Saturday, May 24, 2008

Blinds, CGC/TDI Tests, Alligator Drill

  • 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:

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