Monday, October 18, 2010

Memory Work and "Just Watch"

Various Locations

Triples and Blinds

I've signed Laddie up for his first Master Hunt Test on October 29, 2010, in Manorville, NY. Therefore, I've temporarily stopped running Laddie on long set-ups in our private practice. At least until the test, I plan to set up HT-scale triples combined with the most difficult blinds I can come up with. For the triples, I use my two BBs and one RL with a weighted streamer and a pre-positioned WB.

When I began that pattern a few sessions ago, Laddie nailed the go-bird and first memory-bird, but had a long hunt on the final memory-bird (that is, the first bird thrown) on all four series. In our next series the following day, he followed the identical pattern on another four series, no matter how easy I tried to make the final memory-bird.

However, today I set up two more easy triples with big blinds. He still had more difficulty than I expected on the final memory-bird marks.

I've concluded that after years of training on doubles, Laddie hasn't had enough triples in his experience, and has developed an internal rhythm that cadences with the second mark.


So this afternoon, in two separate sessions, we went to a small field near work and I threw poorman triples, quads, and even quints with WBs. These were quick series, where I'd sit Laddie at the SL, walk out a short distance and throw the WBs in various directions and distances, then come back and let him get quickly into action. At first, every fall was visible, and Laddie still required small hunts after the first two marks. But soon, he was nailing every one. After that, I used the slope of the land to throw an early mark out of sight. That required Laddie to hunt again the first couple of times, but once again, he soon adjusted and was taking a good line to the hidden falls as well. These fast-paced drills seemed to be great fun for Laddie.

In our next session, I'll run another poorman triple or two, then try using the BBs and RL for another more event-like triple, and see whether the poorman drills have helped prepare Laddie for more success with his final memory-bird mark.

"Just Watch"

I'm afraid that Laddie's most vulnerable area for the Master test will be whether he can honor a flyer, and unfortunately, I have not been able to arrange for us to practice with live birds. At most, Laddie has seen one or two flyers, if any, since his last Senior test in the spring.

The best I've been able to come up with is to run Laddie on his series, and then have him sit at the side in an honor location while I run Lumi on a similar series. Because of Lumi's limited soundness, she doesn't seem to enjoy long retrieves, and she's often very slow on her returns. However, I walk over to Laddie, say very distinctly "Just watch" (our honor cue), and then I leave his side and go over to run Lumi on her series. I try to use maximum excitement for Lumi's throws — hey-heys, duck calls, high throws, gunshots — I often make them very short, and I position Laddie so that Lumi will run right in front of him for her go-bird.

So far, Laddie has never broken in those situations. If he stands up to him, I walk over to him and clearly say, "Sit!" But if he stays rock steady, as he usually does, I throw a bumper for him. I've also begun bringing out a jar of PB, and if he's steady, I give him a taste of that as an additional treat.

I don't know how beneficial this procedure will be in preparing him to honor flyers. The sequence should help — first you run your series, then you watch the next dog — and hopefully the fact that I'll be standing next to him in an event will make honoring easier for him than having me standing five yards away running another dog. But I can't duplicate the level of ambient excitement of an event, I can't duplicate the excitement of a live bird being shot with a real shotgun, and the different context of me running Lumi, rather than standing with Laddie, may actually be disadvantageous in preparing Laddie for a particular response to a particular set of stimuli.

However, it's the best preparation I've been able to arrange for. Hopefully, on top of previous preparation that got Laddie thru his Senior tests, it will be enough.

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