Saturday, May 31, 2008

Land-water-land, Cheaters, Come-in Drill

Summary
  • Series A. At Cheltenham, attempting work on land-water-land (LWL) retrieves at north end of large pond, Eric throwing (Laddie)
  • Series B. At Cheltenham, cheaters at north end of large pond, Eric throwing (Lumi)
  • Series C. At Cheltenham, more work on LWS at west channel, Eric videotaping (Laddie)
  • Series D. At Black Hill Regional Park, come-in drill (both dogs)
Series A. My son Eric joined the dogs and me for our trip to the property known as "Rover's Content" in Cheltenham, MD. The Field Trial group we sometimes train with were setting up a series when we arrived, so we were unable to train at the pines channel where Laddie has been having success because it would interfere with their set-up. Instead, I decided to try working with both dogs at the north end of the property's largest pond, which includes a T-shaped peninsula protruding from the north shore.

For Series A, I set up with Laddie along the pond's north shoreline on the right side of the T-shaped peninsula, and I asked Eric to throw for us from the right point of the peninsula. The distance from the SL to the falls was about 30 yards.

We started with a throw into open water not far from the point. Laddie had no problem with that.

Next, I asked Eric to throw into the water right at the shoreline. Laddie swam straight to the dummy, and it was good that he did not attempt to run the bank to get to the dummy. But when he reached the dummy, he picked it up and carried onto shore, shook off, and then tried to run back to me on the peninsula. At my request, Eric blocked him and eventually threw the dummy back into the water, and then Laddie jumped in, picked up the dummy, and swam back to me to deliver the dummy.

We tried the same throw a couple of more times, with identical results. I then put Laddie in the van so that I could work with Lumi.

Series B.
I had Lumi run three cheating singles at this location:
  1. On the right side of the T-shaped peninula, 30 yards from SL to shoreline, 20 yards from shoreline to fall in open water. The line from SL to fall ran less than 10 yards to the right of the peninsula.
  2. On the left side of the peninsula, 30 yards from SL to shoreline, 40 yards from shoreline to fall on the left point. The line from SL to fall ran less than 10 yards to the left of the peninsula.
  3. Same as #2.
Notes on Lumi's performance:
  • Lumi had no problem on #1.
  • On #2, Lumi veered right with apparent intention of running the bank. She was not responsive to handling into water from my initial SL, so I moved 20 yards closer and sent her to the same fall. Lumi again attempted to run bank, but accepted handling into water and ran the mark nicely.
  • On #3, we started at the long SL again, and this time Lumi ran the mark without difficulty.
Series C. I could see that the north end of the large pond was too difficult for Laddie's work on LWL retrieves, but the other trainers were still tying up the pines channel. So the dogs and I moved to the west channel, where we've tried LWL with Laddie before.

In the past, I ran Laddie across the channel east to west, toward the woods, and he seemed to be spooked by the woods. So today, I ran him at the same location, but west to east.

We worked thru several phases, with mixed results. Here's a video of the session, videotaped for us by Eric:

video

Series D.
To continue strengthening the dogs responsiveness to Here for use with partial come-ins when running blinds, I set up a simple course with four lining poles and no dummies in an isolated area of the Black Hill Regional Park. I used one of the poles as an SL and placed the three other poles at 60-40-80 yards left to right, within a 90° angle. All the target poles were at treeline of an adjoining woods, and various diversions and obstacles, such as trees, a trench, and a high fence were in the dogs' line of vision.

I ran Laddie first, then Lumi. In both cases, we ran the "blinds" in the order middle-left-right, that is, shortest to longest. For each "blind", I sent the dog to the target lining pole, and when the dog arrived, I blew WS, then cued Here. When the dog arrived back at the SL, I reinforced with praise and a high-value treat.

LADDIE

On every "blind", Laddie responded beautifully to every WS, but refused one or more Here cues. When he broke in the wrong direction, I blew another WS immediately, then again cued Here. The longer the distance, the more times it took for Laddie to respond to Here correctly. On the 80-yard retrieve, he refused three times, then came in on the fourth.

LUMI

Lumi came immediately and on the run on the 40-yard and 60-yard "blinds". On the 80-yard one, she responded well to the WS but broke to the side when I cued Here. I quickly blew WS and cued Here again, and this time she came running.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Cheaters, Land-water-land, Traversing Mound

Summary
  • Series A. At Cheltenham, cheating singles with angle entry (Lumi)
  • Series B. At Cheltenham, practicing land-water-land retrieves (Laddie)
  • Series C. At Cheltenham, practicing retrieves lengthwise over a mound (both dogs)
Although I've shown these as sequential series, I actually did a little work with Laddie on Series B first, then switched to Lumi and Series A, and finally went back to Laddie and Series B for a more extensive session. When that was complete, I worked with both dogs on Series C.

Series A. After Lumi's easy success with straight entries into a channel yesterday, today we worked on another channel. Lumi did six retrieves, taking the same entry point from shore to water on all of them. The entry point was along the back edge of fading point.

We used three start lines (SLs) and three falls for throws into the channel. The three SLs were at 1-10-20 yards from the entry point (SL1-SL2-SL3), and the three falls were at 10-20-50 yards from the entry point (F1-F2-F3).

Lumi's six retrieves were as follows:
  1. SL1, F1
  2. SL2, F1
  3. SL3, F1
  4. SL1, F2
  5. SL2, F2
  6. SL2, F3
Despite the diagonal entry, Lumi seemed to have no inclination to run the bank in either direction or square the shoreline on her returns. Her enthusiasm remained sky high.

Series B. This series consisted of land-water-land (LWL) retrieves for Laddie on various channels.

Today, Laddie had consistent auto-returns (no whistle or verbal cue needed) if dummy was:
  • In open water
  • In water at far shoreline
  • On far shore within about one foot of shoreline
  • On narrow island when throw was over it or onto it
In general, Laddie always returned even if throw was further inland on far shore, though he showed mild avoidance tactics such as shaking off, looking for a different point to enter the water instead of coming back the way he came, or picking up the dummy and carrying it further inland. With one exception, one or more verbal or whistle recalls brought him back.

On the single exception, Laddie dropped the dummy in some reeds and then marooned, seemingly unable or unwilling to pick up the dummy again. I sent Lumi to retrieve the dummy, and when she delivered it, she and I played games. Seeing our play, Laddie swam back over to our side. I put him in the van and worked with Lumi on Series A. Laddie did not maroon again when he and I resumed practicing LWL retrieves after Lumi and I finished Series A.

Series C. To help the dogs dry out in the warm sunshine, I walked with them to a nearby mulch mound and set up to run them over the mound lengthwise.

We used two start lines (SLs), at 10-20 yards from our end of the mound. I threw the dummy from our end, so that the dummy traced the path I wanted them to run.

I then ran them alternately, the other dog honoring. If one of the dogs took an incorrect path over the mound, I called Here. If the dog picked up the dummy and started to detour around the mound coming back, I called "No, this way" and used an "over" arm cue to direct them back over the mound. When either of those happened, I immediately ran that dog again, and in every case, the dog ran the retrieve correctly the next time with no cues.

After about half a dozen retrieves for each dog, we returned to the van to dry off, pack up, get the dogs' breakfast, and head for home.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Swim-by, Land-water-land, Cheaters

Summary
  • Series A. At Cheltenham, swim-bys (Lumi)
  • Series B. At Cheltenham, working on land-water-land retrieves (Laddie)
  • Series C. At Cheltenham, cheating singles (Lumi)
Note: Although I've written Series B as coming between Series A and C, actually all of today's series were spread over several sessions. Lumi's work was Series A followed by Series C. Laddie's sessions were mixed in with Lumi's.

Series A. After a couple of warm-up retrieves, Lumi seemed ready to run what I understand to be a traditional swim-by drill, as follows:
  1. Dog at heel on shore facing water.
  2. Handler cues Back and Dog enters water, swims forward.
  3. Handler blows WS, Dog turns 180° to face handler, treads water.
  4. Handler cues Over, Dog turns 90° and swims in direction sent.
  5. Handler throws dummy onto shore in direction Dog is swimming. (That's what I did. I think some trainers pre-position one or more dummies there.)
  6. Dog climbs onto shore and picks up dummy.
  7. Handler blows WS, Dog turns to face handler and sits, holding dummy.
  8. Handler cue Over, Dog enters water and swims in direction sent.
  9. Dog swims by handler, arrives on other side of pond, climbs onto shore still carrying dummy, and runs around edge of pond to deliver.
Lumi ran this drill four times:
  • Swimming with dummy right to left, sent from right heel.
  • Swimming with dummy right to left, sent from left heel.
  • Swimming with dummy left to right, sent from right heel.
  • Swimming with dummy left to right, sent from left heel.
Because we haven't worked on this pattern for long, I cued Over several times so that she would continue swimming across rather than turning to swim to me. With practice, I believe Lumi would learn to complete the swim-by with a single Over cue, but it didn't seem like a priority to me, so instead, I decided to try Lumi out on some cheating singles after a break.

Series B. Laddie has now become fairly comfortable with land-water-land (LWL) retrieves. He still sometimes uses delaying tactics such as shaking off, but today he almost always responded to Here when that would happen. The three times he didn't, I drove the van away and he picked up the dummy, swam across, and chased the van. We did not use a long line today.

I believe Laddie's confidence is growing primarily because of practice and learning that he can be successful, but nonetheless I did use an array of extrinsic reinforcers:
  • Food (string cheese, turkey dogs, liverwurst)
  • Tug
  • Happy throws onto land or into water
  • Chase games
We practiced LWL in two locations and on two pictures in each location:
  1. Near east end of property, across belly-high standing water thru high grass
  2. Near east end of property, across narrow neck of swimming pond
  3. At stick pond, toward narrow island
  4. Near stick pond, across channel
These were mostly vanilla retrieves:
  1. With Laddie in sit, I step forward to throw dummy.
  2. I step back beside Laddie and release him with his name.
  3. He leaps into water, swims across, picks up dummy, and returns to deliver it.
We also had a few unusual retrieves:
  • Land-water-land-water without WS: I threw the dummy over the top of the island. Laddie crossed the island on the way out and back without stopping.
  • Land-water-land-water with WS: At the moment Laddie came up onto the island holding the dummy, I blew WS. When he sat, I cued Here and he re-entered stick pond and delivered the dummy. This was a version of shore-handling toolkit Tool #2, but with a WS in this case.
  • From a front, right Back and left Back to LWL retrieve. These practiced Tool #3.
Although Laddie was successful the majority of the time today, he is not yet fluent with LWL retrieves. I plan to practice them with him for at least two more days, maybe more, before proceeding to any of the other tools besides #2 and #3.

I am so pleased that Laddie has made such progress in this area.

Series C. Here's how Lumi ran cheating singles:
  1. I positioned Lumi in a sit under a shade tree because temps were in the mid to high 70s.
  2. I walked to one side of the channel or the other, alternating between the left and right sides.
  3. I threw the dummy into the middle of the channel.
  4. I ran back to a position 15 yards from the end of the channel and called Lumi to left or right heel (chosen randomly).
  5. I released Lumi on her name. She ran to the edge of the water, entered the water, swam straight to the dummy, and picked it up.
  6. As she was pouncing on the dummy, I whistled recall. Lumi turned 180° and swam straight back toward me. At no time did she appear to consider swimming to either shore beside her.
  7. Lumi climbed up onto the bank and delivered the dummy.
  8. We celebrated with cheers, treats, tug, and happy throws.
I threw the dummy from a point further along the channel each time. The distances were 10-20-30-40-50-60 yads from the end of the channel, making the retrieves 25-35-45-55-65-75 yards.

The channel ended at a channel running perpendicular, forming a T. The 40-yard throw was at the end of the sides of our channel. The 50-yard throw was into the middle of the channel running perpendicular. The 60-yard throw was across the perpendicular channel and onto the far bank. The 60-yard throw was more difficult than I intended because the dummy stuck in the mud and Lumi had to pull it out rather than just pick it up.

I was thrilled with Lumi's performance, first on the swim-by, then on these six cheaters.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Come-in Drill, Alligator Drill

Summary
  • Series A. Come-in drill at Milestone (both dogs)
  • Series B. Alligator drill at Black Hill (Laddie)
Series A. Because Lumi was so sluggish when I cued Here during two blinds yesterday, and has shown that problem in the past, I thought I'd work on it with her, and with Laddie at the same time. The drill I came up with consisted of four lining poles, no dummies. One pole was the SL, the other were set out at distances, left to right, of 80-140-110 yards, within a 90° angle.

I ran Lumi first, then Laddie. With each dog, I cued "dead bird", then Back, at the SL, lining the dog to the poles in increasing distance. When the dog reached the pole, I blew WS, then cued Here. When the dog arrived back at the SL, I reinforced with praise and a high-value treat.

This drill was surprisingly difficult for both dogs, less so in the later send-outs than in the first one but still somewhat difficult on every send-out. The dogs wanted to hunt rather than come in.

My feeling is that the drill needs to be refined and re-run. Refinements would include starting with shorter distances and then building to longer ones, and using happy throws (with dummies or birds) and tug for reinforcement. Re-running would include daily, later weekly, and finally monthly, until fluency is established.

Series B.
Since I didn't have time to go to Cheltenham today, I took the dogs to Black Hill to give Laddie more practice on the advanced version of the alligator drill. In this version:
  1. Laddie and I run into swim-depth water together, me carrying the dummy, Laddie trying to get it.
  2. I throw the dummy to shore, send Laddie to retrieve it using his name for the send-out.
  3. I call Here when Laddie reaches the dummy. This should not be necessary, and currently may not be, but I see it as a safety measure, like the auto-recall whistle, for the time being.
  4. Laddie retrieves the dummy and brings it back out to me in the water.
  5. I start growling and Laddie and I play water-tug for a few seconds.
  6. I either throw the dummy further out into the water a few feet for Laddie to chase and bring back to shore, or I drag Laddie back to shore by pulling on the rope of the dummy. Laddie seems to find both of those games fun. I think the pulling game had more of a reinforcing effect in terms of increasing desired response, but I can't be sure.
  7. Back on shore, happy throws and more tug.
Today we did five retrieves, in the following order:
  1. The dummy thrown into shallow water
  2. To water's edge
  3. Onto the beach
  4. Again onto the beach
  5. Onto the grassy bank on a small rise beyond the beach
Laddie showed slight avoidance tactics on the first two retrieves, shaking off on #1 and looking around before picking up the dummy on #2. After that, his remaining retrieves were high energy and without delay.

A couple of days ago, I felt that Laddie might have stalled on any further progress with the alligator drill, after two sessions of the advanced version above in which he showed various avoidance behaviors on virtually every retrieve. But yesterday I saw the beginnings of further progress, and today's last three retrieves were excellent, far better than anything I could have expected a couple of days ago.

Tomorrow I plan to take the dogs to Cheltenham so that we can train in a channel. I'll have to decide whether to continue work with the channel we used yesterday, using the long line as necessary, switch to a channel that's shallow enough for me to walk in and build on the alligator drill. The problem with the latter strategy, besides the discomfort of me wading around in a channel, is that Laddie may not readily transfer his performance at Black Hill to a channel at Cheltenham. Meanwhile, we made rapid progress with the long line, and with another session or two, Laddie may have developed a solid land-water-land retrieve without me having to go wading in the channel again.

It's nice having two choices that I have reason to believe will work. It wasn't that long ago that I was worried that I wouldn't be able to come up with a solution.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Shore Handling, Marks and Blinds

Summary
  • Series A. At Cheltenham, working on shore-handling toolkit and beginning work on swim-by (Lumi)
  • Series B. At Cheltenham, working on land-water-land retrieves (Laddie)
  • Series C. At Sundown with Nate throwing, marks and blinds (Lumi)
  • Series D. At Black Hill, alligator drill (Laddie)
Note: Although Series A and Series B are listed as sequencial activities, each actually consisted of several sessions, with one dog training while the other waited in the van.

Series A. With the opportunity to work on a channel rather than a beach, I had Lumi run several versions of shore-handling toolkit Tool #8, Over-LTW-W.

In one version, I positioned her along the side of the channel, placed a dummy in her mouth, ran to the end of the channel, and cued Over. She entered the water, and as she did so, I ran to the other side of the channel and cued Here, and she swam across to the other side and came out of the water to deliver the dummy. We did that in both directions, right to left and left to right.

In another version, I placed the dummy at the side position, then stood with Lumi at the end of the channel and over to the side, so that she could run to the dummy without cheating around water. I cued Back, and when she arrived at the dummy and picked it up, I blew WS and cued Over into the water. Lumi entered the water and I ran around to the other side of the channel to take delivery. This was close to the diagram for Tool #8 shown in the post for May 21.

Although I was focused on Tool #8, when Lumi was completing her delivery, both of those exercises also incorporated Tool #9, Over-WTL-W, in this case with no WS. Here's the diagram for Tool #9:



Since that work showed that Lumi now has some proficiency with all the tools in the toolkit, I decided to start work on the traditional shore-handling drill called the swim-by. In the version we worked on today, the steps were as follows:
  1. With Lumi and me at the end of a channel, I cued Back. Lumi entered the water.
  2. When Lumi was 20 yards out, I blew WS.
  3. Lumi turned in the water to face me, and I cued Over, using both the verbal cue and an arm movement to show the correct direction.
  4. Lumi turned 90° and began to swim toward shore.
  5. I threw a dummy onto the shore where she was headed. Lumi came to shore, shook off, picked up the dummy, and turned toward me.
  6. I blew WS and Lumi sat, still holding the dummy.
  7. I cued Over, and Lumi entered the water.
  8. I ran to the opposite side of the channel and cued Here. Lumi continued to swim across the channel.
  9. As Lumi was about to climb onto shore, I ran back to the end of the channel, and she followed me to complete the delivery.
  10. I reinforced with cheers, happy throws, and tug.
We ran the above drill a total of four times, two with Lumi swimming right to left in Steps 7-9, two with Lumi swimming left to right. In future versions, I'll begin to fade how much I run to the side of the channel in step 8, until a time comes when Lumi performs a complete swim-by while I remain at the original position.

Series B.
Although we were at Cheltenham rather than Black Hill, I tried using the fixed-target drill described in yesterday's post with Laddie. We set up at the side of one of the channels, where the water isn't too deep for me to walk in, and with an easy slope into the water.

The fixed-target drill did not work. Laddie would complete the retrieve enthusiastically if I was standing on land, but as soon as I moved into water, even with him starting on shore, he would not run to the thrown dummy to retrieve it.

I decided to try using a long line once again, and brought out two of them, 15' and 40'. Alice had suggested some conditioning with the long line if we were going to use it again, so I put on Laddie's collar and attached the 15' line, then made happy throws both on land and in open water. Next I sent him on a couple of open water retrieves with the 40', and then a 55' line (the two lines attached to one another). Then, over a series of four sessions, we worked on shaping land-water-land retrieves using a number of channels and a number of procedures, which I varied in response to Laddie's evolving performance.

Laddie's best retrieves of the day included the following:
  • A throw onto a thin, grassy island, which Laddie retrieved with no line.
  • A throw to water on the far side of that island, requiring Laddie to re-enter the water after crossing the island both coming and going. Laddie performed that retrieve with no line.
  • A throw to water's edge at the far side of a channel, which Laddie retrieved with no line.
  • A throw onto the far bank of a channel, which Laddie performed three times while wearing the line.
For those last retrieves, only a slight tug was required to cue Laddie to turn, re-enter the channel, and make an enthusiastic delivery. Yet when we tried this retrieve without the line twice, Laddie marooned both times. To bring back over, I had to drive away in the van, a procedure that does not, apparently, cause the marooning behavior to decline.

Notes on today's work:
  • Twice during various sessions, when sent to a dummy that was on the opposite bank, Laddie entered the channel and swam a few yards, but then turned around in the water and came back. I felt that it was important Laddie not learn that as a successful strategy for avoiding something he found difficult. Both times, I cued Back repeatedly until Laddie finally completed the retrieve. I was afraid he might begin to refuse the Back cue, which might be even worse than not completing the retrieve, but luckily, that didn't happen. We celebrated his successes on those retrieves with high enthusiasm, including cheers and applause, bites of cheese, happy throws, and games of tug.
  • Several times when I threw the dummy onto the opposite bank, Laddie was reluctant to go, and needed to be cued with "Laddie", "give it", or "back" more than once. This had me deeply concerned that our training was creating a negative association with retrieving in general, and could be producing a disastrous future tendency to no-go. However, periodic tests showed that Laddie continued to retrieve with his usual exuberance on land or into open water at any time during today's sessions. In addition, by the last session, Laddie was back to making his trademark big air water entries on his send-outs to throws across the channel, even when the dummy landed on the opposite bank, and even while wearing a long line.
It seems to me that our progress in both of those situations depended on Laddie's particular personality. I could imagine a dog who would have refused to respond to the Back cue to get him into the channel and all the way across to the dummy on the opposite bank, or a dog whose enthusiasm would be dampened by the discomfort of the long line and the difficulty of the work. I feel fortunate that Laddie's character showed responsiveness and resilience, allowing him to overcome those challenges.

Series C.
I set up Series C at Sundown Road Park with the intention of running both dogs, and decided to run Lumi first. But as she was finishing her series, people began walking thru our course heading for one of the baseball fields we were using, apparently preparing for a practice or game that afternoon. While I felt that Lumi was fine maneuvering around them to complete her retrieves, I didn't want to risk Laddie going out of control and so packed up when Lumi was finished. I also noticed that the temperature seemed to be rising and didn't want Laddie's performance to become distorted.

My challenge in designing Series C was that I had three objectives which taken together were in conflict:
  • I wanted the dogs working on relatively short blinds, less than 150 yards.
  • I wanted them working on relatively long marks, well over 150 yards.
  • I wanted the dogs continuing to learn that they should push past throwers and old falls when running a blind.
After some thought, I came up with a set-up that seemed to meet all those criteria, and also included some other challenges. Left to right, within a 120° angle, with #1-#3 within 45°:
  • #3: 140-yard blind, orange dummy, at the base of a prominent tree with no marker, tight to Nate and the chair for #2 on the right, with woods along the left edge and diversions — two white bird houses and several other trees — in the same general direction as the blind
  • #2: 100-yard mark, a duck thrown away from the line (TAL) for #3, thrower's position marked by a chair
  • #1: 120-yard blind, orange dummy, at the base of a prominent tree with no marker, with a large white sports pole and another prominent tree acting as diversions in the same general direction as the blind
  • #4: 160-yard mark, pigeon, with thrower's position marked by a stickman, the thrower and stickman difficult to see from the SL because of a tree tight to the line so that we were looking under the boughs of the tree to see the thrower and stickman
Notes on Lumi's performance:
  • #1: Lumi dug back repeatedly on the sports pole, was sluggish when I used Here for attrition
  • #2: No problem
  • #3: Dug back repeatedly to the woods, perhaps because we've recently been practicing placements of blinds inside treelines; again sluggish on Here
  • #4: No problem finding the thrower or marking, which included maneuvering around people walking to the baseball field, but on the return in the growing heat, tried to settle down under the shade of a tree about halfway back to the SL
Series D. Back at Black Hill in the afternoon, I again tried Laddie on the fixed-target drill, and in that location, perhaps it was the site of our other recent training, it worked. However, it soon evolved into the same drill as the advanced alligator drill: Laddie and I start in the water, I throw the dummy to shore, Laddie retrieves it and brings it back out into the water to me.

Over two sessions, sandwiching a variety of open water retrieves for Lumi, Laddie had many successful retrieves to shore and back into the water. His performance was remarkably predictable: the longer the throw, the more avoidance Laddie showed for completing the retrieve — looking off into the distance, shaking off, eating grass, etc. I could not determine for sure whether this was proximity to me, or a higher resistance to turning around on land than on water, but given that he can do 300 yard retrieves on land with confidence and enthusiasm, it seems more likely to me that his aversion was to the transition from land to water. Thus he is confident on a throw from land to land, and on a throw from water to water (even deep water to shallow water), but lacks confidence on a throw from water to land.

Another question is how much our morning's work at Cheltenham with the long line led to improved performance back on the beach at Black Hill. Since Laddie had been stalled for a couple of days at a particular level of performance, and seemed to have broken thru that this afternoon, perhaps the morning work did play a role.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Alligator Drill, Fixed-target Drill

Today was Memorial Day, sunny with temperatures in the mid-80s.

The only training we did was water work with Laddie. We started with the most advanced version of the alligator drill, and at the end of the second of two sessions, I came up with a new drill I'll call the fixed-target drill. Laddie's work is detailed below.

With Lumi, I just threw various kinds of open water retrieves, including doubles, send outs without a dummy and verbal directional cues from behind her, and call-backs when she was already swimming out to the dummy. Lumi was responsive and enthusiastic for all of those, and was also easy to walk with as we covered the quarter mile between the van and the beach. Despite all the picnic activities — cook-outs, games of catch, children and dogs running around — Lumi has become reliable enough walking beside me that I didn't bother with a collar or leash.

Lumi has not gotten much training in these last few days I've been working with Laddie at Black Hill, because I feel we need a channel for our next training steps. But at least she's getting some swimming in nearly every day, which is good for her health, I believe.

Alligator Drill. Following Alice's guidance that performance on the first retrieve of a session is a key metric of the dog's progress, I started today's session with the most advanced version of the alligator drill we've used. I ran with Laddie out into swim-depth water, showed him the dummy, threw it up onto shore, and sent him to retrieve it. Laddie swam/ran to it, shook off, picked it up, and brought it to me. Although I saw the shaking off as a delaying tactic, the rest of the retrieve was excellent, including no difficulty alligatoring into swimming depth, so I felt this showed measurable progress since yesterday's sessions.

We then continued to use predominantly that version of the alligator drill the remainder of the first session and for a second session, after Lumi had a turn, as well. Unfortunately, Laddie made no further progress. While he returned with the dummy every time, he also found some kind of delaying tactic every time: Sometimes he would stand over the dummy and stare at some distraction such as a nearby canoe or picnicker before picking the dummy up. Sometimes he would find a clump of grass to urinate on. And often he would shake off. He seems to be trying to learn what behaviors I am willing to accept, such as relieving himself, and which I'm not, such as rolling on the dummy or retreating to the woods.

I hoped such behaviors would stop as Laddie became more comfortable with the drill, while meanwhile being self-reinforced by the retrieve itself and extrinsically reinforced by our games of water-tug and land-tug, open water and land retrieves, and chase. But watching him closely, I saw no sign of his delaying tactics declining, and perhaps saw instead slight increases in his resistance to completing the retrieve.

Since I obviously don't want Laddie's performance to decline, I thought it might be time to think of another drill that wouldn't have that effect. I came up with:

Fixed-target Drill. My inspiration for the fixed-target drill was that, even as Laddie was showing resistance to completing retrieves that required him to bring the dummy back into the water, he was still enthusiastic about the land retrieves we were doing between alligator-drill retrieves. When I decided to try something new, that gave me an idea.

I chose a fixed target on the beach, in this case a large rock. I then made one throw after another to that same target, and Laddie, starting at heel, ran to the dummy and came running back to me with it each time. For the first throw, Laddie and I were on the beach, so he was running along the shoreline. For the second throw, our feet were barely wet. For the third throw, we were a foot into the water, so Laddie was performing the desired behavior, though barely into the water. After a couple of those, I felt it was time to end the session.

What I like about the fixed-target drill is that it is easy to calibrate for Laddie's precise comfort level at that moment. After each retrieve, I can make a decision. If Laddie makes the retrieve with enthusiasm and no delays, I know I can move slightly further out again for the next retrieve. If Laddie introduces some delaying tactic, I can reposition our starting point closer into shore for the next retrieve.

My intent is to use the fixed-target drill again for our next session, and see how far we get with it. If we are doing well, I can gradually swing to the side so that eventually, I'm throwing straight across the water to shore rather than on an angle.

My key criterion for success will not be whether Laddie is succeeding with the retrieves, but whether he is doing so in a continuous display of high spirits. Now that Laddie has learned how to enter water carrying a retrieval article — which was the objective of the alligator drill — perhaps the fixed-target drill will be just the game we need to accomplish that goal.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Blinds, Alligator Drill

Summary
  • Series A. Blinds at Rolling Ridge (both dogs)
  • Series B. Continued work on alligator drill at Black Hills (both dogs)
Series A. Three blinds in extremely uneven terrain, ankle-length, stiff dry grass and thorny underbrush, orange dummies, no markers. The set-up, left to right within a 30° angle:
  • #3: 120-yard blind, diagonally across a one-lane paved road, blind placed in front of a large tree in the underbrush for a woodsy line screening us from an adjoining property
  • #1: 80-yard blind, diagonally across a one-lane paved road, blind placed 40 yards in front of a large, prominent, dead tree trunk
  • #2: 110-yard blind, diagonally across a one-lane paved road, blind placed in front of a large tree in the underbrush for a woodsy line screening us from an adjoining property
Except for Lumi lining #1, both dogs required 2-4 WSCs for each blind. At one point, Lumi slipped whistles or refused casts repeatedly on #2, but a moment later, she stopped to eliminate, and then became responsive immediately afterwards. It appeared that her refused casts were because she had selected a specific spot to eliminate, rather than that she was being diverted the wrong way by some landscape feature on her way to the blind.

Series B.
In the afternoon, on a sunny day with temps in the 70s, we returned to Black Hill for continued work on Laddie's alligator drill. Laddie had two sessions, sandwiching a session of open water retrieves and games of tug for Lumi.

After sending Laddie out for an open water retrieve to get him acclimated to the lake water, I placed Laddie in a sit, entered the water, called Here, and threw the dummy over his head. He ran to it, picked it up immediately, and came running and then swimming out to bring it to me. The ease with which he did it was a distinct improvement from yesterday, so I knew that we were continuing to make progress.

In the remainder of that session as well as all of the next one, we ran a number of retrieves, some like the first one, a few easier, and a few representing the next incremental stage. As I see it, the next stage is Laddie coming out with me into the water and then swimming and running back onto shore to retrieve a thrown dummy and bring it back out to me. During the course of today's work, Laddie did several of those, but some were not confident.

Yesterday, some of Laddie's returns when retrieving a dummy thrown over his head as he was coming to me in the water were not confident, but today Laddie was confident each time we ran such a retrieve, or something from earlier in Laddie alligator training.

Perhaps tomorrow, what was possible but difficult for Laddie today — retrieving to me in the water starting from the water himself — will become comfortable in that same way. If not tomorrow, soon. And then we will be ready to return to Cheltenham to use a channel and further extend Laddie's development into a full land-water-land retrieve.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Blinds, CGC/TDI Tests, Alligator Drill

Summary
  • Series A. Triple blind at Rolling Ridge (both dogs)
  • CGC/TDI tests at Capital Dog Training Club (Lumi)
  • Series B. Alligator drill at Black Hill Regional Park (both dogs)
Series A. The dogs and I got up early, before Lumi's CGC/TDI tests, for some field work. We returned to a nearby new home construction area called Rolling Ridge. This was where Lumi had one of her first sessions of triple blinds with various factors as suggested by Alice, and also where I had attempted to run Laddie on cold blinds and found that his whistle sits were entirely unreliable when he thought he knew where the blind was. Remembering that day at the same location a few months ago, I can see how far both dogs have come.

Today's set up was as follow, left to right within a 90° angle:
  • #1: 60-yard blind, orange dummy
  • #3: 110-yard blind, bird
  • #2: 90-yard blind, orange dummy
I used no markers for any of the blind placements, because the field was filled with visual markers, which also acted as diversions for the dogs. These distractions, all of which were at small angles off the lines to the blinds, included shrubs, trees, and surveyors markers for new home sites. #2 and #3 included hills slanting steeply to the side, and #1 and #3 including crossing diagonal trenches. In addition, the grounds consisted of rolling terrain with extremely uneven footing, thru thick, calf-high grass recently mowed and the cuttings not bagged.

Both dogs require 1-3 whistle sits and casts (WSCs) on each blind. Most WSCs by both dogs were excellent, but each had a slipped whistle, and Laddie had one refused cast.

Series A seems about the correct level of difficulty as suggested by Alice for work on the dogs' WSCs: short distances but a variety of factors. When they become 100% reliable at this level, we can gradually increase the distances. When Laddie is able to do land-water-land retrieves, we can also start on land/water blinds.

CGC/TDI Test. Lumi and Renee's Gabriel both took the AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test and the Therapy Dog International (TDI) test this afternoon. Daughter Brookie the Cookie ran Lumi as dog #13, and Renee ran Gabriel a few dogs later. Earning the CGC title required passes on all 10 items of the CGC test, while earning a TDI title required passes on all 15 items of the TDI test. Both dogs had perfect scores and earned ribbons, plus two new titles to add behind their names.

Series B.
In the late afternoon, we had a family picnic at Black Hill, and I went down to the lake with Lumi and Laddie, accompanied by son Eric and our video camera. Alternating between Laddie and Lumi, each dog had three sessions, while Eric kept the other dog on lead and videotaped Laddie's sessions.

With Laddie, I continued work on the alligator drill, while with Lumi, we practiced send outs and outgoing verbal directional cues, "left" or "right", followed by throws in front of her after she had turned. That's a skill Lumi has had for years, a game she apparently loves and seems able to play tirelessly, and an activity which I hope is beneficial to her endurance and muscle development as well as her motivation for field work.

In today's version of the alligator drill, Laddie and I experimented with variations on a key segment of the land-water-land retrieve: Laddie running away from the shoreline to pick up the dummy, then turning and running back into swim-depth water to deliver it to me. His reinforcement for each retrieve was as on previous days, combinations of water tug, an open water retrieve, and additional play on shore.

As we started the session, I could see that Laddie was now consistently confident on retrieves when he was sitting on shore and the dummy was placed or thrown behind him. As the session progressed, Laddie also had several confident retrieves when he started in a sit on shore, came into the water when I cued Here, and went back for the dummy when I then threw it high over his head, but he also marooned on some of those. Even more difficult, but also moderately successful, was where he accompanied me into swim-depth water and then completed a retrieve when I threw the dummy onto shore.

I feel that when he becomes fluent with that last kind of retrieve, we'll be ready to train at a channel where I can make longer and longer throws to shore, until at last I'm standing on the opposite bank and throwing across the channel.

While it would be nice for Laddie to have completely solved his "picturitis" for turning back to the water carrying a dummy and to be ready to make channel retrieves immediately, at least he seems to
progress noticeably each day, making me optimistic that a true land-water-land retrieve will be possible within the foreseeable future.

Here's a video showing Laddie's retrieves across the three sessions:

video

Friday, May 23, 2008

Blinds, Alligator Drill, Remote Line Handling

Summary
  • Series A. Triple blind at Sundown Road Park (both dogs)
  • Series B. Alligator drill at Black Hill Regional Park (both dogs)
  • Series C. Remote line handling at Milestone (both dogs)
Series A. Triple blind, orange dummies, left to right within a 135° angle:
  • #2: 80-yard blind, in a small alcove into adjoining woods, behind a tree, no marker
  • #1: 60-yard blind, in underbrush at edge of adjoining woods, marked by surveyors flag
  • #3: 110-yard blind, in front of a large, dying white pine with distinctive brown foliage
The field was dotted with diversions: a black trash bag left behind by some previous visitor, a large white and red sports pole, two stickmen, and two white bird houses mounted on metal poles.

The goal of this and other blinds at this time is to make them difficult enough to require several whistle sits and casts (WSCs), but short enough for the dogs to respond with zero latency. Over time, I plan to gradually increase the distances with the intent of continuing to get high quality WSCs.

I ran Laddie first, then Lumi. Both dogs had excellent responses on all WSCs and showed high enthusiasm for the game.

LADDIE
  • #1: One WSC
  • #2: One WSC
  • #3: No WSCs (lined the blind)
LUMI
  • #1: Two WSCs
  • #2: One WSC
  • #3: Two WSCs
Series B. Continued work on alligator drill, as described in previous posts. I worked Laddie, then Lumi, then Laddie again. After each water session, I threw dummies for one or both dogs on the field next to the parking area before packing them into the van.

LADDIE

We started with two static retrieves, the dummy at 10 o'clock and then 2 o'clock. Laddie did fine on those. We then did a couple with the dummy at 12 o'clock. Laddie was hesitant on the first one, not the second one. Today was the first time he's done a 12-oc AD.

At that point, I began some spontaneous shaping, asking for a wide variety of retrieves: For some I was on land, for some in shallow water, for some in water deep enough that Laddie would have to swim. For some retrieves, Laddie started in a sit on shore or in shallow water, for some he was standing or swimming next to me, for some he was standing or swimming some distance for me. Some of my throws were on land, some in shallow water, some in deeper water. Every retrieve was reinforced with a game of tug and one or more easy retrieves.

Laddie's confidence grew during his first session (before Lumi's), and continued to grow during his second (after Lumi's). He seems to have completely overcome his aversion to carrying a dummy from shore into water, and now his only problem seems to be what Alice calls "picturitis", an aversion to a particular picture. In this case, the picture is running to a dummy with his back to the water, then turning to see that he must re-enter the water with the dummy. Although he now has the skill to do that, he has only learned the alligator entry in the last few days, and prior to that, the picture he remains averse to meant that he would need to perform a behavior he didn't know how to do: enter swimming-depth water carrying a dummy.

Thus Laddie's progress needs to be measured in his ability to perform when encountering that picture. By that measure, Laddie had several meaningful successes: five retrieves with Laddie and me starting in swim-depth water and the throw to shallow water, and two retrieves with Laddie and me starting in swim-depth water and the throw to shore. Three of the shallow water retrieves were confident, all the others included some hesitation.

Within the next session or two, I hope to have Laddie making confident, unhesitating retrieves with both of us starting in swim-depth water and the throw to shore. Once Laddie becomes fluent in that skill, we should be able to extend that to a land-water-land retrieve by training the next step in a wading-depth channel (one is available at Cheltenham). We'll begin with retrieves to shore from water as we did a couple of times today, and then we'll back the start line up for a succession of retrieves until we're starting from the opposite shore.

LUMI

Lumi's session was primarily water play: happy throws into the water or along the shoreline, and games of tug. As an experiment, I tried bringing Lumi out into the water with me and throwing the dummy to shore for her to retrieve and bring back to me in the water. Although Lumi is able to do land-water-land retrieves without hesitation, this seemed to be difficult for her. Alice has suggested that the picture of Daddy cut in half by standing in deep water may be so different for both dogs from the normal retrieval picture that it's confusing to them. Seeing that it was difficult for Lumi, Laddie's progress seems all the more encouraging.

Series C.
I stopped at the large sports field at Milestone on the drive back from Black Hill with the idea of giving the dogs some playtime away from the water. We ended up practicing a number of skills in the session, including doubles and honoring, as well as working on a new skill for Laddie, remote line handling.

First, I set up a pole and put both dogs in a sit at the pole, which marked our start line (SL). I walked out some distance out and threw two dummies 45° apart, both about 50 yards from the SL. I walked back and sent Laddie to retrieve both dummies, giving Lumi treats each time she honored a Laddie send out. I then repeated the poorman double, but sending Lumi out and giving Laddie treats for honoring.

Next, working with a single dummy, we did some remote releases. First I walked out some distance, threw the dummy, and called "Laddie". As he ran out to retrieve the dummy, I ran back to the SL to receive his delivery. We repeated that with Lumi.

Next, I had Lumi do a complete remotely handled retrieve: With both dogs in a sit at the SL, I walked out twenty yards, threw the dummy another 30 yards, released Lumi, and then waved her back to the pole, cueing "go on" when she slowed, and "sit" when she arrived at the pole. With enthusiastic praise and high value treats for her excellent performance and happy demeanor, we left Laddie sitting at the SL and I put Lumi back in the van.

I then used about three retrieves to train Laddie to complete the remote "delivery". On the last retrieve, he was able to run past me with the dummy and continue most of the way back to the pole, turning to face me and sit when I cued Sit. With that success, I felt it was a good time to end the session.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hunt Test Training, Marks and Blinds

Summary
  • Park Heights, training with one of Bob Hux's HT groups
    • Series A. Land series
    • Series B. Water series
  • Fair Hill, with Nate as thrower
    • Series C. Marks and blinds
Field Trial Line Mechanics. After correspondence with Alice, I decided to begin using Field Trial line mechanics with both dogs. As part of that, I asked all throwers to use no duck call, and to fire a gunshot before throwing rather than while retrieval article was in the air. I plan to make the same request with all throwers from now on for the foreseeable future.

Conditions. Series A and B were run at Park Heights, where the grass has not been mowed this season and the cover is now chest high. Series C was run at a new area of Fair Hill, which I'll call Area 4. We didn't use previous areas of Fair Hill because the grass in all those areas was too high. Temps throughout the day were in the 60s but felt colder because of a 30 MPH northwest wind.

Series A. Bob's land series, left to right within a 90° angle:
  • #1: 70-yard mark, pheasant thrown by winger left to right
  • #2: 50-yard mark, pheasant thrown by hand right to left
  • #3: 110-yard blind, orange dummy at lining pole, line to the blind tight to #2 on the left, with a large tree to the right
Laddie ran Series A as singles, in the order #2-1, then ran the blind. He had no trouble with any of the retrieves, and lined the blind.

Lumi ran Series A as a double, thrown #1-2 and picked up #2-1, then ran the blind. She had no problem on #2. She needed to hunt on #1 but did not need help from the thrower. On the blind, she headed toward the tree, became out of sight in the high cover, and when visible began slipping whistles and refusing casts. Eventually, she did take handling to the blind.

Series B. This was Bob's water series, left to right within a 90° angle:
  • #3: 30-yard land-water mark, white dummy thrown into open water
  • #2: 60-yard land-water mark, white dummy thrown against shoreline of a point, with two closer points on shoreline along the left
  • #1: 110-yard land-water-land blind, orange dummy and lining pole, past three points on the left
To enable Lumi to make the long swim while she was fresh, I decided to run her on the blind first. She repeatedly veered to left or right shore, taking casts been then digging back. I finally decided the blind was too hard for her and called her back.

I then asked that the marks be thrown as a double #1-2, to be picked up #2-1. But the thrower for #2 accidentally threw her dummy into the tall grass behind her holding blind. At Bob's suggestion, she then threw a second dummy into the water.

Lumi retrieved the dummy in the water, but when I sent her to #1, she veered left and tried to find the dummy that had been thrown into the grass. I called her back, walked her to the shoreline, and sent her again. She required handling to keep her off the points on the left, but retrieved the mark.

I saw no training benefit to running Laddie on this series, so I didn't run him.

Series C. After an email discussion with Alice in which she mentioned that Lumi's and Laddie's excellent marking skills have probably been enhanced by running long marks, and that they may degrade if don't continue doing so periodically, I decided today to set up a series with longer marks than we've been practicing lately.

Left to right within a 60° angle:
  • #3: 180-yard mark, white dummy
  • #2: 120-yard mark, white dummy
  • #1: 140-yard blind, orange dummy marked by surveyors flag
The terrain was low rises and dips, with irregular footing in knee-high grass.

I ran Laddie first, then Lumi.

LADDIE

On the blind, Laddie was responsive to all WSs, but he interpreted the first several angle-back casts as angle-ins, which I would assume is because we've been practicing angle-ins without mixing them with other casts. I hadn't noticed the problem before because Laddie has been lining so many of the blinds he's run. Finally, Laddie took a couple of angle-backs correctly, and got out a little past the blind. Then I got to use a legitimate angle-in to bring him in.

Laddie did a great job on the marks, which were longer than any he has run in some time.

LUMI

On the blind, Lumi was responsive on both WSs and both angle-backs, one to the right, one to the left.

Lumi also did a great job on the marks.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Blinds, Alligator Drill, Shore-handling Toolkit

Summary
  • Series A. At Sundown Road Park, a triple blind (both dogs)
  • Series B. At Black Hill Regional Park, continued work with alligator drill (Laddie)
  • Series C. At Black Hill, shaping Tool #8, Over-LTW-W, of shore-handling toolkit (Lumi)
Series A. I set up a triple blind intended to practice the following concepts:
  • Short and long blinds combined
  • Salience, that is, helping the dog learn to sight on a prominent target in line with the blind
  • Key holes
The series was set up as follows, left to right in a 90° angle:
  • #1: 60-yard blind, orange dummy with no marker, in line with a prominent tree 30 yards beyond
  • #3: 240-yard blind, duck with flagging tape in small tree behind the blind, thru a keyhole formed by two trees 80 yards from the SL
  • #2: 160-yard blind, orange dummy with surveryors flag marker, thru a keyhole formed by two trees 80 yards from SL, in line with a prominent tree 50 yards beyond
Both dogs completed all retrieves in the order #1-2-3, but both dogs became slow on WSs at distances greater than 150 yards. In addition, Lumi refused several casts at those distances.

Series B. This was continued work on shaping Laddie for land-water-land retrieves using the alligator drill suggested by Alice.

After every successful retrieve to me in the water, Laddie and I played a rousing few seconds of water tug, and then I cued Out and threw the dummy a few feet further out into the water. As Laddie retrieved it, I started to shore, sometimes letting him catch up to me. Once on shore, I took the dummy and threw it, cued Shake for Laddie to shake off, and then played more tug and had another happy throw or two. After that, I repositioned Laddie in a sit for the next retrieve.

Today we started with Laddie in a sit 10 yards inland from the shoreline of the lake, and me 15 yards into the water. For the first several retrieves, I placed the dummy directly in front of Laddie at 6 0'clock (6-oc), then gradually placed it more to the side until he was turning to 9-oc and bringing me the dummy.

Next, I started throwing the dummy to 6-oc, 7-oc, 8-oc, 9-oc from the water. Finally I tried throwing the dummy to 10-oc, and Laddie picked it up and brought it to me, but with some hesitation before entering the water. I then ended the session with a happy throw and more tug.

Before having Laddie get in the van, I used two dummies to throw a poorman double, easy and fun, on the lawn next to parking.

Series C. Today Lumi and I worked on Tool #8 of our shore-handling toolkit, Over-LTW-W:



Unlike the previous tools, this tool is requiring some shaping. Today's shaping of Tool #8 went as follows:
  1. Happy throw into the lake so that Lumi could get used to the water.
  2. Three reps of Tool #7, Over-LTW-WO (no WS).
  3. I placed the dummy in Lumi's mouth while she was in a sit in the same location as Step 2, walked 10 yards away along the shoreline, and cued Over into the water.
  4. Lumi entered the shallowest water and walked in an arc around me.
  5. I again positioned Lumi as in Step 3, but this time I walked out into hip-deep water before cueing Over.
  6. This got Lumi to carry the dummy into the water to swimming depth, circle me, and carry it out again.
  7. We repeated Steps 6 and 7 a second time.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hunt Test Training

With rain coming down in buckets and an expected high of only 60° today, I phoned Bob when I woke up this morning to ask whether we'd still be training, and he said he was already on the road to Cheltenham. So I packed up Lumi and Laddie and we drove out to join the group, which to my surprise had three other trainers and their dogs there as well. Luckily, the rain slowed down and finally stopped as the session continued, and the pond water was apparently comfortable for the dogs despite the cold air temps. By the time I got there, they were in the middle of setting up the first series, which was two water marks. Later, we ran a second series with another water mark as well as the day's only land retrieve. Summary:
  • Series A. Two water marks with the group (Lumi and Laddie both ran the series)
  • Series B. A water mark, a blind, and a land mark with the group (both dogs again)
Series A. When I first arrived, I thought Series A looked too difficult for Laddie, and maybe even for Lumi, especially given the cold weather we've been having, and I decided to just throw at one of the stations. But one of the other trainers assured me that the water was fine and that the marks weren't that difficult. First I ran Lumi, and when she did well, I thought I'd run the series, slightly modified, with Laddie as well.

LUMI

This was the set-up for Lumi, left to right:
  • #1, a 40-yard mark (duck) thrown with a winger into a large patch of high grass in marshy terrain
  • #2, a 70-yard mark (duck) thrown with a winger into the water near the shoreline, with points of land on either side of the line to the fall
I ran Lumi from well inland, giving her a better view of the throws than closer to the reed, and also increasing the interest of the retrieves by making the distances half land, half water. I was told #1 was a good opportunity for the dog to practice hunting in tall cover, but Lumi took a straight line to the fall and didn't require a hunt. She also did well on #2, not veering toward any of the land masses and instead swimming straight out and back. In addition, I waited to whistle on #2 to see whether a recall would be needed, and it wasn't. Lumi picked up the bird, then turned around and swam back.

LADDIE

Knowing that Laddie would likely maroon if the fall was too close to shore, I called for modifications to both of the marks described above, again running them from well inland as I had with Lumi.

On #1, the thrower carried the winger to water's edge and the bird was thrown well out into the middle of the pond. Laddie had no difficulty with the retrieve.

But on #2, the fall was too close to shore. Laddie swam out, picked up the bird, and took it to shore. He would not re-enter the water, and even when the thrower took the bird and threw it back in the water at my request, Laddie went out to get it and then brought it back to the far shore. When I saw that, I headed for my van and drove around to where I could walk out to Laddie, slip on his lead, and walk him back to the van without the bird. That's when the incident described below under "Bad Dog, Question Answered" occurred.

Series B. For this series, Bob combined a water mark, a land blind, and a land mark. Once again I ran both dogs from inland rather than water's edge, but I modified Laddie's water retrieve. In addition, the blind had no more birds when I ran Laddie, so one of the trainers was kind enough to run out and place a blind while Laddie was running the first mark. But she placed the blind in a different location than the others had been. As a result, Lumi and Laddie again ran somewhat different series.

LUMI

For Lumi, the set-up looked like this, left to right:
  • #1, 70-yard land-water mark (duck), thrown by winger to far shoreline, opportunity to run bank along right edge of the pond
  • #3, 90-yard land mark (duck), thrown by winger from shadows under a tree into large area of high cover, with line to the fall thru high cover, marshy terrain, and pools of standing water
  • #2, 110-yard land blind (duck), beside a large tree and marked by a lining pole, again with line to the blind mostly thru high cover
Lumi ran her series well, pinning the marks, and lining the blind. Bob commented that Lumi looks ready to run in a Senior test.

LADDIE

For Laddie, the set-up looked like this, left to right:
  • #1, 60-yard land-water mark (duck), thrown by winger to open water, the fall equal distance to land on all three sides
  • #3, 90-yard land mark (duck), thrown by winger from shadows under a tree into large area of high cover, with line to the fall thru high cover, marshy terrain, and pools of standing water
  • #2, 90-yard land blind (duck), thru a keyhole formed by two trees and into a small stand of trees, the bird placed in front of one of the trees with no marker, the line to the blind thru medium cover
Like Lumi, Laddie ran his series well, and at his usual breakneck speed. Like Lumi, he pinned both marks and lined his blind, too.

Steadiness. I ran both dogs off lead today, as I have been doing for some weeks. Lumi has been steady for some time and continued so today. In the recent past, Laddie has crept at times, especially when a winger was used, as it was on all of today's marks. But today, Laddie was steady on every mark, with no creeping.

Bad Dog, Question Answered.
After driving to the other bank to put Laddie on lead and walk him to the van after he marooned on mark #2 of Series A (see above), I stood at the van wringing out our chamois so I could dry him, my foot on the loop of his leash.

On the other side of the pond, Bob was calling for a throw for one of his dogs, but I was barely aware of it. The winger was more than 100 yards away, thru marsh, waist-high grass, and a swimming-depth channel, and the fall would be into a pond beyond the rise. I didn't think it would tempt Laddie, and I had something on my mind.

I wasn't worried about Laddie marooning. We're working on that problem, and I have reasonable confidence that we'll get it fixed and events like today will someday be relegated to the distant past. My concern was different.

I was wondering, is Laddie losing his courage? I have a video on YouTube of him retrieving across a channel when he was much younger, and I'll never forget another day, when he scaled a cliff on the far side of Brink creek to retrieve a duck I was trying to discard in the high cover. Would Laddie be motivated to perform either of those displays of prey drive today? Or have I made some error in his training and somehow killed that spark?

I sighed and continued wringing the chamois. In the corner of my mind, I heard a shot fired and a winger released. Suddenly, a flash of golden fur brought me out of my reverie. Laddie had broken from his sit, easily pulling the lead out from under my foot, and was racing toward the point where the bird must be landing. I called Here a couple of times but to no avail. I started trudging after him, watching as he bounded, splashed, and swam straight for another dog's bird. A moment later, I saw him disappear over the crest, and then heard him splash into the water. I learned later that the other dog, a powerful yellow Lab, got the bird, but I felt terrible that Laddie had interfered.

I was worried that I'd be in trouble with Bob and the other trainers, and yet, I couldn't help the fact that my spirits were actually lifted by the incident. That question I'd been asking myself — Had Laddie lost his drive, his courage, his need to retrieve at all costs? I had my answer: No, apparently I hadn't broken him after all.

"That's my boy," I thought, relief mingled with illicit pride. "That's my boy."

Monday, May 19, 2008

Angle-in, Alligator Drill, Blinds

Summary
  • Series A. At Milestone, practiced angle-ins with a 90-yard backline (both dogs)
  • Series B. At Black Hill Regional Park, worked on alligator drill (both dogs)
  • Series C. Back at Milestone, ran a series of blinds to work on concept of a blind placed behind the tree line of adjoining woods (both dogs)
Series A. I used lining poles to set up a 90-yard backline, and placed several white dummies at the far pole. I worked Lumi, then Laddie, on an angle-in drill as follows:
  • I sent Dog to the pile twice.
  • Next time, I threw a soft black dummy at 11 o'clock as Dog was running away, then blew WS and cued angle in.
  • Another time to the pile without stopping.
  • Finally, another throw at 1 o'clock, this time of a pheasant, WS, and angle in.
Both dogs were fine with angle-ins on both sides, but both dogs also had latency, or outright slips, on the whistle sits. I suspect this is because we have been focusing on other things for some time. Also, both dogs have been tending to line the blinds at Hunt Test training, which might make the WS seem less valuable to them. We've continued to practice WS on hikes, but Lumi rarely gets more than 20 yards from me, and Laddie rarely more than 50 yards, so we don't get to practice distances needed for blinds.

Alice has suggested that we begin running some short, difficult blinds to work on the WS. Short so the dog is likely to respond — and then we can begin adding distance — and difficult so that several WSs, if possible, are needed.

Series B. Although Lumi is already able to enter water carrying a dummy or bird, I decided to run the alligator drill I had planned for Laddie on Lumi first, in case I discovered that it was actually more difficult than I thought it would be. If Lumi, who can run land-water-land, wasn't able to run the drill I had planned, I'd know it was too difficult for Laddie.

LUMI

This is what I'll call the "6-oc AG", meaning six o'clock alligator drill:
  • I positioned Lumi in a sit 10 yards inland from the shoreline of the lake. I placed the dummy at 6 o'clock midway between Lumi and the shoreline. I positioned myself 15 yards into the water, which was chest high. The swimline, where either dog would have to stop walking on the lake floor and start to swim, was about halfway between the shoreline and me.
  • I called Here. Lumi came running toward me, picking up the dummy as she got to it, then entering the water and alligatoring past the swimline to get to me. When she arrived, we played a rowdy game of water tug, complete with me growling, for a few seconds. Then I cued Out, she released the dummy, and I threw it a few feet further toward the center of the lake. Lumi swam out to get the dummy and I trudged into shore. When she arrived with the dummy again, I took it and threw it along the shoreline as a happy throw, cueing Shake as she chased it. She shook off, picked up the dummy, and brought it back to me again. We played some more tug and I also threw the dummy for her again.
Lumi seemed fine with the 6-oc AG. Next I tried something else with Lumi. For the next two retrieves, I brought Lumi out into the water with me, then threw the dummy up onto shore. She ran out to retrieve it and brought it back to me, and we played as before.

I didn't realize it at the time, but I was taking a major jump in criteria between those two versions of the drill. Laddie might be ready for the 6-oc AG, but I'd later realize he was far from ready to retrieve a thrown dummy and bring it back into the water.

LADDIE

This was my training sequence with Laddie:
  1. Laddie at shoreline, dummy in shallow water, Daddy 15 yards into water. Daddy calls Here, Laddie picks up the dummy and brings it to Daddy, alligatoring across the swimline.
  2. 6-oc AG. Laddie was so enthusiastic that he leapt into the air with the dummy in his mouth, something he used to do when he was younger but has not done in a long time.
  3. 6-oc AG. Laddie again made a big air entry. It would be the last of the day.
  4. I attempted bringing Laddie into the water and throwing the dummy to shore for Laddie to retrieve, as I had with Lumi. Laddie marooned.
  5. Another 6-oc AG.
  6. I attempted a 12-oc AG, identical to the 6-oc AG except that I placed the dummy behind Laddie. When I called Here, Laddie attempted to come to me without the dummy. When I cued Back, he marooned.
  7. Another 6-oc AG.
  8. I attempted a 9-oc AG. Laddie marooned.
  9. Another 6-oc AG.
  10. A 7-oc AG. Laddie was successful.
  11. An 8-oc AG. Laddie was successful.
  12. Another 9-oc AG. Laddie marooned.
  13. Another 6-oc AG, then more play, and I ended the session.
Series C. Because Lumi has had difficulty in the past when blinds were placed in alcoves inside a treeline of woods adjoining the field, I set up a series to introduce an easy version of that picture, a double blind with both blinds inside an alcove behind the treeline of adjoining woods, but the alcove on mowed lawn and with ample open space. The series was as follows, left to right within a 60° angle:
  • #1: 80-yard blind (bird), the line to the blind straight across a paved walkway and thru a keyhole formed by two trees, in an alcove behind the treeline of the adjoining woods
  • #2: 100-yard blind (bird), the line to the blind thut a keyhole formed by two trees, then diagonally across a different section of the paved walkway, then thru a second keyhole made up of two more trees, into another alcove behind the treeline of the woods
Thus this set-up enabled the dogs to practice several concepts:
  • Keyholes
  • Perpendicular and diagonal road crossings
  • Blind behind treeline
Laddie veered to the right on #1, responded well to a WS and angle-back left, responded well again to a WS and angle-back right, and went straight to the blind to complete the retrieve. He then lined #2.

Lumi lines both #1 and #2.

Both dogs showed high motivation and are hopefully starting to be better prepared for the kinds of challenges in these blinds.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Alligator Drill

Summary
  • Series A. Alligator drill at Black Hill Regional Park
Big Air versus Alligators. Based on correspondence about Laddie's difficulty with land-water-land retrieves, Alice has finally gotten enough information to figure out what's going on with Laddie and to explain it to me.

Ever since Laddie was a small puppy, he has always taken big air entries into water, leaping high as he leaves shore and landing well into the swim-depth water. I've always loved those entries and have thought of them simply as another manifestation of his prey drive, which seems to shape so much of his personality.

While drive may be the reason for those entries, the result is that Laddie has almost no experience with alligatoring into swim-depth water, that is, wading in until his feet can no longer touch the floor and then pushing off.

That has not been a problem as long as Laddie was doing open water retrieves. He can leap into the water, swim to the article, and carry it back out of the water.

But it became a significant obstacle when he attempted a land-water-land retrieve, because it meant that he had to carry an article with him while he was re-entering the water on the return. He was not comfortable leaping with the article in his mouth, and he was also uncomfortable with the feeling of losing the floor under his feet. He simply did not know how to get into swimming-depth water carrying an article.

As Alice pointed out, this explains why Laddie was not making progress on the Re-entry Drill. I was inadvertently expecting Laddie to learn two different skills simultaneously: how to enter swim-depth water without leaping, and how to do so carrying a dummy. The two skills needed to be separated so that he could learn them incrementally.

Series A. Once we understood the problem, it became possible to devise games to enable Laddie to become comfortable with alligator entries, and to see a path to extending that skill all the way to land-water-land retrieves.

Today's work was the first session of what I'll call the alligator drill. I started with Lumi to test the drill's practicality. Since Lumi can is already comfortable with land-water-land retrieves, I wanted to make sure that the drill I had in mind would be easy for her. If it was hard for her, as the re-entry drill had been, I felt it wouldn't be appropriate for Laddie at his level.

The alligator drill involves several points in a line perpendicular to the shore line:
  • The dog's start line, 10 yards from the shoreline.
  • The shoreline, where the shore meets the water.
  • The swimline, where the depth of the water requires the dog to stop walking on the floor of the lake and begin to swim. The swimline is about 7 yards from the shoreline in the area where we were training.
  • Daddy's position, 15 yards from the shoreline, in chest high water.
To run the drill, I position Dog in a sit and then carry the dummy with me out to my position, or in later steps, drop it on land or in the water as I go out to my position.

On every retrieve, when Dog gets to me with the dummy, we play a rowdy game of water tug. Then I cue Out and toss the dummy a little further out into the water, and Dog breaks away to swim to the dummy. As Dog completes the retrieve, I wade to shore, sometimes turning toward Dog and splashing like a bird taking a bath on the way out, then running out just ahead of Dog. On shore, I play more tug with Dog, throw the dummy, cue Shake, add more throws and tug, and finally put Dog in "sit" for next retrieve.

With both dogs, the first day's sequence was as follows:
  1. Daddy throws dummy 3' in front of him and calls "here". Dog is able to cross swimline and begin swimming without carrying anything, then picks up dummy and brings it to Daddy. For Laddie, that meant leaping over the swimline.
  2. Daddy throws dummy 6' in front of him. Dog is still able to cross swimline without carrying anything, and another big air entry for Laddie.
  3. Daddy throws dummy 9' in front of him. Dummy is still past swimline.
  4. Daddy throws dummy 12' in front of him. Dummy is still past swimline, but Laddie cannot make a leaping entry or he'll land on the dummy and bury it. Alligator entry required.
  5. After that, various positions of the dummy may be repeated to build confidence, but the dummy is positioned closer and closer to Dog, by means of a throw or by dropping the dummy in the desired spot as Daddy wades out to his position. Eventually, the dummy is placed on shore, midway between Dog and the shoreline.
Today, we had one session for Lumi, then one for Laddie.

LUMI

Lumi had no difficulty until the dummy was thrown to the swimline. On that retrieve, she was a little hesitant, but when we reran it, no hesitation.

The next two retrieves, I dropped the dummy in shallow water as I waded out. Perhaps because she has never used a big air entry, this seemed to be no more difficult for her than when she crossed the swimline without the dummy.

Then on the last two retrieves, I threw the dummy over Lumi's head. This was essentially the same as the Re-entry Drill from previous days training, with the difference that today we had built up to it with the Alligator Drill. Today, she ran back onto the grass both times, picked up the dummy, and brought it to me without hesitation. Although Lumi made it look easy, I was later to learn, and continue to see over several days, that even with the preparatory work, picking up the dummy behind him and then turning to bring it into the water was a much more difficult behavior for Laddie than when the dummy was in front of him, and that more intermediate steps were needed before Laddie could be successful at it.

LADDIE

As Laddie and I began the Alligator Drill, I raised criteria (that is, positioned the dummy closer to him) more gradually with Laddie than I had with Lumi, taking more reps to progress. Laddie's sixth rep was on the swimline. He hesitated, but he completed it. Next time at the same location, no hesitation.

For the next two retrieves, I dropped the dummy in shallow water as I walked out. The next two, I positioned the dummy midway between Laddie and the shoreline and cued Here. Laddie ran to the dummy, picked it up, and brought it to me, using a gorgeous alligator entry to push off at the swimline. Although that would have looked like routine behavior in another dog, and I would not have recognized its significance prior to Alice's explanation of the difficulty Laddie was having, these retrieves to me took on the significance of a pivotal training moment in Laddie's field career. I was elated. I then ended the session with an easy throw to the swimline.

In my view, today represented a major breakthrough. Prior to today, Laddie had never made a non-coerced entry into swim-depth water carrying an article. He had done so only when I had driven away from the training area, or a couple of times when pulled by a long line, or when repeatedly beckoned. By contrast, today I only needed to cue Here once. The only pressure on Laddie was that if he wanted to bring the dummy to me, he'd have to enter the swim-depth water with the dummy in his mouth. Because of the preparatory steps in the Alligator Drill, he was able to do so comfortably.

I feel as though an enormous weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Before today, I had to consider the possibility that Laddie would never be able to perform a willing land-water-land retrieve, that he would always maroon on the far shore unless pressured in some way. I now feel that it is only a matter of incremental training steps from what he accomplished today, to a complete land-water-land retrieve.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Shore-handling

Summary
  • Series A. At Black Hill Regional Park, re-entry drill (Laddie)
  • Series B. At Black Hill, Tool #6, Over-WTL-W/O (Lumi)
  • Sereis C. At Black Hill, re-entry drill (Lumi)
Series A. Today Laddie and I worked on the re-entry drill at the lake at Black Hill Regional Park. In this drill, Laddie either brings the dummy to me from shore into water, or runs with me from shore into water carrying the dummy. Laddie had several successful entries, but nothing approaching an automatic re-entry as in a land-water-land retrieve. He always needed to be called repeatedly with me fairly close to the shoreline, and then he would follow me out into the water. When he did so, he often tried to put his paws on me rather than swim. I am pessimistic that the re-entry will ever be easy for Laddie.

Series B.
Today Lumi and I worked on Tool #6, Over-WTL-W/O of the shore-handling toolkit:



We worked on the tool as follows:
  1. Facing the lake's shoreline with Lumi at heel, I cued Back. Lumi ran out into the water and began to swim.
  2. I called Sit. I didn't use my whistle becausee Gabriel, who is uncomfortable around whistles, was in the vacinity. Lumi turned in the water to face me.
  3. I cued Over visually and verbally. Lumi began to swim in the direction cued. We ran it both ways.
  4. I threw dummy onto curved section of shore in direction Lumi was swimming.
  5. Lumi exited the water picked up the dummy. Meanwhile, I moved to a position so that she could run to me without taking an indirect route around the water.
It appears to me that Lumi has no difficulty with Tool #6.

Series C.
Out of curiosity, I tried the Re-entry Drill with Lumi. To my surprise, Lumi seemed to find it even more difficult than Laddie had. Apparently, at least for Lumi, it's easier for her to re-enter water after a retrieve if I'm waiting on land on the other side, than if I'm waiting in the water. In later correspondence with Alice, she speculated that both dogs may be confused by the sight of me half-submerged in water, and seeing only the top of my body calling them. The fact that Lumi found it so difficult would seem to invalidate the Re-entry drill as a technique for conditioning Laddie to have a positive association with re-entry.

Snapshot: TO DO List, Guidelines for Training Day, Shore-handling Toolkit

TO DO List

  • Daily
    • – Wagon wheels with birds to shape the retrieve
    • – Build motivation with tug
  • Dinner
    • – Multiples: abort retrieve if dog looks away
    • – Backing up at heel
  • Hikes
    • – WS shaping
  • Solo/Land
    • – Practice with soft black dummy
    • – Angle-in (90-110-yard backlines)
    • – Triple blind:
      • >> Salience drill
      • >> At and inside tree line
      • >> Short/longer/longest
      • >> Pyramid
      • >> Indent
      • >> Keyholes
      • >> Diagonals across roads
      • >> Diagonals across ditches
    • – Holding blind and SL approach
    • – Heeling
  • Solo/Water
    • – Shore-handling toolkit
    • – Swim-by
    • – Cheaters
    • – Walk-arounds
    • – Chinese singles
    • – Cold blinds
  • Thrower:
    • – Include soft, black dummy in practice
    • – Marks and blinds, including returning thru cover and dealing with other factors
    • – Occasional hip-pocket and other picture drills
    • – Looking to long gun
    • – Drills to prepare for triples in group work
    • – Practice walk-ups
    • – Practice with line gun

Guidelines for Training Day

BEFORE OTHER TRAINERS ARRIVE

  • Bring:
    • – Birds for retrieve shaping
    • – High-value treats
    • – Clippies
    • – Boots
  • White jacket
  • Load pockets: pistol, ammo
  • Daily TO DO items for each dog

RUNNING THE DOG

  • Key question: What is the best way to run each series in terms of benefit to the dog's training as a continuation of private training?
  • Do not run the dog unless confident that he will not rehearse any incorrect responses
  • If running:
    • – WS for distraction during returns (Laddie)
    • – No multiples until dog completes JH
    • – If running as a multiple, show the dog all stations before calling for the first throw
    • – Cue "sit, mark" before first throw
    • First train that high sit triggers send, then build duration for long count before sending
    • – In FT series, run long gun last
    • – If using an auto-whistle, whistle early, as dog is pouncing on the bird
    • – Run only blinds within dog's capability based on private training
    • – Call dog to heel for slipped whistles
    • – Don't challenge early blinds
    • – No cheating water retrieves until shore-handling is trained

RECORD KEEPING PER MARK

  • Creeping?
  • Attempted break?
  • Head swinging, before or after throws? Which throws?
  • Could the dog find the long gun?
  • Did dog return uncued? Auto-whistle? Contingent whistle? Voice? Walk out?
  • On blinds: Slipped whistles? Refused casts? Hunting by scent or sight?

AFTER GROUP TRAINING

  • Pay for flyer if used
  • Purchase birds if available

Shore-handling Toolkit

– Tool #1. Here-WTL-W (no WS)
– Tool #2. Here-LTW-W (no WS)
– Tool #3. Back-LTW-W/O (no WS)
– Tool #4. Back-WTL-W/O
– Tool #5. Back-WTL-W
– Tool #6. Over-WTL-W/O
– Tool #7. Over-LTW-W/O (no WS)
– Tool #8. Over-LTW-W
– Tool #9. Over-WTL-W

where

– WTL=water-to-land
– LTW=land-to-water
– W=with dummy
– W/O=without dummy

These tools are each trained thru the following stages, except that for some of them, no whistle sit (WS) is used:
  • – Stage 1. Without stopping the dog
  • – Stage 2. WS, then cueing the behavior
  • – Stage 3. Extend distances for SL-to-shoreline and shoreline-to-article
  • – Stage 4. As thoroughly-proofed cued behaviors

Friday, May 16, 2008

Re-entry Drill, Shore Handling

This morning we drove to Cheltenham for shore training. In Laddie's case, we focused entirely on his re-entry to water carrying a dummy, using a new drill I gradually designed, which I call the Re-entry Drill. In Lumi's case, we went onto the next tool in the shore-handling toolkit I came up with, the first Over tool. Summary:
  • Series A. Re-entry Drill (Laddie only)
  • Series B. Tool #7, Over-LTW-W/O (no WS) (Lumi only)
Series A. Today's goal for Laddie was to work on his re-entry into water after picking up the dummy during a land-water-land retrieve. Ostensibly this is Tool #2, Here-LTW-W (no WS), of the toolkit, but Laddie's only difficulty with this tool is the re-entry, and that continues to be a major stumbling block.

After several experiments, I finally found a sequence in which Laddie would consistently, though still hesitantly, enter the water with a dummy. I'll call this the Re-entry Drill:
  1. Make 2-3 happy throws to an open area on land near the water re-entry point.
  2. As Laddie gets close to deliver on the last happy throw, run or back into the water, calling Here as necessary. In early retrieves, Laddie only had to get his feet wet. In later retrieves, I backed up enough that he needed to swim a few feet to complete the delivery. In today's practice, if I got more than 3' from Laddie he'd stall at the shoreline. Sometimes Laddie would run beside me into the water, but most times I had turn around to face him and call him repeatedly.
  3. Take delivery of the dummy in the water.
  4. At this point, I experimented with two alteratives: Option 1. Throw the dummy 3-5' further into the water for Laddie to swim out to, then leave the water while Laddie was in the middle of that retrieve. Or Option 2. Throw the dummy onto land and as Laddie swam, then ran, to retrieve it, leave the water behind him. I thought that Option 2 would be more reinforcing for Laddie's delivery into water in Steps 2-3, on the assumption that Laddie finds water aversive, but Option 1 seemed to provide more comfortable re-entries the next round. I take it that this means that Laddie doesn't find water or swimming, but rather entering water, or entering water while carrying something, aversive. So perhaps it's the transition into water that makes him uncomfortable, even after hundreds of water entries since he was a puppy.
  5. After Option 1 or Option 2, take delivery on land near the shoreline and play a rousing game of tug.
  6. Go back to Step 1.
Today's training with Laddie is discussed further below, under "Re-entry Blues".

Series B. I felt that Lumi was ready to try the next tool in our shore-handling toolkit. I remembered that the next tool was Tool #6 and that it was an Over, but I forgot which Over it was and actually worked with Lumi on Tool #7, Over-LTW-W/O (no WS):



As with previous tools from the toolkit, this was easy for Lumi and required no actual training. I didn't even need to put the dummy in the water before cueing Over. Instead, I'd cue Over, Lumi would jump in the water and start swimming, and I'd throw the dummy to where she was swimming toward.

We ran five retrieves of increasing distances, and we practiced Over to both the left and the right. On the last retrieve, I placed Lumi 40 yards from the SL along the right edge of a channel, then took my position at the end of the channel and cued left Over. Lumi entered the water sideways and I threw the dummy into the middle of the channel to the position Lumi was swimming toward. She picked up the dummy, turned, and swam toward me down the middle of the channel and up onto shore to complete her delivery.

Next session we'll go back in our toolkit numbering and work on Tool #6, Over-WTL-W/O.

Re-entry Blues. It is seems clear to me at this point that Laddie's problems with re-entering the water after picking up a dummy on a land-water-land retrieve is not a shaping issue. Laddie is fluent in retrieving dummies, and has had enough successful and extrinsically reinforced re-entries that it seems likely he has an accurate mental picture of the correct response. Yet the fact that he does not choose to make re-entries suggests that his reinforcement history is not sufficient to overcome whatever adversity is involved in the behavior. Apparently, Laddie finds entering the water, especially with an article in his mouth, aversive enough to overshadow all the intrinsic and extrinsic reinforcement he has had in his life for retrieves in general, and the re-entry in particular.

Therefore, I now see this as a conditioning issue, akin to Lumi's gun shyness when we first began field training in early 2007. To address the problem, I've tried to find a way to create a highly positive association with re-entry, which I called the Re-entry Drill. What Laddie seemed to be learning from the Re-entry Drill is that re-entry predicts a whole chain of desirable outcomes:
  • The opportunity to deliver the dummy
  • The opportunity to get back on land
  • Games of tug
  • Happy throws on land
In addition, the drill also involves running alongside Daddy, a chase game that generally excites Laddie and also a companionship activity like those that Laddie often does spontaneously whenever we are together, such as running upstairs with me at bedtime.

When we addressed Lumi's gun shyness last year, we used a procedure called Desensitization and Counter-Conditioning (D&CC). The Re-entry Drill may be similar, but I don't think that a desensitization component is involved, because I don't see Laddie as having some irrational fear that I can systematically habituate him to. Nonetheless, hopefully I can produce sufficiently effective counter-conditioning that the results will be the same as a successful D&CC program.

As I recall, it took approximately six weeks of daily sessions with Lumi to get her relatively comfortable with gunfire, and once she experienced it in the context of field work, the associations became even more positive. It's unfortunate that a similar timeframe will involve long and expensive daily drives to Cheltenham with Laddie for the next several weeks, but if it enables Laddie to become successful with land-water-land retrieves for the rest of his career, it will be well worth it.
[Note that entries are displayed from newest to oldest.]