Sunday, January 24, 2010

Convergent Marks


Today, Lumi and Laddie again ran with Charlie and Milly's Field Trial group, made up today of ten dogs, though some did not run every series.

We ran three series on three different setups, but all based on the same "picture", or concept. Each series was a convergent land double arranged as follows:

First, the memory-bird was thrown toward the center at a distance of 200-300 yards. The line to this bird in each case included a descent into a marshy area, traversal thru unusually thick cover, and in most cases an additional traversal of standing water later on. In every series, the dog was out of the handler's sight, hidden below a ridge line or by cover, for part of the time. The second bird was also thrown toward center. The second bird, the go-bird, was angled back and thrown onto a higher elevation from the thrower (in one case onto a mound), at a distance of 70-90 yards, except for the third series, when the throw was "flat" and on the same elevation as the thrower.


In each case, I ran Laddie on the double, that is, the same series that most of the other dogs ran, though a few of the trainers had the long gun retire on one or more series, and I didn't do that with Laddie. On the first series, Laddie cheated around a patch of thick cover, and I (stupidly) didn't realize he was actually supposed to go thru it until I saw a later dog run. When the other dogs were done, I had him run the long mark again as a single, but first I moved up closer to the patch of cover, and this time he ran straight thru it.

On the second series, I got on the radio beforehand and asked Charlie whether he thought I should move up again, or stop Laddie with a whistle and handle him if he started to cheat. Charlie said it was unlikely Laddie would be able to see the throw if I moved up, and that handling him would be better in any case, so that's what I did. Laddie did in fact start to cheat around the tough terrain on the second series, stopped on a dime when I whistled, took a nice angle-in cast, and responded perfectly on "back", running the rest of the difficult mark beautifully. One of the other handler commented on what a great marker he is.

On the third series, Laddie made no effort to cheat, but at 200 yards on the way up an embankment, he turned around and sat, apparently waiting for a cast. Charlie, who was again throwing the long mark, immediately called "hey-hey-hey" and Laddie completed the retrieve. Later I told Charlie I was glad he'd done that because I didn't feel it would have been appropriate to reinforce Laddie's pop by interacting with him, and Charlie said he knew that and that's why he'd done it. I asked Charlie why he thought Laddie might have popped and Charlie said he thought that Laddie might have heard a whistle from the other training group that was training on a different part of the property.

I was a bit worried when I saw the third series included a short water crossing thru an ice-cold channel, where I feared Laddie might stall on the return, but he didn't hesitate in either direction.


For the first two series, I had Lumi run only the shorter mark as a single. For the third series, I asked another trainer to go out and throw a converging mark at 50 yards so that Lumi could run that one and the 80-yard mark from the Field Trial set-up as a double. Lumi nailed all her marks today and ran with great enthusiasm.

All of the marks were run with training dummies today.


Because of my current focus on the dogs' returns, especially water returns, I have gotten into the habit of taking the dog's article as soon as the dog arrives back at the start line, rather than having the dog come to heel and then cueing "out". I have the dog come to heel before taking the article only about 25% of the time now. Taking the article quickly seems to be more exciting for the dog, since it doesn't require the dog to execute the disciplined hold-heel-sit-out maneuver. Since I know both my dogs can do that, I don't feel we need to practice it, and I'm more interested in building motivation.

However, I hadn't thought about what it must look like to the other trainers. After today's session, we retired to Tony's place for sandwiches, and during the conversation at one point Charlie asked me, "What is that you're doing at the line?" At first I didn't know what he meant. He said that I seemed to be taking the bird as soon as the dog got to me.

I said, "Yeah, that seems to be more fun for the dogs than heeling them first."

Charlie didn't say he had a problem with it, but he had a thoughtful look on his face. He's a quiet guy and extremely nice. I can't even guess what he was thinking!

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