Saturday, April 12, 2008

Marks and Blinds, Marks, Whistle Sit

Today we trained with Nate at Oaks for Series A and B, then hiked with Renee and Gabriel and got in some whistle sit (WS) practice. Bryan accompanied us to Oaks to videotape. The series with Nate throwing were as follows:
  • Series A. Blind-mark-blind (Lumi)
  • Series B. Three marks (Laddie)
Series A. Series A was intended for Lumi to practice running a blind both as the first and as the last retrieves in a series, but to conserve Lumi's soundness, we only ran one mark in between. The resulting series was as follows:
  1. 110-yard blind (orange dummy marked by a surveyor's flag, in line with a prominent tree 30 yards further out)
  2. 80-yard mark (bird)
  3. 150-yard blind (bird marked by a surveyor's flag, in line with a prominent tree in the distance)
Although these distances were short by Field Trial standards, they seemed reasonable by Hunt Test standards, which was consistent with my recent decision to focus on Hunt Tests with Lumi.

Temps were in the mid-70s and felt hotter, possibly because we're not yet acclimated to the warm weather. Lumi, who has always performed poorly in higher temps, moved slowly to and from the field, and also moved slowly when running her series, but except for speed, I felt her performance was good.

I used a wingclip as an intended reinforcer for the series, but based both on Lumi's slow returns, and her seeming interest in carrying one of the ducks in preference to the wingclip, I'm not certain that the opportunity to carry a wingclip is actually of value to Lumi.

Here's a video of Series A:

Series B. We continue to work toward the benchmark of three sessions in a row in which Laddie's performance is flawless on a 150-yard retrieve as the first retrieve of the day. In our previous session, the first retrieve of the day was at 90 yards. Today's first retrieve, building on that, was at 110 yards. The series of three singles was an indent configuration as follows:
  1. 110 yards (duck), with position marked by a chair
  2. 80 yards (duck), with position marked by a stickman
  3. 150 yards (duck), with position marked by a stickman
During Laddie's returns, I carefully watched his movements for the possibility of a change in direction or dropping the bird, and provided feedback to him as he proceeded. When he was performing well, I clapped and called out praise. When he seemed to waver slightly, I called "here" to guide him back on target, and again called praise as he responded. My intent in the future is to fade that feedback more and more as his performance matures and the tiny body cues indicating that he's about to break down stop appearing.

Although Laddie showed some slight inconsistency in his returns — a slowing or change of direction near the end, some head-throwing — he did not drop a single bird.

Here's a video of Series B:

Wingclip Ritual. Since obtaining pigeons for use as wingclip reinforcers, I've been trying to evolve a ritual that will enable the dogs' performance to benefit from the using the birds as rewards. For today's version of that ritual, I had a carrier with wingclip pigeons at the start line, and when the series was complete, the dog was given an opportunity to pick a wingclip up and carry it around for a few seconds. Associated with that reinforcer was the phrase "Your birdie's waiting" (YBW), which I used twice for each dog:
  • Before the series, I showed the dog the carrier and said YBW, but without giving the dog an opportunity to carry a bird.
  • After the series, we returned to the carrier and I again said YBW, but this time I opened the carrier, took out a bird, and placed it on the ground for the dog to pick up. After the dog carried it around for a few seconds, I cued "sit" and took delivery of the bird, returning it to its carrier.
After the wingclip was returned to the carrier, I threw a duck for the dog and said, "Get your bird." The dog picked the duck up and we walked back to the van together.

Whistle Sit Practice.
While the dogs and I hiked along the creek at Brink with Renee and Gabriel in the late afternoon, I blew a WS every 10 minutes or so. Sometimes the dogs would both sit, sometimes I'd have to blow a second time. I'm still learning what distance and distractions they're reliable with, so that we can raise criteria slowly from there.

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