Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It's the Gallery


This afternoon I drove Lumi and Laddie to Cheltenham with the intent of using our BBs for a private practice session.

But when I got there, Charlie had a group that was just starting, and he said Laddie could run with them. I felt optimistic that Laddie would do reasonably well, since he had done well running with the group on Sunday. Boy was I wrong.

Charlie set up three water singles:
  • The first required the dog to take a narrow strip of the edge of an inlet (the sort of thing we practice in our Skimming Drill), then a long swim missing a point by a few yards.
  • The second was an angle in, thrown across the corner of another inlet, with the outrun featuring a channel swim before hitting the open water.
  • The third was another skimming line, then across the open water again, then over a peninsula a couple of yards behind the gunner from the second mark, then across a channel, then up an embankment to a dirt road.
All of the marks were WBs.

Here's how Laddie did:
  • On the first mark, he tried to run the bank on the angle entry, but responded well to a WSC into the water. However, he then pushed too far from the shoreline he was supposed to be swimming close to, which brought him up on the peninsula well off line. As he crossed the peninsula, he ran around in two little circles with his head down at one point, something I've never seen him do before on an outrun and don't understand why he did it. Then he got going again and leapt into the second, bigger water, still well off line. This allowed him to easily miss the point in the second water, but he wasn't that close to it. In fact, he was the only dog all day who did not veer with the strong wind and current to the point and touch it. He easily found the WB, but instead of getting right back in the water with it, he carried it along the shoreline. I think he may have even dropped it at one point, I'm not sure. Rather than let him run the shoreline all the way to the end of the far inlet, I called "Here" and he entered the water, but now he was behind the point he was supposed to be swimming clear again coming back. I moved laterally quite a long way trying to catch sight of him and then handle him clear of the point, but without success. He probably put the bumper down and shook there, I'm not sure. He may have done the same when he got to the second peninsula. By staying way to the side, I got him to take the last water coming back, but of course that made it easier.
  • On the second mark, Laddie squared the water entry which put him in the center of the channel and made it easy for him to stay clear of the points on either side, but it also put him off line to mark, aiming him to come up on shore too soon. After he was in the open water, I handled him onto the correct line. When he reached shore, he overran the mark, which was the intent of the angle-in throw. I believe every dog did the same thing. He was able to double back and find it, but when he picked it up, instead of getting back in the water, he ran over to the thrower with it, then continued onto the peninsula. I don't remember all his shenanigans. He did respond when I called "Here" and if anything else bad happened on the return I don't remember it. By now I was in shock.
  • On the third mark, Laddie took a good line (I think) most of the way to the peninsula where the gunner for the second mark was sitting, but as he approached her, he began to veer to the wrong side of her. I handled him back on line and he had little trouble getting over the peninsula, back into the water on line, and to the bird. But once again, he picked up and ran with it to the gunner, plus I believe some other capers I don't remember. Again, I was able to call him back with "Here".
My friend Tony was the only trainer who had been both at the Sunday session with Laddie, and today's session. He joked, "You sure don't have very good luck on this pond," referring to the fact that Laddie hadn't behaved badly at all at Timmy's place on Sunday, but that he has behaved badly at this pond on other occasions before. Laddie has also behaved well on this pond before, even at this same location, and today, after the session with the group, I ran Laddie on half-a-dozen skimming marks on the same pond using our BB, some of which were just as tight and/or long as the marks Charlie had set up, and Laddie ran them without difficulty.

For Charlie's set up, Laddie's mind seemed to be blown. He needed handling on the first skimming line, he made those little circles on the first outrun, and screwed after every pick-up before getting back into the water. Why? What was special about the session with Charlie? It wasn't the location alone, because of the information I mentioned in the previous paragraph. And it wasn't the presence of people in the field, because there were five people in the field in the first series on Sunday and two in the second series.

The one difference that I can see is that in today's session with Charlie, there was a "gallery", that is, a number of trainers, and at least one on-looker, near the SL. That hadn't happened on Sunday because we only had enough trainers to man the gun stations while one trainer handled his dog or dogs at the SL.

It's unfortunate that this happened today. I felt that Charlie was beginning to see some potential in Laddie, but I'm afraid today's session did some serious damage to that assessment. Naturally I'm disappointed.

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