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.


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