Sunday, November 22, 2009

Preparing for Senior Hunt Tests

Rolling Ridge

It was too cold this morning for water work, so the dogs and I drove to a nearby area we've used for training in the past, a field near an abandoned farm house, for some land work.

Initially I just planned to run both dogs on Series A, an interrupted double more difficult than anything we'd see in a Senior Hunt Test, as overloaded preparation for the Seniors the dogs will be running in South Carolina in a couple of weeks.

However, Series A turned out to be too difficult for Lumi to perform well, so I also set up Series B for her as a more typical Senior-level series.

All marks were "thrown" with RLs launching weighted streamers to planted ducks. All blinds were unmarked ODs.

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

The first mark of the double was on the left, thrown right to left at 90 yards. The second mark was 90° to the right, thrown right to left at 50 yards. After both marks were down, the dog was sent to pick up the short mark on the right. Then the dog was run on two blinds. Finally the dog was sent to pick up the longer mark on the left.

The first blind was at 120 yards, on a line to the right of the launcher for the left mark. The second blind was at 130 yards, on a line just to the left of the first mark's fall.

  • The wind blew from behind the SL toward the memory-bird (the 90-yard #1 mark on the left), so the dog could not scent either mark without running past it (for #1) or to its left (#2).
  • The dog had to run into high, dry, prickly cover to pick up the go-bird.
  • The dog had to go into a large depression in the ground to pick up the first blind.
  • The dog had to go thru the same area of prickly cover as for the go-bird to get to the second blind, and also had to go up a step.
  • The dog had to ignore the diversions of a number of trees and shrubs on the various lines.
  • The dog had to traverse the hilly terrain on a variety of angles tending to pull the dog off line.
  • Remembering the memory-bird on the left while running three other retrieves. This isn't only a memory problem, it's also a confidence problem. During the interruption after picking up the first mark, the dog is required to rely on the handler to find the two blinds, but afterwards, the dog must return to self-reliance to drive towards, and if necessary hunt for, the memory-bird.
  • Handling well on the blinds while the memory-bird has not yet been picked up. I found when I first tried this that my dogs tended to slip whistles and take poor casts.
  • As described above, the series also had a variety of other challenges.
Laddie's Performance

Laddie ran a superb Series A, showing confidence on every retrieve. He seemed to understand at the SL that the second and third retrieves were interruptions in the double; that is, he lined up as I directed him to, made no attempt to veer toward the memory-bird while running the blinds, and remained responsive on all whistles and reasonably accurate on all casts rather than having his handling fall apart because the memory-bird was still out there. Yet he raced unhesitatingly to the memory-bird when finally sent to it, pinning it just as he had the first mark. It was a stunning performance.

Lumi's Performance

Unfortunately, Lumi, running second, had the problems I'd anticipated as possibilities. Though she was responsive on most WSs during her blinds, her casting was poor which resulted in extra WSs, and eventually she needed a WO for a slipped whistle on each blind. I attribute those problems, which are not typical of Lumi's blinds, to the presence of the memory-bird. Yet by the time she had completed both blinds and I sent her to the memory-bird, she took a few steps and stopped, a dreaded no-go, very uncharacteristic of Lumi. When I tried calling her back and sending her again, she pranced out in the right general direction but clearly had no idea where the memory-bird was.

I then reset the launchers with Lumi attached by my lead to my belt, and ran her on the simple double. She still needed a big hunt on the memory-bird.

At that point, I wanted to give Lumi more confidence on her doubles, so I moved the SL and set up Series B just for Lumi, leaving Laddie in his crate in the van.

SERIES B. Land double with blind (Lumi only)

The first mark was on the right, thrown right to left at 100 yards. The second mark was 60° to the left, thrown left to right (converging) at 40 yards. After the dog picked up both marks, the dog ran a 60-yard blind on a line just to the left of the RL for the left mark.

The memory-bird, that is, the 100-yard mark on the right, was thrown from in front of one tree to in front of another tree, and the line to the mark was across a ditch and thru an area of high, dry, prickly cover. The go-bird, that is, the 40-yard mark on the left, was in front of a wide cluster of shrubs. The blind was planted to left of another cluster of shrubs.

Lumi ran Series B nicely.


20091122 Series A 90-yard mark and 120-yard blind
Series A 90-yard mark and 120-yard blind

20091122 Series A 50-yard mark and 130-yard blind
Series A 50-yard mark and 130-yard blind

20091122 Series B 100-yard mark
Series B 100-yard mark

20091122 Series B 40-yard mark and 60-yard blind
Series B 40-yard mark and 60-yard blind

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