Saturday, August 22, 2009

Land Blinds and Refreshing "Over"

Depot Street (Greenville Junction, Maine)

All of today's training was with ODs.

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

The first blind of Series A was to the right at 90 yards. The line to the blind was thru a row of boulders placed five yards apart, and across a dirt road. The second blind was 60° to the left at 210 yards.

SERIES B. "Over" refresher drill (both dogs)

Over time, both of my dogs have increasingly begun to interpret "Over" as an angle back. With a hilly location to practice, I thought I'd take the opportunity to run each of the dogs on a drill similar to one once suggested to me by Alice Woodyard.

For each retrieve, I used the following steps:
  1. Place the dog in a sit/stay on high ground some distance from the SL, which is also on high ground. For today's drills, the distances from SL to dog were 10-20 yards.
  2. With dog able to watch but not necessarily paying attention, walk 10 yards to the left or right of the dog and drop an OD, so that it is on a downward slope on the other side of a crest from the dog. A cast to this dummy would be a left or right "over". The dog will not be able to see the dummy until she is near the crest.
  3. Again with the dog able to watch but not necessarily paying attention, walk 10 yards further away from the SL and drop a second OD. A cast to this dummy would be an angle-back, on the same side as the first dummy. This dummy is visible to the dog from where she is sitting and remains visible as she takes the "over" cast.
  4. Return to the SL and cast "over".
  5. If the dog tries for the second dummy, immediately whistle Sit. When the dog sits, walk to her, slip on her lead, walk her back to the sit/stay position, again cue "sit", and go back to step 4.
  6. If the dog takes the "over" cast correctly and picks up the first dummy, blow CIW and reinforce enthusiastically. I used praise and treats, though I believe the opportunity to complete the retrieve was the most important reinforcer.
If the dog repeats step 5 more than three times without taking the "over" cast correctly, I found that re-cueing "over" instead of walking the dog back to the original SL seemed to help the dog understand. But I don't want to encourage the dog to experiment, so most times the dog took the wrong line, I brought her back to the original sit/stay position.

  • Based on previous experience training Lumi to respond correctly to "left" and "right" on send-outs, I decided not to approach the "over" refresher drill as a discrimination drill. I simply want a reflexive correct response to "over". In a few days, we may also practice angle-backs and angle-ins to maintain balance, but we won't mix them with "over" cues until the dog is fluent with "over" even at distances in excess of 100 yards. By fluent, I mean 100% correct responses with no hesitation.
  • Both dogs had difficulty with today's drill, and both dogs made progress. In future sessions, we'll hopefully attain fluency at these distances and then gradually increase distance from the SL to the dog.
  • Eventually, we'll hopefully get to a more advanced variation on this drill: I'll send the dog to one target straight ahead, then blow WS and cast the dog "over" to a second, hidden target. Meanwhile, a third target will also be visible in the angle-back position. This would almost amount to a double-T, though we would practice it in many locations, whereas the double-T is always practiced in the same location.

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