Sunday, April 4, 2010

Steadiness training and long marks

Mt. Ararat Farms

Today the dogs and I traveled to Mt. Ararat Farms, the dairy farm owned by our friend Gaby, to train with her and her dogs.

Gaby ran each of her Chessies on part of our work together, and ran Buster, her yellow Lab, on the long triple with Laddie at the end. I won't try to describe her dogs' work, just Lumi and Laddie.

SERIES A. Double blind (Laddie only)

We arrived while Gaby was getting birds, so I took the opportunity to follow Charlie's advice from last week and get some long work in for Laddie. While he and Lumi waited in the van, I planted two ODs at distances of 200 and 310 yards, then got Laddie out and had him run them as blinds. He needed little handling and handled well, staying in a narrow corridor, but mostly it was for conditioning.

SERIES B. Land double with blind and honor (Lumi, then Laddie)

For Series B, the first throw was on the left, a duck thrown left to right into calf-high cover at 90 yards. The second throw was on the right, a clip-wing hen pheasant flyer thrown right to left at 30 yards. The flyer was thrown with the accompaniment of a live shotgun blast aimed away from the bird, so that all the flyers were alive and active during the retrieve, simulating "cripples" (wounded birds). After the dog picked up both marks, the dog ran a 100-yard blind to an OD at an angle of more than 180° from the first mark. Then the dog honored the next dog, standing slightly closer to the flyer than the running dog.

This series was intended purely as a breaking test, and every dog tried to break at the line, honoring, or both. Lumi and Laddie both had their collars and tabs on, and mostly I remembered to hold the tabs so that the dogs couldn't break. But unaccountably, I neglected to hold Lumi's tab when her pheasant was throw. She broke, ignoring my attempt to control the break with "Here".

My original thought was that if either or both of my dogs could run this series without breaking, I'd enter them in a Senior Hunt Test that closes in a few days, and if either or both tried to break, I wouldn't enter that dog. On that basis, the decision would be that neither dog is ready for the Senior yet. However, a flyer at 30 yards, with the honoring dog even closer, is far more difficult than the dogs are likely to encounter in a test, so I still haven't decided for sure.

SERIES C. Land double with honor (Lumi, then Laddie)

For Series C, we left the gunners where they were but moved the SL to the other side of the setup and further from the guns.

Now the first mark was on the right, again a duck this time thrown left to right (rather than converging as in Series B) at 100 yards, again into calf-high cover. The second mark was again a clip-wing hen pheasant flyer with a live shotgun blast aimed away from the bird, this time at 70 yards.

Neither Lumi nor Laddie attempted to break either running or from the line. The only problem they had was that when released from the honor, they both tried to break into a run to the dead birds lying on the ground near the holding blind. That's something we need to fix, though so far it's never cost us a ribbon.

SERIES D. Qualifying-style triple (Laddie only)

Since I'm concerned about Lumi's soundness, I let her run around some more today, but no more retrieving. I believe that Series D would have been too difficult for her in any case. Gaby did run Buster, her two-year-old yellow Lab, on Series D with Laddie.

I described it in the title as "Qualifyings-style". Because we had few factors, I believe it was too easy for a real Qualifying Stake, but at comparable distances or even longer.

For Series D, the first mark was in the center, a WD thrown right to left at 300 yards. The second mark was on the left, a WD thrown right to left at 320 yards. The third mark was on the right, a WD thrown right to left at 170 yards.

For Series D, the SL was nearly at the top of a long slope up from the property's technical pond. For the go-bird, the 170-yard mark on the right, the dog was expected to run downhill to the edge of the pond, swim past a point on the left, and pick up the WD on the far bank of that section of the pond. For the second retrieve, the 320-yard mark on the left, the dog was expected to run downhill, skirt the pond on the dog's right, and run back uphill and thru the corner of a cornfield to the fall. For the last retrieve (the first throw), the dog was expected to run downhill and out to the end of a peninsula, enter the water and swim the long axis of the pond between points on either side, exit the water and run uphill to the first WD that had been thrown.

Notes on Laddie's performance

Despite the suction of the peninsula on the left of the first water entry, Laddie made the correct entry and swam straight to the first fall on the right.

Laddie also nailed the second mark on the left.

For the third mark, the long mark down the center, unfortunately I don't remember whether Laddie required handling on the way out or not. However, I do remember that he cheated on the return and ignored my cues when I tried to stop it. Since Charlie advised me a week ago not to allow Laddie to cheat on returns in training (it's OK in tests), I put Laddie and his dummy back on the far side of the pond, walked around to the other side, and called him to me so that he would again swim the long axis for his return.

At that point, we were out of time and had to head for home.

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