Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Land Series, Cool-off Drills

Rolling Ridge

Today's focus was on tuning Laddie up for his Senior Hunt Test on Saturday. I wanted to exercise his memory for multiples, and I wanted to add reinforcement history for bringing me the retrieval article quickly even when tempted to cool off in nearby water.

In scorching 94° heat, we ran a land double and a land triple each combined with a Cool-off Drill retrieve, plus we ran a water blind with the double, and a land blind with the triple. I didn't let Laddie in the water until after the first Cool-off Drill, but after that, Laddie spent most of his spare minutes in the pond.

SERIES A. Land double, Cool-off Drill, and water blind

For Series A, I used a BB to throw one mark on a sharp angle-in at 40 yards, the other on a sharp angle-back at 100 yards, so that the two throws were almost in line with one another. Although such a set-up would not be likely to occur in a Senior test, it seems that for two marks on the same line, the closer mark tends to make it more difficult to remember the longer one. Challenging memory tests hopefully improve the dog's concentration and marking performance over time.

Laddie nailed the short mark, then took a line too far to the left for the long mark and needed a short hunt to find it. When he returned with the second mark, I ran him to a 40-yard sight blind (LP and white puppy bumper) next to the pond as a Cool-off Drill. Since he'd been out in the field walking with me while I was setting up the course, and had just run two marks in the parched field, I knew he'd be in need of cooling off, but hoped he'd come straight back with the bumper. Unfortunately, he picked up and carried it into the water. However, he came running back immediately when I called "Here", so I still threw the bumper out in the middle of the pond for him. I may have been unintentionally reinforcing his cooling-off detour, but I did not want to miss the opportunity to reinforce his prompt response to the recall.

Finally, I ran him on a 110-yard blind (OB) diagonally across the pond. He needed two handles, an angle-back-left and an over-right, and was responsive for both WSCs.

SERIES B. Interrupted land triple and blind, Cool-off Drill

For Series B, I did everything I could think of to make the long mark difficult to remember. Here's a description of the set-up:

The first mark was on the right, thrown right to left by the BB on a long arc angling in, with the fall at 130 yards in open meadow away from any distinctive features. The bumper was not visible once it landed in the medium cover. In addition, I had loaded the BB with only one bumper so that it was nearly invisible and "retired" after the throw.

The second mark and third marks were thrown by a second BB on the left, with a stickman (retired gun rack and white overalls) placed just behind it. The second mark was thrown left to right an an angle back so that it landed at 60 yards almost inline with the first mark. The third mark was thrown right to left on an angle in at 40 yards.

Although even the second and third marks were invisible lying in middle cover in featureless areas of the field, Laddie nailed both of them. He then ran an 80-yard blind (OB) through a diagonal keyhole formed by a shrub on the left and a metal fence pole a bit further back on the right. Laddie had no difficulty with the keyhole and lined this blind, his only problem being that he was racing past it until I whistled, since we usually practice on longer blinds.

Finally, I lined Laddie up for the long mark and sent him. He nailed it, running an almost perfect line despite my best efforts to challenge his memory.

With four land retrieves under his belt, I again ran him to his puppy bumper, which I had tossed next to water's edge. This time, he ran to the bumper, picked it up, and flew back to me on my CIW, turning away from the pond as soon as I whistled. Of course, we had a rousing game of water fetch after that excellent recall, to say nothing of the superb series he'd just run.

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