In November 2007, Lindsay Ridgeway developed a series of performance tests as a method of training Lumi and Laddie, his two Golden Retrievers, for field sports. This is the journal of their progress through that series and beyond. Contact: LDRidgeway at gmail dot com.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Retired Gun thru Treeline
Mt. Ararat Farm
Recently, Gaby and I were working with her yellow Labrador, Buster, and my Golden, Laddie, on a set-up we thought might come up in a Qualifying Stake: a hip-pocket doubles as two retrieves within a triple. To increase the level of difficulty, we retired the long gun.
The dogs seemed to have some difficulty with the set-up. I had noticed that Laddie had trouble with that set-up in our private training also.
It occurred to Gaby and me that the problem might not be the hip-pocket, it might be the retired gun. So we ran another couple of such triples without retiring the gunner, and sure enough, both dogs did great.
So to end our session that day, we ran a long but simple retired-gun single, with the handler tossing a bumper a short way to the side for the dog to retrieve after the long throw, giving the long thrower a chance to retrieve. It was interesting for me seeing Laddie's double-take when I set him up to run the long mark, his eyes darting from side to side apparently looking for the white coat, then refocusing on the original line and locking in. I felt that at that moment, he realized that the thrower wasn't there any more and understood he'd have to run the correct line without depending on the sight of the thrower. I suspect Buster has gone thru a similar realization at some point. Both of them nailed the retired gun in that drill.
So today, Gaby and I decided to broaden that understanding to another combination: running thru a treeline where the gun is retired. We planned the session and then went out to run it. Both dogs did nicely. The set-ups were difficult enough to require some hunting on a few of the marks, but not so difficult as to cause failures. Hopefully, the retired gun concept was instilled thru a process of gradually raised criteria. For each series, Buster ran first with me throwing a duck as the long mark and retiring, then Laddie ran second with Gaby throwing the duck as long mark and retiring. Here was our training sequence:
SERIES A. Land single with short hand-throw
The line to the long mark was across a sunny alfafa field into shadow, down a deep crevice, thru a line of old trees, and again into sunlight on short cover in front of a corn field.
The long memory-bird with the retired gun was similar to the one in SERIES A, though from a different SL, thru a different part of the alfafa field, thru a different opening in the tree line, and of course to a different fall. The go-bird was thrown by a BB with a stickman, and was angled in toward the SL, and away from the line to the long mark, with the fall into calf-high alfafa on a line that required the dog to run past a hedgerow, then veer behind it and out of sight from the handler. I've never seen a mark that requires the dog to run a dog-leg in a test or trial, but Charlie set up such a mark once in a training session so I thought it might make an interesting challenge for the short bird.
Series C was an Xmas tree format. Again the long mark, thrown first, was similar to the long marks in Series A and B, but this time run from yet another part of the field, and in a different direction from either of the other two. The second throw was thrown on a line away from center by a BB with a stickman. The third throw, the go-bird, was thrown by a second BB but with no stickman, and though only 70 yards was thrown across a bowl and into a depression in the alfafa field.
The SL for Series C was on a mound behind a strip of tangled underbrush that the dog had to run thru for all three marks. Both dogs required hunts on the go-bird and had little trouble with the second mark. Neither dog nailed the long retired mark, but neither required a long hunt, either.