Sunday, June 16, 2013

Water blind and land triples with flyers

I got to have Lumi with me last night, and this morning, I left the house at 5am with Laddie and her to pick up four ducks in Cheltenham.

Since my friend Tony had done such a nice job of having the ducks in a crate ready to be picked up, we had plenty of time for the next leg of our journey. So I asked Tony to suggest a Master water blind, and he pointed out a line to a peninsula with points tight on both sides. Turned out to be too easy. Laddie lined it and didn't even vocalize. Good for confidence anyway.

At 9am we met Dave and two assistants. First Laddie ran an xmas-tree land triple with the flyer as the go-bird. The memory birds were both under the arc of the flyer go-bird (Dave calls that a wipe-out bird), and formed a reverse hip-pocket, with the memory guns hidden behind hay bails. On top of that, the duck calls for the two dead birds thrown first weren't audible, and the pistol shots weren't much louder, so Laddie didn't get too much of a look at them, of course also much more interested in the flyer than the bumpers being thrown for the memory birds.

Yet he was steady for the throws, then nailed the flyer and the left bird, with a short hunt for the center long mark.

One of the assistants then ran Lumi while I honored with Laddie. We had a double made up of the long mark and the flyer, which landed 30y in front of Laddie. To increase difficulty on the honor, I stood on Laddie's left rather than where I usually stand when honoring, on his right, and that meant he was between me and Lumi, potentially reducing my influence compared to having me between them. Perhaps even more challenging, Lumi had to run across Laddie's field of vision, just a few yards away, when released for the flyer. I had cautioned the assistant that Lumi's personality would change when that flyer was thrown, but Lumi still got away from her as soon as the bird was down. Laddie just sat and watched like a good boy.

The second land triple was also an xmas-tree, this time with an out-of-order flyer as the second mark. The #1 and #3 formed a hip- pocket in the opposite direction as the flyer, so Laddie had to look well away from the flyer to watch the first throw, then watch the nearby flyer, then swing nearly 180 degrees to watch the go-bird. However, the assistants did a better job sounding their duck calls, and each fired twice before throwing, plus we used dead birds for those marks. Laddie got a good look at all the marks, remained steady till sent, and nailed all three marks in the reverse order of the throws.

Laddie again remained sitting for the honor, as Lumi watched an out-of-order double and then went straight for the flyer, ignoring the go-bird.

Of course the level of excitement is higher at an event, but I think we've fine a reasonable job of preparing Laddie to be steady at our Master test next Friday. We'll see.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Land blinds in the rain

For some time now, I've stopped recording most routine training sessions. However, this week, I just wanted to record our training in preparation for the Qual on Friday, so I or others can look back on it in the future.

Today I probably would have run Laddie on big land triples if I could have, but I was only able to line up one assistant. So I decided to run Laddie on Qual-level land blinds. I asked my assistant to watch our work closely, and let me know if she saw Laddie slip any whistles or go the wrong way on any casts. It's surprisingly difficult to remember those things when you look back on a blind, even just a few seconds after it's done. Videos are great, though a bit tricky at FT distances. Anyway, an assistant is one way to get the data, assuming she understood what I was asking her to do.

The first blind was 140y, with a tight keyhole thru a gap in a cluster of bushes at 120y out. The second blind was 220y, over diagonal inclines, declines, and ridges, then thru a line of shrubby cover. The third blind was 230y, diagonally crossing a dirt road and the aligned terrain on either side of it, with a wrap on the left at 180y that the dog could veer behind and out of sight.

Laddie, who is an excellent lining dog, had little difficulty with any of today's blinds. When I lined him up the keyhole and sent him "back", he did try to veer around the outside of the shrub cluster at the last moment, but I stopped him in time, repositioned him in front of the obstacle, and then he took the cast into the gap. He two-whistled the second blind. The wrap never became a factor in the third blind because he chose to stay on the other side of the line most of the time.

Unfortunately, neither I nor my assistant are proficient enough in the ways of Qual judges to know for sure that Laddie would have been called back from each of those blinds. That's another example of the fact that, no matter how good your dog is, training without experienced field trial trainers is such a huge disadvantage competing against the better dogs in a stake.


Sunday, June 9, 2013


This morning, Laddie had his third recent session with flyers, once again thanks to my friend Dave getting birds and then shooting
for us. In this case he got four pigeons, and also brought along an assistant to help us.

I ran Laddie on a tab, as I have for weeks, and today I brought along Lumi. That gave Laddie a dog to honor, and gave Lumi a chance to be excited out of her gourd and do her favorite thing in the world, retrieve flyers.

Series A was a flyer single at 25y, first Laddie, then Lumi with Laddie honoring.

Series B was an out-of-order double, with Dave shooting the flyer at 25y and then the assistant throwing a white bumper at 45y. Dave significantly added to the level of difficulty, by watching the pigeon as circled and the bringing it down 10y in front of Laddie. Laddie was still able to pick up the go-bird bumper first - a good job with his flyer lying just a few yards away. I then ran Laddie on a 200+y blind featuring a cast over a steeplechase fence in the last 20y. He then honored Lumi running the flyer as a single (we only had one assistant), Dave again patiently dropping the only a few yards from both dogs.

In both series, I had Laddie run the more difficult honor, between me and the working dog so that I was out of his field of vision when the working dog was sent, rather than with me between them.

Today Laddie showed what I wanted with the flyers: the intensity needed for high quality marking, yet an ability to stay seated till sent as working dog, and to stay seated and not break as honor dog.

A few more sessions like this, and I think Laddie will be ready to try another Master test.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Land triples

Although I've decided to focus on Master tests for Laddie, I did enter him in a Qual for next Friday. In preparation, we went out with three assistants to a nearby new construction site to run a couple if land triples.

The terrain for both series was similar: hilly, large patches of high cover, steep inclines and declines, diagonal ridges, ditches, and diagonal dirt road crossings. However, the triples had two different characters.

Series A was big and wide open, with all the guns left out. Laddie nailed the first and third, while needing a big hunt for the difficult center mark. I did not call for help, giving him an opportunity to hunt up the bumper himself, hopefully reinforcing a frustrating performance carried out without a pop.

Series B was completely different. The distances were shorter, the angles were tighter, and the picture was more difficult, with the memory birds converging and both retired. Laddie nailed the gop-bird and the center mark, then took a wide line to the long mark and circled right in on it.

This seemed like good prep for our Qual next Friday. I hope so. Laddie seemed to be having a great time, anyway.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Active weekend

Between long hours of work and temps in the 90s, Laddie and I had little opportunity to train this last week. But we made up for it on the weekend.

On Saturday (yesterday), we participated at club training day. I got to lead the advanced group, and we ran two setups. They were intended for dogs training for Master, but some of the blinds may have been a bit harder than typical Master blinds.

The first series was a walk-up land triple, with the second two marks 180 degrees apart and thrown into high cover. The setup had three blinds available: (1) 40y into cover, to the right of the rightmost mark, (2) 160y on a line between the center mark and the mark on the right, with an angle entry into high conver at the end, and (3) a difficult 110y blind with the line across a corner of high cover on the left, then under the arc of the leftmost mark, then diagonally across a mowed strip with an angle entry into high cover on the right.

The second series was a water triple. The first mark, in the center, was on a line past a point on the right, then past a point on the left, then to the vicinity in the water of a third point. The throw was supposed to be in reeds, but neither the original thrower, nor I when I relieved him, managed to put a single bird into the reeds, we always overthrew. After that mark was thrown, the second bird splashed down between the near shoreline and reeds 20y from the start line, an unusual competition fall worth giving the dogs some experience with. Finally, the go-bird was a cheaty mark on the left with a sharp angle entry.

The water series had two available blinds. One was to the right of the cheaty go-bird, so still a bit cheaty. The longer blind was the most difficult blind of the day; one of the trainers said it was more like an all-age blind than a Master or Qual blind. The start line was on the same shore as the one for the triple, but some distance to the side. The line was between the same two points as the long first mark of the triple, then thru the area of that fall (that is, past another point on the right), then up onto a fourth point, and finally another ten yards inland. So the blind featured several chances to lose the dog on either side of the narrow corridor.

After yesterday's work, Laddie and I got home after 6pm, and this morning we were back on the road before 5am. Arriving at our group location before the other teams, I ran Laddie on a 180y blind that required him to jump over an overturned canoe at 50y, then make a difficult water entry at 140y.

When the group leader arrived, he set up a triple intended to be run as three singles and modified as appropriate for each dog. Each mark was up-the-shore at the right edge of one of the ponds, with the wind blowing LTR. Because I had another training appointment (see below), I ran Laddie on the two outer marks, shortening them and changing the angle on the last one, which featured a swim diagonally across a channel, then a re-entry to a pond for the up-the-shore throw.

After I ran Laddie on those two marks, I made my apologies and drove Laddie half an hour to a steeplechase course. There I had arranged to meet my friend Dave, who brought two ducks and two assistants. We ran two triples with the flyer at close range, Laddie as usual wearing a tab, which enabled me to prevent him from breaking. For the first triple, the flyer was thrown as the go-bird. For the second triple, the flyer was thrown second, while the go-bird was thrown 180 degrees away on the left. The center mark, thrown first from behind a tree, on a line only a few degrees to the left of the gunner with the flyer, was difficult because Laddie, naturally, was focused on the guy with the live duck. In fact, I wasn't sure Laddie had seen the first throw, so I stopped the series and requested that we start again. It turns out that at least the second time, he did watch the throw, then quickly shifted his gaze to the flyer. Maybe that's what he had done the first time as well.

After we completed our training with Dave and his friends, Laddie and I drove back to the earlier location, where they were running the last dog on the series I described above. At my request, they let me run Laddie on the last mark again.

To end the day, the group leader set up three marks, all about 200y, again to be run as singles but with all the throwers standing the entire time. They were all within a 30 degree angle, but presented three separate concepts: the first was an obvious land single run to the left of the edge of a pond. The third was an obvious water mark, run across the center of the pond. In between was a cheaty water mark, featuring a run thru high cover so that when the dog emerged, she had to choose immediately whether to take the water entry in front of her or veer off and run the bank on the left.

After our three hour drive home, I rinsed Laddie off with the hose and dried him with the power drier, and at last our weekend of work was over.


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