Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Skimming Drill with Remote Launcher

Rolling Ridge

Once again, Laddie and I worked at Rolling Ridge today on the Skimming Drill.

Since the drill is intended eventually to make skimming automatic for marks, I thought I'd try using our Bumper Boy as a "gunner". In addition, since I hope the drill will promote ease of handling in the same picture, I also ran a couple of blinds thru a corner of high cover without an LP at the blind.

As we have in most of our other Skimming Drill practice sessions, we trained both with corners of high cover, and with the curved sections of a pond. I'd have preferred an easier water picture, such as an angular corner, but curved shorelines are what we have available at this location.

As I usually try to, I used set-ups we've never used before on this property.

We ran six marks thru corners of high cover with the BB, six marks across a curved shoreline with the BB, two blinds thru a corner of high cover with WBs, and four more marks across a curved shoreline with the BB. For the first and second series with the BB, the BB was behind the obstacle and launching toward the open edge. For the last series, the BB was at the open edge and launching behind the obstacle. I didn't realize it until I tried it, but I thought the latter set-up turned out to present an easier picture.

Laddie continued to improve despite the addition of the BB, and also despite the removal of the LP for blinds. That is, he was able to take the edges of obstacles without handling from greater distance than in any previous session.

Actually, I used no handling today. If Laddie didn't take the obstacle correctly, I called him back.

Altogether, he needed to be called back only once on land and only twice on water. For the rest of his retrieves, he took the obstacle automatically. He lined both blinds.

Another area of improvement is that as recently as yesterday, he was taking the edges of water too fat. That is, he would square the entry and veer off line too far into the pond. From the standpoint of getting off line and possibly ending up lost, that would seem to be just as much a problem as running the bank. I worked with him extensively on not doing it the last few sessions, and today it was a non-issue.

It's possible that, prior training aside, the excitement caused by the BB helped pull Laddie into a straighter line. He always practices with great enthusiasm, but I still sensed that the BB — with its duck call, gunfire, and flying bumper — made the Skimming Drill even more fun for him.

Based on correspondence with Alice, one issue I've become concerned with is that the Skimming Drill could, in theory, cause a dog's marking to deteriorate, specifically if the dog became more concerned with taking the obstacles than with getting to the area of the fall and to the retrieval article itself. Several things made me think that that isn't happening with Laddie, at least not yet:
  1. He tried to cheat the obstacles those three times.
  2. When the bumper fell in mid-high cover on the land marks, he had no hesitation to dive in and hunt it up.
  3. When the bumper fell behind the embankment on the water marks, he flew over the embankment and disappeared from sight, then appeared a moment later, tail high and the bumper in hand.
In summary, to me he didn't seem to have lost any keenness for the mark.

One additional side note: I noticed today that Laddie doesn't merely race into high cover, he leaps and pounces on it as he enters. What style! :0)

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