Friday, November 26, 2010

Skimming Drill, Inline Triples

Today Laddie and I went out twice for training. In the morning we went to one location on worked on skimming high cover. In the afternoon, we went back out and worked on inline triples.


For our morning drill, I used an LP with tape waving at the top to mark where I planted an OB, then ran Laddie from the other side of a curved section of high cover. Laddie could easily see the LP from our SL, and could reach it by veering slightly off line to avoid the high cover. I ran him repeatedly from a variety of distances, always calling him back if he tried to veer around the cover, or if he dove too deeply into the cover.

For that first part of the session, Laddie was always entering the cover on his right. After he seemed to have mastered retrieves in that direction, I moved the LP to the other side of the cover and also switched our SL, running a similar series of retrieves while giving Laddie an opportunity to practice entering the cover on his left.

Muncaster Mill Farm

For our afternoon session, we drove to the huge hayfields off Muncaster Mill Road, which I was told by a hunter were once private cornfields but are now owned by Maryland state.

I set up the stations for an inline triple (ILT) with three stickmen spaced 40 yards apart, two with BBs and one with an RL. I had Laddie ran three ILTs from various locations 80 yards from the shortest mark and with all the throws angling back, to either left or right depending on where the SL was.

For the first two ILTs, I left all the stickmen up. For the third ILT, I brought Laddie to the SL while all three stickmen were up, then went to the middle station and removed that stickman, then returned to the SL to run Laddie.

Laddie nailed every mark on every series.

At the end, I also ran Laddie on a long blind.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Diagonal Ditch Crossings, Land Blinds

[I wrote this from memory several days after the session. Laddie has been making gradual progress with several concepts, and I wanted to record some of the intermediate steps we've been using.]

Rolling Ridge

After yesterday's preparation with LPs, today Laddie again ran diagonal ditch crossings, but this time with a black bumper placed at each of four locations without any marker. He nailed the first two retrieves, but tried to change directions in the ditch for the second two. In each case, I called him back and ran him again, rather than letting him succeed at completing the retrieve when he veered while in the ditch.

Today I also had Laddie run two long blinds.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Diagonal Ditch Crossings

[I wrote this from memory several days after the session. Laddie has been making gradual progress with several concepts, and I wanted to record some of the intermediate steps we've been using.]

Rolling Ridge

Since Laddie and I were training alone today, and since Laddie had squared a ditch running a retired mark yesterday, I thought that today we'd practice staying on line for diagonal ditch crossings. I set up four LPs, each with four bumpers (some white, some black), at various positions on one side of the ditch, and ran Laddie from various positions on the other side of the ditch, so that Laddie had to cross the ditch on one diagonal or another for every retrieve.

Despite the fact that Laddie had squared the ditch on one crossing yesterday, he surprised me by running every retrieve today without squaring a single time.

Lumi came with us today and seemed to want to do some retrieving, so I saved one bumper at each pole for Lumi to pick up. But to Lumi protect Lumi's hips, back, and wrists, we moved up so that she didn't have to traverse the steep elevation changes of the ditch, which also saved her sensitive, arthritic feet from having to run thru the rough, prickly terrain on the floor of the ditch.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Retired Gun, Land Blind

[I wrote this from memory several days after the session. Laddie has been making gradual progress with several concepts, and I wanted to record some of the intermediate steps we've been using.]

Rolling Ridge

Today Eric was again training with us, so I used the opportunity for Laddie to try a big xmas-tree triple with the middle gun retired.

All of the marks required Laddie to cross a large ditch on a diagonal. The go-bird also required him to run around a broken tree branch in the ditch, and the second mark required him to run thru high cover in the ditch. Despite those difficulties, Laddie nailed the go-bird and nearly nailed the second mark. But for the first mark thrown, which Laddie ran last and which became retired as he was returning from the go-bird, Laddie squared the ditch, stayed on that line with the result that he passed the mark too wide, looped back behind the gun, and finally circled back to the mark.

Laddie also ran a long blind.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Inline Triples

[I wrote this from memory several days after the session. Laddie has been making gradual progress with several concepts, and I wanted to record some of the intermediate steps we've been using.]

Oaks Area 2

With my son Eric training with us today, I set up stations for inline triples (ILTs): Eric's chair with an umbrella and WBs in the middle, stickmen and BBs 30 yards in either direction.

Laddie ran four ILTs. As we continued from one series to the next, I moved our SL to various locations, sometimes at a 90° angle from the shortest station, sometimes at a 60° angle, increasing the distance to the second and third marks. Distances to the shortest station varied from 90 to 120 yards.

For the first two ILTs, Eric stayed visible throughout the series. For the second two, Eric retired by opening the umbrella in front of him while Laddie was returning with the go-bird.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Retired Guns, Land Blinds

Newcut Road

Last time we trained on the hilly fields off Newcut Road, about 20 minutes from here, they were farmland. Today, dozens of construction vehicles were parked in one section of the field, and most of the fields had been cleared, leaving only packed dirt and an occasional survey flag on a wooden pole. A few large areas of meadow, fringed by strips of high grass, remained, so I ran some of today's series on the packed dirt and others on the meadow. But the meadow ground was stubbly and though Laddie continued to sprint on his outruns as he always has, he slowed to a trot on his returns thru those meadows. Since he normally gallops on his returns, I suspect the ground stubble was causing some discomfort. Since I don't want to create a negative association with retrieving, we probably won't work on those stubbly surfaces in future sessions here.

Conditions: a sunny day with blue skies, temps in the low 60s, and a light wind from the south.


In today's description, I again use the term "retired" to describe what is really a hidden gun. This is the best I've been able to come up with for working on retired guns when we're training alone. Although the gun station is not visible at the moment the mark is thrown as with a true retired gun, I do allow Laddie to see the field with all the stickmen visible when I'm first lining him up, and I also allow him to watch me walk to the stickman, lay it down, and walk back. This sequence enables Laddie to get a good picture of the field with all the guns visible, then run the marks with one of the "gunners" hidden, somewhat resembling a retired gun concept.

SERIES A. Land blind

Series A was a 160-yard blind thru the meadow. The "judge's line" required the dog to maintain a narrow corridor and go thru a small section of high cover the dog could easily cheat around.

SERIES B and C. Inline triples, one gun retired

For Series B and C, I set up stickmen with two BBs and an RL in a line spaced 40 yards apart, all throwing in the same direction, in line with the stickmen. The middle mark fell into a depression and out of sight from the SL, while the longest mark fell on the facing side of a hill. The running surface of the hilly field was packed dirt. The SL was 120 yards from the closest stickman, at a 105° angle to the line of the gun stations.

For Series B, I brought Laddie to the SL, showed him the gun stations, then cued "sit". As he waited, I walked to the closest gun and lay the stickman down on the ground behind the RL. Then I returned to the SL, fired the three launchers longest first, middle second, shortest third, and sent Laddie to them in reverse order of the throws.

For Series C, I again left Laddie in a "sit" at the SL as I walked out into the field. I stood the stickman back up at the shortest station, re-planted a WB for that mark, and reloaded the weighted streamer into the launcher. Then I walked to the middle station, lay that stickman on the ground behind the BB, and walked back to the SL. There I fired the three launchers and ran Laddie in the same sequences as before.

Performance on Series B and C

For Series B, Laddie nailed the shortest mark, then ran a good line toward the second mark in a depression but overran it and headed up the hill to where the longest mark was. I blew WS and gave him a come-in cast. He ran straight to the middle dummy and brought it back. On the longest mark, Laddie needed a big hunt which took him both long and behind the gun, but he stayed within a reasonable hunting area and eventually found the bumper.

For Series C, Laddie nailed every mark. I was especially pleased with his performance on the middle memory-bird, because he took a perfect line despite the fact that both the stickman and the bumper were hidden from view at the SL.

SERIES D. Land triple with long gun retired

Series D was an xmas-tree configuration. The first mark was in the middle, thrown by a BB right to left at 220 yards into a depression. The second mark was on the left, thrown by a BB right to left at 190 yards. The third mark was on the right, thrown by an RL left to right at 70 yards.

In order to "retire" the middle gun, I brought Laddie to the SL, showed him the stickmen at each of the three gun stations, cued "sit", walked out to the long gun station, lay that stickman down behind the BB, walked back, fired the three launchers, and sent Laddie to pick up the three marks in reverse order of the throws.

Laddie nailed all three marks. I was especially pleased by his performance on the last retrieve, since both the stickman and the bumper were hidden from view at the SL. I also hoped that mark on the left would add to the challenge, since it was almost as far as the mark in the middle, requiring the dog to remember that another mark still lay in that same general direction at that same general distance though both the "bird" and the "thrower" were no longer visible.

SERIES E. Land blind

Series E was a 260-yard blind across hilly meadowland. A narrow corridor for Series E required the dog to run thru a small patch of high cover at 130 yards when it would be easy for the dog to skirt the cover on either side.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In-line Triples

Leesburg Pike School

Yesterday Laddie and I participated in a training session with Patty's group running big reverse hip-pocket doubles and blinds at the set-aside field, and a some private water work at Mt. Ararat Farm. Today, Laddie and I trained at lunch time at the field I found near my office and resumed work on ILTs.

Today, instead of walking out to the three stickmen and throwing the marks, I used two BBs and an RL with a WB at the stickmen for both of the ILTs. We used the same three gun stations twice, with two different placements of the SL:
  • Series A: The SL was 40 yards from the closest stickman and at a 90° angle.
  • Series B: The SL was 60 yards from the closest stickman and at a 60° angle.
Laddie nailed every mark of both series.

Afterwards, Laddie ran a 270-yard blind featuring two diagonal keyholes, one between two trees at 100 yards, the other thru the frame of a soccer goal at 250 yards.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Training In-line Triples

Muncaster Mill Farm

Today, Laddie and I continued our work on in-line triples (ILTs). At the end of the session, Laddie also ran a couple of blinds.

For the five ILT series, we used three stickmen in a line at 30-yard separations. For each series, I put Laddie in a sit at the SL, walked to the longest station and threw that mark in line with the stickmen and away from the SL, walked to the middle station and threw that mark in the same direction, walked to closest station and threw that mark in the same direction, and finally returned to the SL and ran Laddie on the three marks in the reverse order thrown. All marks were WBs, I called out hey-hey and fired a pistol for all throws, and all throws were about 10 yards. No two series were run from the same SL, and no two series in a row were run with the same throws.

The angles of the line from the SL to the closest stickman, versus the line of the stickmen, and the distances from the SL to the closest stickman, were as follows:
  • Series A: 90° and 70 yards
  • Series B: 90° and 90 yards
  • Series C: 90° and 110 yards
  • Series D: 45° and 50 yards (by 45°, I mean that the line of stickmen extended away from the SL at a 45° angle, rather than running horizontally as in the previous series)
  • Series E: 60° and 40 yards
Laddie nailed all the marks in Series A, B, and C. For Series D, he needed a small hunt on one of the marks, so I moved the angle closer to horizontal for Series E and reduced the distance.

Once again, Laddie nailed all the marks for Series E. He consistently took an initial line at the stickman, then veered in front of it and ran straight to the bumper. I think that's a pretty good strategy for running ILTs, at least for now.

Series F was a 500-yard+ blind (OB), with the line to the blind crossing thru two short strips of rough, high cover. In each case Laddie started to veer around those strips but accepted handling thru them.

Series G was a 280-yard blind (OB). Although the field was dotted with hay bales and I required Laddie to stay within a tight corridor, he made it look easy.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Training In-line Triples

Oaks Area 2

Today I again set up three stickmen in a line with 20-yard spacing to work with Laddie on in-line triples (ILTs). Each SL was at an LP placed 90° from the line of stickmen, forming an L-shape. Every throw was a WB thrown seven yards in line with the bumpers, all thrown in the same direction, all thrown with a gunshot as Laddie waited at the SL. We ran six series at gradually increasing distances from the closest stickman: 30-40-50-60-70-80.

Laddie did a great job on every series except one, the first time we ran the 80-yard distance. In that series, Laddie veered outside the longest gun when sent on the middle mark. I blew WS, called him in, placed him in a new sit/stay at the SL, and re-threw the series. When I re-ran the same series, Laddie nailed every mark.

Lining toward the Gun

On a set-up as tight as today's last couple of series, I've found that it seems to be preferable to line Laddie toward the gun itself (in this case, the stickmen), rather than toward the falls as we have always done in the past. Running Laddie toward the guns apparently reduces confusion about his target. When I take that approach, he takes an initial line toward the stickman, then veers the small angle to get online toward the fall. I don't know if that approach is customary with more experienced trainer/handlers, but it seems to produce better results for a series like this than lining Laddie toward the fall.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Field Trial and Hunt Test Group Training

Port Deposit, Maryland

Today, Laddie and I drove to Gaby's area for training. Our initial plans were to train with Patty's Field Trial group. After running two series with them, we then went over to Gaby's place and had the opportunity to run a series with a Hunt Test group that was training there. Finally, we ran several series with Gaby and her yellow Lab, Buster, who are preparing for both Master and Senior Hunt Tests this weekend.

As is customary in group training, each trainer ran the set-ups in particular ways, not necessarily the way other dogs in the group ran the same set-up. For example, in today's Series A, the most advanced dogs ran the set-up as an indent triple with the short gun thrown second rather than last, and retired while the dog was running the longer go-bird. Meanwhile, most of the younger dogs ran the same set-up as a delayed triple. I decided that my primary goal was building Laddie's confidence, so I had him run the same set-up as singles.

Similar variations occurred on all the set-ups, Laddie sometimes running the easiest version of the set-up, sometimes the hardest, and sometimes somewhere in the middle.

SERIES A. Three land singles

These singles were on hilly terrain, a combination of hay fields and cut corn fields. The throws were a mixture of two ducks and one black bumper, which was for the shortest throw. The distances were 110, 170, and 280 yards. [Note: Today's recorded distances are especially rough estimates, because I didn't have an opportunity to walk them off and also because I didn't think much about the distances till later, relying on memory rather than estimating while looking at the actual set-up.]

Laddie nailed every mark.

SERIES B. Land triple

This series was at a different location on the same field as Series A, with the same sort of terrain. Some of the dog ran this series with the long mark retired, but Laddie ran it as a "stay-out triple". The first mark (duck) was in the center, thrown right to left at 320 yards. The second mark (duck) was on the left, thrown right to left on an angle back at 110 yards. The third mark (WB) was on the right, thrown right to left at 140 yards.

Laddie again nailed every mark, but unlike his performance in Series A, he had two flaws in his performance in Series B. First, he popped briefly at 150 yards while running the long mark as his final memory-bird. As usual when he pops, I froze, and after a moment he spun around and completed the mark. Second, he stopped and put the bird on the ground 50 yards from the SL, not completing his return until I called him with "Here".

I think it's possible that the latter behavior might have been an indication of reduced energy level, perhaps caused by recently diagnosed Lyme Disease and/or the course of Doxycycline that he's taking for it. Once before Laddie put a bird down on a long return in a series of four long singles that Charlie had set up, and Charlie commented later that it might have been because Laddie was taking a breather.

SERIES C. Delayed triple

Laddie and I ran Series C with a Hunt Test group training elsewhere on Gaby's property. The terrain for this set-up was a combination of alfalfa and cut corn fields, with one very hilly section for the fall of the center mark.

The first mark (WB) of Series C was in the center, thrown left to right from a holding blind at 110 yards. The second mark (WB), the go-bird, was on the right, thrown right to left at 70 yards. While the dog was returning with the first bumper, a BB was used to throw the third mark on the left, left to right at 80 yards. Although the distances for Series C with this group were shorter than the distances for Series A and B for the Field Trial group, the marks were difficult enough that every mark required hunts for some of the dogs, especially the longest mark in the center. Laddie, however, nailed every mark.

SERIES D, etc. Hunt Test preparation

After Series C, Laddie and I trained with Gaby and Buster on a different field. To provide some light, motivational, last minute preparations for their Hunt Tests this weekend, we focused primarily on a variety of singles and blinds for Buster. But Laddie also ran an interrupted double and a long final mark. He nailed all of those marks as well.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Training In-line Triples

Oaks Area 2

I've tried a number of approaching to getting Laddie comfortable with inline triples (ILTs). He's had difficulty with the second or third retrieve so often that I've considered suspending ILT training for a few months to avoid de-motivating him.

But I'm not quite ready to give up yet. Today I ran Laddie on the following (Lumi got to do a couple of the short series):
  • Stickmen in a line 20 yards apart. Some throws toward one end, some toward the other. In any one series, all throws in the same direction, and all throws in the direction of the longest.
  • All throws by hand (poorman marks). All throws were WB. With dog at SL, I walked to longest stickman, fired pistol and threw, then middle stickman, fired pistol and throw, then closest stickman, fired pistol and throw. I tried to keep throws closer to throwing stickman than next one. After the three throws, I turned 90 degrees and walked to SL, then ran the dog. I used enough lining to take the dog off the wrong mark. But I did not want to use strong lining, because I wanted to give the dog opportunity to develop a strategy such as running at the gun, or "wowing" the longest mark (running too wide and too far, then curving back toward the gun to close in on the fall).
  • Series A: SL 20 yards from closest stickman.
  • Series B: SL 30 yards from closest stickman (on opposite side of the row of stickmen).
  • Series C: SL 40 yards from closest stickman (at opposite end, so that throws were in opposite direction).
  • Series D: SL 50 yards from closest stickman (again switched ends, new angles).
  • Series E, F, G, H, and I: SL 60 yards from closest stickman (again, a different picture even though the stickmen hadn't moved).
Laddie pretty much nailed every mark on Series A, B, C, and D, as did Lumi on the series she ran. I think each of them may have had a short hunt on one of the early marks.

However, I brought Laddie back on Series E, F, G, and H without letting him finish one of the marks. For one of them it was the go-bird, for the others it was the middle mark. In each case, he got into a long hunt. I brought him back to the SL, cued "Sit", and went out to throw again. By the end, I was saying "Bang" instead of firing a pistol.

For Series I, Laddie nailed the first and third marks. For the middle mark, he raced at the gun, passed it on the wrong side, banked into a well proportioned U-turn without slowing, and picked up the bumper on the way back to me without breaking stride. I would have preferred that he passed the stickman on the side of the mark, but it looked to me like sound problem-solving and I let it go.

It was interesting to see his performance fall off the cliff like that, suddenly having a problem at 60 yards after none at shorter distances. I wonder why.

I think our next ILT session will be a repeat of today's. I don't plan to raise criteria (more distance, more spread, sharper angles, etc.) until Laddie is really solid on this poorman version.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Long Singles

Muncaster Mill Farm

Today I thought I would run an experiment to see whether Laddie might possibly be near-sighted: I ran Laddie on a 200-yard single and three 300-yard singles yesterday morning. He nailed the 200-yarder and the last 300-yarder.

The first two 300-yarders had a rising green slope as the background behind the throw, and while Laddie ran with his usual exuberance, he seemed to have no idea where he was going, though he hunted the bumpers up without too much trouble

Since Laddie had no difficulty with the third 300-yarder, I don't think he's near-sighted. However, I'm guessing that Laddie, and maybe other dogs as well, can't see a B&W BB bumper very well against a rising green slope

The last 300-yarder had trees as the background, and that's the one Laddie nailed.
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