Saturday, October 31, 2009

Assisted Walk Outs and Bulldogs


Today's session was almost identical to last weekend's, four AWO's combined with bulldogs, with Austin assisting.

The only difference was that today, for the first three series, I gave Austin the instruction that on both the first retrieve well onto shore, and the second retrieve at water's edge, for each series, Austin was to wait three seconds and then begin toward the dog, without waiting for me to say anything and without giving the dog a chance to reposition the bird or any other seemingly reasonable delay.

For the forth series, I asked Austin to wait until I told him to walk toward the dog on each of the retrieves, and it was not necessary for any of them.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Assisted Walk Outs and Bulldogs


Because I was working in New York all of last week, and will be there again next week, and because I wasn't able to get out with the dogs yesterday, today was our only training session over a period of nearly two weeks.

To make the most of it, I brought along Austin, a neighborhood kid who's helped with training earlier this year as well.

Both of my dogs have done well with most requirements of the Senior Hunt Test for some time, with one exception: both are unreliable on their returns for water retrieves. This single fault prevented both of them from qualifying in their last test a week ago.

Two address this, Gaby and I began working with the dogs on what I call an Assisted Walk Out (AWO) last Sunday. Today's session was again devoted to the AWO.

Over a period of just under two hours, I set up four series, all the same except that they were in four different locations. Each series was as follows:
  • On my signal, Austin held a duck up for the dog to see, then dropped the duck at the base of a lining pole set back from the bank varying distances (closer at first, further back for the later series), on the opposite side of an inlet. He then walked to a point 10 yards to the left or right and closer to water's edge, remaining as inconspicuous as possible as he walked and took up his new position, holding a second bird.
  • As soon as Austin had taken a few steps, I sent the dog. Each dog became confused in one of the series and swam toward Austin, in which cases I handled the dog to the lining pole. Aside from those incidents, the dog swam straight toward the pole, climbed out of the water, and raced to the pole and the bird.
  • If the dog picked the bird up immediately (I allowed the dog to shake if desired, which happened almost every time) and got back in the water, I cheered and applauded. Then, when the dog was well into her swim back, I called for Austin to throw a "bulldog", that is, another mark while the dog is retrieving the previous one. The bulldog included a gunshot, and was thrown either on shore near the water or in water near the shore. If the dog showed any inclination to turn toward the bulldog, I called her to me. In general, Lumi ignored the bulldogs while Laddie looked at them, but neither dog tried to change direction in most cases. As soon as the dog got to me with the first bird, I took the bird without even bringing the dog heel, gestured in the direction of the bulldog to get the dog turned around, and sent her as soon as she was looking the right way.
  • If the dog cheated around the water on the return (Lumi did this several times, Laddie did not), I did nothing to discourage it while it was happening. If Lumi had done that in our last test, she'd have her Senior Hunter title now, so I don't want to outright ban it. But I then took the bird, brought it back to Austin, and ran the retrieve again. The goal wasn't to use attrition to change her cheating return (which is legal in a Senior test, I believe), but to give her a chance to earn the bulldog by coming back over water.
  • If the dog came straight back with the bulldog, I cheered again, and this time I threw my own bulldog with the first duck, this time into open water to one side or the other. Again, as soon as the dog arrived with the bulldog, I sent her to the open-water retrieve.
  • If the dog dawdled on either the original retrieve or the bulldog, I used an AWO. That is, I called to Austin to pick up the bird, called out "Sit" to the dog, and walked around to pick the dog up. I then slipped on her lead, walked her back to the SL, and ran the identical retrieve again.
The good news is that in every case, the dog had a high-quality pick-up after the AWO. Even better news is that for Lumi in the third series, and Laddie in the fourth and last series, the dog performed perfectly and we didn't need any AWOs.

The bad news is that in the fourth series, Lumi again required an AWO. This could mean that the AWO is only a short-term solution. Or it may simply mean that my dogs have a well-ingrained habit of dawdling on pick-ups and returns and it's going to take a lot of practice with the AWO to replace that habit with the one I want.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hunt Test Preparation


Time is so short these days, trying to combine training with my new consulting position, taking me to New York the last three weeks. I've found it especially difficult to get around to typing up my training notes in this blog.

Anyway, today Lumi, Laddie and I again trained with Gaby at Cheltenham. This time she brought both of her Senior dogs (that is, dogs training for Senior Hunt Test competition): Buster (yellow Lab) and Gus (Chessie).

SERIES A. Land double with blind

The first throw (memory-bird) was to the left, a duck thrown right to left on an angle-in into high cover at 60 yards. The second throw (go-bird) was to the right, a Bumper Boy throwing right to left at 50 yards. The blind (OD marked with orange ribbon) was to the left of the left mark, at 70 yards in high cover.

Lumi and Laddie both did well on this series. The only problem was that Lumi decided to run to the duck first, then pick up the Bumper Boy's bumper. Since she nailed both of them, I guess it was all right.

SERIES B. Water double with blind

The first throw (memory-bird) was to the right, a duck thrown left to right onto a strip of land making a 60-yard LWL mark. The second throw (go-bird) was to the left, a duck thrown right to left into open water 20 feet down a channel, with the intent that the dog would run 20 yards on land, launch from the end of the channel, and swim out to the bird and back within the channel. The 50-yard blind was to the right of the right mark, an OD on the far edge of a 30-yard swim diagonally across a channel, with an angle entry on the way out and of an angle exit coming back.

The throw for Laddie was too close to the thrower (Gaby), and instead of swimming the channel, he ran the bank and leapt into the water, actually landing on the duck. He came out the same way. Since he's a good channel swimmer, I wasn't worried about it. On the other hand, his returns on the memory-bird and blind were mediocre.

Because Lumi's been having difficulty remembering doubles, I had Gaby throw her memory-bird onto the far embankment, so that it was out of sight until Lumi swam across the channel and then ran across the strip of land. She did need a small hunt, but she didn't seem to forget the bird and didn't need help. However, she took a long time picking it up. It was frozen solid and Gaby said Lumi seemed to have difficulty finding a good grip. While I think that's true, I also think that she could have managed if she'd wanted to.

Lumi also behaved somewhat oddly on her send-out to the blind, as though she were resisting getting into the water. It was cold, but I didn't think it was that cold. On the other hand, she is now on thyroid meds, yeast meds, allergy injections, many joint supplements, and she has a bare spot on her chest from the skin allergy test, so it's possible she has some water-temp sensitivity right now that she doesn't usually have.

Both dogs are showing outstanding technical skills these days but are still having trouble with the most fundamental basic, the pick-up and return. I can only hope that it won't be a problem this Saturday, when they're both entered in their next Senior Hunt Test.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Full House, Adventure Drill

Oaks Area 2

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

This is one of my favorite kinds of set-ups, and Lumi and Laddie also seem to like it. A nickname for it could be a Full House, since it combines two of a kind (the double marks) with three of a kind (the triple blind).

For the marks, I used RLs, weighted streamers, and ducks. For the blinds, I used ODs. I fired a pistol before each "throw" from the RLs.

The first mark (memory-bird) was on the left, thrown right to left at 60 yards. The second mark (go-bird) was on the right, thrown right to left at 30 yards.

After the dog picked up both marks, the dog ran the three blinds. The first blind was a little to the right of the right RL at 60 yards, past a tree on the right with the blind at the foot of a tree. The second blind was in the center, a little to the left of the right mark, to the left of a gap in a line of trees at 90 yards. The third blind was to the left of the left mark at 130 yards, 20 yards past the end of a line of trees on the right.

Both dogs pinned each mark, then responded reasonably well for handling on each blind. Laddie's handling, in fact, was excellent.

Lumi's handling was more than acceptable by Senior standards (from my experience), but not as good as Laddie's, in that Lumi didn't carry her casts well but instead to scallop back in the direction I had cast her away from. She also slipped a whistle at 110 yards on the third blind and I responded with a WO, but she her other WSs both before and after that lapse were excellent.

Laddie was his usual exuberant self. Lumi, who is now on both thyroid medication and allergy injections, in addition to her long running course of joint supplements, showed lovely energy and motivation, racing out as usual, but also running back in on all her retrieves.


20091010 Series A 60-yard mark (memory-bird)
Series A 60-yard mark (memory-bird)

20091010 Series A 30-yard mark (go-bird)
Series A 30-yard mark (go-bird)

20091010 Series A 60-yard blind
Series A 60-yard blind

20091010 Series A 90-yard blind
Series A 90-yard blind

20091010 Series A 130-yard blind
Series A 130-yard blind

Sundown Road Park

After we completed Series A, we drove to nearby Sundown for a little Adventure Drill: five short retrieves thru extremely difficult footing, each time over a creek and into tangled undergrowth. With no appreciable rain in weeks, the creek was low, and only a couple of the crossings required any swimming.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Hunt Test Preparation


Today we trained with Gaby and Gus, one of Gaby's Chessies.

SERIES A. Water blind (Laddie, then Lumi)

Series A was a channel blind, requiring the dog to swim along the length of a long, narrow, somewhat winding channel without veering offline to touch shore on either side until the dog reached the location where an OD was planted.

SERIES B. Water double (Laddie, then Lumi)

We ran Series B in the property's stick pond.

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

The first blind was thru a narrow keyhole. The second blind was along a hillside.

SERIES D. Water double and water blind (Laddie, then Lumi)

We returned to the stick pond for Series D.
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