Friday, July 31, 2009

Bypass Drill

Mt. Ararat Farms

Today, Lumi, Laddie, and I again trained with Gaby and her retrievers. We used the same handling drill as on previous days, changing only the location of each set-up.

Lumi ran the drill on two set-ups, while Laddie ran it only once. His performance on that one was so good that, given the stormy weather conditions, there seemed little point in having him run another.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Day Off

Following a suggestion by Carole, our holistic vet, which echoed suggestions I've received from others over the years, especially Jody, one of my mentors, today I gave Lumi and Laddie the day off. Not only did we not train, but also I asked for no other cued behaviors, not even "sit". The only exception was that we went for a nice hike with Renee and Gabriel, and I called "here" a few times during the hike.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Handling Drill, Water Marks, Pool Swimming

Mt. Ararat Farms

Today, Lumi, Laddie and I again trained with Gaby and her three retrievers. We were joined by a friend of Gaby's and his two Chessies.

SERIES A. Handling drill

This was the same Bypass Drill I described in Monday's post, but with two improvements. First, we added a white PVC pipe to the center LP to make it easier to spot for both handlers and dogs. Secondly, we used a sequence of events that made it easier for the dog to understand the freebie retrieves:
  1. Run the dog to the center LP as a freebie (non-handling retrieve) at a distance of 25 yards from the LP.
  2. Run the dog to the center LP as a freebie at a distance of 50 yards from the LP.
  3. Run the dog to the center LP as a freebie at a distance of 80 yards from the LP. This is the SL we'll use for the remainder of the series.
  4. Run the dog to the left LP as a handling retrieve.
  5. Run the dog to the center LP as a freebie retrieve.
  6. Run the dog to the right LP as a handling retrieve.
  7. Run the dog to the center LP as a freebie retrieve.
Although Lumi seemed sound and in high spirits, I skipped steps 5 and 7 with her because I didn't feel she needed them for motivation and I did feel they were unnecessarily strenuous for her.

SERIES B. Water marks

Today we worked at one of Gaby's other ponds and again ran water retrieves intended to exercise particular areas of concern for each dog. As an unusual feature of today's water series, we used fliers for the first round of retrieves.

Laddie had no significant issues, so I had him run each set-up only once. Lumi, on the other hand, had unsatisfactory pickups on the first retrieve at each of four increasing distances. Thanks to the kind patience of my training partners, I was able to use a WO in each case, then rerun Lumi on the same retrieve with significantly improved performance. I felt that this approach showed good promise for preparing Lumi for Senior competition, though at this stage I would not be comfortable running her, despite the fact that she qualified in one Senior test a few weeks ago.

SERIES C. Swimming pool

Once again, we ended the day with the dogs playing in Gaby's swimming pool.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Training Day, Water Blind


Today, I decided to leave Lumi at home and just bring Laddie to training, so the series described were all run only by Laddie.

SERIES A. Land double with three blinds

For the double, the first mark (duck) was on the left, thrown with a winger right to left at 80 yards. The second mark (duck) was on the right, thrown with a winger right to left at 70 yards. After Laddie picked up both marks, he ran a 200-yard blind (OD marked with LP) on a line tight behind the left mark. Then he ran an 80-yard mark (OD) on a line 90° to the right of the right mark, thru a keyhole formed by two trees and across a 20-yard channel. Finally, he ran a 120-yard blind (OD) on a line 45° to the right of the right mark. That blind was not planned; one of the ODs from second blind had floated downstream.

SERIES B. Two water singles

Series B was almost identical to the water series Laddie ran last Tuesday. The first single (duck) was hand-thrown right to left at 60 yards to the end of the left arm on a T-shaped peninsula, so that Laddie swam parallel to the shoreline going out and coming back. The second single (duck) was hand-thrown right to left at 70 yards onto the middle of a peninsula.

Unlike last week when Laddie rolled in the grass once he arrived at the second fall of the water series, today Laddie had an excellent pickups and returns all day.

SERIES C. Water blind

After the group finished Series B, Series C was run only by an advanced dog being run by one of the other trainers, and by Laddie. The blind (OD) was a 170-yard LWL. The line to the blind was as follows:
  • Down the embankment to water's edge
  • Across a channel to the right arm of a T-shaped peninsula
  • Over that arm
  • 100-yard swim past a point on the right
  • Up onto land, to the base of one of several trees on the far shore

Monday, July 27, 2009

Handling Drill, Water Marks, Pool Swimming

Mt. Ararat Farms

Today, Lumi, Laddie, and I again drove up to Mt. Ararat Farms to train with Gaby and her three dogs. (Actually, Gaby has a lot more dogs than that, but these are the only three she trains for field competition.)

SERIES A. Bypass Drill

The set-up for this drill was suggested to me by Dave, the guy we trained with yesterday, as a way to make the need for handling likely and therefore have an opportunity to practice WSs and casts.

I didn't completely understand the drill Dave was suggesting, but this is the version I came up with. I'll call it the Bypass Drill:
  • Place an LP at 80 yards with several WDs.
  • Place two more LPs at 100 yards, one to the left of the first one, the other to the right of the first one. Place a bird at each of the side LPs.
  • Run the dog to the center LP as a "freebie", that is, hopefully without the need for handling. If necessary, move up closer to the center LP so that the dog will line it.
  • Run the dog to one of the side LPs, handling as needed.
  • Run the dog to the other side LP, again handling as needed.
  • Once again, run the dog to the center LP as a freebie.
  • Additional freebies to the center LP, such as between the two runs to the side LPs, or at the beginning or end, can also be used.
When the drill works correctly, the center LP acts as suction when you try to run the side LPs and that gives you an opportunity to handle. Meanwhile, the freebies act to increase motivation for the drill. The more freebies you run, the more motivation you build, except in the case of an unsound dog, or in case you're running when temps are high. Lumi is an unsound dog so I limited her to a single freebie at the end, and temps were in the 80s so we limited all the dogs' freebies more than we would have in cooler conditions.

Our dogs did not perform exactly as expected. For example, Laddie needed handling on each run to the center LP but lined both of the side LPs. However, all the dogs got some handling in, and both my dogs required at least two WOs, which I believe comes at a good time because I need to begin re-strengthening their WSs, which seem to have been inconsistent lately.

SERIES B. Water marks

For Series B, we returned to a pond on the property that has a small island and a small flock of resident ducks, with swim-depth water on one side of the island (the side we generally use) and high cover on the fringes of the pond.

There each dog ran three LWL retrieves, all with ducks that had been in use for some time, thrown with gunfire. Although the retrieves were similar for all dogs, Gaby was focusing on different issues with her dogs than I was with mine, so we modified the retrieves as appropriate.

Laddie performed well on every retrieve. He picked up every duck quickly and readily re-entered the water, without diverting on any of his returns. If Laddie retrieves this well in the Senior Hunt Tests he runs this fall, I think he'll do fine with his water marks.

Unfortunately, Lumi's performance on LWL pick-ups was unsatisfactory and may be deteriorating. On the first two retrieves, I asked Gaby to hold her throwing position until Lumi arrived at the fall, then circle behind Lumi and approach her, picking up the duck if Lumi had not picked it up yet. Gaby did that, and in each case Lumi hurried to pick up the duck and launch into her return and delivery.

But on the third retrieve, I asked Gaby to hold off to see what Lumi would do, and not circle around behind her unless she dawdled. She did in fact dawdle, and worse, when Gaby approached, she picked up the duck, ran a few feet to get clear of Gaby, then dropped it again. She did that at least twice before she finally picked it up and got in the water.

Gaby pointed out what bad shape our ducks were in for this work, and maybe Lumi would have done better if we'd been working with fresher ducks, which is more likely (though not guaranteed) in an event situation. But for now, I'm quite concerned. If I can't fix this, there's no point in entering Lumi in any more events, and her career is over. I guess it goes without saying how depressing that possibility is.

SERIES C. Swimming in pool

Mostly for fun, but also to rinse the dogs in clean water and also to get in a little training, we ended the day swimming the dogs in Gaby's swimming pool for a few minutes. In addition to the dogs playing in the water and beside the pool in their own ways, we had the dogs practice "Over" jumping into the pool from a sit position several feet from the handler, and "Back" jumping into the pool from heel position. As soon as the dog was in the water, we'd throw a dummy right in front of the dog for the dog to grab and swim around with.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wipeout Doubles, Steadiness, Land Blinds

Clevengers Corner

This morning, the dogs and I again trained with Dave and Carole, our holistic vet. I set up the marks, and Dave threw for Carole's dog and mine.

SERIES A. Land double with blind (Laddie, Lumi)

The first mark (WD) was thrown left to right on an angle back at 80 yards. The second mark (chukar flier) was also thrown left to right, from a throwing position almost inline with the throwing position for the first mark, at 30 yards. Both throws were made with live shotgun fire. After the dog picked up both marks, the dog ran a blind at 60 yards on a line 60° to the right of the line to the second mark.

For Series A, I ran Laddie, then Carole ran Lumi while I had Laddie honor, then Carole ran Dyna, her Bernese Mountain Dog, while I had Lumi honor.

Series A was intended to include the following challenges:
  • The second throw was intended as a "wipe-out" mark for the first throw, making it difficult for the dog to remember the fall from the first throw.
  • The second throw was closer to the SL than any Senior Hunt Test flier, creating a steadiness challenge for both the running dog and the honoring dog.
  • The honoring dog was positioned to the right of the running dog, so that the running dog would run past the honoring dog when released to the flier.
  • The line to the blind was across a downhill slope, so that the dog would tend to gravitate to the right.
  • The line to the blind was thru a keyhole formed by a bale of hay and the edge of the woods at 50 yards out.

SERIES B. Land double with blind (Lumi, Laddie)

The marks for Series B were a mirror image of the marks for Series A. For Series B, the first mark (WD) was thrown right to left on an angle back at 80 yards. The second mark (chukar flier) was also thrown right to left, from a throwing position almost inline with the throwing position for the first mark, at 30 yards. Both throws were made with live shotgun fire. After the dog picked up both marks, the dog ran a blind at 130 yards on a line 15° to the right of the throwing positions for both marks.

For Series B, I ran Lumi, then Carole ran Laddie while I had Lumi honor, then Carole ran Dyna while I had Laddie honor. Since Laddie runs better for Carole than Lumi does, this turned out to be a better dog sequence than the one we used for Series A.

Series A was intended to include the following challenges:
  • The second throw was intended as a "wipe-out" mark for the first throw, making it difficult for the dog to remember the fall from the first throw.
  • The second throw was closer to the SL than any Senior Hunt Test flier, creating a steadiness challenge for both the running dog and the honoring dog.
  • The honoring dog was positioned to the left of the running dog, so that the running dog would run past the honoring dog when released to the flier.
  • The line to the blind was close to both thrower's positions, which including running past the crate of live birds.
  • The line to the blind was thru a keyhole formed by two bales of hay at 110 yards.
Neither dog was able to run the Series B blind from the SL. When I moved up 30 yards, so that the new SL was near the second throwing position and the crate of birds, both dogs were able to run the blind well.

The Wipeout Double

As mentioned, my intent in Series A and B was to give the dogs experience with a picture in which a short mark was thrown and retrieved after a longer mark that was thrown in the same direction from a position in nearly the same line as the shorter mark. I'm not sure what such a double is called.

These would not be called "inline doubles". Inline doubles also involve marks in the same line but are thrown as convergent from either side of the lines to the mark, whereas my set-up had both birds thrown in the same direction.

Also, these would not be called hip pocket or reverse hip pocket doubles. Hip pocket and reverse hip pocket doubles also involve marks thrown the same direction from throwing positions on a tight angle, but I don't think today's doubles were the same picture as either hip pockets or reverse hip pockets. In a hip pocket double, the short bird is in line with the long thrower. In a reverse hip pocket double, the long bird is on a line just behind the short thrower. By contrast, in my set-up, neither bird was on a line toward either throwing position, but the long bird was on a line under the arc of the short bird.

Some time ago, Dave used the term "wipeout" mark to describe a mark that tended to cause the dog to forget an earlier one, so I called today's doubles "wipeout doubles" in the subject line of this post. I'm not sure if a traditional name exists for a set-up like this one.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Land Blinds

Local Elementary School

As we drove to Needwood Park for a hike with Renee and Gabriel, her Golden, we stopped at an elementary school along the way that has a lot of land behind it, and ran the following:

SERIES A. Double land blind (Laddie, then Lumi)

The first blind was to the right at 60 yards. The second blind was 90° to the left at 130 yards. Both blinds were unmarked ODs.

The line to the first blind was on a slant uphill and thru a cluster of trees, forming a narrow keyhole for the correct line. The line to the second blind was thru a smaller cluster of trees, forming an easier keyhole since it was only a few yards in front of us. The line then slanted across a ditch and continued into a featureless area of a sports field.

For some reason the first blind was more more difficult, judging by the number of WSCs required. Both dogs were drawn to the left of the keyhole, as though avoiding the uphill slant. I'm not sure, though, that they were avoiding the climb. It seems more likely to me that they were drawn to that picture because it had more distance in front of it before the path would be blocked by a barrier of thick, high cover, and their experience was that a longer blind would be more likely.

Because I'm maintaining narrow corridors for the dogs' blinds these days, both dogs required a little handling on both blinds, and they both responded well on all WSs and casts.

Land-water-land Marks, Pool Swimming, Recall as a Reinforcer

Mt. Ararat Farms

Again today, Lumi, Laddie and I trained with Gaby and her three dogs. Today we focused on weaknesses in the various dogs with respect to LWL marks, so that elements that were hard for some of the dogs (such as marking and angle entries for some of Gaby's dogs) were easy for other dogs, while elements that were hard for other dogs (such as speedy pick-ups for both of my dogs) were easy for the first dogs. None of the dogs were overfaced by any of the retrieves, but each of them had some particularly difficulty to work on.

A flock of five ducks swam in the pond we were using the whole time we were there. My dogs chased the ducks when we first got there, but once Gaby and I began throwing marks (dead ducks) for one another, all of the dogs did an excellent job of taking straight lines out and back on all their retrieves while ignoring, or at least not chasing, the live ducks.

We ran a total of five retrieves for each dog, all on different lines. My dogs did well on every aspect of each retrieve with the exception of their pick-ups.

Laddie's pick-ups were not bad, but they weren't as great as his land pick-ups generally are. His pick-ups seemed somewhat more reluctant on the later retrieves, when the ducks we were using had lost a lot of feathers and become water-logged, and that alone may have accounted for his difficulty. He never seemed to consider rolling, he had no trouble with his water entries, and his returns were good.

Lumi dawdled on her first pick-up. After that, I asked Gaby to wait until Lumi arrived at the fall, then circle around behind Lumi and approach her. I requested that if Gaby reached Lumi before she had picked up the duck, she should pick the duck up herself. That happened on the next retrieve. I called across the pond for Gaby to throw the duck in the direction of the pond, and Lumi ran to it, picked it up, and completed the retrieve.

On the next two retrieves, Gaby again circled around, but each time Lumi picked up the duck and brought it into the water before Gaby reached her.

On the last retrieve, I asked Gaby to stay in her thrower's location unless I called for help. On that retrieve, Lumi had a good pick-up and immediately headed back to me.

After our work at the pond, Gaby and I took the dogs swimming in Gaby's pool. This seems to be great fun for all the dogs, though poor Lumi often has her dummy taken away from her by one of the other dogs during the retrieval games we play. Yesterday, Lumi had difficulty learning to jump off the edge of the pool into water where she couldn't touch bottom, but she learned the skill yesterday and today had little difficulty with it.

Gaby had warned that one of her Chessies was likely to dominate the other dogs, but Lumi used evasive maneuvers to avoid difficulty with that dog, while Laddie had no difficulty getting in the Chessie's face, even taking dummies away from the Chessie several times. It was amusing to watch, as it seemed to come as a surprise to the Chessie that that could happen to him.

Recall as Combined Cue and Reinforcer

I have been experimenting with a suggestion from Helix Fairweather, an Internet friend for five years who coached me when I was training Lumi for agility. In recent correspondence, Helix has reminded me that a previously reinforced cue, especially a highly reinforced cue like recall, also acts as a reinforcer for the previous behavior in a chain or sequence (a chain being a sequence that's always repeated the same way).

Based on Helix's recommendation, the last few sessions including today's, I've begun calling "Here" as soon as my dogs pick up the bird on a retrieve, even though both of them already seem proficient at returning once they have the bird in their mouth. In this case, the recall is not to cue an activity the dog is confused about, but rather to reinforce the pick-up.

I haven't yet been able to detect an improvement in either dog's pick-up difficulties on LWL retrieves, but I have noticed a subtle reaction to my cueing "Here" in that way. Both dogs tend to look at me, perhaps lift their ears a bit, and perhaps increase their speed toward the water entry, suggesting that the cue is improving their motivation. I plan to continue doing it, at least for awhile, unless I see something to suggest that it's doing more harm than good for some reason.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Steadiness Training, Land Blind on a Slope, Play in Swimming Pool

Mt. Ararat Farms

Today, the dogs and I trained with our friend Gaby and her three dogs. For Series A and B, we trained in one of the many large fields on the property. Then the dogs got to play in the swimming pool (Series C) before we drove home.

SERIES A. Singles with flier (Laddie, then Lumi, alternating with Gaby's dogs)

Series A consisted of a 30-yard single with a wing-clip duck thrown left to right from a holding blind, with a gunshot fired during the throw but not hitting the duck.

After each retrieve, the running dog then honored the next dog from a position a little to the left and forward of the start line, so that the new running dog ran past the honoring dog, an honoring context more difficult than most competitions would require.

SERIES B. Two singles and a blind (Laddie, then Lumi, alternating with Gaby's dogs)

Series B used the same set-up as Series A for the first single. The second single (WD) was to the right at 110 yards, thrown right to left with a gunshot. After the dog picked up each of the single marks, the dog ran a 60-yard blind 180° from the left mark. Then the dog honored the next dog as in Series A. Lumi ran one extra mark so that the last of Gaby's dogs could honor.

To my surprise, both of my dog marked poorly on the second single, in both cases running well past the fall and then having to quarter coming back toward the SL to find the dummy. Laddie did not require help. Lumi probably could have found the dummy eventually without help, but she ranged quite far and I took it as an opportunity to remind her that a thrown article is somewhere near the thrower, by calling out to the thrower to say "hey, hey" and fake another throw.

I'm not sure why the dogs had difficulty with that mark, but I'm guessing that it was because I set the thrower up at the edge of a cover change, with the dummy being thrown into the higher, darker, softer cover in front. Apparently the picture suggested to both dogs that the throw would be in the shorter, lighter-colored, more stubbly terrain behind the thrower, since both dogs ran right over the dummy on their way out.

SERIES C. Play in swimming pool

After the two land series, the dogs got to play in Gaby's swimming pool. Part of the time, we practiced various "Over" cues from the Shore-training Toolkit.

At one point, I had Laddie's lead tied to my belt when I threw a dummy in the water for Lumi, and Laddie leapt in to try to get to the dummy first, pulling me in behind him. My cellphone was in my pants pocket and was ruined, the second time I've had a cell phone ruined by accidentally getting in the water with Laddie. Since I'm out of work right now, it isn't a good time for the added expense of a replacement phone. :0(

SERIES D. Land blind (Laddie, then Lumi, alternating with Gaby's dogs)

For Series C, we moved to a different field with a significant slope and ran an 80-yard blind (ODs). I positioned the SL behind a crest so that the dog had to run over the crest before being able to see the course in front. The line to the blind was across an uphill slope, and the dummies were placed under the low canopy of trees at the edge of a wooded area.

Both of my dogs performed well on the blind. Laddie lined it despite the crest. Lumi took the crest well but veered further out, then responded well to the one or two handles required.

Steadiness Training

For all dogs, both mine and Gaby's, the handler held the dog's tab (a 9" lead) while the dog was honoring during Series A and B to prevent any attempt at a break, then ran with the honoring dog to the parking area to play with the dog before putting the dog in the dog's crate. Gaby, who was focusing on her dogs' steadiness in today's work, also held her dogs' tabs while they were waiting to be released for their marks.

I felt confident that mine would not break on the marks and did not hold their tabs for the throws, and that turned out to be fine.

In fact, my dogs also did not attempt to break on the difficult honors, neither when the bird was thrown nor when the running dog darted past them.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Land Blinds

Sundown Road Park

SERIES A. Triple land blind (Laddie, then Lumi)

The first blind (OD) was to the left at 80 yards. The second blind (OD) was at 190 yards, nearly 180° to the right of the first blind. The third blind (duck) was in the center at 100 yards, on a line midway between the first and second blinds. A light wind blew the duck scent toward the SL, so that on the first two blinds, the dog was aware that a bird was planted at a 90° angle to the direction the dog was being sent.

I was surprised to see that this scenario was slightly more difficult for Laddie than our recent PB scenarios, possibly because we've practice with PBs more often than with running downwind of a hidden bird. Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised, because Laddie's curiosity often seems to create more suction than an actual article. If Laddie is aware that a bird is present but hasn't figured out exactly where, it seems significantly harder for him to respond correctly than if he knows where it is. Today, the effect was to pull him offline to the right when running the left blind, instead of taking the line he was sent on. For some reason, he took an excellent line on the second blind. Perhaps the wind direction was a factor, or perhaps he became comfortable taking a good line in the presence of bird scent coming from a different direction.

Lumi didn't show the same problem. She took a good line on both the left and right blinds and remained responsive on all her WSs. However, her poor carrying on casts showed up again today on both the first two blinds. I don't know whether it will eventually fix itself or whether I'm going to have to take some remedial action. I keep expecting it to fix itself, since it seems to be an unproductive behavior compared to carrying the cast, but perhaps I'm not understanding the forces at work.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Poison Bird Blinds, Adventure Drill

Power Line Right-of-way off Fieldcrest Road

SERIES A. Double poison bird blind, with both marks picked up after their associated blinds (Laddie, then Lumi)

Series A was the following sequence:
  1. With dog waiting at the SL, I threw a duck at 50 yards left to right to a fall on a line 30° to the right of the first blind. In other words, this was a TAL PB.
  2. I ran the dog on the first blind (unmarked OD), the blind on the right at 100 yards.
  3. I sent the dog to pick up the PB thrown in Step 1.
  4. With dog again waiting at the SL, I threw a duck at 50 yards left to right to a fall on a line 30° to the left of the second blind. In other words, this was a TTL PB.
  5. I ran the dog on the second blind (unmarked OD), the blind on the left at 130 yards.
  6. I sent the dog to pick up the PB thrown in Step 2.
Instead of keeping one dog tied to my belt while running the other dog as I often have to do given time constraints, for this series I kept one dog in the van while the other dog ran. In Laddie's case, I kept him in a crate to prevent further damage to my van's interior. Although he barked a little at first, I was pleased to see that he quickly calmed down, perhaps because I was out of sight.

Both dogs showed excellent WSC responsiveness, though Laddie's casting was more accurate than Lumi's as usual. Lumi may have had her concentration affected by the PB; Laddie showed no sign of doing so. Neither showed any suction toward the PB on either blind. In fact, Laddie lined the second blind on the left.

Needwood Lake South Creek

SERIES B. Adventure Drill

For Series B, both dogs ran a number of AD retrieves — LWL retrieves of ducks in rugged terrain — as we hiked along the creek that runs south from Needwood Lake.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Shore-hugging Retrieves

Stadler's Pond

Today we returned to the pond behind Stadler's Nursery to work on a type of water retrieve Lumi and Laddie have little experience with: lines that run parallel to the shoreline and only a few feet away.

At the pond, we ran 5-yard, 15-yard, and 25-yard retrieves with the shore on the left, and a 35-yard retrieve with the shore on the right. All retrieves were with ducks.

Needwood Lake North Shore

At Needwood Lake Park, we ran two more shore-hugging retrieves, both 40 yards, one with the shore on the right, one with the shore on the left.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Poison Bird Land Blinds

Oaks Area 2

With temps forecast to near 90° with no wind today, I got the dogs out early, while temps were still in 70s, for some work on land.

SERIES A. Double poison bird land blind with mark picked up after first blind (Laddie, then Lumi)

First, I walked out to the left and thru a duck to 30 yards, with a gunshot. Then I ran the dog on the blind 90° to the right at 80 yards. Next, I sent the dog to pick up the duck. Finally, I ran the dog on the blind midway between the previous two retrieves at 150 yards. Both blinds were ODs.

Both dogs lined the short blind on the right despite the PB, and despite the knee-high, prickly cover, both dogs nailed the mark. Both dogs required some handling on the longer blind on the left, but both dogs remained responsive on WSs and casts. Lumi, however, showed the same problem she's shown in the past, of not carrying her casts very far but instead scalloping back on a line she had previously veered to and be cast away from.

This makes me wonder. Why does a dog who's been handling for nearly two years, and who in thousands of handling retrieves has never once been cast in the wrong direction, not yet trust my casts as the most efficient way to get to the blind?

Here's a video made up snapshots showing the three lines for the Series A retrieves:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Adventure Drill with Video, Cheating Water Blind

Needwood Lake

Today we returned to Needwood Lake Pake and hiked down to the south bank of the creek that flows from the dam on the west end of the lake. There we ran a series of AD retrieves with challenges such as steep embankments, thick underbrush, boulders, and logs.

Next we hiked to a cove on the north side of the lake and ran a 70-yard LWL water blind with the dogs swimming parallel to the shoreline at a distance of about 5 yards.

Finally, we hiked down to the north bank of the same creek as earlier for some more AD retrieves.

While running the day's AD retrieves, I snapped some photos with my cell phone. Later, I emailed them to myself, converted them into a video, and uploaded the video to YouTube. Here's the video, showing the sorts of places we ran today's Adventure Drill retrieves:

TODO List Archive

Today I'm replacing the TODO list with a newer version, so I wanted to record my old TODO list for future reference:
  • Dinner
    • – Fine-tuning alignment at line for blinds and memory birds (doodling)
    • – Remote retrieve and return to SL
  • Solo/Land
    • – Interrupted series
    • &mdash Bird thrown from behind the line
    • – Pick-up drill
    • – Offset drill
    • – Practice 2-seconds, "dog", 2-seconds, hand over head, 2-seconds, dog's name (2/3 of time)
    • – Triple blind:
      • >> Quick 2nd whistle for gawking (include in "The 2Q Retriever")
      • >> Short blinds for Lumi to build confidence
      • >> Bird scent irrelevancy
      • >> Casting into cover
    • – Remote retrieve and return to SL
    • – Holding blind and SL approach
    • – Heeling
  • Solo/Water
    • — Interrupted series
    • — Bird thrown from behind the line
    • – Use walk-outs for slow pick-ups or procrastinating on water entries
    • – Set up short handling drills and call dog back to heel for slipped whistles or refused casts
    • – Diagonals across ditches:
      • >> Pile work in ditch
      • >> Baseball drill, where P1/P3 are the banks
      • >> Lining with straight and angle entries
    • – Rewatch Lardy video:
      • >> Cheaters
      • >> Walk-arounds
      • >> Chinese singles
      • >> Cold blinds
    • – On-and-off point per Woodyard article
  • Thrower:
    • — Interrupted series
    • — Bird thrown from behind the line, including with a winger
    • – Long, unpredictable waits before sending dog on flyers
    • – Always practice honoring, on lead if necessary
    • – Try to have a blind planter during practice, so dog learns to deal with that distraction
    • – Get someone to act as judge: wait 3 seconds, say "dog" (quietly, like a judge); then I should wait 2-seconds, hand over head, 2-seconds, send dog
    • – Land and water blinds in every series if possible, with dry shots if possible
    • – Occasional hip-pocket and other picture drills
    • – Senior Hunt Test preparation:
      • >> Practice handling off of diversions
      • >> Practice walk-ups
      • >> Practice with line gun
      • >> Practice multiples with HT line mechanics, but 99% singles
      • >> Honoring flyers
    • – Master Hunt Test preparation:
      • >> Develop ability to handle smoothly and compliantly on a mark, and then go on to pick up the rest of the test as marks.
    • – L-W-L-W-L:
      • >> Last land
      • >> Intermediate point
      • >> Thrower on different point than fall

Principles of the Adventure Drill

[The following essay was posted to three lists this morning: DogTrek, PositiveGunDogs (PGD), and Animal Reinforcement Forum (ARF).]

For those of you not following the online training journal I maintain for Lumi and Laddie's retriever training (see signature line), we have been experimenting for several weeks with something I call the Adventure Drill (AD). It simply means running land-water-land (LWL) retrieves in the most difficult terrain I can find: thick and tangled underbrush, logs and boulders as obstructions, fast-moving streams, steep embankments, and so forth.

When I began the AD, my goal was to habituate Laddie, my younger dog, to distractions, especially water, which historically have tended to divert him on returns during events. It was a difficult problem to solve because Laddie didn't display those distractions in private training, and of course you can't suddenly transition into training mode in the middle of an AKC test. But it occurred to me that if I made our private training conditions significantly more distracting than at events, perhaps I'd be able to trigger the behavior and then use management, +R, and if necessary -P to address it. The retrieves I was using were so arduous that when I first introduced the AD while out training with both dogs, I didn't run Lumi, my older, more fragile dog on the same retrieves, but made hers easier. Lumi didn't have the distraction problem and I didn't want to subject her to risk of an injury or associating unpleasantness with retrieving.

It turned out that almost no "training" was needed to overcome Laddie's distractibility during the AD because even in those conditions, he showed little evidence of it in private training. On one occasion he did stop to swim around in the creek and I was able to immediately approach and get him going again, and perhaps that did help. In scores of AD retrieves since then, he's never shown the behavior again. More hearteningly, he also performed well in the only Senior Hunt Test he's been in since we started the AD, repeatedly ignoring the exact kinds of distractions that might have diverted him in previous tests.

That's all nice, but it's not surprising. That's a typical clicker-training procedure, called proofing. It's also common in all sports to train at higher criteria than you'll need to compete at, in order to compensate for what Alice Woodyard calls the Event Discount Factor, which means that dogs (and their handlers) don't tend to perform as well in events as in practice, sometimes going so far as to behave diametrically opposite to their normal practice behavior.

But something else happened with the AD that I didn't expect. Laddie had the remnants of another problem besides distractibility when we began the AD: Ever since he was about a year old, he's had problems getting into the water while carrying an article. That of course comes up during the return of every LWL retrieve, and since many events incorporate LWL retrieves, has stalled Laddie's competitive career. We worked on it all last year, and largely repaired it, but it still came up occasionally in several tests this spring. Of course we were continuing to work on it in various ways, and we would have applied those to the AD as well.

Except for one thing. It stopped happening when we started the AD. And it also didn't happen in the test Laddie took after we began the AD.

So here was a behavior that was NOT fluent at one criteria level, that BECAME fluent when we raised the criteria, and then REMAINED fluent when we later went back and tested at lower criteria again. I tried to think what precedent I had for that in my experience, either in my dogs or in myself. I couldn't think of one.

I considered the possibility that it was just coincidence. Maybe Laddie's LWL problem was on the verge of being completely solved anyway, and we just happened to get into that territory at the same moment that we began training with the AD. But that's not what it felt like.

After another couple of weeks, I suddenly had another thought. Lumi also has a problem we've been struggling with for some time: She tends to dawdle on her pick-ups. Recently, that problem had taken a turn for the worse, when, in her last two events and also in one group training session, she actually dropped her shoulder and began to roll in the grass for several seconds before finally getting back up, picking up the bird, and completing her retrieve. She still got a ribbon doing that in one event, but the next time, the judges dropped her for it.

Once again, despite a great deal of work on the problem, Lumi was not fluent for fast pick-ups at relatively easy criteria. Did it make any sense to dramatically raise criteria at that juncture?

Well, I tried Lumi out on the AD, and it worked. Lumi wends her way thru the difficult terrain, gets to the bird, perhaps shakes off or looks around a little, then picks the bird up and heads straight back. Her old behaviors of flipping the bird over and over, or pick-it-up/put-it-down/shake-off/pick-it-up-again, seemed to almost disappear. Lumi's improvement hasn't been as blanketing as Laddie's -- Laddie seems to have virtually no problem with LWL re-entries any more, whereas Lumi still exhibits a little dawdling -- but the improvement has been dramatic. Also, mystifying. Why should this work?

Oh, the AD also seems to have played an unplanned but logical habituating role in Lumi's development. She seems to be having less and less problem dealing with underwater debris like that encountered in the "stick ponds" sometimes used for event water retrieves.

So what have I learned from this experience? Obviously, I've learned that it seems to be a good idea to run retrievers in difficult terrain at some point in their training, as a way to temper their skills and kind of glue everything down.

And of course the experience confirms Bob Bailey's central training aphorism: If what you're doing isn't working, change your behavior.

But what about the more precise "principle" the AD seems to suggest: If a behavior is NOT fluent at one criteria level, RAISE the criteria level in order to achieve fluency.

No, that wouldn't seem to be a good plan in general. Yet in this particular instance, it seems to have worked, and maybe there really is some underlying generality.

Here's one theory. Perhaps the AD retrieves are not only more challenging, perhaps they are also significantly more rewarding -- hence reinforcing -- than our more usual practice retrieves. So by raising the criteria, I also happened to be raising the value of the reward for correct responses.

Now that might be a useful principle to know. Like if a smart kid isn't doing well in school, try putting him in tougher classes.

Lindsay, with Lumi & Laddie (Goldens)
Laytonsville, Maryland

Field training blog: (see "Archive of Video Blog Entries" in right margin)

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Water Blind, Land Blinds in Open Meadow

Needwood Lake

Today Renee and I discovered a new hiking trail at Needwood Lake Park that took us to the north side of the lake. Although we were not there primarily for a training session, I had two WDs with me and took the opportunity for:

SERIES A. Water blind (Laddie, then Lumi)

Series A was an 80-yard water blind (WD) with the line to the blind running parallel to the shoreline most of the way at a distance of 10 yards. Laddie required two casts to get to the blind, then picked up a dummy and trotted right back into the water. Lumi lined the blind but required an "Over" cast to get her back in the water rather than running the bank for the return.

We may return here in the future to use the same area to set up lines closer and closer to the shoreline. I also noticed a possible Adventure Drill venue using a creek we could see thru the woods from one section of the trail.

Riggs Road

SERIES B. Triple land blind (Laddie, then Lumi)

The first blind (OD) was to the right at 70 yards. The second blind (OD) was to the left at 120 yards. The third blind (duck) was in the center at 180 yards. Lines to the blinds were at 30° angles from one another. All blinds were in open meadow and marked with lining poles. Laddie lined the left blind, while Lumi lined both the left and center blinds.

If it's not apparent, I intentionally used ducks for the last blind because for Lumi and Laddie, carrying a duck tends to be more enjoyable than carrying a training dummy. Thus today's arrangement, like the ones I usually use, is intended to condition a blind to predict an opportunity for an even more enjoyable retrieve.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Land Series

Sundown Road Park

CONDITIONS: Sunny, temps in low 80s.

Though our time was limited, my son Dave came out to throw for me, so we ran this series:

SERIES A. Land double with blind (Laddie, then Lumi)

Dave threw the first mark to the left at 70 yards. He threw the second one to the right at 40 yards. After the dog picked up both marks, the dog ran a 180-yard blind (duck) under the arc of the go-bird on the right. Both marks were WDs thrown with gunshots.

Laddie nailed both marks and took an excellent initial line on his send-out for the blind, then veered slightly left. He was responsive on the WS at 120 yards and took an outstanding cast straight to the bird.

Lumi nailed the go-bird and arced without much difficulty to the memory-bird. The first time I sent her out for the blind, she took a relatively good initial line, but soon veered and, while sitting on each WS, repeatedly took inaccurate, somewhat lackadaisical casts. Eventually she arrived at shade near the woods behind the blind and refused a CIW and "Here", so I walked out, slipped on her lead, and walked her back to the SL. The second time I sent her out, she took a poor initial line and then, again while sitting on each WS, again took several inaccurate casts, again rather lackadaisical. Finally, at about 120 yards, she became alert and took an good cast to the bird. Possibly she had scented it.


Dave helped us again a couple of hours later:

SERIES B. Land double with blind (Laddie, then Lumi)

Dave threw the first mark to the right at 80 yards. He threw the second one to the left at 60 yards. After the dog picked up both marks, the dog ran a 100-yard blind (duck) to the left of the left mark. Both marks were WDs.

Laddie nailed both marks and took an excellent initial line on his send-out for the blind, then veered slightly right. He was responsive on the WS at 60 yards and took an outstanding cast straight to the bird.

Lumi nailed the go-bird, needed a short hunt for the memory-bird, then lined the blind.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Land Blinds, Pick-up Speed Drills, Adventure Drill

Emory Road

This morning, I dropped Renee off at the club where she works as a trainer and planned to pick her up a couple of hours later. Driving around looking for a possible place to train, I found a large field apparently owned by the local electric utility. The cover was mowed grass, a paved road, with ditches on either side, ran thru the middle of the field, and the field was dotted with trees and utility poles and surrounded mostly by woods. I parked on the adjacent driveway, went out to plant two blinds (two ODs at each blind), then went back for the dogs and the other equipment we'd use for the setups I had in mind.

Here's what I came up with:

SERIES A. Poison bird blind with the mark retrieved (Laddie, then Lumi)

Using an RL, weighted streamers, and a pre-positioned duck, a mark was "thrown" right to left at 80 yards. The dog then ran a 130-yard blind on a line 45° to the left of the line to the PB. When the dog returned with the OD, the dog was sent to pick up the duck. The lines to both retrieves crossed the road and ditches on opposite diagonals.

SERIES B. Poison bird blind with the mark retrieved (Laddie, then Lumi)

Again using an RL, weighted streamers, and a pre-positioned duck, a mark was "thrown" left to right, over the road and both ditches, at 60 yards. The dog then ran a 240-yard blind on a line 135° to the right of the line to the PB. When the dog returned with the OD, the dog was sent to pick up the duck. The line to the blind crossed the road and ditches on a diagonal.

SERIES C and D. Pick-up speed drill (Laddie, then Lumi)

Lumi's pick-ups have improved considerably in the last couple of weeks, but I don't want her to revert to dawdling on them, so I thought it would be good idea to continue with regular pick-up speed drills. These are relatively easy poorman marks in which I interrupt any retrieve if Lumi seems to be using delaying tactics on her pick-up. I call "Sit", walk out to her, slip on her lead, walk her back to the SL, and send her again. I usually let Laddie run the same marks, but no WOs are generally needed for Laddie on this drill.

Today's drill consisted of two doubles at distances of 50 to 80 yards, some throws with gunfire to keep it interesting for the dogs. I used one WO, for Lumi on the first retrieve of the Series C. After that WO, Lumi's pick-ups and returns were all excellent.

Creek at Black Hill Park

SERIES E. Adventure Drill (Laddie, then Lumi on each retrieve)

As in previous ADs, I hiked along the creek with Lumi and Laddie, a creek we've never played this game before. Whenever I found a suitably challenging location, I put both dogs in a sit/stay, walked to the edge of the creek and threw two white training dummies to the other side, usually landing well back from water's edge on the far side, then walked back to the dogs and sent them one at a time to pick up the articles thrown. In today's session, I sent Laddie first each time.

As usual, both dogs seemed thrilled throughout the session, and brought excitement and high quality performance to the game.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Training Day, Blinds


SERIES A. Poison bird blind with the mark judged as a mark, plus double with blind (Lumi, then Laddie)

The set-up consisted of three throwing stations, a hot blind off to the left, and a cold blind between the left and center throwing stations. Some of the dogs in the advanced group ran it as a triple and two blinds, some as singles with or without the blinds, and some as a double and a single. Lumi and Laddie were the only ones to run one of the marks as a PB. This describes the way Lumi and Laddie ran it.

The thrower on the right threw a duck right to left at 90 yards. The dog was then run on the blind (OD) to the far left at 50 yards. After the dog picked up that blind, the dog was sent to pick up the right mark, that is, the poison bird.

Next, the thrower in the center threw a duck left to right and at a sharp angle back at 110 yards. Then the thrower on the left threw a duck left to right at 30 yards. When those two throws were down, the dog was sent to pick up the left bird and then the center bird. Finally, the dog ran a second blind (duck) at 140 yards, planted while the dog was running back from the center memory-bird. The second blind was on a line just to the left of the center gun station.

Duck calls and popper guns were used for all throws. Wingers were used from behind holding blinds for the 90-yard throw on the right and the 110-yard throw in the center, while a box launcher (no holding blind) was used for the 30-yard throw on the left. Flat cardboard decoys were placed in front and to the left of the right holding blind.

NOTES ON PERFORMANCE. Both dogs marked well on all three marks, and both dogs had great pick-ups. Lumi even had a gorgeous running pick-up on the 30-yard left mark. Laddie's returns were a little loopy but not OOC. Both dogs were sky-high, which in combination with the PB resulted in poor handling responsiveness and accuracy on the left blind. Neither dog took a good line on the 140-yard blind, but both handled OK.

Both dogs honored dogs who were running the series as a triple, from the most difficult position, between the running dog and the 30-yard go-bird. I held their tabs (loosely), but both dogs were rock steady and leapt around excitedly when I called "Here" and sent them to a duck I'd thrown on the dirt road 10 yards behind the location from which they were honoring.

SERIES B. Two water singles (Lumi, the Laddie)

Some of the dogs ran Series B as a double, but I've heard that dogs' marking benefits from running a high percentage of singles. Since both dogs had already run memory-birds without difficulty in Series A, I decided to run Series B as a pair of doubles.

The first mark was to the left, thrown left to right at 70 yards across a channel, from the left shore almost to the far side, landing in the water with a splash. The line to the left mark took the dog across a small point, and ideally, the dog was to go straight over the point rather than veering slightly right and running the bank to where the bird came to rest at the shoreline.

The second mark was 90° to the right, thrown right to left at 70 yards across a channel, from the right shore onto the left shore. The line to the right mark was a difficult angle entry followed by a channel swim with points on both sides. Unfortunately, an additional difficulty was that Lumi found another bird on the far shore that had been thrown earlier for another dog and had not been picked up.

A duck call was used for the first mark, while I had the second mark thrown without a duck call. Popper guns were used for both throws. Both marks were ducks thrown with wingers from behind holding blinds. Flat cardboard decoys were placed in front and to the left of the right holding blind. I used an empty shotgun as a handler's gun at the line while the marks were being thrown.

SERIES C. Water blind (Lumi, then Laddie)

Two water blinds were established with a pile of ODs before Series B was run, one intended as a Senior blind, the other as a Master blind.

The Senior blind was to the left of the left mark of Series B. It was a 70-yard LWL with a long land entry, a 20-yard swim, and the blind planted deep on the far shore.

The Master blind was a 100 yards, in the water at the left shoreline of the same channel used for the left mark of Series B. The line to the Master blind was just to the right of the left gun station. The line included a 10-yard run from the SL to the water entry, followed by a swim that went over a short point and then past a grassy clump that obscured the handler's sight line to where the ODs were planted.

I had Lumi run the Senior blind. I had Laddie run the Master blind first, but when he got to the orange tape, it turned out no ODs were left. I had him sit while one of the other trainers walked out with some more ODs, then blew CIW. Laddie grabbed one of the ODs and brought it back. After the other dogs had finished Series C, I saw that some ODs were still available for the Senior blind, so I had Laddie run that one.

NOTES ON PERFORMANCE. In Series B and C, both dogs did fairly poorly with the entries, veering in order to take points rather than going straight into the water, and with their channel swims, since neither has had practice swimming 3' from a shoreline. However, both dogs had high quality pick-ups and water re-entries on their returns. Lumi showed no inclination to roll on the deep LWL water blind.

I believe that the Adventure Drill has played a significant role in helping both dogs with their retrieve fundamentals.

Oaks Area 3

SERIES D. Double blind (Lumi, then Laddie)

The first blind was to the right at 70 yards, planted five yards to the right of a tree. The second blind was 90° to the left at 90 yards, planted at a midpoint along a split-rail fence.

Both blinds were ODs, and the lines to both blinds were thru calf-high grass, which seems to make both dogs uncomfortable, especially Lumi

NOTES ON PEFORMANCE. Both dogs had excellent WSs and casts throughout Series D, with Laddie lining the right blind.

Why Poison Birds?

The first two retrieves of Series A, in which a mark was thrown, then a blind was run, and finally the dog was sent to pick up the mark, could be called "a poison bird blind with the mark judged as a mark", or an "interrupted single", which is easier to say and write but apparently a less common name for it.

While I'm uncertain about what to call it, I do feel it's a valuable thing for my dogs to practice. It gives the dog practice with a memory-bird, but more importantly, it raises the bar significantly on handling, especially for Lumi.

Even if it were never going to come up in competition — I'm pretty sure it never occurs at the Senior Hunt Test level anyway — the advanced proofing hopefully creates a safety margin for those handling situations that might come up in an event. For example, the dog might think a bird is down somewhere else when you need the dog to concentrate on running a blind. And even without that, the excitement level of an event always carries the potential detracting from the dog's concentration and responsiveness.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Land Blinds with a Spontaneous Adjustment

Oaks Area 3

Although I haven't had time to type up my notes for several days, Lumi, Laddie and I have continued to train daily, mostly with land blinds and the Adventure Drill. I'll type them and post them with the correct dates when I have more time.

For now, I'll just describe today's brief session:

SERIES A. Double blind (Laddie, then a combination of Lumi and Laddie)

The first blind (OD) was on the right at 80 yards, in front of a tree at the back of a cluster of trees and up a short hill.

The second blind (duck) was on the left at 130 yards in an open area. The line to the blind was past a hedgerow nearby on the left, creating suction to wrap around to the left, then across a downward slope, taking the dog into a depression, then across an upward slope bringing the dog back to the original elevation, and then further back to the blind, planted in high grass.

Laddie lined the first blind, then almost lined the second one. But when I blew a safety whistle (a combination of a WS and CIW, tweeeeeet . . . tweet-tweet-tweet) on the second one, it turned out that Laddie hadn't spotted the bird yet and went into a hunt, becoming unresponsive to WSs for several seconds while he tried to find the bird he was scenting.

Next I ran Lumi on the short right blind. She required two WSCs, but was responsive on both WSs, also taking and carrying accurate casts to get thru the keyhole and up the hill. She also ran all the way back with her OD.

When Lumi got back, I came to the spur-of-the-moment decision that Laddie would benefit more from re-running the left blind than Lumi would benefit from running it for the first time.

In Lumi's case, she had just run an excellent blind already somewhat more difficult than any Senior blind we've seen, so if she didn't run any more, we'd be ending on a high note. In addition, Lumi does not enjoy running on hot days, and it was unlikely that she'd do as well with the difficult second blind. So for Lumi to run it would at best leave us no better off than we already were, and at worst might leave a poorly executed and physically uncomfortable experience as her final memory of the day to carry with her into the evening.

Meanwhile, Laddie was as game as ever, and he and I needed to get into better sync with his WSs. I figured that even if he took a perfect line, perhaps remembering that another bird was at the old location, I could still stop him and then cast him back again. As luck would have it, he did take a great line for the first 70 yards, then started to veer left behind the hedgerow. I blew WS, cast him back, and had three more opportunities for WSCs as he zig-zagged across the two slopes and finally back to the bird. I thought he ran a nice, tight blind, and by his body language, Laddie seemed to find our teamwork as gratifying as I did.

So it seems the strategy of having Laddie run three blinds to Lumi's single blind worked out well for both dogs. It was a good session.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Land Blinds, Adventure Drill

Nike Missile Park

Today we ran some blinds at a park I recently discovered a few minutes from home. Previously it was busy, but today, we arrived in early afternoon when few other visitors were present.

SERIES A. Double land blind

The first blind was at 60 yards, thru a keyhole and descending across a slope. The second blind was 130 yards, with blind planted in an open field.

SERIES B. Double land blind

The first blind was at 60 yards descending across a slope. The second blind was 160 yards across an open field, then uphill into high cover.

Southlawn Lane Creek

Driving around exploring later in the day, I pulled off on the side of a road that runs next to a creek. The creek turned out to be too shallow for swimming, and getting thru the woods and underbrush was difficult, so we probably won't return, but while we were there, we took the opportunity for some Adventure Drill retrieves.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Adventure Drill

South Needwood Creek

Today we spent about two hours walking along a section of the creek near Needwood Lake Park. Whenever I'd see an interesting opportunity, I'd throw two ducks across the creek and then run each of the dogs on the retrieve, sometimes Lumi first, sometimes Laddie. Good performances by both dogs all day.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Land Blinds and Marks

Oaks Area 3

Each series was run from a different location in the large field.

SERIES A. Double land blind with poison birds (Laddie, then Lumi)

The first blind (OD) was to the right at 80 yards. Before sending the dog to the blind, I left the dog in a sit/stay and walked out to throw a PB (duck) further to the right at 50 yards. After the dog handled to the blind, I sent the dog to pick up the duck.

The second blind (OD) was to the left at 140 yards. As with the first blind, I threw a PB (duck) at 50 yards, this time further to the left. The dog then ran the blind, and was then sent to pick up the duck.

The line to the first blind on the right was thru a keyhole formed by two trees, with the blind planted at the foot of a third tree. The line to the second blind on the left was thru a keyhole formed by a gap in a line of closely-spaced trees and underbrush, then uphill. The blind was in an open area on the slope.

To increase the suction of the PBs, both were thrown with duck calls and a gunshot.

Laddie did well on all the retrieves.

Lumi did fine with the first blind and first PB, but went OOC when sent on the second blind, too confused by the PB I'd throw just before sending her on the blind. I walked out and brought her back to the SL, also picking up the duck. I again put her into a sit/stay at the SL and walked another 90° further to the left, then used a duck call and gunshot while throwing the duck again, this time much further than before from the line to the second blind. Lumi then had no difficulty running the second blind, and finally picking up the second PB.

SERIES B. Land double (Laddie, then Lumi)

As another pick-up speed test, I threw a flower-pot double, one throw to the left, one to the right. Both marks were ducks at 70 yards, with both falls in open meadow well away from any landscape features. Again I used duck calls and gunshots for each throw.

Despite the lack of landscape features and the thigh-high cover, both dogs nailed both marks.

SERIES C. Land double (Laddie, then Lumi)

The first mark was on the right, thrown from behind a tree left to right at 160 yards into a cluster of widely spaced trees. The second mark was on a line 90° to the left, thrown right to left from the point of a hedgerow on a back angle to 80 yards. Both marks were ducks thrown with duck calls and gunshots.

Both dogs nailed the go-bird on the left. Both dogs required hunts (unassisted) to find the memory-bird on the right, first hunting a second cluster of trees adjoining the cluster of trees where the bird had been thrown, but with the second cluster of trees on the left. For some reason, that picture confused the dogs and they both hunted the cluster of trees that was closer to the go-bird before giving up and moving further right to find the bird.

SERIES D. Land double (Laddie, then Lumi)

For Series D, I decided to focus on reinforcing pick-up speed with a double consisting of 20-yard marks (ducks), with no duck call or pistol. Besides cheering and praise, I rewarded the dogs' excellent work with pieces of chicken.

Both dogs had great pick-ups and returns all day.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Blinds with Poison Bird, Pick-up Speed Test

Powerline Right-of-way Near Zion Park

While out exploring, I drove the van down a dirt road and behind some construction mounds, and suddenly came upon an open area rich in training possibilities. The field was dotted with trees, and included areas of high cover, more mounds, even a ditch with standing water. Sight lines up to 200 yards were available in several directions from the SL I selected, and of course, many other possibilities become available by moving the SL elsewhere in the field.

CONDITIONS: Temps in mid-70s, intermittent rain showers.

SERIES A. Double Land Blind with Poison Bird (Lumi, then Laddie)

With the dogs in the van, I put out ODs at 120 yards to the right and 130 yards to the left, with an angle of 75° between them. While running one dog, I kept the other dog on a slip lead tied to my belt. Our sequence was as follows:
  1. With running dog in sit/stay at SL, I walked out a short distance and threw a bird (freshly thawed duck) to the right of the right blind.
  2. I ran the dog on the right blind.
  3. I sent the dog to pick up the duck.
  4. I ran the dog on the left blind.
Lumi required several casts to keep her away from the duck while running the right blind, but remained responsive to WSs and carried the casts better each time. She was not as responsive as I would have liked past 100 yards on the left blind, but with the rain becoming heavier, I put up with it. I thought the rain would get worse and worse and was afraid I'd get soaked if I used WOs, but actually, it stopped a few minutes later.

Laddie lined the right blind, completely ignoring the PB. He was responsive on the WSCs I used for the left blind.

SERIES B. Pick-up speed test (both dogs)

For Laddie, Series B was primarily just a way to have some fun, but for Lumi, it was an opportunity for me to see how her pick-up speed was in conditions more similar to an event than the Adventure Drill we've been running for the last several days.

Since it was a test, I used longer retrieves than I would have in a drill. The first test was a poorman double at 50 and 30 yards, while the second was a poorman drill at 80 and 50 yards. To make the test a more valuable gauge, I threw the 50-yard go-bird of the second test behind a tree, similar to a location that a wounded flier ("cripple" in field jargon) might wind up in during an event.

Laddie had a hunt on the 80-yard memory-bird but aside from that had no difficulty with the test. Though I didn't expect trouble, Laddie's always at risk of getting distracted by some feature of the environment, so I was glad to see that didn't happen. Repairing that problem was my original goal with the Adventure Drill. So far so good.

My real concern was how Lumi would do with her pick-up speed. I was pleased to see that she showed the same prompt pick-up speed on all four of today's marks, as well as the PB, as she's been regularly exhibiting in the Adventure Drill.

It's too soon to break out the champagne, but maybe something has clicked.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Adventure Drill in the Marsh

North Needwood Creek

The creek we've been training at the last couple of days runs from north of Needwood Road, and today the dogs and I explored that section of the creek. Following a rough trail that runs parallel to the creek, we ran half a dozen LWL retrieves, never seeing another person the entire hour and a half we were out there.

For each retrieve, I left the dogs in a sit/stay near the trail, made my way to the edge of the creek, threw two old ducks as far as I could over the creek onto the opposite shore, returned to the dogs, and sent first Laddie, then Lumi, to pick the birds up.

Today's retrieves at distances of 90-130 yards were longer than any I've seen in a Hunt Test. In addition, as in all our Adventure Drill sessions, the lines to each retrieve were thru terrain more difficult than any I've seen in a test, including unexpected drop-offs, thick underbrush, standing trees and shubs, downed trees and logs, mud, pools of running-depth water, steep embankments on one or both sides, and a swim of 15-25 yards across the stream's current.

Though I had my whistle around my neck, I used no whistle or verbal cueing except for the dog's name on the send-outs. Both dogs did well the entire session, exhibiting excitement and resolve on each send-out and return.
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