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:
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:

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

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