Weather conditions: partly sunny, low 80s, NW winds around 15 mph with gusts up to 25 mph. With little rain in our region over the last few weeks, the field was hard and dusty.
Since I've been running Laddie almost exclusively on water series for the last couple of weeks, and temps were fairly mild today, I thought I'd take him out with two assistants — William and his friend, whose name also happens to be Laddie — for some land work.
SERIES A. Land double
The first mark was on the left, thrown right to left into the wind and into a depression at 270 yards. The line to that mark included hills and ridges plus two diagonal dirt road crossings. A dirt road ran to the right of the gunner. The wind and road were intended as factors to push Laddie behind the gunner.
The second mark was on the right, thrown right to left into the wind at 180 yards. The intent was that it, too, should fall into a depression, but it was short and landed in plain sight on the ridge above. Again a dirt road ran to the right of the gunner, with the wind and road again intended to attract Laddie behind the gunner.
Laddie nailed the short mark, of course, since it was visible the whole way. Running the long mark, Laddie was on a line to run a little behind the gunner, but 50 yards short of the gunner, he suddenly cut left and ran over the road, over the ridge, and straight to the bumper.
SERIES B. Land triple with retired gun
The first mark was on the left, thrown right to left at 320 yards into a depression. The line to the mark was down a steep hill, across a large field made up of hard dirt, sparse, medium-height cover, and criss-crossing dirt roads, and up a series of terraced rises.
The second mark was nearly 180 degrees to the right, thrown left to right at 80 yards. The gunner was only partially visible, but gave an excellent throw so that Laddie could see the trajectory. The bumper then fell out of sight behind the same stand of cover that hid most of the gunner. The line to the fall was diagonally across a slope covered with sparse, high grass, down to an arcing dirt road, and then back up onto a rough embankment again covered with high grass.
The third "mark" was just me throwing a black bumper even further to the right, no gunshot. As Laddie was retrieving that bumper as the go-bird, the long gun was retiring behind an umbrella.
Laddie nailed the unusual second mark, doing a nice job of holding the slope rather than squaring it to run to either the top or the bottom. I couldn't see him pick up the bumper, but the gunner told me Laddie ran straight to it.
For the big, final mark, Laddie took a line too far to the right, I guess somewhat fooled by the similarity of that line to the one that would have taken him straight to the bumper. However, he veered more to the left as he ran, which took him up behind the gunner within 20 yards. I considered asking the gunner to help, but Laddie spotted the guy once he was behind him and the umbrella no longer concealed him, and Laddie then immediately changed direction and ran straight to the mark, even though it was in a depression and he couldn't see it until he got close.
I would have preferred if Laddie had stayed further left the entire time, but as I understand it, judges typically don't score a dog as behind (on the wrong side of) a gun if the gun is retired, and at that distance, with the tricky repeating pattern of the terrain, I thought it was a pretty good mark.
Also, the fact that he ran all day, including that big retired mark, without any hint of popping was excellent news.
SERIES C. Land blind
Series C consisted of a 350 yard blind. The line to the blind was down a steep incline, across meadowland combining hard dirt and sparse, dry cover, over a gravel mound, across additional meadowland, thru a tight keyhole at 330 yards, and to a 2" orange bumper planted in front of an orange lining pole. The keyhole actually consisted of three wooden construction stakes within a few feet of one another in a triangle. On the ground within that triangle lay another stake and a large rock, both of which would tend to act as obstacles against entering the triangle.
I usually use lining poles only as diversions these days, but in this case, the challenge was that Laddie might spot the pole from the near side of the keyhole, and go out of control, making it impossible to handle him thru the keyhole to get to the far side and the blind. In this situation, I wanted him to spot the lining pole once he got fairly close.
However, from the distance the stakes making up the keyhole, and the lining pole, did not present a particularly salient target, because several other stakes and poles stood elsewhere on the field at various distances in the same general direction, and I don't think the orange lining pole was particularly visible to a dog at distance.
As mentioned earlier, William videotaped Laddie's blind. I then had Laddie run the last few yards of the blind again so that William could videotape it at closer range, showing the keyhole and obstructions that Laddie had to navigate thru. Both videos follow.
My thoughts on how Laddie did running the blind:
- I was pleased all his handling, including his nice launch, his reasonably tight whistle sits (I don't require Laddie to actually sit as long as he stops and turns to face me), his accurate casts, and his good carries (rather than taking a cast and then scalloping back in the old direction).
- I didn't want him running over the high sections of gravel and sand for fear of an injury, and was pleased with his comfort level in running thru that area when cast into it.
- I thought he carried well when he was out of sight, so that when he reappeared he had not veered off line.
- Seeing the video with improved detail because of the zooming, I see now that Laddie actually went thru the triangle on an angle back the first time I sent him back at the end. When it was happening and without the benefit of a zoom lens, I couldn't see what had happened and thought that Laddie might have bypassed the triangle, so I stopped him, brought him back to the near side on the right, and then used small, silent "over" casts to send him first left a bit too far, then right, and finally on a straight back again. That last time, he seemed to be lined up well but managed to dart around the left of the triangle before I could react. I have no idea how a judge would score the overall blind, but to me, Laddie showed good control. I'm glad he accepted a come-in whistle to get him back in front of the triangle, but actually, in competition, I'm not sure that would be a good idea. The judge might think I was picking him up if I blew a come-in whistle. I need more understanding of how to correctly handle in that situation.