Thursday, January 26, 2012


Time is limited, but a quick update is in order. This will briefly cover our last three sessions.

First, I'll mention that both of my feet are gradually improving. My right foot is still too swollen to fit in most of my shoes, but the pain is much better. Meanwhile, the heel pain in my left foot is also diminishing, probably thanks to some suggestions Renee made based on her experience working with clients with plantar facieitis.

Sunday, Laddie and I trained alone with Dave, so Laddie got four triples, each thrown with two Bumper Boy/stickman stations and Dave shooting a flyer as the go-bird. Laddie had a controlled break on the first series, was steady thereafter, including the fourth series, where Dave threw and shot from beside us and the bird fell 2y in front of Laddie. I think Laddie also ran a nice blind that day.

However, Laddie's marking was poor on Sunday. I expressed my concern, and Dave said not to worry. We were training with snow falling and patches of snow on the ground from an earlier snowfall, in 28 degrees. Dave said that those conditions were bound to throw off a dog's marking, because of limited vision, reduced scent, and unfamiliarity.

Nonetheless, since we have no way to train with Field Trial groups, I am concerned about how well Laddie will mark when we resume competition in the spring.

To work more on marking, I thought I'd try running Laddie on poorman quads, thinking that that might be help his preparation. So yesterday and today, we drove to the field at nearby Rolling Ridge.

Each day, we ran a single series, similar to each other though in different locations. I sat Laddie at the start line, then walked out to throw four marks and to drop a blind. I wore a white jacket and fired a pistol for the marks. The marks were three 3" white bumpers plus a 3" black bumper for the longest mark. The blind was a 2" orange bumper. The distances were in the range 150-250y.

I tried to make the blinds difficult, but they were too easy, just one whistle each.

Laddie did seem to have trouble remembering the go-bird yesterday, so much so that I suspect he wasn't paying attention when I threw it

The other problem is that he has become stubborn at deciding which mark to run to, both days repeatedly going for the longest mark when sent to a shorter one. Even when I called him back, lined him up carefully, and he took a good initial line, he'd then serve to his preferred destination.

I think Patty referred to that behavior as "lying", and it would make her furious when one of her dogs did it.

Calling Laddie back and sending him again doesn't seem to work, he just does it again. Yesterday, after four tries, I finally walked up closer, and then he held a good line. Today, on the third try, I blew my whistle and handled him as soon as he veered.

Neither of those solutions seems good from the standpoint of building marking confidence.  Perhaps it would be better to let Laddie make his own choice before sending him. I don't think I've ever been in a competition where I could see any clear disadvantage to that approach, and more often than not, I've seen handlers who fight the dog's preference end up blowing the series.

I guess I'll see how Laddie does over the next few sessions to see if a pattern becomes clearer.


Friday, January 20, 2012

A little training

After giving my feet and legs as much rest as possible the last few weeks, this afternoon I took Laddie out for a little work.

Walking a nearby conservation trail, I put Laddie in a sit at the edge of the trail three times. Each time, I walked out into the field to throw three marks and to surreptitiously drop a blind. Within the constraints of training alone, I tried to make the lines a challenging as possible. At least all the marks were "retired". I wore a white jacket, but had to call hey-hey rather than firing a pistol, because I got in trouble for that here once.

The terrain was overgrown and very hilly with uneven footing, and much of the dead vegetation was thorny. My right foot is still too swollen for boots, so I wore running shoes. Inevitably, I turned my ankle over a couple of times, so we'll have to see whether the  pain returns tonight.

Laddie took good lines to the marks, white bumpers all thrown into cover, and handled nicely on the blinds. His crazy-dog enthusiasm was flat inspirational. I didn't realize how much I've missed it.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Marking down, steadiness up, handling holding steady

Rixeyville, VA.

Mid 40s, sun and clouds, wind 5mph.

Without realizing it at the time, it seems I injured my right ankle about 10 weeks ago, and it's still not right. Some days, like today, it's just tender. Other days, it's swollen to twice its normal size and is so painful I can't sleep even with maximum dose of OTC pain meds.

On top of that, other injuries that I suspect are caused by adjustments I make in my gait also keep cropping up, on both left and right feet and ankles.

I've made several visits to doctors and I've taken the tests they recommended. All negative so far.

I think what happened was a simple sprain, which has lingered and spread its effects because I am unable to give it the rest it needs. My client is in a large complex of buildings and frequent long walks during the day are unavoidable. However, the last few weeks I have made every effort to at least minimize time in the field with the dogs.  I think walking hundreds of yards on uneven ground to set up blinds and run marks for Laddie, and handle Lumi in tracking, was especially aggravating the injury.

So our training has been minimal. During the week, I throw bumpers and play tug with Lumi and Laddie to give them as much activity as possible. Most weekends, we train with Dave, and whenever possible his training buddy.  We train on some hilly hay fields in the area of Warrenton, VA.  He generally brings four birds, which he shoots as flyers. We use hand thrown dead birds or Bumper Boys and stickmen for the other marks.

Today was typical.  We used two land triples, both Qual scale, each including a land blind that I ran Laddie on after his marks. Dave also set up a final blind for Laddie at the end of the session. For each series, Laddie ran the series first, then honored Lumi as she ran it. Lumi was sent only to pick up the flyer.

When we have another handler, that person handles Lumi so that I can stand with Laddie during the honor.  On those days when it's just Dave and I, like today, Laddie has to do a remote honor (no handler at his side) as I hold Lumi while the marks are thrown. As soon as I release Lumi, she always goes straight for the flyer. I return to Laddie, heel him to the van, and play with him. Lumi generally marks well and runs hard to the bird, but takes forever on the returns.

After so many weeks of this kind of work, Laddie seems to have made great progress on his steadiness. We'll continue this way to the spring, whenever weather permits, and I'm hoping Laddie won't be DQing on breaks when we resume competition.

Laddie seems to be holding his own on blinds, too: generally good enough for Qual or Master, I believe, but perhaps not good enough for All Age at times.

My greatest concern is Laddie's marking. Laddie had always been one of the top markers on the field at every level of competition, but to me it appears that his marking is deteriorating this winter. I attribute this primarily to my inability to find a training group with whom we can train. I can only hope that when spring comes, I'll discover I was wrong and Laddie's marking is as good as ever after all.


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