Sunday, July 18, 2010

Water Work

Lakeside Boulevard

Today, Gaby and I again met at the Lakeside Boulevard pond in Edgewood. Gaby had Gus, her Chessie, who will be running in a Senior Hunt Test next weekend, and Buster, her yellow Lab, who will be running in his first Qualifying Stake next weekend. I had Laddie, who is not currently entered in any events but practices at about the same level as Buster.

For Gus, we ran him on two Senior-like water series — a double and a blind — and also ran a confidence drill on water with him at the end to work on his tendency to pop when the gun is retired and the fall is not visible from the start line.

For Buster, we had him run three shoreline marks of 100-150 yards, a 200-yard water blind, and a drill extracted from Alice Woodyard's Diversion drill to get Buster more comfortable with running to a long mark or blind behind the gunner for a shorter mark, since he had flared in that situation on the water blind.

Laddie ran two shoreline blinds similar to the lines he ran here yesterday, a 150-yard shoreline mark (one of the same ones Buster ran), a 200-yard water blind (the same one Buster ran).

Below, I provide additional detail on the long water blind. Since it's the only series I'll describe in detail, I'll call it Series A, though it was actually about the seventh setup of the day.

SERIES A. Water single plus blind

I've gradually come to realize that the art of creating a challenging retrieve is not only to place so that various factors come into play, but also to arrange for as many of those factors as possible to influence the dog in the same direction. This is called stacking factors, I believe.

The satellite view below shows Series A, a 200-yard water blind. It was actually combined in Series A with a short mark intended to add to the stacking. Here's a description of the series.

The single mark was thrown from a position close to the shoreline, on a sharp angle back right to left into open water at 50 yards. After the dog picked up the mark, the dog was sent on the blind shown in the satellite view.

I attempted to stack several factors all of which were intended to push the dog to the right:
  1. To take the correct line into water, the dog had to run behind the gunner, who was seated facing to the left, coming within a a couple of yards. If the dog pushed off the gunner, it put the dog into the water on a line too far to the right.
  2. If the dog squared the water entry, that would aim the dog too far to the right.
  3. A light wind was blowing left to right.
  4. Perhaps because of the wind, the water also seemed to be moving left to right.
  5. The dog passed a point on the right a little more than halfway out.
  6. The point became more of a problem because the water became shallow enough for the dog's feet to touch bottom several yards out from the point. When a dog touches bottom, that tends to draw the dog more strongly to nearby land.
  7. Once the dog was past the point, a wide inlet opened up behind the point, with several patches of cattails to attract the dog, and several pieces of litter floating in the water acting as decoys.
  8. As the dog got closer to shore, a tendency to square the shoreline also pulled the dog to the right.
Gaby's Lab Buster in fact succumbed to the stacked factors toward the right, flaring around the short gunner on the water entry, then ending up on the point, and almost getting lost behind the point. But Gaby was able to keep Buster within control and he ended up climbing onto shore at the perfect exit point, then easily handled thru the keyhole to the blind.

The first time I sent Laddie on the blind, he took a line on the short gunner's left. Although he was not that far off line and I could have handled him back onto the correct line, I wanted to see whether he would flare off the gunner if he took the correct line so I called him back, carefully lined him up and got him locked in, and sent him again.

This time he took the correct line and did not flare off the gunner. He then took a good entry into the water and swam the first half of the outrun on a good line. As he approached the area of the point, he began to veer slightly right. I blew WS and cast him on an angle back to the left, which he took and carried well. That took him past the point on a good line, which he held halfway thru the open water on the far side of the point. Then he began to veer left for some reason, and it took two or three WSCs on an angle back to the right to get him going in the correct direction again. He came up on shore further to the left than he should have, but had no trouble pushing thru the shoreline cover, running up the embankment, running thru the middle of the keyhole formed by two trees, and picking up the blind.

Gaby and I were reasonably pleased with the performance of both our dogs on this blind, and were also happy to have them get practice with a big-water swim.

View 20100718 Water blind in a larger map

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