Saturday, May 2, 2009

Delayed Double, Marks Thrown from the Line, Land Blinds

Clevenger's Corner

I heard from Dave this week that he was available to train on Saturday, and with both Lumi and Laddie registered for a Senior test tomorrow, I decided to cancel a group training session we had registered for and train with Dave instead.

Unfortunately, he didn't have anyone else to train with us, so at first it appeared we would have no opportunity to practice honoring. Dave sees steadiness as a general skill, so I guess he didn't see the problem, whereas I have come to believe that steadiness honoring is a specialized skill that's different from steadiness at the line, which I believe is more consistent with Alice Woodyard's view, at least with respect to my dogs.

Our last series with Dave today, Lumi and Laddie did get to practice honoring, and were rock steady, but it was with a dead bird, so I'm not sure how good an indication it is of how the dogs will do tomorrow. In any case, here's what we did:

SERIES A. Delayed double (Lumi, then Laddie)

Dave suggested that we begin with what he termed a "delayed double". When I brought my dog to the line, Dave began by throwing a chukar right to left on an angle back, with the fall at 80 yards in high grass. Dave then walked to a pre-positioned crate of fliers 90° to the left, and shot a flier, also thown right to left, at 50 yards into high grass.

Both dogs marked the flier well, both dogs had reasonable pick-ups and excellent returns and deliveries, and Laddie also had an excellent mark on the memory bird.

I delayed sending both dogs before sending them to the flier. Laddie did fine, but Lumi tried to break. Since I was holding her tab, she was unable to do so. Although it's unfortunate that she tried to break, in a way this was good news. I have been concerned that one or both dogs might have become line-wise, meaning that they would alter their behavior depending on whether or not they were on a line, in their case, their 9" tabs. That would be severely damaging to their careers, because it would mean that they might practice well when wearing a tab, but then break in an event when they noticed that they weren't wearing collars. The fact that Lumi attempted to break this morning means that she was not choosing whether to break or not on the presence or absence of a collar or line. Hopefully her development benefited from the experience.

A second problem with Series A was that Lumi took a WIL on the memory bird and after hunting for some time, seemed about to switch to the old fall of the flier, so I handled her to the fall of the memory bird. Though she eventually did get to the bird, she did not handle well. She slipped the first two or three whistles, though in each case responded when I called "SIT". She also cast poorly, repeatedly digging back in her original direction instead of continuing in the direction cast.

We have not been running a lot of blinds the last week, so I decided we'd practice a couple of blinds a little later on. As mentioned below, we did so in Series E, and Lumi handled well, as did Laddie.

SERIES B. Mark thrown from the line (Lumi, then Laddie)

Dave suggested that a mark thrown from beside the handler and dog would be a good steadiness challenge. For Series B, he threw a dead duck as practice, while firing a shotgun with live ammo. Both Lumi and Laddie were rock steady.

SERIES C. Mark thrown from the line (Lumi, then Laddie)

After the rehearsal of Series B, we moved to a new location and ran the same thing, but this time using a duck flier. To add to the challenge, Dave intentionally let the duck gain some flight and brought the bird down so that it would land on the far side of a crest. I used Lumi's and Laddie's tabs, and again both dogs were rock steady.

SERIES D. Honoring for mark thrown from line (Lumi, then Laddie)

Dave had brought along his 14-year-old yellow Lab. I believe that he doesn't like to have the old dog pick up fliers any more, but he suggested that to end the day, he would throw a dead bird for his dog twice, to give each of my dogs a chance to honor standing a few feet away. I didn't feel this would be much a challenge since we weren't using fliers, and didn't hold my dogs' tabs. Once I cued "just watch", neither Lumi nor Laddie showed much interest in the other dog's mark and were both thrilled to run back to the van for play when I said "Here" after the Lab had been sent. In fact, Laddie turned away before I even said "Here".

SERIES E. Double land blind (Laddie, then Lumi)

After we left the farm where we'd been training with Dave, I took Lumi and Laddie to another field on the way home and set up a double blind for each of them to run.

The first blind was to the left, a chukar at 60 yards. The second blind was to the right, a still warm duck at 140 yards. Although both dogs might have been able to line both blinds, I followed recent practice and blew WS at least once on each blind. Both dogs were responsive on every WS and reasonably accurate on every cast.

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