Friday, April 4, 2008

Angle-in, Diversion Drill, Marks and Blinds, Marks

This morning, both dogs had another session of training on the angle-in on our double-T course at Fair Hill. In the afternoon, we returned to Fair Hill for some training with Nate as helper and Bryan as videographer. Today's series were as follows:
  • Series A. Angle-in with ducks (both dogs)
  • Series B. Diversion drill (DD), throw over the line (TOL), left-to-right (Laddie)
  • Series C. Blind-double-blind-single-blind (Lumi)
  • Series D. Delivery shaping (Laddie)
Series A. This series was a sequence of eight angle-ins on our double-T course, in each case consisting of a send-out with a thrown article while the dog was running out, a WS at P, and an angle-in to the left or right. Although dummies were distributed to Q1, P1, P2 (two dummies), P3, and Q3, none of those dummies were retrieved during the entire drill. The only lining poles on the course were at P2 and the SL.

For today's training, I came up with a special version of the angle-in drill. While the diversions at the points of the double-T course were white dummies, the retrieval articles that I threw while the dogs were running to P were ducks. The intended lesson was, "You may think you can find something to retrieve by yourself, Puppy, but do what Daddy says and you'll get to retrieve something even better."

I used no other +R for this series — no food, no happy throws, no WSOR, just one sequence of "sit, dead bird, back" after another. Both dogs seemed to thrive on the quick work and showed great motivation on every send-out.

Assuming I receive no guidance to the contrary from Alice and Jody, today's session was our last work on the double-T course, and our last work specifically focused on the angle-in.


Lumi balked on the first 3-4 recall whistles, the balking gradually decreasing in obstinacy. By the fifth send-out, and from that time on, Lumi would leap out of her sit and come charging in as soon as I whistled. I attribute her improvement to becoming confident in the meaning of the angle-in cue ("Yes, there really is something for you to retrieve in this direction") and to the fact that the retrieval articles were high-value birds.

An interesting note: Lumi had wrong initial lines (WILs) on her first 4-5 send-outs, so that I had to stop her before she reached a dummy rather than waiting for her to get to P. I decided to ignore the fact that she wasn't where I planned for her to be, since it didn't seem to matter for the purpose of practicing the angle-in. Sometimes she erred to the left, sometimes to the right. I'd just blow a WS when she got close to whatever target she had selected, then called for an angle-in.

But on the fourth or fifth send-out, Lumi took a correct line to P2, and thereafter, she never had another WIL, even though I'd done nothing to discourage the WILs. I don't have an explanation.


After the WS on the first send-out, Laddie flash-casted on the angle-in as though I had cued "over". I blew a second WS, then re-cued the angle-in. He took that cast correctly and never made another mistake on any of the remaining retrieves, all of which he ran with his usual over-the-top exuberance. He also did not have a single WIL the whole day, nor a single slipped whistle on any of his send-outs.

Series B. This series was the next step in Laddie's DD sequence: throws over the line to the pile (TOL), in this case left to right. This was Laddie's first try with TOL, and he wasn't quite as reliable on his send-outs to the pile as he was on the previous two or three DD sessions. Once he diverted to the fall of the previous throw, and once he diverted toward the thrower.

While that meant his lining wasn't as good as it has been lately, it had the advantage of giving us a chance to exercise Laddie's handling. His two WSs were not crisp, but he didn't slip either whistle and took both casts well.

Although Laddie's recently improved delivery remains on track, for some reason his returns with birds backslid from the last few days, causing me to change my plans for Series D later on in the session.

Here's a video of Series B, including the disastrous bird-return from 60 yards, as well as a leaping "crash" after the drill is completed, and "get your bird" as we head back to the van:

Series C. I designed this series to work on several specific areas I want Lumi to have experience in:
  • Running a blind first even with throwers and other diversions in the field
  • Running a double and a blind in the same series
  • Running a blind tight to the line of a recent mark
  • Using a single to focus Lumi on the first throw until some possible next thrower signals that another throw is coming, rather than having her turn her head in the belief that it's always going to be a multiple
I also wanted to use shorter blinds than I have been, in the hope of staying in range where Lumi would be responsive to every WS.

Following those criteria, I came up with the following sequence:
  1. 80-yard blind (orange dummy at orange flagging)
  2. Double (two birds), 60-yards (the memory bird) and 100 yards (the go bird)
  3. 110-yard blind (orange dummy at an orange lining pole)
  4. 120-yard single (bird)
  5. 140-yard blind (orange dummy at a surveyor's flag)
All of these retrieves were within a tight 90° arc, an arrangement that turned out to be too difficult for Lumi to do well on. Her WSs and casts fell apart, and I had to choose between using insistent voice cues or terminating the drill. I don't know which was the better choice. By continuing, Lumi may have learned that if she follows my instructions, she gets to complete her retrieve, which would be a good lesson. On the other hand, she may have learned that there is no significant difference in outcome between following some of my cues versus following all of them, which would be a bad lesso. Should I have terminated the series prematurely once I saw that Lumi was not responsing to the whistle? I don't know.

Anyway, here's a video of Series C. It's not easy to watch:

Series D. For this series, I had originally planned to repeat the distances of 50-150 yards that Laddie ran so well on Wednesday, but based on his poor returns with birds in Series B, I used Series D as a delivery shaping session instead. I moved Nate around at distances in the range of 20-80 yards, avoided having him throw to any old falls, mixed up dummies and birds, and sought a distance zone where Laddie would become comfortable, confident, and competent on his returns with birds. For some reason, I had little success in finding that zone.

Here's a video of Series D. Of the retrieves with a bird, I think that despite the creeping at the begining, the best retrieve here is the one at 3:47:

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