Saturday, November 8, 2008

Land and Water Marks and Blinds

AM: Cheltenham

[My son Eric came along and videotaped for us.]

Note on the weather: Overnight temps have dipped into the thirties at times over the last couple of weeks, and this morning we were also having intermittent rain, making for a gloomy fall day. The water temp of the pond was mid-50s, which seemed warm enough for the dogs to get in some swimming practice. Watching the dogs work at the time, I was pleased by Laddie's water entries with articles in his mouth, which have made excellent progress over the last few months. But reviewing the videos later, I realized that both dogs may have been feeling some resistance to getting in the water when it's that cold. I know I would.

SERIES A. Triple blind with PB, left to right within a 120° angle:
  • #1: 100-yard land blind, OD, no marker
  • 40-yard PB, duck TFRL
  • #2: 100-yard land blind, OD in front of a tree
  • #3: 200-yard LWL blind, 20-yard swim, OD in front of a tree
Field was mostly open meadow, medium cover with diagonal strips of high cover. SL was on a mulch mound.

I ran Lumi first, then Laddie. Both performed more weakly in the Cheltenham conditions than I've been seeing when we train at various properties closer to home. For some reason, it also seems that their performance declines when we're videotaping. That might be an illusion, my mind playing tricks on me.

Since both dogs are two-sided, I had a choice of running them on my left or right side. Normally with blinds, I run the dog on my right side for the leftmost blind and on my left side for the rightmost blind, so that the dog is typically running from the same side as any throwers in the field and is not depending on me to act as a shield of some sort from the diversions. To the contrary, both dogs seem to have learned to use the line of the throwers as a boundary to stay within and clear of, helping the dog to stay on the intended line.

In this case, since I'd throw the delayed mark into the middle of the field, the result was that the dog was also on the same side of me as the PB, and again the line to the PB the dog had seen thrown was intended to act as a boundary. In Series A, the PB appeared to me to also function as suction to some extent, but in other series we've run, that did not occur. In fact, the opposite sometimes occurs and the dog makes a concerted effort to stay well clear of the line to the diversion.

Here's a video of Lumi running Series A:

Here's a video of Laddie running Series A:

At 3:20 in the video above, you can see Laddie picking up the dummy and heading straight into the short water crossing, with no evidence of his difficulties with LWL in previous months, sometimes on this very crossing. In fact, he did better than Lumi, who cheated around the water on her return from this blind, unusual for her.

SERIES B. 190-yard LWL blind with 160-yard swim, to CD under a tree. Points 30 yards to either side of the line to the blind.

Series B is the probably the most difficult water blind the dogs have ever run. They've only swum an LWL that far once before, have had little practice in water for several weeks, and with overnight temps in the 50s these days, were swimming in water colder than any we have trained in since spring.

In addition, the points of land on both sides, despite their distance from the line to the blind, apparently exerted considerable suction. I was pleased to see both dogs responsive to WSs and casts in the middle of a 160-yard swim. I elected not to push the envelope when each dog finally committed to completing the swim all the way across the pond, but squared the far bank.

For Series B, I ran Laddie first, then Lumi.

Here's a video of Laddie running Series B:

At 5:27 in the video above, Laddie finishes airing himself, picks up the dummy, bounces along the bank a short distance, and trots into the water, again showing little of his prior reluctance to make a water entry while carrying a retrieval article. As Laddie enters the water on his return, I fire a gunshot and throw a white dummy into the water off to the side, continuing to use the gunshot as reinforcement for his water entry, though perhaps no longer necessary.

Here's a video of Lumi running Series B, with the straight return swim-back edited out:

SERIES C. Water double, left to right within a 90° angle:
  • #1 (memory-bird): 30-yard LWL, WD, gunshot when thrown
  • #2 (go-bird): 20-yard LWL, WD, gunshot when thrown
I ran Lumi first, then Laddie. One of my throws for Lumi and both of my throws for Laddie were a little short and ended up in the water next to shore. In each case, the dog swam to the dummy, carried it up onto shore, dropped it, shook off, picked it back up, and completed the retrieve.

Here's a video of Lumi running Series C:

Here's a video of Laddie running Series C:

Triple land blind with PB, left to right within a 180° angle:
  • #2: 90-yard blind, OD, no marker
  • 40-yard PB, duck TFRL
  • #1: 40-yard blind passing between two trees, OD, no marker
  • #3: 110-yard blind, OD, in front of tree at treeline of adjacent woods
Based on what I've seen and heard in Bob Hux's groups and the Senior tests Lumi and I have been to, the Series D blinds were between Senior and Master level in difficulty. Although the distances were short compared to many of the blinds we've practiced on closer to home, the terrain was at least as uneven as any we train on at home, and the cover variations were considerably more challenging.

I ran Laddie first, then Lumi.

Here's a video of Laddie running Series D:

Here's a video of Lumi running Series D:

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