Wednesday, June 24, 2009

LWLs and LWLWLs, Blanket Cueing


My objectives for today diverged significantly for Lumi versus Laddie. It wasn't that long ago that I would work on extending Lumi's advanced skills while I had to focus on basic LWL retrieves with Laddie. Now that situation has reversed. Whereas Laddie seems to have well-developed basic and even intermediate water retrieval skills, Lumi has begun rolling on the grass after reaching the blind fairly frequently on water retrieves. Therefore, I used a variety of set-ups but in most cases varied them between dogs.

I inadvertently left the ducks I was planning to use today in the garage, so today we trained exclusively with ODs.

LADDIE. Laddie ran two LWLWL retrieves (across peninsulas) of over 100 yards, then a 50-yard LWL in a channel with very sharp angle water entries and exits, then a 120-yard LWL past a nearby point on the left, and finally an LWLWL retrieve of over 100 yards with a very sharp angle entry and return cheat. He performed well all day, his only weakness being that he didn't always carry casts very far and so would require another WSC after only swimming a short distance after the earlier cast. But he remained responsive to WSCs all day and had no apparent difficulty re-entering the water repeatedly on his returns.

LUMI. For Lumi, I began the day planning to try out a cheerful version of the WO for any cases of Lumi rolling at the blind.

I had an opportunity to do that on the first long LWLWL, which was the same one that Laddie had already run. As soon as Lumi started to roll, I began walking across a ditch and a road, over a foot bridge across a channel, and along the side of the pond in Lumi's direction. I walked most of the way without saying anything, glancing up occasionally to see Lumi lounging on her side looking back at me.

When I got close, I cued "Stand", then "Sit", both in a cheerful voice, which Lumi responded to with great attitude, which was a big improvement on yesterday's videotaped WO. I slipped her lead over her head and we walked all the way back, then I ran her on the same retrieve again.

Normally after a WO, Lumi's performance improves significantly. Perhaps because this was her first experience with a cheerful WO, that didn't happen this time. Again she rolled, and again I used a cheerful WO.

Of course I had speculated originally that the WO simply won't work if it's done that way, and could in fact even cause the rolling problem to get worse, since a cheerful WO might actually act as +R for rolling. On the other hand, I wasn't ready to give up on trying to improve on the previous day's approach.

So the third time, I added a new element. I had done something similar in the early stages of the Wetfoot Drill at Stadler's pond, and I thought I'd try it out again with Lumi today. A second or two after I blew CIW, it looked like Lumi was getting ready to roll again, but this time I blanketed her with verbal recall cues, calling out something along the lines of, "No, Lumi, get up, get up, here, come here, here, etc." I may have also thrown in some ordinary English like, "Don't roll," which was probably a waste since Lumi doesn't speak English, but I think she got the gist of what I was trying to communicate.

Even on this relatively long and complex retrieve, the blanket cueing worked. Instead of lying down, Lumi picked up the dummy and carried it into the water, then completed the return.

We ran about half a dozen more LWL and LWLWLs the rest of the session. With one exception, I would run Laddie on a difficult retrieve, then made it easier for Lumi. Examples:
  • Laddie on a 50-yard channel swim with extreme angle water entries and exits. Lumi to the same blind, but starting further down the peninsula so that it was more like 25 yards and easier angles.
  • Laddie on a 120-yard LWLWL over a point with an extreme angle entry from the SL. Lumi from the point (which was a peninsula), converting it into a 80-yard LWL with an easy entry.
In each case, as Lumi arrived at the blind, I blew CIW and a moment later started blanketing her with verbal recall cueing as above.

Lumi did not roll again the rest of the session. Was that because the retrieves were all shorter? I would answer, No. My reasons are as follows:
  • One of the retrieves was a 120-yard LWL past a point. That was easily long enough to tempt Lumi into rolling, considerably longer than the blinds she rolled on in her last two Senior tests. Yet with blanket cueing, she didn't roll.
  • Several times I saw Lumi start to dip her shoulder an instant before I began my cueing, which shows that these set-ups did tempt her to roll.
Thinking about it later, I realized that it was a mistake to wait until Lumi dipped her shoulder, because the blanket cueing may be reinforcing to Lumi (Kay Laurence says that any interaction with the handler, even a harsh one, has a +R attention effect) and therefore may have reinforced the shoulder dip. But luckily, it didn't seem to work that way and Lumi seemed to become less inclined to dawdle as the day continued.

Obviously blanket cueing isn't ideal, and I'd like to fade it as soon as possible. But it may be a way for Lumi to practice the desired Retrieve Pattern long enough for her to decide she doesn't really need to roll.

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