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

    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.


    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'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:


    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:

    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:

    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:

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