Sunday, March 20, 2011

Competition tune-up

Since Laddie's going to be running in a Qualifying stake (his first) and Master test in a couple of weeks, I've been looking for ways to get him tuned-up for those.  The best way would be to train with groups of experienced trainers preparing for similar events, but since none of those are available to us, I've tried to come up with reasonable substitutions:
  • Train with any field group available, and where possible, modify the set-ups to practice more advanced skills
  • Travel to properties where other trainers might be training, and ask whether they'd like to train together
  • Hire my friend Dave Altman to shoot flyers and use his knowledge as an AKC Hunt Test judge to help me get Laddie tuned-up
  • Daily private practice
Here are some recent tweets (edited) from those kinds of sessions:
  • 3-16-2011: Cheltenham. Training with Jean, who trains her Golden for FTs. For the triples, we used Bumper Boys and stickmen, with a human thrower for the long retired marks. Overcast, high 40s. A) Big land/water triple, long gun on left retired. B) Tough Master water blind. C) 200y land blind, keyhole between tree and mound. D) Big water triple. Performance notes on today's work: I couldn't keep Laddie off the points in Series B, but good work, I thought, on everything else. I think we need more work on tough water blinds before our next Master.
  • 3-17-2011: Rolling Ridge. Triple land blind 200-230-260y. Later same day: Newcut Road. Humongous cleared construction site, many earthwork hills and embankments, even some small "ponds". Laddie ran several big poorman marks with me using a remote send from my throwing position. Also, two shoreline water blinds and one poorman double. Laddie did a great job on everything.
  • 3-18-2011: Cheltenham. Nice early spring morning. Trainer Peter reconvening his group after winter layoff, one other trainer today. Laddie more advanced than other dogs, so I modified the series for him. Here's what he ran: A) Interrupted triple: After all birds thrown, pick up go-bird, run long blind in center, pick up both birds of hip-pocket double.  B) Same as (A) with different start line & retrieve lines. C) Retired delayed land triple plus water blind: Watch long mark on right and mid-distance mark on left thrown, pick up mark on left while right gunner retires, watch short mark on right thrown in line with longer mark previously thrown on right, pick up short mark on right, pick up long retired mark on right, run big water blind requiring entry to pond at 250+y with inviting cheat around the pond available. Performance notes on today's work: Except for trying to run 2nd mark instead of blind and needing to be called back to run the blind first in Series A, Laddie had an excellent day, nailing every mark and handling well on every blind. Lumi also ran, running two singles or a double in each series with her usual dead-aim marking plus excellent pick-ups on every bird, both ducks & pheasants.
  • 3-20-3011: Near Warrenton, VA. Sunny, 55 degs. Asked Dave Altman to help tune up Laddie for Master & Qual. A) Walk-up, flyer with gunner at 30y not visible till we reached corner of woods. I blew duck-call, Dave just becoming visible around the corner blew duck-call, Laddie sat without being told to, Dave threw chukar flyer and shot. Laddie steady till sent.  Good boy. B) With Laddie on my right and Dave a few yards farther to my right, I blew duck-call, then Dave blew duck-call, threw chukar flyer and shot. Laddie again steady till sent. Good boy again. C) I put Laddie in sit, cued "just watch", moved five yards to Laddie's right, held Lumi by check cord. I blew duck-call, Dave at 50y blew duck-call, threw & shot chukar flyer to left (in front of Laddie), threw and "shot" dead bird 30y in front of Lumi. With Laddie steady in remote honor, I lined Lumi toward the dead bird but she crossed in front to the flyer. I watched a few secs to make sure Laddie wouldn't break for closer bird, then walked to him, heeled him a few yards, and slipped on his lead. This was Laddie's first remote honor of a flyer. Great job! D) Set-up includes 300+y blind with narrow keyhole at 200+y. Dave fired shotgun and threw bird at 150y, I hand-threw another bird to the side, then ran Laddie on the blind. Not good enough control on blind, would not have passed, but nailed both marks. E) 100y hillside blind, excellent control. Note on the quick casts I use with Laddie: Dave commented on the fact that I don't give Laddie much time to settle down after sitting on a whistle sit, but cast him immediately.  He said this is a common mistake and can lead to auto-casting, where the dog learns to anticipate the cast and releases without the handler's cue.  Letting the dog settle in the sit before casting produces better results for most dogs.  I express thought that without ecollar for negative reinforcement, Laddie's only reinforcement for sitting is the cast, and if I were to generally use a slow cast, as a result of that delayed reinforcement, Laddie might tend to develop a slower and/or weaker response to the whistle sit. Dave reconsiders in that light, agrees.

No comments:

[Note that entries are displayed from newest to oldest.]