Sunday, April 12, 2009

Laddie WC/WCX

[Note: As in previous journal entries, I'd like to mention that the dogs and I have been training with the same frequency and intensity as ever, and I have continued to maintain hand-written notes. I simply don't have the time for typing them up most days. I hope to catch up and fill in the blanks at some point in the future.]

AM: Cheltenham

Today Laddie ran in the PVGRC WCX and WC tests. He ran as #1 of 6 in the WCX, and #4 of 10 in the WC. Both land series were run first, in two different venues. Then both water series, again in two different venues. After we finished our work in the WCX and WC, we did some private training and then left.

Lumi, who has both her WC and her WCX, slept in this morning, so it was just Laddie and I at Cheltenham.

CONDITIONS: Sunny, but temps in the 40s with a 20 MPH west wind. Water temps, which ideally would be above 50 for water work, were well below that level.

WCX Land

The WCX land series consisted of a land triple, with dead pheasant roosters for the first two marks and a pheasant rooster flier as the go-bird. Running without collar, Laddie was rock steady watching the birds thrown. He then marked beautifully on all three birds — one of the judges told me she gave Laddie 10-10-10 on his marking — with reasonably good pick-ups and returns.

Four of the six dogs were called back to water.

WC Land

The WC land series consisted of a land double, with a dead pheasant rooster at the memory-bird and a pheasant rooster flier as the go-bird. Running on a slip-cord, he made no effort to creep or break as the birds were thrown, then again marked beautifully on both birds. In this case, his pick-ups and returns were also spectacularly good.

Six of the ten dogs were called back to water.

WCX Water

The WCX water series consisted of two land-water-land retrieves of dead ducks across a 30-yard channel.

While the club was setting up the course, I took Laddie to a different part of the property to warm him up with an LWL, but one of the event officials drove up and informed me that training during the test was strictly prohibited. I hadn't realized that, since warm-ups do occur in agility and musical freestyle, the other two sports I've competed in. Naturally I stopped at once, so Laddie didn't get his warm-up.

Laddie watched both ducks thrown remaining rock steady but alert, and seemed to have a good luck at both throws. He leaped into the water and swam straight to the go-bird, shook off, picked up the bird, and then became stumped as to how to get back. Me whistling and calling "Here" did not help. After I watched him run a bit to the left, and then some distance to the right, I told the judges I was going to get him. As I began to walk around the end of the channel, Laddie dropped the bird and started to swim to me. Before he got out of the shallow water, I called "Sit" and he did, and there he waited until I got almost to him. Then I called "Here" and he and I went to the van, where I dried him off.

One dog passed the WCX.

WC Water

The WC water series consisted of two LWL singles across a 20-yard channel.

As the judges were making arrangements for a test dog, I saw that there was considerable distance from the start line to the end of the channel, especially given that I'm walking quite slowly with a crutch due to significant discomfort in my legs, possibly due to Lyme disease. I made the mental calculation that if Laddie again stalled after picking up the LWL, he would have too much time on his own for self-reinforcement before I would be able to get around to the other side to interrupt the activity.

Accordingly, I asked to scratch Laddie from continuing the test and we left that part of the property.

At this writing, I don't know how many of the dogs passed the WC.

Private LWL Practice

After leaving the WC venue, I took Laddie to another part of the Cheltenham property to try out some LWL retrieves. I didn't have any birds in the van so I threw white dummies. The results:

#1: 10 yards, easy opportunity to cheat (but also for me to get to Laddie if he stalled): Outstanding retrieve, no hesitation on pick-up or water return.

#2: 15 yards, no way to cheat (nor for me to get to Laddie without a long drive to other end of the property): Laddie swam across and then began stalling tactics, including rolling on the dummy. Ignored whistle and "Here". I headed for van to drive around to get Laddie, but as I was opening the door, I saw that Laddie had picked up the dummy and was returning across the water with it.

#3: 15 yards, easy opportunity to cheat: Another outstanding retrieve.

#4: 30 yards, possible to cheat but a fairly long way around: Another outstanding retrieve, absolutely flawless.

At this point, I wondered whether Laddie was evaluating whether I could reach him in making the decision whether to come back or not. The three times I could reach him, he came right back. The one time I couldn't, he didn't.

Since the weather was so cold and windy, I didn't want to run him in the water too much more, but I was curious to test the pattern one more time. So:

#5: 15 yards across the water, another 10 yards inland, no opportunity to cheat (again, a drive to the other end of the property would be needed to pick Laddie up): This time, Laddie made another outstanding retrieve.


In the private practice, #5 was somewhat upshore from #2 on the same channel. To me they appeared to present virtually identical pictures. I have no theory why Laddie fell apart on #2 but not on #5.

Several differences applied in comparing the four private practice retrieves where Laddie did so well with the one WCX retrieve where he stalled:
  • Longer channel
  • Duck versus dummy
  • Presence of judges, other trainers and dogs, and spectators
  • No warm-up, versus easy warm-up with increasing difficulty
I don't have enough data points to know which of those was the predominant factor, or whether it was an even mix of some or all of them.

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