Saturday, March 1, 2008

Private Training: Marks, Blinds, T-Drill

Today began with a session at the field training property in Cheltenham for Series A and B with Nate and Brian as throwers. The dogs and I then went out locally for Series C and D. The series were as follows:
  • Series A. Two single marks for Laddie.
  • Series B. A double mark for Lumi.
  • Series C. A triple blind for Lumi.
  • Series D. T-drill for Laddie with 60-yard backline and 10 dummies.
I laid out the course in Cheltenham as I did because I wanted to see how both dogs would do with pools of standing water in line with each mark. Since the dogs had been running thru those pools when rough-housing while being aired, I wondered if they'd also run thru them when running marks.

Conditions. Cloudy, low 40s, W wind 25-31 MPH, wind chill 32°.

Series A. Two single marks to Laddie:
  1. 180 yards, thrown into high cover by Brian
  2. 280 yards, thrown onto open ground by Nate
#2 was 30° to the left of #1.

Both throwers wore white sweaters, threw white dummies with streamers, fired a gunshot before throwing, and threw with the wind. Several pools of standing water started around 80 yards from the start line on the way to both falls.

Laddie skirted the water both times, hunted a little both times, and picked up both dummies immediately upon finding them. On #1, he turned turned and ran straight back. On #2, he ignored auto-whistle recall but when I called "here here here" he turned and came running back.

Series B. Same course as Series A, but run as a double. Nate at 280 yards threw a pigeon as the memory-bird, then Brian at 180 yards threw a duck as the go-bird.

On #1, Lumi skirted the water but went right to the bird. On #2, Lumi ran far wide of the water, then turned toward Nate but hunted initially on the side she was approaching from. Nate knew not to help unless I called for it, which I did not. After a short time, Lumi started hunting on the correct side of Nate, quickly found the bird, and came running back with it.

No sign of resource guarding on either retrieve.

Series C. Outside nearby Oaks Landfill, a triple blind:
  1. 80 yards
  2. 100 yards
  3. 160 yards
Indent configuration:
  • #2 was 45° to the right of #1
  • #3 was 45° to the left of #1
Each blind required Lumi to go down into an arcing grassy trench and then up and out of it again, on different angle for each blind. As a result, each blind took several casts to keep Lumi on line.

On #2, Lumi veered right and took a left angle back into the trench.

On #3, she went into the trench on line but then veered left out of it and when I cast "over" to the right, she took a right back and stayed on the higher ground instead. After three tries, I called her to me, which brought her back into the trench. Then I cast her on a right angle back, which kept her in the trench but got her a little of line to the right. Finally, I cast her on a left angle back to get her out of the trench and to the dummy.

Series D. Laddie's T-drill, advanced slightly from previous session. Center "pitchers mound" P was in the same place as previously, as were poles 1, 2, and 3 at 20 yards from P. But the start line (SL) was pulled back 20 yards from previous session, so that it was 40 yards to P.

Today's patternizing challenge was as follows:
  1. Whistle sit (WS) at P, "over" to pole 3
  2. Straight to pole 2
  3. Straight to pole 2
  4. Straight to pole 2
  5. WS at P, right back to pole 2
  6. WS at P, over to pole 1
  7. Straight to pole 2
  8. Straight to pole 2
  9. Straight to pole 2
  10. WS at P, left back to pole 2
Laddie did fine on #1-4. He stopped fine on #5, and in fact on every WS all day, but on #5, he interpreted my right back cast as an "over" to pole 1. Surprised, I didn't sit him soon enough and he picked up the dummy at pole 1, then sat facing me.

I said "leave it" several times, he sat there watching me, then lay down, then came running toward me without dropping the dummy. I whistled him to another stop, again repeated "leave it" several times.

I saw the dummy seem to fall a little loose in his mouth and called "Good! Good! Leave it. Leave it." At last, he dropped the dummy, I said "Yay! Here!"

Laddie started to me on reflex, then started to turn back to reach for the dummy. I again said "leave it", and he came runnin to me without it. Big party when he arrived.

I saw no down effect on Laddie's motivation. However, the dummy was now out of place.

Instead of running #6 as planned, I decided to leave the dummy where it was and have Laddie pick it up last.

For the remaining send-outs, Laddie was reluctant to look at pole 2, and even if he was looking at it when I send him, he would invariably run to pole 1 or 3. I suspect that the headwind had picked up and become a factor, but possibly the out of place dummy was confusing him. Once or twice I called him back to me when he veered off, but the other times I used 1-2 WSs and cast him to the correct destination.

While this did not not allow us to practice the intended drill of patternizing on send-thrus, since Laddie stopped lining to pole 2, we did get in lost of high quality WSs, no slipped or even slow whistle responses, and no refused casts.

Today's drill was an increase in number of dummies to 10, and also an increase in number of WSs to about 15. It did not seem to be a problem. I saw no avoidance behavior, unless you count Laddie's avoiding the headwind.

Thinking about this later, I decided that I made two incorrect decisions.

First, I should not have trained "leave it" to mean "drop what you are now holding", because while that might be a useful skill for most dogs, it is much more important that my particular dogs bring me the articles they are sent to retrieve than that they be able to perform the trick of dropping an article on cue. The risk is that I ended up with a "smarter" dog who is now slightly less driven to retrieve.

Secondly, once the diversion was on the field, I should have either sent Laddie to pick it up immediately, perhaps with a straight send-out and an "over", or picked it up myself if I didn't want him to profit from having picked it up when I didn't cue him to. Leaving it out there may have skewed the rest of the drill given Laddie's current training level. Even if I didn't do it immediately, once I had seen him having trouble looking at pole 2, I should have realized that something had changed and fixed it.

I hope no permanent harm came of this training error.

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