Monday, May 25, 2009

Interrupted Singles, LWLs with No Whistle

Oaks Area 3

SERIES A. Interrupted land single with single blind (Laddie, then Lumi)

First, I used an RL with weighted streamer and pre-positioned duck to "throw" a mark right to left at 60 yards. Then I ran the dog on a 130 yard blind (OD) on the left that took the dog within 18 yards of where the "thrown" duck was lying. Finally, I sent the dog to pick up the duck.

Though short, both lines included several elevation changes, and the line to the blind was thru a keyhole formed by the duck acting as PB on the right and a hedgerow on the left.

Laddie lined the blind in Series A, completely ignoring the duck. Lumi required, but accepted, handling off the bird when she ran her blind.

SERIES B. Interrupted land single with single blind (Laddie, then Lumi)

Series B was almost a mirror image of Series A, except that the blind was 100 yards and the dog ran within 10 yards of the where the "thrown" duck was lying.

Both dogs required, but accepted, handling off the bird when they ran their blinds.

NOTE ON LINE MECHANICS. To help the dog recognize when we are running interrupted marks, I've developed a number of discriminators:
  • I have the dog line up on the side of the throw to watch the throw, then switch sides to be lined up for the blind.
  • Verbal cueing is "sit, mark" before the throw, "dead bird" while lining up for the blind.
  • Send-out cue for the blind is "back", send-out cue for the mark is dog's name.
Stadler's Pond

Today we continued shaping pick-ups and water re-entries with ducks on LWL retrieves, an advanced stage of the Wetfoot Drill begun several weeks ago.

Today, both Lumi and Laddie ran several retrieves with 15-yard swims. I sent them in random order. In most cases, I threw the duck onto land four feet from water's edge. Once for each dog, I threw the duck with a splash, so that it remained in the water touching the shore.

I didn't use a whistle on any of the retrieves. If the dog shook off, I called "Nope" and brought the dog back. Otherwise, I applauded when the dog re-entered swim-depth water with the duck, and gave high-value treats when the duck was delivered. I'm gradually reducing the amount of extrinsic +R for these retrieves, as correct responses become more habitual and hopefully self-reinforcing.

Both dogs returned the duck that was thrown in the water without attempting to climb on shore first, correctly performing a behavior we have not worked on for several days.

Both dogs required at least one reminder that shaking would result in a Walk Out, but most of the retrieves were performed correctly the first time.

After each dog had performed correctly on half a dozen 15-yard swims, I had each of them run a single retrieve with a 25-yard swim to a duck placed on land four feet from water's edge. Both dogs picked up the duck without shaking or otherwise delaying and immediately turned and re-entered the water without me using a whistle. I applauded and gave them treats for their excellent work.

At the end of the session, I placed two fresh ducks 30 yards from the start of the path back to the van, and put the soggy ducks we'd been training with on the ground near the dogs. I then cued "Get your birds", cueing the dogs to ignore the nearby ducks and run to pick up the ones on the path.

Acclimating to No Retrieve

I was both pleased and concerned about a change I'm seeing in both dogs: their willingness to forego a retrieve when I call out "nope" or "leave it". Laddie has been responsive to "nope" for months, and Lumi is finally also getting more willing to take direction away from a bird she had intended to retrieve.

Of course, I'm glad the dogs are responding correctly to cues. But I'm concerned that they might be developing in an undesirable way simultaneously: Not bringing back the bird is becoming increasingly acceptable to them.

I see two ways that could be a problem. First, I could imagine a situation in which the dog might leave the bird behind in the face of adversity. Secondly, I could imagine that the effectiveness of the Walk Out as a training strategy might decline.

Because of these concerns, I plan to switch to wide spacing of the poison birds or other diversions from marks, reducing the likelihood that I'll have to handle the dog away from a retrieve. In addition, I plan to be more cautious than ever about raising criteria in exercises like the Wetfoot Drill in order to minimize the number of incorrect responses that need to be interrupted with a Walk Out.

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