Sunday, February 24, 2013

Convergent memory-birds at Byron's farm

This morning, Laddie and I trained with the same FT group again, this time at Byron's farm. I'm so grateful we're having opportunities to train with other FT trainers again.

Today we ran a long key-hole blind, then an FT-scale triple, then a Master-scale triple complete with duck calls and hidden guns, and finally another FT-scale triple — this time in indent configuration, around the horn with the middle gun retired — with two more key-hole triples, one Master-scale and outside the triple, the other FT-scale and behind the middle gun.

Between yesterday and today, I noticed something that for some reason I haven't really appreciated in the past: what a difficult concept convergent memory-birds within a triple or quad can be. I think it seems to be especially difficult if the two marks are different distances and within a relatively tight angle, but not in line.

I also noticed that retiring the short gun makes it worse, assuming you want the dog to pick the short mark first. The reason I say this is that with the long gunner visible, the dog is likely to select the long mark as the first one to run. But if you want the judges to see your dog nail every mark, depending on the wind, you may not want the dog to head for the long mark first, because the dog might suddenly change direction on the way out because of catching sight or scent of the short bird. So the dog needs to learn to pick up the short mark first in that picture.

In addition, I think retiring the longer gun may actually make setups like those easier. Leaving the long gun out makes it more likely the dog will "lie", that is, take an initial line as sent to the retired mark but then, catching sight of the long gunner, swerve over in that direction.

Convergent memory-birds: Definitely something for us to work on.

NOTE: Although I highlighted convergent memory-marks in this post, I guess any setup featuring relatively tight memory-birds with the short gun retired is worth working on, and having the longer gun retired in those situations makes the setup easier for the same reason as mentioned above.

Training group at Bobby's farm

I was invited to train with the same FT group as last time again. Yay! Will be training with them again tomorrow, too, at another location.

Notes, in no particular order:

- One of the other trainers follows my blog, it seems, and commented on the radio that it was surprising Laddie had not been Force Fetched, with his good grabs of the ducks.That was nice to hear. Plus, another trainer then came up to me and said,"He wasn't forced?" When I told him how Laddie and Lumi were trained, he seemed genuinely surprised and pleased. This friendly reaction from a traditional trainer was a nice moment of reward for all that my dogs and I have been thru, and a tribute to my mentors, Alice and Jody, as well.

- For some reason, the others ran all singles on each setup, whereas I had Laddie run two triples before the ABCD drill at the end.

- First series was a biggish but easy triple, plus a Senior-scale blind outside the left gun (go-bird) and a 330y blind down the middle with two points of woods on the left as wraps. Only one other dog tried the big blind and did in fact get sucked behind the first point, then went OOC. Laddie ran last. I had him watch the three throws, then ran him on the short blind, which he lined. Then he nailed the three marks, and finally two-whistled the long blind. Sounds good, right? But we had one huge flaw: Laddie became very noisy when I called him off the go-bird to run the blind. Despite the otherwise high quality work, I know now that some judges would have penalized that noise.

- The second triple plus long, under-the-arc blind, with the 2nd, rightmost gun retired, went ok except for two problems (!): Laddie popped on the long middle memory-bird, and then (like all but one of the other dogs) hooked the gun. I wish I knew what confused him and the others so we could practice it, but to me it looked like a simple, longish mark on flat ground. Although Laddie took an excellent initial line, I guess he didn't actually remember the fall, so I guess the pop and the hook were just two symptoms with the same cause. But while almost all of the other dogs apparently were also confused about where they were going, Laddie was the only one who popped. Then again, he was the only one not running singles.

- A female who had been in heat in JAN was present. Laddie was greatly distracted and needed to be urged to get his noise up and watch the throws on all the series. I don't know how much that might have caused some of his performance troubles.

I hope I'm wrong, but Laddie may be nearing the end of his career. I don't seem able to fix either the popping or the vocalizing, and both would seem to condemn him to a ceiling of Qual JAMs. Not ready to quit yet, of course, but out of ideas.

Overnight temps will continue to be in the 30s in NC, where Laddie's trial will be on FRI. Still sub-freezing here, so if he makes it to water in the trial, it will be first time in the water since his last trial in the fall. I signed him up on the closing date as the 8th dog, but afterwards, a couple of pros entered their strings, and we ended up with 21 dogs. They've probably been practicing in the south and have been swimming all winter. Laddie will have his work cut out for him.

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