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.

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