Friday, December 24, 2010

Retired Guns, Land Blind

Mt. Ararat Farm

Today was another training day at Gaby's dairy farm fairly typical of our winter sessions. Gaby provided gunners for us in the form of her sons and their friends, enabling us to have throwers for land triples in two series. We also ran the dogs on one blind.

The temps were just over freezing with a 10 mph NW wind, but the day was bright and sunny and not too uncomfortable for those of us (the adults) who dressed warmly.

Gaby ran Buster, her yellow Lab, and her two Chessies, Wes and Gus. I ran Laddie on all three series, and Lumi on a pared down version of the session.

Per plans we had made the last time together, today we ran fairly short xmas-tree (pyramid) triples with the middle gun retired.

SERIES A. Land triple with retired gun

For Series A, the first mark (WB) was in the center, thrown left to right at 170 yards. The second mark (WB) was on the left, thrown left to right at 130 yards. A tape was positioned as a target so that the fall for the second mark was within 10 yards of the line to the first, longer mark, creating a hip-pocket double configuration for those two marks. The third mark (black bumper) was on the right, thrown left to right at 90 yards. As the dog was returning from that last mark (the go-bird), the thrower for the first mark retired, so that the dog could no longer see a white coat at that station while running the second mark and finally the long mark.

Intended challenges:
  • The first and second marks were not only tight and thrown in the same direction, but they were both thrown in the shadow of woods with the thrower next to the treeline, which angled toward the SL. The idea was for the two throws to be as similar as possible, making the longer one with the retired gun that much more difficult for the dog to remember.
  • The long mark was also thrown into the middle of a corn field, creating a terrain barrier that might push the dog off course.
Lumi ran as the second dog, running only the two shorter marks as a double, since I didn't think that a run thru a cornfield would be a good mark for Lumi to run. Lumi's leaping-in-the-air enthusiasm as she came to the line, and her turbo-charged outruns, were a joy to behold. However, as she has been doing recently, she stalled on the way back during all of her returns today, requiring me to come out to meet her and walk her back to the SL for the next retrieve, or to the van after the last retrieve of each series.

Laddie ran as the fourth dog and nailed all three marks. In contrast to his work a few weeks ago, where he had some difficulty with xmas-tree triples featuring a retired center gun, Laddie's performance in this session and the previous one, and perhaps other recent sessions, has greatly improved. It appears that he is now able to memorize the position of even long falls without having to rely on the gunner staying visible.

SERIES B. Land blind

Series B was a 170-yard land blind (OB). Though not particularly long or arduous, it was extremely tight, requiring the dog to cover 120 yards of low cover, then navigate diagonally thru an equestrian ring and a small skateboard park before avoiding an opening in the hedgerow to the left of the line, which seemed to act as suction for most of the dogs, and instead picking up the bumper in deep shadow in front of the hedgerow itself.

When I set Series B up, I was afraid the unusual obstacle course might be too difficult at those distances, and I decided not to even try Lumi on it. Laddie, however, did a great job, responding to whistles on reasonably tight sits keeping him within a narrow corridor, and taking high quality casts that he carried well.

SERIES C. Land triple with retired gun

As I often do in setting up courses for our sessions, I tried to emphasize a particular lesson for the dogs by setting up our second set of marks as a mirror image of the first one, though on a different part of the field. For Series C, the first mark (black bumper) was in the center, thrown right to left at 140 yards. The second mark (WB) was on the right, thrown right to left at 120 yards. The third mark (WB) was on the left, thrown right to left at 90 yards. As the dog was returning from the third mark (the go-bird), the thrower for the long mark in the center retired behind a large tree. Series C had no significant terrain changes, and was run entirely on low, frozen cover.

Though some of the dogs arced a bit offline running the second mark, the primary challenge of Series C was the retired long gun in the center. Besides the difficulty of the thrower retiring, the original throw was a bit difficult to see because it was a black bumper thrown against the background of tree branches, and the bumper was also a bit difficult to spot as it lay on the ground after the throw. As in Series A, the configuration of Series C featured a hip-pocket double for the first and second marks, which the dog did not begin until after picking up the shorter and wider go-bird. And as in Series A, the landscape features for both of the first two marks were strikingly similar, in this case because the thrower threw from a position a little to the left and in front of a prominent tree in both cases.

Lumi again ran second, and I decided to run her on the full series. However, after Lumi easily picked up the two shorter, outside marks, it appeared to me that she had no idea where the long mark in the center was. I got on the radio and asked the thrower to return to his throwing position, and unbidden he also faked a throw. Lumi then easily nailed the last mark. In Series C as in Series A, her outruns were as enthusiastic as they were accurate, while her returns were painfully slow.

Laddie again ran fourth, and again nailed all three marks, making even the center mark with the retired gun look easy.

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