Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hillside blinds

Mattawoman Drive. 56 degs, overcast, with a light wind that I think was irrelevant to this session.

I currently feel that Laddie and I have two primary issues to overcome in order for him to be successful in Qualifying stakes: 1) Steadiness with flyers, especially honoring but also from the line. 2) Calming of nerves on all blinds, especially water blinds that require him to cross a point.

However, we do have other things to work on as well, of course in addition to maintaining his current skills at or above their current levels.  Two issues that have come up recently, one in a pair of trials, the other at a training day I have not previously written about: 3) Difficult blinds in an event context, twice leading to refused casts he would not have refused if we were training alone. 4) Socialization with other male dogs.

Each of the issues listed above, and all field training in general, has one particular challenge that I have not been able to solve: The need to train with a group. I cannot overstate how serious a handicap it is that we have no one to train with.

However, while I continue to make every effort to resolve that difficulty, my only choices at present are to give up on Laddie's career, or continue our training as best I can alone. Well, I'm not ready to give up yet, though I often think it would be the wisest course.

Today, Laddie and I made the one hour drive to Cheltenham for some water work, only to find a field event scheduled there for today. So I drove us to a nearby industrial area where I knew a small pond to be available, but the water there appeared stagnant and unusable.

However, another feature of this field is a large, rectangular bowl, with steep, grassy embankments more than 100y the length of each slope. The grass is currently somewhat overgrown with weeds, but suitable for field training, in fact perhaps more trial-like than if mowed short.

So Laddie and I hiked around the bowl, and as we walked, I placed an OB at mid-point on the slope at one end, then ran him from the other end, with our start line midway down the slope.

In general, I would prefer not to use my whistle a lot on practice blinds, because I feel it could lead to popping or even the dreaded no-go. However, for this drill, I needed Laddie to run a tight line along the slope, and stopped him every time he tried to veer to the top or bottom of the slope.

It was interesting to watch his progress as we ran each of these hillside blinds. The first one required a lot of corrections, including a couple of resets with a complete call-back and resend. The second, however, was much better, the third better still, and the fourth the best of all with just one correction at 30y. Throughout the session, Laddie was visibly developing a growing comprehension of the idea to maintain his line along the mid-point of the slope and not ascend nor descend as he dashed ahead.

I'd rather have trained on water or with flyers today, or most of all with a training group or even a training buddy, but failing those, this seemed a worthwhile exercise for Laddie's development.


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