Rixeyville, VA. Hazy, 58 degrees, variable wind.
Today Laddie & I trained with my friend Dave, his training buddy, and the training buddy's retriever for Laddie to honor.
Dave brought four live pheasants, and I brought two dead pheasants and my Bumper Boys. We both wore white jackets, and we didn't use duck calls.
We ran two series. Location, distance, orientation, and throwing order were different, but both series had a lot in common: The BB with a stickman was the long mark (thrown first or second), Dave threw a dead bird as the other memory bird, and he shot a pheasant flyer as the go-bird. He threw the two birds from the same gun station, which was within 40y of the SL. A hot blind was also planted.
For the first series, at Dave's suggestion, I ran Laddie without his collar and tab. But I've gone to some trouble to negotiate Laddie to the tab by having him wear them whenever we train --honoring or not -- do for the second series, I put the tab back on.
However, I've been meaning for some time to experiment with a new honoring stance, which I've seen other handlers use occasionally in competition. Instead of standing at Laddie's right flank facing away from the field, today I kneeled at Laddie's right side, cueing "sit, just watch" as always. For training, I placed my left hand a couple of inches from Laddie's back. If he started to stand, he'd make contact and hopefully, I could immediately push him back down. Of course, in competition I'd keep my left hand clear of him.
If this approach works, I like it better than the tab for several reasons. The objective one is that it eliminates the issue of the dog becoming collar-wise. The other ones are more subjective, such as a heightened sense of companionship, and the ability to signal a relaxed state.
I don't know whether some judges would have a problem with it, either in Field Trials or in Hunt Tests. Something to look into.
It's also a little hard on my knees, the price for years of marathoning. But well worth it if it adds more reliability to Laddie's honor.
Today, Laddie never came close to breaking, either from the line or honoring. He also marked well-to-excellent, never getting behind a gun, even for the 310y BB/stickman memory bird in the first series. He lined the first hot blind, though unfortunately he was supposed to be running a mark at the time. I was more interested in seeing him run the mark without handling on a second send than worrying about a poorly placed hot blind.
For the second series' blind, on his one WS of the day, he sat pretty near the bird even though he had apparently scented it, which was good, I thought.