Tuesday, August 30, 2011

On/of drill with call-back

Cheltenham, blue skies, 76 degrees, light breeze.

Today was another day of all water blinds. First, Laddie did On/off drills on four different setups (eight retrieves total). Then he ran one cold water blind we've never run before, an 80y land entry off a mound plus a 70y swim, then thru reeds to the blind set 10y inland.

Every retrieve was with Laddie's 2" white puppy bumpers, since I think they act as +R for completing the blind.  All of the On/off drills were run as sight blinds, with an LP and a white plastic bag as the target.  The sequence was always the no-point retrieve first, then the point retrieve.  Most of the setups were repeats of setups we've used recently. In other words, except for the fact that these were all medium length rather than any short setups, my entire focus was on minimizing confusion, maximizing confidence, and reducing the likelihood of any vocalizing.

My ultimate goal with these sessions is to have day after day of no vocalizing until that becomes Laddie's normal behavior. Unfortunately, although I feel Laddie is significantly more familiar now with the On/off concept, I still haven't found a way to have a productive session with no vocalizing.

So today I added one more element: the three times that Laddie vocalized, I <i>immediately</i> called him back. The first time was a plaintive yelp, while the other two were tentative, perhaps experimental.

I am reluctant to use a call-back on blinds, since it would be terribly disheartening if I accidentally trained a no-go, or added to Laddie's anxiety and actually made the vocalizing worse.

On the other hand, call-backs seemed to be effective a few months ago in greatly improving Laddie's popping.

So perhaps now that Laddie's understanding of points is hopefully clearer, a mild +P for yelping will help Laddie make another step of progress.

I just need to watch carefully to see whether the problem is getting worse or better, and also to watch carefully for possible side-effects. That's assuming that I have enough skill to recognize them if they appear, not necessarily a sound assumption.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

On/off drill and Hurricane Irene

Cheltenham, low 70s.

Back in 2004, Lumi and I once practiced water retrieves in the rain and wind on the fringe of a hurricane. Today it was Laddie's turn. As Hurricane Irene was wending its way up the coast from North Carolina, Laddie and I took what may be our last training opportunity of the weekend to work on a set of six On/off drills here at the Cheltenham property in Maryland, southeast of Washington, DC.

Each On/off setup was run with OBs and no LP.  Each was two retrieves, the first no-point, the second point.  The first setup was short and familiar, while Laddie had never run any of the others as an On/off drill before. Few if any required handling on the no-point retrieve, all required at least a little handling on the point retrieve.

Although Laddie had some vocalizing today on the point retrieves (never on the no-point retrieves), it only occurred on blinds of over 100y.  The first setup, which was familiar, and the last setup, which Laddie has never seen before, were only about 40y. For those two, Laddie required a little handling to get him onto the point, but he took the casts quietly and confidently. For some of the longer retrieves, Laddie vocalized when handled onto the point.

It's hard to see this as a boldness issue associated with big water, since Laddie had no difficulty with no-point retrieves as much as 140y. Yet it also doesn't correlate exactly to handling. The only model that seems to cover today's data points seems to be handling over a point on a fairly big retrieve.

What's the best Rx to address this issue?  Ideally we would gradually work our way up from small to big setups, backing off as soon as we hit one that was a bit too big. However, its not easy to know what the correct distances are on any given day, and an On/off setup for that particular distance may not be available at the venue we're using that day.

In that case, do we err on the short side, and risk wasting a session (that is, four hours, at least one calendar day, and upwards of $50 in expenses)? Or do we err going too long, and risk strengthening the vocalizing habit? For this dog, I think the answer is the latter, since it's fairly clear that Laddie does not vocalize when confident, and a return to longer swims, which used to be fairly routine in our practices, might be the shortest path to gaining that confidence.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Beating the rain

Cheltenham, low 80s, overcast.

Today Laddie and I ran our three most recent On/off drill courses on this property, from shortest to longest. I planted two OBs, and used no LPs, in each case. For each setup, I had Laddie run the point line first, then the no-point line.

Laddie ran the first setup exactly as I would have wanted him to: For the point retrieve, he started to skirt the point, quietly accepted a cast onto the point, and lined the retrieve the rest of the way. He then lined the no-point retrieve.

For the second setup, Laddie tried to go too far inland on the first point, and made a quiet yelp when I cast him back outward toward the end of the point. But aside from that, no handling was required on this setup.

For the third and longest setup, Laddie again tried to aim too far inland on the point retrieve, and again yelped when cast. On the no-point retrieve, which on previous days he has run without handling, he headed for the point, and when it didn't look like he'd self-correct, I cast him horizontally toward the correct line.  This produced Laddie's most pronounced yelp of the day.

As a test of whether handling on a water blind when no point was in the picture produced vocalizing, I had Laddie run a Master-like water blind: 20y land entry, sharp angle entry, 30y swim with a keyhole between two decoys amongst a group of about six decoys, angle exit onto shore thru thick cover, and a diagonal slope climb halfway up a 20y embankment. Laddie took a good line almost to the decoys and I was afraid he was going to line the whole blind, defeating the experiment, but then he veered a little and I got a chance to use three WSCs in the water, and one on shore, to keep him on a tight line. He took every whistle and every cast quietly, accurately, and with confident, enthusiastic demeanor.

I tossed a few happy bumpers for him, and ran him on a couple of little "singles" for fun. But then the sky opened up and we headed for home thru the downpour.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

On/off drill, poorman marks

Cheltenham, 6:30am, 55 degrees, sunny, wind calm.

Retrieve A. 80y cold water blind, no points in the picture. Though intended as a confidence builder, this was the only retrieve today that triggered yelping. I have no definitive explanation. Perhaps the relatively big water compared to most of the work we've been doing lately bothered him. Or maybe he found it confusing that there was no point in the picture.

Retrieves B-C. On/off drill in same location as A-D yesterday, but with no LP. Laddie ran the no-point retrieve exactly as I would want him to run a cold blind with a point in the picture: He swam toward the point, then calmly accepted a WSC bypassing the point when he was a couple of yards from the point. He also ran a good line over the point, but needed a cast off the point because he started munching grass.

Retrieves D-E. Poorman land skimming marks through large patches of thick, high cover with swampy footing, with an easy, obvious cheat available, one on the left, one on the right. Laddie needed to be handled on both.

Retrieve F. A big, mostly land single, but with three water crossings. I put Laddie in a sit, walked out to throw the mark, then called his name from my throwing position as a remote send. Because of a crest, we could not see each other, but my high throw, preceded by a gunshot, must have been visible. A few seconds after my remote send, Laddie appeared over the crest, then completed the retrieve on an excellent line, stepping on the bumper.

Retrieves G-H. On/off drill at a location we used a few days ago, but this time with an LP and white plastic bag. No-point line was 110y, point was at 70y. I had Laddie run the point line first. He tried to square the point's shoreline too much, so I needed to handle him more to the end of the point. Then I stopped him as soon as he started onto the point, and cast him horizontally.  He took both casts well, and did not need to be stopped again to put him back on line after the second cast. He just made the turn himself once he was clear of the point. He required no handling at all on the no-point retrieve, and this time the big water did not seem to bother him.

Retrieves I-K. Short poorman skimming water singles. No problem on any of these.

Retrieves L-N. A fairly difficult poorman land triple, all guns "retired", featuring a 140y mark on the right as the first throw, a 220y mark on left as the second throw, and a 40y mark in line with the first throw as the third throw. The line to the first throw included a diagonal slope ascent and a keyhole between a mound and a barn. I had Laddie pick up the marks in reverse order of the throws, trying to make the 140y memory bird, which had been thrown first and had possibly been erased in Laddie's memory by the short throw on the same line, as difficult as possible by waiting the longest to retrieve it. It was also unusual for the second-longest mark to be thrown first and picked up last. However, Laddie nailed that mark and of course the short one, and required only a small hunt on the long mark after taking a good line to the immediate area of the fall.

Hopefully this was a fun way for Laddie to wrap up the session.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Cooler temps, a little more work

Cheltenham, starting at 6:30am, high 60s.

Retrieves A-B: On/off drill at same location as retrieves E-H yesterday, with LP and white plastic bag. Handling needed to keep Laddie off point on the bypass retrieve, no handling needed for the retrieve across the point. No vocalizing.

Retrieves C-D: ON/off drill at same location, this time no LP. No handling needed on either retrieve, no vocalizing, no popping.

Retrieves E-G: A poorman triple with WBs and pistol. First throw a big "bridge", also featuring a point, that is, LWLWLWL. Second throw all land, almost as long as the first one, with a road crossing. Third throw fairly short, across a cove into a patch of reeds, dog not visible after going down embankment to the cove on outrun until he comes back with the bumper. With all guns "retired", Laddie did a nice job.

Retrieve H: An LWLWL retrieve featuring a tempting cheat from the middle land crossing. When Laddie attempted to run that bank, I decided to call him back rather than handling him, though I would have handled him if he had done it again. However, he ran it nicely the second time.

Retrieves I-F: Similar to the On/off drill, but with throws rather than planted bumpers. Perfect lines, no hint of nerves.

Retrieve G: A poorman mark featuring a swim between two points, one of which he had just crossed, and then across another point further out. Again, Laddie nailed it with no hint of nerves.

For me, today was primarily about the first four retrieves. The rest was to maintain motivation, build confidence on pictures similar to the On/off drill but run as marks, and perhaps remind Laddie what a triple is.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Laddie's tab

By the way, I don't think I've mentioned this before.

For the last several weeks, and for the foreseeable future, Laddie is wearing a collar with a tab, a 9" lead.

If we ever have a chance to train with flyers, I'll keep a firm grip on the tab, but keeping slack unless Laddie attempts to break. Because Laddie wears the tab all the time, he won't associate it particularly with flyers. He'll just re-discover that breaking doesn't work.

Beckie we can compete again, it's essential that we practice in situations that look as much like events as possible to the dog. If Laddie figures out that an event context predicts the availability of a self-reinforcing break -- at the minimum, the immediate pleasure of a high-energy outrun -- we may never dig out of that hole.

I don't know whether we'll ever have an opportunity to give Laddie that training. But at least we're laying the groundwork by habituating Laddie to the tab in the meantime.


A time for training

It is, of course, sad to think that Laddie's competitive career is over because we have no group to train with and therefore no way to work on steadiness in an event-like context.

However, it does have a silver lining. If not for the steadiness issue, I would be tempted to run Laddie in many of the continuous string of Qualifying stakes being run over the next few months in our region. After all, his vocalizing hasn't actually cost us, as far as I know, in any event, and it might have taken more discipline than I had to forego competition, and a reasonable chance of Laddie getting QAA, with all those opportunities available.

However, it probably would not have been good for Laddie's vocalizing, which then might have become a more serious issue in All-Age stakes.

This way, we can work on the vocalizing issue, and any related issues of nerves, without any temptation to run in competitions as well.

Perhaps someday we'll find an opportunity to train regularly with a group, work on steadiness with flyers in an event-like context, and be able to compete once again. To be honest, I don't actually feel hopeful about this, I think it's more likely we'll never compete again. But it's at least theoretically possible.


More nerves

Cheltenham, low 80s.

Today, a Weimeraner group was training near the part of the property I had planned to use, but rather than sending Laddie and me away, they said it would be ok for us to train on the other side of the property.

Laddie ran a total of eight water blinds as our On/off drill, all 2" bumpers, some white some orange (irrelevant, since in cover), and all with an LP and white plastic bag as the target. In each pair, we ran from the bypass SL first, then the crossing SL.

We used two setups, four retrieves each.  I wasn't that happy with the first one, since it had significant amounts of high, thick cover at both the water entry and exit, which I felt distracted from the lesson. The second setup was longer but visually clearer.

Laddie showed behavior that I interpret as nerves in each setup: not only quiet vocalizing, but also a few pops and also eating grass when he was on the point. In each setup, the nervous behaviors were most prevalent on the first pair of retrieves, and were minimal or disappeared entirely on the second pair.

I liked the second setup a lot. Besides providing clear optics and nice deep water for the On/off drill, it also had a relatively narrow cove behind the point, helping Laddie practice a good re-entry rather than running the bank when presented with that picture. If possible, we'll use the same setup for several more On/off sessions, until he can run both retrieves, in either order, eventually with no LP, and with no display of nerves.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Lengthening the On/off drill

Cheltenham, mid-80s.

Because of the on-going heat, I'm reluctant to run Laddie much on land, and even on water, I feel I should keep down the distance.  So today was all water blinds, all 2" bumpers, and none too long.

Retrieves A-D were at the same location as last time, about 35y, all orange bumpers. A & D were off the point, B & C were across the point. Laddie ran all of them silently. I liked the way he ran B & C: He took a wide line, then accepted a cast onto the point.

Retrieve E was 180y.  I set up an LP with a WB, then ran him from the other side of the pond. The line was wide of one point on the right, then across the next point on the right. Laddie stayed responsive to the whistle and took every cast correctly, but he didn't carry them well so we needed a lot of WSCs. I felt it was a reasonable performance. The best news is that he didn't vocalize on any cast.

Retrieves F &G were at a new location. I lay two WBs where they'd be visible from the SLs. The distance was 45y. F was on a line wide of the point, G was on a line across the point. Again Laddie required no handling on the bypass, a little handling on the line across the point, and we had no vocalizing.

Retrieves H & I were once more with white 2" bumpers, but at 90y, I now think they were not sufficiently visible from the start line. In any case, H was across the point, and unfortunately included one bark, when I cast Laddie horizontally off the point. But other WSCs were also needed to get him into the correct location on the point, and he took those silently. No handling was needed for the final retrieve bypassing the point.

I'd like to try this again next time we're here, with better visibility of the destination, and see if Laddie can take that cast without vocalizing. Then, in another session, we'd do it as cold blinds.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

On/off drill at Twin Ponds

Training at sunrise on a gorgeous morning, temps in high 50s, blue skies, in Monrovia, MD.

Besides lots of happy bumpers, Laddie did a total of 13 water blinds, as follows:

A. 30y, LP with white plastic bag, to a pile with two white 2" bumpers and two 2" orange bumpers, past a point on the right. Laddie easily lined it without touching the point and without a sound, picking up one of the white bumpers.

B. Identical setup except that I moved the SL so that the line was across the end of the point. Again Laddie lined it easily, running over the point and making no effort to veer around the point, again picking up a white puppy bumper. He did bark when he leapt into the water on the initial entry, but made no sound after that.

C. Same as A, except that I took down the LP, and only orange bumpers were left. Identical performance to A.

D. Same as B, except with no LP and now only one orange bumper remaining. Laddie again lined it, running over the point,  without vocalizing.

E-H.  New setup, 60y, point on the right.  Otherwise identical pattern and performance as A-D, except no vocalizing at any time.

I-J. New setup, 70y. Point on the left, 10y shoreline swim on the right, creating a sort of keyhole 10y from the far shore. No LP, but white bumpers placed so as to be clearly visible. First retrieve was on a line thru the keyhole, second retrieve was on a line over the end of the point. Laddie lined both without a sound.

K. 110y swim on diagonal across stick pond, with no point but a tight keyhole between two stumps a few yards from far shore. Orange bumper on hillside, not visible to Laddie till he was close to it. Laddie took excellent line, started to square the shore about halfway across, took a WSC on an angle back, which he carried the rest of the way, including thru the keyhole.  He vocalized on the cast, possibly because of the somewhat big water remaining.

L-M. 30y, point on the left, two white puppy bumpers visible from both SLs. First retrieve was on a line over the point, second bypassed the point. Laddie lined both without vocalizing.

To me, today's work showed excellent progress. It appears that Laddie now understands that some retrieves are past points, and some are across them. He also now has one way of knowing which is which: line of sight.  Eventually he'll have to learn a second way of discriminating between them, which is to comfortably accept handling, but for now I'm just trying to lay a foundation. Both of these ideas seem to be important new concepts for Laddie compared to just a few days ago.

I don't think Laddie is "learning" not to vocalize per se. Rather, my feeling is that as his understanding and confidence increase, his nerves steady and the vocalizing subsides.

With respect to the question of why Laddie sometimes vocalizes, using only today's data points, a reasonable theory is simply that Laddie vocalizes when handled in water. However, I don't think that matches all the recent data.  We'll learn more in future sessions.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Training at Mt. Ararat Farm

As previously arranged, Laddie and I made an early-morning drive to Gaby's farm to run our On/off drill on her technical pond.

As it turned out, Laddie also ran three singles (two that included water) in a triple-style configuration, ran one land single where the bumper was pre-planted and the throw was faked, and ran one land blind.

Laddie ran the On/off drill in the same location as we used in previous sessions, with the high-visibility LP in place. He ran the drill twice, once before the group work, once after. In each case, he ran one retrieve on a line that bypassed the point and one on a line that crossed the point. In each case, he lined both retrieves without vocalizing.

Taking advantage of this rare opportunities to train on multiples with throwers, I ran these as singles, but showing Laddie all of the gun stations, then calling for a bird, and then sending him on that first mark.  The idea is for him to learn not to swing his head after watching a bird thrown, but to stay locked in unless and until he hears another gunshot (or duck call, in the case of a Hunt Test setup).

On one of the water singles, Laddie cheated both the entry to and exit from water, so that's something we'll need some tune-up work on.

However, my primary focus at this time is Laddie's nerves on water blinds with points, and in that regard, I'm pleased with our progress.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Second day of On/off drill at Cheltenham

Today I ran Laddie on a wide open water blind and used two WSCs to make minor adjustments in his direction. Not a peep.

Then I ran him four times to the same target as yesterday, from the same two SLs. The only difference from yesterday was that today I used two white bumpers, which, predictably, he picked up first, and two orange bumpers.

The two times I ran him down the middle (the first and third retrieves), he lined it with no vocalization.

The two times I ran him in a line across a point (the second and fourth retrieves), he veered wide and I used a WSC to correct his line. He vocalized a little when cast, but took the casts without difficulty.

Today's work suggests to me, not that Laddie considers a WSC aversive, but that he considers crossing a point, or being directed to cross a point, aversive.

In any case, the vocalizations were minor, little whines rather than yelps. Hopefully that represents a diminished level of anxiety compared to earlier, more emphatic vocalizations, and a trend in the right direction, though a backsliding from yesterday.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

On/off drill at Cheltenham

Today, Laddie & I drove to Cheltenham. Temps were mild, in the high 60s, but we were training in a driving rain.

I found a perfect spot for our On/off drill.  Rather than bothering with an LP, which would have involved a lot of driving to get to, I just tossed four white bumpers to the far shore. I then ran Laddie to each of them, alternating between an open line between two points (and between two decoys), and a line across the point on the right.

With respect to what side I was running Laddie from, during the last three sessions, I've also taken to running him on the inside if he's to cross the point, on the outside if he's to bypass it.  I recognize this is a temporary measure since it often won't provide enough information in advanced blinds with multiple points, but since our immediate goal is to develop a habit of running water blinds involving points with no nerves/yelping, it seems like a reasonable addition for now.

Laddie ran all four sight blinds perfectly, without any need for a whistle.  Yay!

Is he starting to understand some approximation of "go straight"? Well, here's an interesting data point:

On the fourth run of the blind, the second across the point, Laddie took a somewhat fat initial line, as though he were planning to bypass the point.  Under ordinary circumstances, I would have blown a WS and cast him on angle back to the point.  But I decided to watch for awhile and see what he would do.

The answer: As he got even with the point, he suddenly veered right.  Lightly prancing across the end of the point, he then swung left again and leapt into the water directly toward the final bumper.  Wow, I thought, what an interesting way to run that line.

I recognize that that wasn't necessarily a perfect approach.  If the requirement were a keyhole off the end of the point, I'd want him approaching the point from the inside, not the outside.

But in terms of Laddie running a confident, non-yelping water blind with a point, apparently figuring out some way to know whether or not to touch the point without needing to be handled, I felt this was excellent progress.

While we were there, we also ran a few fun, somewhat challenging poorman water marks, complete with pistol, to help keep up Laddie's motivation for the training game.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Second day of On/off drill at Gaby's

I felt I had seen a good trend working on Laddie's nerves/yelping with our On/off drill at Gaby's farm yesterday.

Today we returned to the same location to run the drill again, after crashing at today's trial.  I expected a little back-sliding, but hoped for the same positive trend.  Instead, Laddie was back at Square One on the point-crossing line, and began having increasing difficulty with the bypassing line.

I concluded from his behavior that this was not nervousness but rather that he was not enjoying it.  Boredom, perhaps.

Anyway, I stopped the session and went to chat with Gaby.  Among other topics was Trouble, her good-looking and wonderfully affectionate new 4mo Chessie, whom Laddie seemed to be having fun playing with there in the kitchen.

After a couple of hours, I wanted to head for home, but I had an idea and asked if Gaby would be willing to come out with one or more of her dogs to watch Laddie run the On/off drill.  I speculated that having a human and canine audience might perk up his motivation.  She grabbed the puppy and we headed for the pond.

Sure enough, Laddie ran both blinds perfectly: no veering, no yelping, no popping.  As a bonus, Gaby threw a few long water marks for Laddie, surely more fun for him than all those blinds.

Laddie's sixth Qual

Today's trial at Cheltenham, the second in two days, started with a land triple, no honor.  Since Laddie broke on the honor yesterday, and I have no group to practice honoring with, I had come up with a plan while driving to the trial.

My plan was to run as many series as possible, in today's and future events, till Laddie had to honor a flyer, then run that series but put him on lead without giving him a chance to break on the honor.  So today's first series with no honor meant, under my plan, we had a chance to get to the last series, maybe even to the end and a possible ribbon if the last series didn't require honoring a flyer.

However, at the line, Laddie broke on the flyer go-bird, which I believe is the first time he ever broke from the line in competition.  Since he ignored me when I called HERE yesterday, I didn't say anything today.  I didn't need him to practice ignoring recall.

Well, since he's now breaking from the line, my brilliant plan to work on his honoring flyers at events won't work.  I'm glad I haven't signed up for any more events.

How in the world am I going to fix this without having a group to train with?  It's a rhetorical question.  I don't think I can.

We'll continue to work on whatever skills we can training alone, but unless we find a group, Laddie's competitive career is now over.

Friday, August 12, 2011

On/off drill: declining vocalization

Today was the first day I've felt I had a clear, unambiguous indication that if Laddie is confident on a water blind with points, he doesn't yelp. The alternative, that yelping was becoming operant and possibly reinforced by success, does not seem consistent with today's results.

After I checked out the trial's water blind (which I think Laddie could have done, possibly without yelping), I felt the best use of time would be to use Gaby's technical pond, about half an hour from the test site and on the way home, for our On/Off drill: a water blind with a point, a highly visible LP, several bumpers (I used Laddie's beloved puppy bumpers), and two SLs, one bypassing the point, one crossing it.  The pond had swim-depth water in front of the point, which I believe is a requirement for the drill.  It had running water on the back side of the point, but our drought in this region is making it hard to find deep ponds.  I didn't see running water on the far side of the point as a problem.  It might even be +R for negotiating the point correctly.

We ran the retrieve a total of twenty times, ten from each SL, random alternation, with lots of rest breaks.
Laddie never once tried to veer to the point when running the bypass line, and also remained quiet for those the whole session.

When running the point-crossing line, he was noisy in the early reps: He yelped as he leapt into the water, he yelped quietly as he swam toward the point, he yelped when I had to cast him to the point if he attempted to veer off it, and he  barked when I cast him off it.

Once he began getting on the point without help, at first I was still stopping him to cast him horizontally off the point, and that would elicit a bark.  Since he clearly knew where he was going, I decided my first priority was to get a quiet dog, and stop casting him off the point.

His noisiness declined on a nearly linear curve.  He was nearly quiet on the next-to-last set of four.  And he was entirely quiet on the last set.

Oh, also, in the early going, he did some popping. That went away by the end, too.

To me this seems like promising results.  I have not yet proven the whole path to a solution.  Will we ever be able to avoid yelping if handling is required?  Will we ever be able to avoid yelping on new setups with the LP?  Will we ever be able to avoid yelping on cold water  blinds?  Will we ever be able to  graduate to high-difficulty blinds without the yelping coming back?

A long road, but a good first step, I think.

Laddie's fifth Qual

First series was a wide open land triple with the long mark retired and a flyer as the go-bird. Then you ran a blind, and then you honored.

Laddie, running #1, nailed the go-bird flyer and the middle bird, running both better than any other dog I watched. The retired bird was thrown from a runway of grass into a soybean patch, not too hard for the later dogs once the path thru the soybeans was worn down a little, but more of a challenge for the test dog, Laddie, and the other early dogs. Laddie took a great line, but veered onto the runway, then homed in on the bird with little difficulty, never getting behind the gun station despite the fact that the gunner was retired. Laddie also ran the blind well.

Then he broke on the honor, ending our day. Gaby, who was here because she lives nearby and knows several of the trainers, said that several people told her the flyer Laddie had to honor was extremely difficult: lots of feathers flying, lots of flapping on the way down, lots of white belly flashing. In addition, the honor position was difficult: on the flyer side, with the honoring dog closer to the flyer than the working dog. It was too hard for Laddie.

I guess all those practices with Dave aren't doing the job.  Not surprising perhaps.  We practice singles or flower-pot doubles instead of triples.  We practice with small birds -- chukars, pigeons -- but see only ducks in trials.  Since I don't have anyone to run Lumi for me, I have to remote-honor Laddie while I run Lumi.  We use short distances and lots of noise to try to create excitement, but it's hardly the same picture as an FT triple. Those practice setups might actually be more difficult than a Qual honor, but nonetheless, we're not practicing what we see in a trial.
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