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.

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