reverse order.

Unfortunately, it didn't work out, but I don't think it was because Lumi had trouble memorizing all three falls. Instead, I think the problem was that she took her eyes off the long Gun after the gunshot (possibly because of echoes) and did not see the throw.

This did not happen with the other marks. Lumi kept her eyes on #2 until I turned to fact #1. Then she kept her eyes there until I sent her. She made the retrieves on #1 and #2 look easy.

When it was time to retrieve #3, she wouldn't look toward that Gun at first. I called for waves and noise, and then she began to stare out at the Gun, but when I tried to send her, she looked up at me. "Why are you sending me, Daddy? The guy hasn't thrown a bird yet." Then I asked for a silent re-throw, and Lumi did great on that last retrieve.

Though most people in our training group run the long bird first when they run it as a single, when Lumi was running singles, it made sense for her to run the long bird last.

But now that Lumi seems ready to run triples, but blew this one because she looked away from the long gun without watching the throw, it seems to me that it would make sense to have her begin running long guns first as singles. Once she begins to expect the long bird as a single and consistently keeps her eyes on the station until sent, we could then start combining the long bird with a second mark in the series as a double, or even with both other birds as a triple.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Double-T, Marks

Today both dogs ran their first Double-T drill, using our permanent course at Fair Hill in the morning. Then in the afternoon, we returned to the field next to Oaks Landfill with Nate and Bryan for a series of singles thrown by Nate for both dogs, a second series of singles thrown by Nate for Laddie, and a series of poorman marks thrown by me.

The day's series were as follows:
  • Series A. Both dogs: Double-T
  • Series B. Both dogs: Single marks at 60-80-100 yards
  • Series C. Laddie: Single marks at 40-60-80 yards
  • Series D. Both dogs: Poorman marks
Series A. After running both dogs in the T-drill with a 110-yard backline yesterday — Lumi requiring some shortening of the distance because of wrong initial lines (WILs) — today I felt it was time for both dogs to progress to the double-T.

The double-T is run on the same permanent course as the T-drill, to remove lining as a primary concern. Here's a diagram of the double-T layout with proportions recommended by Alice:



The colors came from Alice's diagram, but the labels are mine. I numbered P1-P3 like the bases of a baseball diamond, and used no Q2.

The distances are as follows:

  • SL (the start line) to P2: 110 yards (the backline)
  • P to P1, P2, and P3: 20 yards
  • Q to Q1, P, and Q3: 30 yards

  • I tried to come up with an easy sequence for the dogs' first experience with the double-T. This is the sequence I decided on:
    1. WS at Q, over to Q3
    2. Thru to P2
    3. WS at P, over to P3
    4. Thru to P2
    5. WS at P, left back to P2
    6. Thru to P2
    7. WS at Q, over to Q1
    8. Thru to P2
    9. WS at P, over to P1
    10. Thru to P2
    11. WS at P, right back to P2
    12. Thru to P2
    LADDIE

    I thought Laddie did well for his first experience with the double-T: no WILs, no slipped whistles, only one cast refusal.

    On #9, he interpreted the right "over" as a right "back". I stopped him with a WS, recast "over", and he took a right angle in toward Q1. I stopped him as he neared Q1 with another WS and used a left "back", which took him to P1.

    LUMI

    Because Lumi is still learning to line to P2 on her send-outs, she continues to have several WILs per session, which lead to my using "no here" to call her back, then resending from several yards closer. While her lining is improving, she often is slow and halting on her send-outs, taking her time until she's certain that she's going the correct direction. Hopefully this problem will disappear once her lining skill improves to the point that she's no longer having WILs and therefore no longer getting called back.

    Aside from the WILs, Lumi's performance was excellent: no slipped whistles, no refused casts.

    After several WILs, I experimented twice with what initially looked like WILs to Q3 or P3 by not calling her back. As I suspected might happen, she self-corrected her line and headed toward P2 after 30 yards. Apparently she wanted to arc to the left, or possibly was using some visual cues to set her line, like a bowler using the marks painted on the alley.

    To build motivation and give more practice lining to P2, I changed #9 to "Thru to P2". When Lumi arrived at P2 on #12, she looked around confused, and I suddenly realized there were no dummies there. I cued a come-in, WS at P, and right "over" to P1.

    Series B. When we arrived at the field next to Oaks Landfill this afternoon, I set up a series of short singles for Laddie and then Lumi.

    The series was intended to continue distraction-proofing Laddie by slowly increasing his distance for running in this field, filled with the scent of deer and other wildlife, after yesterday's runs of 30-50-70 yards here. I decided to have Lumi run the same course to give her an easy, low-mileage series.

    Today's marks, thrown by Nate and videotaped by Bryan, were as follows
    1. 60 yards, marked with a chair (a fairly fresh pigeon)
    2. 80 yards, marked with a stickman (a recently defrosted duck)
    3. 100 yards, marked with a stickman (another recently defrosted duck)
    The marks increased in distance left to right:
    • #2 was 30° to the right of #1
    • #3 was 30° to the right of #2
    All marks were thrown left to right.

    LADDIE

    Laddie's resource guarding behaviors increased today in comparison with yesterday's series. He stopped to roll on the bird during his return on #2, so I had Nate come in 30 yards closer on #3. After additional problems on #3, I threw the bird for him several times as soon as he returned as reinforcement for the return, intended to make completing the return more valuable to him in the future.

    Here's a video of Laddie on Series B, videographed by Bryan:

    video

    LUMI

    I took my time sending the dogs today after each bird was down, and Lumi started the series by taking off on #1 before I released her. She returned in good spirits on "here" and then ran the rest of the day without another break.

    She pinned every mark despite the fact that the birds were not easily visible in the clumpy cover. Her returns were OK, but she took longer picking up the birds than I wanted. It did not look like resource guarding to me, rather being overly fussy about how to get a good grip on the birds. She acts the same way picking up other articles she has difficulty with, such as keys or a ladle. Perhaps we could improve her pickup speed by practicing little retrieves of difficult articles at home in the evenings, or with some short pile work with birds on a long line.

    Bryan took a video of Lumi running Series B while also holding Laddie's lead. You can hear Laddie vocalizing and see the effect of his occasionally pulling Bryan's arm while he was trying to aim the videocamera:

    video

    Series C.
    Because of Laddie's poor performance on Series B, I shortened each of the marks by twenty yards, creating a series of 40-60-80 yards, and ran him again. In addition to shortening the marks, I was quick to whistle recall or call "here" for any change in speed or direction on the returns. I also reinforced the returns with food.

    Laddie's performance was better than in Series B, possibly more owing to his earlier practice than the shorter marks. As Alice has mentioned, an important measure of long term progress will be whether Laddie performs well on first series in this field in future sessions, within increasing distances.

    Based on today's experience, increasing from 30-50-70 one day to 60-80-100 the next was too big a jump. Given Laddie's performance today, I think we should continue running series at 40-60-80 again until he returns well on every mark without being cued, and then increase to 50-70-90 the next session.

    Here's Laddie running Series C:

    video

    Series D. I had planned to discard one of our older ducks in the thick cover to the side of the field this afternoon, but I thought I'd run a few poorman marks for both dogs with the bird first. Lumi's speed of pickup improved during this series, and Laddie had good returns on these short distances. I was also pleased with both dogs' steadiness when honoring one another, neither dog breaking at any time.

    Here's a video of Series D, the last training for today:

    video
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