Thursday, April 24, 2008

Retrieve Shaping, Shore Training, Hunt Test Training

In the morning, we drove to Park Heights for training with Bob Hux's Thursday group. We arrived early so that we could do some private training before the rest of the group arrived. In the afternoon, we went for a hike at Brink, practicing whistle sits and recalls as well as continuing to work on step (2) of our shore training plan, Here-LTW-W. Summary of the day's field work:
  • Series A. Retrieve shaping (both dogs)
  • Series B. Shore training, continued work on Here-LTW-W (Laddie)
  • Series C. Bob Hux's land series for the day (both dogs)
  • Series D. Bob Hux's water series for the day (both dogs)
  • Series E. Practicing WS and whistle recall, retrieves across creek (both dogs)
Series A. I threw each dog a poorman single and a poorman double, using a pigeon for the single, a pigeon and a duck for the double.

On Laddie's first retrieve of the pigeon, he reverted to his playful head-throwing and bird-tossing behavior, which he has stopped doing during the last several weeks as we've focused on re-training his field retrieve. I called out "Nope, that's not the way retrieve," and shaking my head, I walked out to Laddie, took away the bird, and we walked back to the SL together. He didn't do that again all day, with any of the birds retrieved, including pheasants during Bob's series.

Series B. Using a small area of the technical pond at the Park Heights property, I worked with Laddie for 20 minutes on retrieving across a channel without beaching, the initial goal of training Here-LTW-W. He was not able to perform perfectly, but made continued progress from yesterday's session.

Series C. This was Bob's land series:
  1. 40-yard mark (pheasant), hand thrown from under a tree
  2. 70-yard mark (pheasant), launched by a winger into low, thick cover
  3. 100-yard blind (duck), marked by a camo lining pole with a line to the blind between two trees diagonally offset
#2 was 45° to the right of #1. #3 was 90° to the right of #2.


I ran this with Lumi as singles and a blind, and she had no serious problem. She took several casts to get thru the keyhole formed by the trees but was responsive on all WSs and casts. Unfortunately, she put her nose down and hunted the last half of the line to the blind. I wasn't sure if I should be doing something to stop that and did not take any action.


I had Laddie run the two marks as singles, and did not try him on the blind.

On #1, Laddie dropped the pheasant at about the halfway point. Pheasants are larger birds than either dog usually trains with, and these pheasants were partially frozen, heavy, and stiff. As a result, I believe that the drop occurred because Laddie did not have a solid grip on the bird, not as some kind of freelancing. As soon as he dropped it, I called "nope" and walked out to him. I slipped on his lead, picked up the pheasant, walked back to the thrower with the bird, then walked to the SL. We then re-ran #1, followed by #2, and Laddie didn't drop the pheasant on either of those marks.

I didn't use a slipcord on #1 and Laddie crept slightly but did not break. Because of the winger, I did use a slipcord on #2, and Laddie crept a foot or two before I gently held him back with the cord. I'm not sure whether he would have broken without the cord or not.

I kept several clippies in a carrier at the SL, but did not take them out during Laddie's series. When the series was over, I tossed a duck that one of the other dogs had retrieved and said "get your bird", and we returned to the van with me carrying the clippies. When we arrived at the van, I cued "sit", took delivery of the duck, and put down a clippie at a distance of 7 yards for Laddie to retrieve.

My goal in mixing up when Laddie sees the carrier, when he sees the clippies taken out, and when he actually gets to retrieve one, is to prepare him for events when I might have clippies in a carrier in the van but would not be able to bring them to the SL with us.

Hopefully he's learning that as long as I have a carrier with pigeons in the van, he has a reasonable chance of getting to play with one when his turn at the line is over. The idea is for the availability of the clippies to provide additional motivation for smooth, efficient retrieves.

Series D. This was Bob's water series:
  1. 70-yard mark (dummy) into a cove, requiring the dog to cross two other coves, and the points separating them, going both directions. The shoreline was in the shape of a W, requiring angled water entries and inviting the dog to run the bank.
  2. 30-yard mark (dummy) into a cove, requiring the dog to cross another cover and the point separating them.
#2 was 120° to the right of #1.


Lumi began to run the bank after coming out of the water on the first point, angled so as to strongly invite bank running. I stopped her with a WS, then cued "over". It took 2-3 casts, but at last she entered the water. She then crossed the second point, retrieved the dummy, and crossed the far point coming back.

Once again Lumi started to run the bank after crossing the second point. Again I blew a WS and cued "over", and this time she entered the water after a single cast. She had no difficulty with #2 and did not require handling.

We were training with about 10 other trainers, and nearly all of them called out compliments to Lumi on her performance. Since this is rare in our training groups, I think Lumi's work made a good impression on them.


This series was way too difficult for Laddie, so I requested open water throws.

On #1, even though the dummy was well away from any of the points, Laddie still angled offline on his return and swam to a point. He ignored me when I tried to turn him back to me with "here" and "this way", which might have worked on a shorter swim, but this was a long one for Laddie. As soon as he climbed onto the point, I blew a WS and he immediately turned toward me and sat. I then called out to the thrower to please go to Laddie and throw the dummy back in the water. The thrower did so and Laddie completed his swim back. He was a good boy and did not drop the dummy during his nice delivery.

On #2, the thrower for some reason did not carry out my request to throw the dummy into open water, and instead threw it into the cove. After staring at the situation for a few seconds, I turned away with the intent of walking Laddie back to the van without attempting the retrieve, but the thrower called out a suggestion that I run Laddie from a different location where it would not be necessary to cross the point. I took the suggestion and Laddie swam directly to the dummy, but diverted to the point coming back. Again he responded well to a WS and again the thrower threw the dummy back in the water, so that Laddie could complete his retrieve.

Water Entries. I don't usually mention it, but Lumi and Laddie enter the water completely differently, not only on this day but in all our water work.

Lumi exercises great caution, testing the water and her footing every step until she is buoyant and can begin her powerful swimming stroke.

By contrast, Laddie races to water's edge and leaps far out, starting his stroke the instant he lands. His wild water entries nearly always make me laugh while winning my deep admiration. Laddie is solid, and his endurance and swimming skill are increasing, he's not yet as strong a swimmer as Lumi.

Series E. This wasn't really a series, but a hike in which we practiced WS and whistle recall as we walked out and back, with retrieves across the creek when opportunities arose. I had one opportunity for a WS when both dogs were distracted 60 yards from me and both sat as soon as I whistled. They're rarely even that far away on hikes, so it's difficult getting opportunities to increase our distance-proofing. But both dogs' responsiveness to the whistle on hikes, as well as improved responsiveness to the whistle in training situations recently, gives me increased confidence that it would be worth trying a WS if Laddie ever went out of control on a mark in group training or an event.

This particular hike had a low point and a high point.

The low point of the hike was when I slipped while climbing up an embankment at one point and fell into a patch of nettle or some other stinging plant. I received painful pricks on both hands as well as along my right arm, shoulder, and back. A day later I could still feel the burning. Adding injury to insult, I also twisted my left knee on the fall, though it seemed to recover more quickly than I had expected it would.

The high point of the hike was at the furthest distance from the van, where I found a section of the creek featuring a position to set up our SL, a 10-yards-wide channel of water at swimming depth with little current, and a sandbar for landing a dummy on the far side.

An overhanging tree prevented throwing the dummy from the SL, so with the dogs in a sit, I moved to a location 20 feet down the embankment and to the right side, then threw a dummy across the creek onto the sandbar.

I had planned to return to the SL before sending a dog, but out of curiosity, I thought I'd try sending one from where I was, and called "Lumi". Laddie held steady and Lumi broke for the dummy, and I took the opportunity to climb back to the SL to take delivery. I gave Laddie a treat as soon as I got to the SL for staying so well, and gave one to Lumi when she delivered.

I then repeated the sequence but called "Laddie". For some reason, both dogs were initially confused, Laddie freezing and Lumi creeping. I called "sit" to stop Lumi, then gestured toward Laddie with my hand and again called "Laddie". This time he broke for the dummy and I again climbed to the SL, gave Lumi a treat immediately for holding her sit, and Laddie one when he arrived.

I was pleased that Laddie didn't beach on the sandbar, which is the primary goal of our shore training at this time. But I was also pleased by their ability to work together.

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