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.

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