Saturday, March 6, 2010

Training with field trial group


After weeks of snow-covered fields preventing Charlie's field trial group from any meaningful training, this morning we trained. Apparently some of the trainers arrived early and ran blinds, but my dogs and I missed that.

I ran Laddie in the two triples set-ups that the group ran. I felt both were two physically demanding for Lumi, but afterwards, I did additional training with both dogs and included Lumi in some of that.

For both Series A and B, I had Laddie honor the next dog with me holding his tab, which was good because he made a half-hearted attempt to break both times. Laddie was the only dog to honor all day.

SERIES A. Three singles (Laddie only)

One or two of the dogs in the group ran this as a triple, but given our lack of recent training, I felt it best to run this as three singles. That's how most of the dogs ran it.

The first mark was on the right, a dummy thrown left to right along a treeline at 180 yards. The second mark was on the left, a dummy thrown right to left and angled back over a shallow creek at 90 yards. The third mark was in the middle, a flyer thrown right to left across a dirt road at 160 yards.

All three marks were thru low wetland and involved running thru sections of ice-cold, running-depth water.

Notes on Laddie's performance. On the long mark to the left, Laddie took an excellent line but found himself in a valley with a ridge in front of him, blocking his view of the thrower. This apparently confused him and he turned to face me. Unfortunately, I cast him back, realizing too late that I was reinforcing the popping behavior, something I don't want to reinforce. I should have gotten on the radio and asked the thrower to call hey-hey.

Laddie had no difficulty with the short second mark, unlike some of the other dogs who apparently found it a confusing picture.

Laddie nailed the flyer, making it one of the best marks of the day on that bird. Unfortunately, he stalled on the way back when he got to the creek at 100 yards from the SL, dropping the bird and looking at me. I called "here" and, when he didn't come immediately, I started to walk toward him. Then he picked up the bird and came running to me.

SERIES B. Indent land triple (Laddie only)

The first mark was on the right, a dummy thrown right to left along a tree line and slightly in among the trees at 280 yards. The second mark was on the left, a dummy thrown right to left along a different tree line, angled sharply back at 190 yards. The third mark was in the center, a duck thrown right to left, across a road and up a hill at 90 yards.

All three marks were thru hilly terrain with slopes that tended to misdirect the dog. In addition, the mark on the left was thru at 50 yards, so that when the dog got past the conifer on the right, the center station with the ducks suddenly appeared on the dog's right. When taking a direct line to the long mark on the right, the dog went thru a valley losing sight of the thrower, who was poorly visible anyway in the shade of the trees, and then the dog had a line thru a large area of running depth water to the fall.

Later in the day, when I mentioned that I hoped to run Laddie in Qualifying events in the future, the other trainers immediately pointed out that today's marks were much more technical, and longer, than typical qualifying marks.

Notes on Laddie's performance. Laddie nailed the go-bird, the short center mark. He then also nailed the mark on the left thru the keyhole, except that amusingly, he grabbed a dummy from the thrower's pile rather than making it all the way to the actual fall. Since Laddie ran as the first dog, the thrower hadn't realized that the dog would have to go right past his pile to get to the fall, and moved the pile to a more protected location after Laddie. Laddie took an excellent line to the long mark on the right, but when he lost sight of the thrower, he again popped. This time, I didn't help and the thrower called to him. Laddie then did a great job completing the retrieve.

When I later mentioned my concern about his popping, Charlie seemed less concerned about it than I was. He attributed the pops to Laddie's lack of group experience with such long marks, and pointed out that when Laddie popped, it was with at least one other station nearby and in clear view. Apparently Charlie felt it was to Laddie's credit that he knew not to go to the other station, but just wasn't sure what to do instead.

Despite the pop, one of the other trainers, who we've trained with in the past but not recently, commented that Laddie had done a good job. The people in this group do not give compliments lightly, so of course I was pleased.

SERIES C. Wet land double (Lumi only)

I asked for two of the ducks from earlier training and used them for continued work with both dogs, starting with a poorman land double for Lumi.

I positioned Lumi on a mound, then walked to the edge of the running-depth creek and threw the first duck across at 70 yards. I then walked to the right and threw a second duck across a section of shallow water, also at 70 yards. For Lumi, the line to the second bird was thru a diagonal key-hole formed by two trees. I used a pistol when making both throws.

After throwing both birds, I walked back to Lumi and sent her thru the key-hole to the bird on the right, then to the first bird down on the left. She moved slowly thru the water each time, but she maintained momentum and did a nice job on both retrieves.

SERIES D. Single land blind (Laddie only)

I left one of the ducks on the mound from which Lumi had been running, packed up both dogs in the van, and drove around the outer edge of the property and around a section of woods to an area 150 yards from the mound. I then ran Laddie on that as a blind.

SERIES E. Lining practice (both dogs, mostly Laddie)

For this drill, I would leave the dog in a sit, then walk some distance away and throw a duck so that the line to the duck required the dog to take a very sharp angle into water and mud, run a few yards, and come right back out again, a configuration which presented a strong temptation to "cheat" around the water. I set this up with the dog at various distances from the angle entry and with the bird thrown at various distances past the water. The easiest was with the entry and the duck both close to the water, while the hardest was with the slight water crossing in the center of an otherwise relatively long line.

Although I haven't written it up as an entry in this blog, I worked on a similar drill with both dogs yesterday at Oaks Area 2.

SERIES F. Water crossing (Lumi, then Laddie)

Since the outside temperature had risen to 60°, from a morning low of 20°, I felt that no one would object if I gave each dog a little water work away from some of the other trainers who hadn't left yet.

For Series F, I left the dogs in the van and laid out a 100-yard line, getting out the tangles. Then I gave first Lumi, then Laddie, a turn.

I brought the dog to the edge of a swim-depth channel, no doubt ice-cold. I fired a pistol and threw a duck across the channel. I sent the dog and picked up the line to feed it out so that it wouldn't catch on the ground. When the dog reached the bird at the other side, I was prepared to gently draw the dog back toward me if necessary. After the dog re-entered the water and was swimming back, I dropped the line and fired another shot with the pistol, then threw the other duck in the opposite direction, on land. As soon as the dog was ashore, I grabbed the duck the dog was carrying and sent the dog racing happily off to retrieve the second duck.

For Lumi, I didn't give her a chance to see whether she would dawdle on the first retrieve, but immediately began to draw her toward me and into the water as soon as she had bent down to pick up the duck. After she had brought me the second duck, I set everything up again and ran her a second time, this time not putting any tension on the line as she bent to pick up the first duck after swimming the channel. I was pleased to see that she quickly picked the duck up and got back into the water, without any need for me to draw her to me with the line.

For Laddie, I decided to see whether I needed to draw him to me with the line before putting any tension on it. I was pleased to see that he quickly picked the bird up and was back in the water in a flash.

After each dog had completed the series, I dried the dog thoroughly and put the dog in the warm van.

I felt good about this drill. I wish we could have been doing something similar all winter, but this particular winter, with record snowfalls, was just too severe.

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