Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Distraction from Thrower, Fast Pick-up, Creeping

Riggs Road

Because of Laddie's problems with the Sunday Field Trial group the last two weekends, I arranged with neighbor Nate to train with us for awhile again. Our first session in several months was this afternoon.

I didn't have the dogs run structured series, but rather tried each of them out on particular retrieves. I watched how they did on each one, and used that information to decide what to do next.

We had time to focus on three issues: distraction from the thrower for both dogs, fast pick-ups with both dogs, and Laddie creeping.

Here are the drills we ran:

Distraction from Thrower (Laddie, then Lumi)

The set-up consisted of four LPs at 30° angles. The first was on the right at 40 yards. The next one to the left was also at 40 yards. The next one further to the left was at 60 yards. And the last and leftmost one was at 90 yards. In each case, Nate was throwing right to left, and in each case he was throwing ducks.

For the first mark at 40 yards, Nate blew a duck call, fired a gunshot, and threw the duck, then stood quietly while the dog completed the retrieve.

For all the remaining marks at 40-60-90 yards, Nate blew a duck call, fired a gunshot, and threw a duck. When the dog was halfway to the fall, Nate then threw a WD to the same approximate fall. The dummies attracted both dogs, but in every case the dog then veered back to pick up the duck. At the moment the dog picked up the duck, Nate walked quickly to the dummy, picked it up, and returned to his throwing position.

Laddie was somewhat more distracted by Nate's movement than Lumi, but neither dog had much trouble with this drill. My intent is to repeat the drill over the next few sessions with Nate, building distance to 250 yards. At that point, I feel the dogs will be proofed for the situation that occurred two Sundays ago, and to some extent more generally proofed for retrieving in the presence of distractions even at distance.

Although the dogs had little difficulty dealing with Nate's movement, both dogs dawdled some when they arrived at the ducks. This is a problem we've worked on and made improvement on in the past, but it seems that for my dogs, certain problems come back and need to be repeatedly addressed. Dawdling over ducks seems to be one of those problems, so instead of continuing with the Distraction from Thrower drill, I switched to a Fast Pick-up drill next.

Fast Pick-up (Laddie, then Lumi)

For this simple drill, I started Nate out at 20 yards from the SL with a bag of ducks. For the first throw, he used no noise, just threw a bird when I signaled. I sent the dog and ran out behind the dog. As the dog arrived at the duck, I blew CIW.

If the dog made a fast pick-up, we raced back to the SL together.

If the dog dawdled at all, I used a Walk Out (WO): I called, "Nope, leave it, sit" and walked quickly to the dog. I took the dog by the tab on the dog's collar and walked the dog back to the SL, then sent the dog back to the bird still lying there. That procedure was repeated until the dog made a fast pick-up.

For Laddie, a single WO on his first retrieve cured him of dawdling for the remainder of the day. After success at 20 yards, I had Nate begin using the duck call and pistol, and had him throw additional ducks at 40-60-80 yards. After that single WO, Laddie was back to his trademark tumbling pick-ups.

For Lumi, we needed several WOs. She did make progress, getting in several nearly instant pick-ups before we ran out of time, but we didn't have time to build any more distance. I think that's what I'll work on with Lumi while I'm working on Distraction from Thrower with Laddie.


While running both of the above drills, I noticed that Laddie was creeping a bit on the throws that involved a gunshot. This is another example of a problem we worked on and at the time solved, but as with dawdling pick-ups, this is apparently a problem that for Laddie was not solved permanently.

As a result, the Fast Pick-up drill mentioned above also turned into a Creeping drill for Laddie (Lumi doesn't creep). That is, if Laddie crept forward at all, I immediately stepped backwards, called "Here" to Laddie, and called, "Pick it up, please" to Nate. Laddie and I watched Nate walk to the bird, pick it up, and walk back to his throwing position. Then I again called Here and walked with Laddie back to the SL, cued "Sit, mark," and called for another throw.

Laddie crept a total of three times, resulting in three pick-ups. After that, he was visibly coiled but he didn't creep again.

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