Wednesday, March 5, 2008

T-drill, Diversion Drill, and Singles

Today I ran both Laddie and Lumi on our permanent T-drill site at Fair Hill in the morning, Series A and B. We then returned to Fair Hill in the afternoon with Nate for Series C and D. Finally, for Laddie's last T-drill, we drove to a nearby power-line right-of-way for Series E. The day's series were as follows:
  • Series A. Laddie T-drill, 90-yard backline
  • Series B. Lumi T-drill, 90-yard backline
  • Series C. Lumi diversion drill (DD), with Nate on the right side of the backline and throws away from the line (TAL)
  • Series D. Laddie six 170-yard singles, birds and dummies
  • Series E. Laddie T-drill, 70-yard backline
Series A. I had planned this as a T-drill for Laddie on a 90-yard backline with only three retrieves, but when Laddie spun the wrong way on left back, we spent some time using short retrieves to shape his left back.

Series B. I had planned this as a T-drill for Lumi on a 90-yard backline with only three retrieves, but when Lumi repeatedly took the wrong initial line, toward either pole 1 or 3, we spent some time shortening the backline to work on lining.

Series C. After Monday's DD TAL with Nate on the left side of the line to the pile, this was a DD TAL with Nate on the right side. Nate threw from 30, 45, and 60 yards from the SL. Lumi was flawless on every mark and every retrieve from the pile.

Series D. To help restore Laddie's motivation after a steady diet of T-drills, I had Nate throw six 170-yard marks for Laddie, with Nate standing in the same place and using a gunshot for all six:
  1. Bird thrown left to right
  2. Bird thrown right to left
  3. Dummy thrown left to right (dummy over bird scent)
  4. Dummy thrown right to left (dummy over bird scent)
  5. Bird thrown left to right
  6. Bird thrown right to left
Laddie was exuberant throughout this series, and his work was satisfactory but not perfect:
  • Three times during the series, Laddie crept forward a few inches after the gunshot. Each time, used what I call a "time-in", that is, a mild time-out: I put Laddie on leash, walked him gently away from the SL, and stood quietly with him for 30 seconds. I then removed the leash and we returned to the SL, and I had Nate throw the mark again. Laddie did not creep after any of the time-ins.
  • Laddie returned flawlessly with each of the dummies, showing no apparent confusion at the fact that they were dummies over bird scent.
  • Laddie showed mild resource guarding (snaking, head throwing) with some of the birds. While it was unnecessary for me to leave the SL and would have passed a Junior Hunter or WC test, I suspect that in the added excitement of group training or competition, the RG would get worse and Laddie would not necessarily complete the return. Laddie has shown RG when retrieving birds from distance his whole life, and at times it has been much worse than today. I can't tell whether the overall trend right now is getting better or staying at a consistent level under particular conditions.
Series E. This afternoon I received an email from Alice suggesting that instead of reducing Laddie's number of retrieves in the T-drill, we should continue to do 12 retrieves but half of them should be straight thru to pole 2 without a whistle sit (WS), and we should avoid difficult, patternizing sequences for now. Alice predicted that those changes would restore Laddie's morale and I wanted to try it out, but we didn't have time before sunset to get back to our permanent T-drill course. So instead, we drove to a nearby power-line right-of-way, where the grass is maintained in low, thick clumps, and I set up a course with a 70-yard backline. We ran 12 retrieves, starting on a shorter backline to give Laddie a chance to learn where pole 2 was, then gradually moving back to the 70-yard SL by the fifth retrieve. The sequence was as follows:
  1. WS, over to P3
  2. Thru
  3. WS, over to P1
  4. Thru
  5. WS, right back
  6. Thru
  7. WS, over to P1
  8. Thru
  9. WS, over to P3
  10. Thru
  11. WS, left back
  12. Thru
On #11, Laddie took a right back instead of a left back. I stopped him with a WS, moved way to my left, again cued left back, and this time he did it correctly.

Laddie has been showing avoidance behaviors such as distraction at the line, slowed send-outs (by Laddie standards), and eating grass during the T-drill lately. These have been increasing as we have been increasing the number of retrieves per drill. Today, with the changes Alice suggested, I saw no avoidance behaviors until the #10, and they remained milder than on previous days.

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