Saturday, April 10, 2010
Mt. Ararat Farms
Today we drove to Gaby's place to work, but trained alone.
Lumi ran two blinds, first a water blind, later a land blind, both with ducks.
Lumi's water blind
The 70-yard water blind was thru an S-turn in Gaby's technical pond, and was designed so that it did not invite running the bank on the return.
Lumi often has difficulty with S-turns, trying repeatedly to go to one point or the other rather than swimming the big water along the centerline without touching land. That happened again today, but she remained responsive to whistles and casts. Though she didn't carry the casts very far, she managed to complete the outrun without touching either point.
I decided to try not whistling when Lumi reached the bird, and was most pleased that, unprompted, she picked it up and got right back in the water. I then blew CIW and fired a couple of pistol shots. Lumi swam straight back without veering toward either point.
Whistling when Lumi was already on her way of course made no sense as a cue. I used it because virtually any interaction with a dog seems to function as reinforcement, even a cue for a behavior the dog is already performing. I've found that pistol shots also function as reinforcement for both my dogs, interesting in Lumi's case considering that three years ago she was terribly gun shy. That of course was before she had learned association between gunfire and her favorite thing in the world, ducks!
The fact that Lumi was willing to enter big water on her return, even with the outside temp in the low 50s, gives me some encouragement that she'll be OK for her water returns when she runs in her next Senior Hunt Test a week from today. If she sees an opportunity to run the bank on her returns, I'm sure she will and I have no problem with that. But today, not seeing such an opportunity, she didn't maroon and try to eat the duck, but instead got right back into the water, without even the need for a whistle or call from me.
Lumi's land blind
The line to the 110-yard land blind crossed a series of dry ditches and a dirt road, all on a diagonal. Lumi lined it.
My goals with Laddie are significantly different than those with Lumi. Laddie, too, is entered in the Senior test next Saturday, and the following day will also run in a GRCA WC and WCX. For all of those tests, Laddie needs relatively short work, and for the water, it's most likely he'll need the ability to swim past one or more points. But in addition, I hope to run Laddie in Qualifying Stakes later this year, and for that sort of competition, he'll need the additional skill of being able to cross a point, a skill he has much less practice with. In addition, the marks and blinds for Qs will be much longer, and Laddie will need the ability to take difficult water entries from distance, and to handle at longer distances than he'll need for Hunt Tests and the WC/X.
With all of those considerations in mind, I ran Laddie on four water blinds and one land blind.
Laddie's water blinds
All of Laddie's water blinds were run from distances of 30-90 yards from the shoreline, making his water entries more difficult, since the greater distance made a run around the pond more inviting. In some cases Laddie required handling to stop him from running the bank. For the last one, he had so much difficulty taking good casts at 110 yards from the water entry that I finally called him to me, walked him closer to the pond, and ran him without difficulty from there.
The first and fourth water blinds where thru S-turns on two different axises of Gaby's pond. Laddie swam the first one, which was the same one Lumi had swum but with the SL set much further back, without any need for handling. He did require handling on the fourth one but remained responsive and did not touch either point. These were intended primarily as practice for Laddie's Senior test next Saturday.
The second and third water blinds required Laddie to touch a point, and one of them also included a difficult angle entry that strongly invited running the bank, especially because the SL was set considerable distance from the water. Laddie was able to run both of these water blinds successfully also, though touching the point seemed to confuse him somewhat. I guess that's because we've practiced staying off the point so much. These water blinds required more handling than I would prefer, but I think the need for handling on this picture will diminish as Laddie gains more experience with it, and gradually learns that the rule is to maintain a straight line, sometimes taking him over a point and sometimes taking him past it.
As with Lumi, I experimented with not cueing a recall when Laddie picked up his birds, and as with Lumi, Laddie picked up every bird and immediately returned. When the return showed no obvious opportunity to run the bank, he trotted straight into the water. When an opportunity to run the bank was clearly visible, he did that. I decided not to fight him on it, though I'm afraid that decision could work against his marking on water marks in the future. For now, Laddie developing a strong return behavior on water retrieves is a higher priority to me, and I was especially pleased to see that his return was strong enough today that he did not require a whistle or call. As with Lumi, I blew CIW and fired a pistol as reinforcement once he had fully committed to the water on his returns, both on the first and last retrieves.
Laddie's land blind
The bird for Laddie's 180-yard land blind was in the same place as Lumi's, but Laddie's SL was further back.