Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Return Shaping, Shore Handling, Marks, Diversion Drill

This morning, we drove to Fair Hill to work with both dogs on their retrieval returns, then out to Cheltenham to work on shoretraining. In the afternoon, we went out with Nate to work on marks with both dogs, and for Laddie's first session of combination-picture in the diversion drill (DD). A summary:
  • Series A. Return shaping (both dogs)
  • Series B. Shoretraining Step 2, Here-LTW-W (both dogs)
  • Series C. Marks (both dogs)
  • Series D. Diversion drill, combination picture (Laddie)
Series A. Both dogs have shown some deterioration in their return form. Lumi has begun dawdling on her pick-ups, and Laddie has dropped the bird every once in a while during his return. In both case, difficult terrain makes the problem more likely.

So today I worked with each dog on an unmowed lawn, not high cover but getting there. The other dog stayed in the van.

The shaping consisted of poorman singles and doubles, selected according to how the dog was doing as we proceeded. In Lumi's case, she had one slow pick-up. After a second of her being positioned at the duck but not picking it up, I said gently "Nope", shook my head, and walked out to her. By the time I got to her, she'd picked up the duck. I gently took the duck from her and we walked back to the start line together. From that time on, all her pick-ups were significantly faster. She is no doubt physically capable of a faster pick-up, but I was satisfied with her prompt, if not overly stylish, pick-ups for the remainder of the day.

I didn't use any walk-outs with Laddie, but I did feel based on experience that by building distance gradually, his performance was more likely to be better than if I'd gone right out and thrown a long mark.

I was so happy with this quick and easy drill that I've added it to our TO DO list as a new, daily exercise for both dogs.

Series B. Today we resumed work on the swim-by, except that now I consider it as building a shore-handling toolkit. The full toolkit, as I currently plan it, is as follows:
  1. Here-WTL-W
  2. Here-LTW-W
  3. Back-LTW-W/O
  4. Back-WTL-W/O
  5. Over-WTL-W/O
  6. Over-LTW-W/O
  7. Over-LTW-W
  8. Over-WTL-W
  • The behavior is Here, Back, or Over.
  • The behavior is performed land-to-water (LTW) or water-to-land (WTL)
  • The behavior is performed with (W) or without (WO) carrying a dummy
Tool #1 is an open water retrieve (diagram added to this blog entry later):

Since both dogs are fluent on (1), yesterday and today were focused on the next shore handling tool, Here-LTW-W (diagram added to this blog entry, and not consistent with early understanding of this tool):

Here were the steps I used today for working on that behavior (all work was solo, so by singles and doubles, I mean poorman singles and doubles):
  1. Singles and doubles on land (Series A).
  2. At shallow water's edge, single on land along shoreline, then single into water.
  3. Single across water to shoreline.
  4. Single across water and inland on other side.
  5. Into middle of swimming-depth water.
  6. Onto far shoreline of swimming water.
  7. Onto land at other side of swimming water.
Lumi has been able to perform Here-LTW-W for months, so this exercise was just practice for Lumi.

Laddie, on the other hand, initially beached at steps (3), (4), (6), and (7).

I used two kinds of negative punishment to solve the beaching problems:
  • In shallow water, I waded across, took the dummy, put Laddie in the van, and took Lumi out to train with her.
  • In deep water, I got in the van and drove 200 yards away. When Laddie arrived at the van with the dummy, I took the dummy, put Laddie in the van, drove back to the training location, and took Lumi out to train with her.
After starting the day beaching at every opportunity, by the end of our morning work, Laddie had performed a Here-LTW-W across both shallow and deep water with the dummy thrown well onto the bank on the other side. That was a good place to stop. Tomorrow, we'll try to replicate that progress and begin toward fluency. Perhaps within another few days, we'll be able to go onto the next steps of the toolkit, some of which I believe the dogs can already do.

Series C. First Laddie, then Lumi, ran the following set-up, with Nate throwing:
  1. 150-yard mark (duck)
  2. 60-yard mark (duck)
  3. 110-yard mark (duck)
#2 was 30° to the right of #1. #3 was 30° to the right of #3.

Series D. This was Laddie's first of two session on the combination picture as the last stage of the diversion drill. The set-up was as follows:
  • #1 and #5: 80-yard sight blind to lining pole and pile of white dummies
  • #2 and #7: 80-yard sight blind to lining pole and pile of white dummies
  • #3 and #9: 80-yard sight blind to lining pole and pile of white dummies
  • #4, #6, and #8: 60-yard mark with Nate throwing a duck
#2 was 30° to the right of #1. #3 was 30° to the right of #2.

#4, #6, and #8 were all thrown to the same fall, with Nate standing between #1 and #2, and throwing to a fall between #2 and #3.

Notes on Series C and D. Here are my notes from the afternoon session:
  • Series C completes Laddie's "final exam" for returns and deliveries. Laddie did not drop a single bird or dummy the entire day, nor exhibit any of his old freelancing behaviors (snaking, running toward the thrower, etc.).
  • Laddie has been off his feed for about five days, eating little during that time. I learned from the vet today that that is being caused by the fact that we have a bitch in heat in the house, namely Sophie, Heather's Border Collie.
  • The ducks I was using today were on their last legs. That makes Lumi's improved pick-ups from Series A, Laddie's success at not dropping any of the ducks all day, all the more satisfactory. After Series D, I discarded the ducks and we'll begin using fresher birds at our next session.
  • Laddie exhibited a new behavior today: He popped twice, once in Series C and once in Series D. In both cases, he responded to a Back cue. I don't know why this is happening, and whether I should do anything more than cue Back, preferably when I see him getting ready to pop rather than waiting for him to turn around, sit, and look at me.
  • I carried clippies when Laddie was running Series C, and I let Laddie retrieve one from a distance of seven yards after each of three excellent retrieves.
  • As usual, I cued "Get your bird" and had the dog carry a duck back to the van after each series. This seems to be desirable for both dogs, and has a significant effect on their behavior during those walks: For both dogs, they're calmer and also more tuned into me.
  • I used no auto-whistles on Series C and D, along with mostly silent handling. Lumi had good pick-ups and Laddie had great ones, and both dogs had good though not highly enthusiastic returns. It's possible they were slowed by the fact that it was a sunny day with temps in the 70s.
  • Laddie injured the wing of another clippie today. During Lumi's turn at Series C, and Laddie's performance in Series D, I used intermittent bites of food for reinforcement and motivation for Laddie to complete the returns and deliveries.
  • In Series D, Laddie required handling on #1, #2, and #7. His whistle sits and casts were stunning.

No comments:

[Note that entries are displayed from newest to oldest.]