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.