Sunday, June 28, 2009

Old Blinds, New Adventures

Needwood Lake Park

Today we returned to a park where we used to train back in December 2007, in the earliest days of this blog. On the large, open field, each dog ran a couple of blinds, 80 and 230 yards, with unmarked ODs. We then returned to the van where I traded the dummies for a bag with a couple of old ducks in it, and off we went down the trail that eventually leads to the National Zoo, in search of good locations to run our Adventure Drill.

As the trail reached the large creek, it turned left to fall in line with the downstream flow, a direction the dogs and I have hiked in with Renee and Gabriel, her Golden, often in the past. But today we broke thru the underbrush and headed to the right instead.

For the next hour and a half, as I chose ten different stream crossings where each dog would have an LWL retrieve, we never saw another soul.

The retrieves varied in distance from 20 to 80 yards, and each presented a series of challenges: steep embankments, logs to leap over, difficult water entries and exits, thick underbrush on both sides of the stream, swift current and eddies, underwater debris, and muddy sand bars, some covered in broken branches.

Both dogs raced from my side as the dog's turn for a send-out came up, Laddie first on each set-up, then Lumi. Solving one problem after another to reach the bird, neither dog required a recall cue of any kind. "Ah, here's my duck. Must get it back to Daddy now!" For Lumi, this meant no dawdling, no hint of rolling in the grass. For Laddie, it meant a sprint back to the finish line, the idea of diverting to explore some side interest or cool off in some puddle never seeming to cross his mind.

I don't yet know whether the Adventure Drill will carry over to ordinary retrieves as well for Lumi as it did for Laddie in earlier work a few weeks ago, but it does appear that both dogs are forming a new attitude about the Pattern. Instead of the technical nuts and bolts of the basic retrieve occupying the spotlight, fundamentals become mere table stakes for Adventure Drill retrieves. The real work is traversing the difficult terrain and stream crossings to get to the bird.

For years, I've been seeing other people's retrievers — usually Labradors — running retrieves with this kind of single-minded purpose. How good to see it, one retrieve after another, in my own sweet dogs.

No comments:

[Note that entries are displayed from newest to oldest.]