Sunday, October 30, 2011

Steadiness training with pheasant flyers

(This is the same farm previously identified as "near Warrenton" and "Clevenger's Corner".)

Sunny, no clouds, 45 degrees, light wind.

Two doubles with Dave throwing all marks and a stickman at the memory-bird: A) With both guns at 130y, the go-bird pheasant flyer landing the far side of a crest. B) With both find at 20y, the go-bird pheasant flyer down a steep hill.

In each case, Laddie ran first, then honored Lumi, who was being handled by Dave's training buddy. In each case, I honored Laddie from the flyer side, and closer to the gun than the working dog (Lumi) so that she would run past Laddie when sent to the flyer.

Laddie stood for the flyers in the short series, but his tab never became taut. He was a bit OOC heeling off the line, so that's something for us to work more on, but I feel his steadiness training is coming along well.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Steadiness work with pheasant cocks

Near Warrenton

Beautiful day, light wind, low 60s. Training Laddie with Dave and a training buddy, plus Lumi and the training buddy's retriever.

Dave threw all marks. He fired a shotgun and used no duck calls, and wore a white jacket. All birds were large, colorful, fragile pheasant cocks.

A) Land double. First mark (pheasant) on the left at a stickman, thrown RTL at 120y, the fall over a crest and invisible from SL.  Second throw (pheasant flyer) on the right at an LP, thrown LTR at 90y, area of fall visible from SL. Dave remained at the go-bird station, while the stickman showed the first station.
Laddie ran first, then honored Lumi with Dave's training buddy handling Lumi. As always at training these days, Laddie wore a tab, but I didn't hold it for the marks. I did hold it, hopefully without him being aware of it, for the honor. He was rock steady both working and honoring. As an added bonus, Laddie's flyer was a "cripple" and he brought it back while it was still active when I called him in, rather than ignoring me and trying to crush it first. Also, Laddie nailed both marks.

Lumi's first mark was dead on,  but she was so slow on her return with the flyer that she wasn't sent to the memory bird. Dave just picked it up.

B) Identical setup to (A), including same throwing stations, but with SL moved up to half the distances and on a different line to change the picture somewhat. I held Laddie's tab both working and honoring. After Laddie ran series, Dave's training buddy ran own dog for Laddie to honor, and unfortunately released the dog after Dave threw the dead bird, so that Laddie had to hang around to wait for the dog to get the flyer mark as a single. Perhaps this was to some extent a simulation of a"no bird" while honoring, but in my opinion it wasn't ideal training. Laddie actually seemed uninterested in the flyer when honoring it, and seemed primarily interested in heading back to the van to play. That's a good attitude for him to have on an honor, I think, but I'd like to see him have that attitude in a sequence that wasn't broken up by sending the working dog at the wrong time.

Dave suggested that I continue to hold Laddie's tab (loosely) as we continue working on steadiness thru the winter. We can see how his steadiness is without the tab next spring when we're actually running in an event.  That's consistent with the advice Jody and Alice have always given me.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Water T-drill

Rolling Ridge, cloudy, 50s.

Progress! After four easier setups, Laddie was able to handle to an invisible (OB) water blind over a point with a WB as a diversion at a 90 degree angle in open water.

Granted, he had run the line to the OB at least a dozen times in last few days, and granted, he had significant difficulty with his carries, taking a cast for a stroke or two and then veering back toward the WB.  But the important point, for me, is that he never vocalized.

This setup is almost easy for Laddie now. Let's not stop on it til it's all the way easy. Then we can start over at a different location.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Land blinds, intermediate water T-drill

Back field of church, then Rolling Ridge

Light rain, mid-60s.

A) Triple land blind.  150-60-130y. Found a good-sized  grassy field with lots of bowl-shaped depressions, some nested, plus other obstacles such as gravel areas, sandy areas, and trees for keyholes. Tried to come up with challenging lines, but Laddie lined or nearly lined all of them.

B) Water T-drill. Yesterday I found one combo Laddie has been able to do for years, but as of yesterday could not do without vocalizing: a cold blind (OB) across a point with a WB diversion in the water on a line 90 degrees to the side.

So today I broke it down with various easier versions. Final version today: sight blind to a WB on a familiar line across a point, with a diversion OB far out in the water on a 135 degree angle.

Tomorrow I hope to run Laddie on several more versions in same location, perhaps ultimately getting back to the original combo, now more familiar, and hopefully now without vocalizing.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Club training day, solo steadying with triples, water T-drill


Sunny, temps in 50s and 60s.

All marks were ducks, all blinds were bumpers.  Duck calls and shotgun fire (blanks) for all marks.  Dark clothing, holding blinds at all gun stations.  Some wingers, some hand-throws.

A) Group land triple and two blinds.  Master triple, one Senior blind, one Qual blind.  Factors for all retrieves were primarily hills, and strips or large patches of high cover.  Laddie did a nice job on all five retrieves.

B) Solo steadying with triples.  Between series, I worked alone with Laddie in a meadow, using an idea recommended to me by Dave, the guy who shoots flyers for us sometimes.

In today's drill, first I would throw a triple from the area of the SL, and have Laddie pick up those marks.  Then I'd put him in a sit, position myself as I do when we're honoring (standing at his right flank facing backwards) and say "sit . . . just watch" a few times.  Then I'd re-throw the same triple, and then go out and pick up all the bumpers myself.  While picking them up, I'd throw bumpers around in the field and pick those up as well.  I used duck-call, hopefully adding some excitement.  We did at least a half dozen of these drills in various locations.

Laddie never broke, so I don't know how much benefit this was, but he did stand on a couple of the honors, and I immediately cued sit, so he may have been getting at least a little useful steadiness preparation.  

C) Group water triple with blind.  Master water triple, Qual water blind.  Laddie and I, however, did not run the group version of the marks.  Instead, I had Laddie run singles from three different SLs some distance away from the group SL and with more difficult lines.  All four retrieves were difficult enough for Laddie to get some learning in (I hope).  However, one of the marks required handling to keep Laddie off a point, and he vocalized.  He then vocalized again on the blind.  I don't know whether a judge in the various FT stakes would tolerate that much vocalizing.  I've heard there's significant variation in FT judges' tolerance for vocalizing in water, but we've only run three Qual water blinds.  Laddie was called back from two of them, at least one of which included vocalizing.  He was not called back from the third, but I don't think it was because of the vocalizing.

In any case, since my goal is to give Laddie several consecutive months of no vocalizing in water, it turned out to be a mistake to modify today's marks, since perhaps he would not have vocalized on the smaller group setup, which might not have required any handling.  Then, since no point was involved in the blind, he might have been calmer and not vocalized on the blind, either.  Sigh.

D) Water T-drill.  With group training completed, this was some additional solo work.  Laddie and I worked on the same drill I've described recently, and which we have been practicing (along with some land blinds and poorman marks, land and water) pretty much every day recently at nearby Rolling Ridge.  The original drill involved sending Laddie down the middle on all five retrieves.  #1-3-5 were freebies (no handling), while #2-4 required handling to left and right.  However, the more recent version of the drill replaces either #2 or #4 with a blind across a point.  Although such a blind would almost invariably result in vocalizing if done by itself, Laddie does not vocalize on these blinds when run within the context of the 5-retrieve T-drill.  Today wee ran this drill in at least a half dozen locations without Laddie vocalizing a single time.

It is encouraging that we are able to practice water blinds without Laddie vocalizing, but as today's group work shows, it remains to be seen whether doing so over a period of time will ever have the effect of ending his vocalizing in a group situation.  I guess we'll keep at it, and we'll know more in the spring.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Land and water work

Rolling Ridge, overcast with intermittent showers,40s. Not exactly typical late summer weather in this region.

A) Poorman land triple. Xmas-tree configuration, 280y RTL in middle (retired), 210y  LTR on left with stickman, 110y LTR on right with stickman. White bumpers, pistol shots. Thrown longest to shortest, retrieved shortest to longest. Hilly terrain with various obstacles such as ditch filled with underbrush, fallen shrubs on lines to marks, patches of high, thick cover.

After Laddie picked up the marks, 190y blind.

B) Five bumper water T-drill as described in previous post, but increasing distances. The first set was all open water. For the second, the second retrieve did not start with a send down the middle, but instead was straight to one of the side bumpers, required Laddie to touch a point 10y from the SL.  No handling needed. For the third set, again the second retrieve was directly at a side bumper, and again crossed a point, this time at 90y. This one required significant handling to keep Laddie from going to one of the center bumpers, which had drifted close to that side of the pond.

Laddie did not make a sound for a single retrieve all day, land or water. This seems good. Apparently mixing the on-point retrieve in with the high-value T-drill (high value in part because of all the freebies, I suspect) seems to enable Laddie to do the work without feeling a need to vocalize.

The plan now is to do as much water handling as possible over the next few months, maintaining conditions where no vocalizing occurs, and hopefully instill that as Laddie's new model for how to perform water work. 


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Water T-drill

Although Laddie and I have run the On/off drill in various locations nearly every day over the last few weeks, Laddie is still vocalizing on water casts too often, and even occasionally on land casts these days.

When we were at Cheltenham this morning for the club training day (previous post), while waiting for others to arrive, I  tried an On/off drill with Laddie, and he again vocalized. So I decided to try something different: a single T-drill, but on water rather than the usual version on land.

First, I threw one WB to the left and one to the right. Then I threw three more straight in front as far as I could throw them. I had Laddie pick up one of the freebies (no handling) down the middle, then sent him that same direction but used a WSC to send him to one of the sides, then another freebie, then another straight ahead plus a WSC to the other side, and ending with the last freebie. Laddie never made a sounds the entire time. Yay!

After we ran the three series with group and helped pick up the equipment, I took Laddie to another part of the pond and ran him on two more Water T-drills. Again, he performed calmly, confidently, and without a sound.

This is what I've been looking for, a way to handle Laddie in water without him vocalizing so that we have a foundation to build on. My new plan is to run Laddie on a few more of these with unobstructed lines to the bumpers, then begin to run him in setups where he has to cross a point, or bypass a point, to pick up one of the side throws. Hopefully his confidence will carry over and he'll be able to negotiate the points without vocalizing.


Land triples, water double

Cheltenham, light rain, 50s.

Today was another club training day, with nine dogs in the advanced group, giving us enough time for two land series and a water series and still finishing up in early afternoon.

Since these were mostly Hunt Test trainers, we used duck calls and hidden guns, except for the two go-birds where I asked the throwers to stay out (see below).  All today's training was done with bumpers.

Laddie and I didn't run these setups like any of the other dogs, so I'll just describe how we ran them.

For the first series, I asked for the throws to be made around the horn, starting on the right. I requested the final thrower to stay out. After all the marks were down, I ran Laddie on a blind between the second and third marks. Then I had Laddie pick up the marks outer-outer-inner, that is, shortest to longest, go-bird first. Finally, I ran him on a blind outside of the first mark.

For the second series, I asked for the throws to be made around the horn again, this time left mark first. For the first mark, I started with Laddie in the holding blind and asked the thrower to place his bumper in cover where it would have landed if thrown. Then I brought Laddie to the line and asked that that thrower pretend to make a big throw, complete with gunshot, but not actually throw anything. Next the middle gun threw, and then the short mark across a road on the right. Once again I asked the last thrower to stay out. I then ran laddie on a blind between the two guns on the right, and then had him pick up the marks in the reverse order thrown, again shortest to longest. For the middle mark, he ended up picking up one of the bumpers that had been placed on a mound 30y to the right of the second mark, the same place he had picked up his second blind earlier and now being used as a senior/master blind for some of the other dogs. I decided not to interfere with his completing that retrieve, trading it as though that was the actual throw. I was pleased with Laddie's nice line on the money bird. The fake throw didn't seem to have confused him at all.

Laddie ran the water series as a double followed by a longish blind. The  first mark down required the dog to run a short land segment, take a difficult angle entry into the water, swim a wide channel to the end, run across a narrow strip of land, and then re-enter water into a cove where the bumper had been thrown on an angle back, not visible after it landed until the dog was on the strip of land. The second mark was also thrown on an angle back. It was thrown into open water, with the line to the mark passing close to the point of the peninsula from which the throw had been made. Strong wind and current quickly pushed that bumper toward the peninsula, so even though that was the go-bird, the line to the mark got tighter and tighter to the point as Laddie was swimming.  Although Laddie remained clear if the point, I decided to handle him once it appeared to me that he was uncertain whether to go on or off the point, my intent being to eliminate the uncertainty and perhaps reinforce his previous training and current inclination to stay off points on marks.

Laddie then picked up the memory-bird, taking the angle entry into the first water nicely, bailing out a bit early on the channel swim, and immediately launching into the far cove to the bumper. Finally I ran Laddie on a blind under the arc of the go-bird. I was pleased with how he did. He took an initial line onto the point, sat when I whistled, took an "over"  off the point directly into the wind, stopped in the water after a few yards and looked at me when I again blew a sit whistle, and took a good "back" cast across a relatively big expanse of water straight to the blind.

It was great getting some group training in. I couldn't compare Laddie's work to the other dogs because we were running the setups differently, but I thought Laddie did a fairly good job all day.

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