Monday, June 8, 2009

Deep LWLs, Hillside Blinds

Local Venues

In our Senior Hunt Tests last Saturday, Lumi went out at the end of the first series because she began to roll on the grass after arriving at the duck on an LWL blind. Laddie was called back to water but went out on the land blind because I didn't stop him as he veered downhill and around a diagonal keyhole formed by two trees.

Accordingly, yesterday and today, when I took the dogs out to train, we worked on both of those issues.

To work on the problem Laddie had, I set up blinds in the range 60-80 yards that involved keyholes and diagonal hill crossings. I wasn't able to set up the identical configuration as the test, but I'll keep watching for an opportunity for such a set-up at the various properties where we train. Meanwhile I set up blinds that had similar elements. Today's, for example, included a narrow (6-foot wide) keyhole at 30 yards, with an easier route beckoning on the outside of the tree on the right, and a diagonal uphill path to the bird. Lumi had no problem with it, but Laddie required quite a bit of handling both on the way out and, using disciplined casting (that is, while carrying the bird) on the return to get him thru the keyhole both directions. I then ran him again with a poorman mark to the same location, and again he tried to go around the keyhole both directions, but was much easier to handle thru the keyholde.

To work on the problem Lumi had, I set up LWL blinds with deep placements of the bird, rather than at or near the shoreline.

Yesterday's blinds:
  • 40-yard swim, 5-yard deep placement thru thick, high cover
  • 60-yard swim, 20-yard deep placement on trail
  • 60-yard swim, 30-yard deep placement made up of 10 yards thru thick, high cover and 20 yards of uphill lawn
Today's blind had the same specification as the last of yesterday's blinds but with a different placement of the bird.

All retrieves both yesterday and today were with chukars, which have been used several sessions and are not in good shape. But the dogs still seem to enjoy retrieving and carrying them.

Lumi Rolling on Deep LWLs

Based on correspondence with Alice Woodyard, I'm inclined to believe that I now have a working hypothesis in regard to Lumi's recent practice of rolling after reaching the bird during deep LWLs, which she exhibited on the water blinds in both of the last two Senior tests as well as on a water mark a week ago training with Bob Hux.

The hypothesis is that for some reason, Lumi feels a really strong compulsion to shake off when she gets out of the water these days, possibly because her skin is so uncomfortable from allergies this spring. Training her not to do so with WOs did not start the rolling behavior, because she had done it at least once before that training began. But the theory is that the training did increase the likelihood of the rolling behavior, by taking away the alternate behavior of shaking to at least partially dry herself off.

I had already decided a few days ago that trying to prevent shaking off was not worth any more trouble, but now, not only have I stopped doing so, but I also regret having tried in the past. It might have been a good thing to train the dogs when they were first learning to retrieve over water, but I'd now say that it apparently was not a good thing to train later on. At least, not for Lumi.

Hopefully, the combination of no longer discouraging shaking off and practicing deep LWLs will prepare Lumi for not repeating the rolling behavior on future retrieves, especially in competition.

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