Thursday, June 4, 2009



Our last Senior Hunt Test of the season is in two days, so I wanted to give Lumi and Laddie one last tune-up today, then mostly rest them tomorrow. The weather was surprisingly cooperative. Today's temps were in the low 60s, and while it rained almost continuously the whole day, it stopped raining in Cheltenham for the hour or so we were there.

Both dogs ran all series, and ducks were used for every retrieve.

Although I tried to choose significant challenges for every series, Lumi and Laddie both had an excellent day, filled with enthusiastic, high quality performances. I'll note some particulars in the descriptions that follow.

SERIES A. Single land blind

100 yards, starting with a 20-yard downhill slope, passing thru thick, high cover, and skirting a large area of standing water. The water was my primary reason for this set-up, because if Laddie tried to divert to the water on his return, it would give me a chance to interrupt his retrieve with a Walk Out. Instead he nearly lined the blind, needing only a short Over cast near the end, then bowed around the point on his return. "Look, Daddy, I'm going nowhere near that water!"

SERIES B. Single land blind

130 yards, ending with a 30-yard uphill slope, through thick marsh with high cover and standing water. Laddie had stopped to play in that same marshy crossing during Tuesday's group training, but his outrun and return were both flawless. I hope that doesn't mean he's only going to misbehave in event-like situations.

SERIES C. Cheating single

60-yard LWL poorman mark with a 30-yard swim thru a channel that included a narrowing between two points. Laddie is spoiling me. He didn't show the slightest hesitation re-entering the water after he picked up the duck.

I might mention that this week, I've decided to abandon the idea of training the dogs not to shake off on the far side. Weeks of training immediately went out the window when they ran water on Monday and Tuesday, and I just don't think it's worth the effort to try to suppress their shaking off any longer.

The good news is that they seem to have learned that if they are going to shake, they should do so before they pick up the bird, something that I worked on with them for months before I began trying to convince them not to shake at all.

SERIES D. Water sight blind

50-yard LWL sight blind with a 40-yard swim, with the duck planted on a marshy delta.

SERIES E. Water sight blind

20-yard LWL sight blind across a stick pond, with thick, high cover and a steep embankment on both sides, underwater tree stumps and other debris in the crossing. I'm calling it a sight blind because I brought the dogs over to the far side with me when I planted the two ducks, so that they knew where they were when we went back around to run the retrieves. To my surprise, Lumi has gotten braver! I noticed that Laddie had to climb over a submerged log when he ran first. I wondered whether Lumi would skirt it, but she climbed right over it as she went for the bird. She did skirt it on the way back, but otherwise made a bold return as she threaded her way thru other obstacles in the channel.

SERIES F. Water mark

10-yard LWL poorman mark, with conditions similar to Series E: thick, high cover and a steep embankment on both sides, a significant amount of floating and underwater debris in the crossing. Once again Lumi climbed over an underground log on her outrun, skirted it on her return. Lumi's unexpected bravery in Series E and F makes me feel so proud of her. Laddie's effortless LWL returns make me feel the same for him.

I decided to end the session with Series F because it was short yet challenging, an opportunity for both dogs to produce difficult, high quality retrieves without pacing themselves. I had originally planned to end the day with a long swim, but decided that I liked the idea of them carrying their dedicated, driven performances on Series F as their final memories of the day's training.

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