Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hunt Test Training, Shore Training

Today was Laddie's birthday, and Bob Hux planned his Hunt Test training group to begin at Cheltenham at 8:00 AM. But I had a meeting at work at 9:00 AM, so I wasn't able to get the dogs to Cheltenham until 11:00 AM.

When I arrived, Bob and the others were setting up a water series, so we had missed the land series. I let the dogs out to air, then threw a single and double for each dog, and loaded them back in the van to take a turn throwing. When I came in from throwing, I ran Lumi first and Laddie a little later. Afterwards, we attempted some shore training on our own.

Series A. The water series Bob set up was quite difficult:
  1. 100-yard land-water-land-water-land mark (duck), thru a stick pond, decoys, and large patches of reeds
  2. 30-yard water mark (duck), the fall in a marshy pool on the far side of a sandy strip of land and reeds
#2 was 90° to the right of #1.

Bob said that this water series was part of a Master test he had seen a year earlier at that location, though in the Master test they were running a triple, and we were running Bob's set-up as just two of the legs from the Master test, and as singles. Bob also said that several of the Master dogs had been eliminated by the long leg, our #1, because they got offline and ended up lost, hunting the wooded area well to the right of the fall.


Lumi had little difficulty with Bob's water series, performing the best all of the dogs that day, several of whom have SH titles and are working at Master level. I felt it was one of Lumi's most impressive performances.


I modified the series heavily for Laddie, asking both throwers to throw their birds into open water.

On #1, Laddie had no trouble with the stick pond or decoys, but when he picked up the bird, instead of turning back to me, he continued onto the shoreline in front of him. He beached there until the thrower threw the bird back in the water, and as Laddie picked it up, I swung another bird and threw it a little ways to the side. That drew him back thru the decoys and stick pond and he completed his delivery without dropping the bird.

On #2, instead of throwing into open water, the thrower threw the duck into a pool on the far side of a little island, and Laddie picked up the bird and then beached on the island. Nothing I could think of persuaded him to fetch the bird, and eventually he swam back to me without it. Another dog retrieved the bird later.

Water Training. After the group training was done, I tried to take advantage of a couple of channels near the area we'd run Series A for some shore training. I soon discovered that in each of those locations, Laddie would swim readily across the channel and then beach. Eventually he would swim back without the dummy, and I would have to send Lumi to get the dummy Laddie had left on the other side.

After watching Laddie's problem beaching during group training, Bob had commented that he liked to use a long line to address that issue. I had a 100' line in the van and tried it with Laddie, but it was not effective, and may have even been counterproductive. I say that because the drag from the weight of the line both annoyed and confused Laddie, and if he were to continue the behavior that the line was "teaching" him, the behavior he was learning was to turn frequently while swimming across, thinking he was being pulled back. In addition, the experience could not have added to his positive training associations.

Thinking back, the same thing had happened with Lumi when I tried to repair her beaching behavior with a long line. I think a long line can be used effectively and non-aversively, but with both dogs now, I haven't found it to be effective for water training.

After several attempts to find an effective way to address Laddie's beaching, I decided to quit for the day and try something new the next day. While Laddie hadn't learned anything about retrieving across a channel, we had made progress: We had eliminated a training method that was not going to work for us.

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