Sunday, February 19, 2012

Two triples with blinds

Rixeyville, VA

Sunny, mild winter temps.  Wind calm.

Laddie, Dave, and me training alone, using Bumper Boys and stickmen for extra gunners.  No opportunity to work on honoring. Dave had been able too obtain two chukars.

I told Dave before we started that I didn't want any marks longer than 180y, that I wanted to give Laddie a chance to train on Qual-style triples and blinds. I especially wanted to see his marking without the weather conditions, not typical of Quals I've been to, that have been so much affecting his performance the last few sessions.

Series A. Out-of-order land triple plus blind

For Series A, Dave stood on a hillside at 180y on the right side of the field.  For the first mark, he threw and shot a flyer right to left, with the fall over a crest and invisible from the start line.  For the second mark, I fired a Bumper Boy in the center of the field beside a stickman, left to right on an angle back with the fall at 160y.  For the third mark, I fired a BB on the left of the field beside a stickman, right to left on an angle in at 70y.  A hot blind (OB) at an LP on a 45 degree angle lay on a line behind the middle gun station, with the blind at 220y.  The terrain was hilly, and the line to the blind included a stretch diagonally across a slope.

Although I wanted to run the triple as in an event, Laddie would never have seen the go-bird if I'd just fired it on a normal cadence.  He watched Dave's throw, of course, and seemed to get a reasonable look at the middle throw, but even though I'd shown him all three gun stations (in reverse order) before calling for the first throw, Laddie never turned to look at the stickman on the left, even after I repeatedly sounded the BB's duck call.  The sound was faint, and the woods-encircled field had echoes that made it difficult to pinpoint sounds.  Instead of wasting the setup, I cued "Sit" and moved in front of Laddie to get his attention on me, then repositioned him until he was locked in on the stickman on the left.  I fired that BB and sent Laddie.

Of course, he nailed that mark.  I sent him to the flyer next.  Dave was quite happy with how Laddie ran that mark.  True, Laddie began hunting short, and ended up with a relatively long hunt, but it was within a confined area.  Laddie never considered leaving the area of the fall and never got behind the gun.  Considering the fact that chukars are almost invisible lying in this clumpy hayfield, and apparently have little scent, I guess Dave felt Laddie did a nice job.  I sent Laddie to the middle mark last.  He took a line a bit on the inside but never behind the gun, and darted over to the bumper as soon as he got out there.

Laddie had no difficulty with the blind.

Series B.  Land triple with breaking bird, plus triple

We only moved the gun stations a bit for Series B, but the marks all were thrown in different directions, and we ran from the other side of the field.  The distances were roughly the same, and the blind was once again on a line to the right of the middle gun.

The first mark was a BB and stickman on the right of the field, throwing LTR at 180y.  

Again, I had intended to run this as a triple, but suspecting that Laddie might head-swing to the flyer, I notified Dave that if Laddie looked off either of the first two marks before watching it to the ground, I'd send him immediately.  That's exactly what happened on the first mark.  When I sent him, Laddie didn't no-go, but the line he took showed that he was confused, apparently thinking that at least one of the other marks must have also been thrown and so not knowing what line to take.  He eventually popped, but I just froze.  After a moment or two, he swung around and nailed the mark that had been thrown.

We then ran the middle mark and Dave's mark on the left as a double.  The first mark was a BB and stickman in the middle of the field, throwing LTR at 160y.  The second mark was David throwing and shooting a flyer from the left of the field.  The bird was active, and Dave shot it in such a way that it had a long glide to ground and remained active on the ground, with the fall at 30y.

I would have sent Laddie early again if he'd swung his head, but he didn't, so we ran it as planned.  He nailed both marks.  He then ran the blind needing only one whistle.

Dave asked me afterwards, "Well, are you still worried about Laddie's marking?"  No, I wasn't, although failing to see the last mark in Series A could have knocked us out of an event, as well as head-swinging as Laddie did in Series B.

But Dave and I were both pleased to see that Laddie had learned the intended lesson when he was sent early on the first mark of Series B,  Over all, it seems to have been a productive session.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Diversion blinds

Today I took Laddie to the huge field we used to train on with the neighborhood kids, but rarely do these days.  The problem is that it's mostly flat and lacking in features.

However it was good for today's work: a total of twelve blinds, distances in the range 120-250y.

Six of the blinds were 2" orange bumpers, stood up in the dry cover. The other six were 3" white blinds with lining poles.

The orange and white bumpers were in pairs. In each case, the orange bumper was 20y further from the start line than the white bumper and lining pole. The lines to the two were just a few degrees apart, so that Laddie had to run past the white bumper to get to the orange bumper.  For half the pairs, the line to the orange bumper passed to the right of the white bumper. For the other half, the line to the orange bumper passed to the left.

I had Laddie run each pair by handling him to the orange bumper first, then sending him for the white bumper as a freebie, that is, no handling required.

I've heard that judges actually set this sort of thing up occasionally. But more importantly, even without a "poison bird", it's commonplace for the dog to think she knows where the bird is when she doesn't. This drill is intended to help the dog gain experience handling in those situations.

Unfortunately, today's work wasn't much of a challenge for Laddie, but he had fun. Between the blinds and the hey-hey bumpers afterwards, he also got in some work on his endurance, which may have suffered a bit over the winter.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

HT training day

Remington, VA

On Sunday, Laddie and I went to a training day with a club that focuses mostly on AKC Hunt Tests and NAHRA events, in contrast to the previous day, when we trained with a group running Field Trial setups.

Sunday's work consisted of a land series featuring a triple and three blinds, followed by a water series again featuring a triple and three blinds.  In each case, the three available blinds were scaled separately for Senior, Master, and Field Trial dogs, with no dog running more than two of them.

I was pleased with Laddie's marking.  He nailed all six marks, and in the water series, never seemed to consider cheating on the two marks that cut across coves despite the cold air and cold water (it's early February, after all).  Laddie also ran his two land blinds well.  He completed his two water blinds, but I think it would have required a generous judge to call him back on either of them.

While I was pleased to have the opportunity to run Laddie with a group, even on set-ups that were scaled for a Hunt Test, I was also pleased to have the chance to "run" the advanced group.  That is, I got to design the setups, and run the line, for both series.  For the land series, it was just the Senior/Master dogs, including a few dogs who, like, Laddie, will be running in Field Trials this year.  For the water series, instead of a separate novice group, all the dogs ran together, so the setups needed to include versions for dogs at an even wider spectrum of levels.  Some of the other trainers had great suggestions on how we could provide versions for the different levels, and I thought we ended up with good challenges for all the dogs in both series.

It was great fun.


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