Today Laddie and I had an opportunity to train with a field trial group. The dogs were at a wide range of levels, so people ran each of the two series differently depending on their dogs. Here I'll describe them the way Laddie ran them.
Series A (all land). Double blind with poison bird
First a duck was thrown RTL at 40y. Then, having Laddie change sides to help him understand he should leave the "poison" bird alone, I ran Laddie on a 120y blind on the right of (behind) the gun. Next I sent Laddie to pick up the poison bird. Finally, I ran Laddie on a 150y blind under the arc of the earlier throw.
Primary factors for the blinds were angle entries into medium high cover and diagonal slope traversals.
Laddie did a nice job on this series. I was particularly pleased with his initial line on the second blind, which took him close to the gun positioned atop a narrow curving raised path, requiring Laddie to take a good initial line and then hold it on the curving slope under the arc of the previously thrown bird.
I believe Laddie needed only two or three whistles for each of the blinds, though that could be faulty memory on my part.
Series B. Land/water quad
The first mark was on the right, thrown RTL at 180y over land. The second mark was inside the leftmost gun, thrown RTL at 160y. The line to this mark consisted of a long downhill land segment, a water segment with three points for the dog to go either over or around, and a final uphill land segment. The third mark was inside the rightmost gun, thrown LTR at 110y over land, the throw converging with #1. The forth mark was on the left, thrown LTR at 80y back and into the pond and accompanied by a popper cartridge shot by a shotgun rather than blank pistols as used for the other guns. #4 converged with #2.
I asked the three memory guns to retire when I sent Laddie to #4.
I had Laddie pick up the marks in the reverse order thrown. He started by nailing #4 and #3. He then took a nice line to #2 on land and a nice entry into the pond. He held his line between points on both sides but then, instead of navigating around the final point on the right as I would have preferred, he held his line, which took him over that point. He started to continue on to the back side of the point, but suddenly darted to the right and behind some reeds, attempting to run the bank of the last inlet. I blew a prolonged series of tweets till he came back into sight, then cast into open water to the outside of the point, enabling him to complete the swim to the far shore. He then ran straight to the bird, which was harder than it sounds; most dogs needed to hunt for that mark.
Although I normally let Laddie run the bank on returns, virtually no one else does and I decided to have him swim all the way back. At midpoint he seemed to become distracted, dropping the bumper and starting to swim toward me without it. However he instantly responded when I called "Fetch". He had another lapse on the return uphill -- he dropped the bumper and began to roll on it, I guess trying to dry off and give himself a back massage at the same time. I knew that would be a serious and disqualifying fault in an event. I instantly called "Get up", which he did, but then he started toward me without the bumper, so I again had to call "Fetch".
Finally I lined Laddie up on #1, the long retired mark on the right. Based on his body language, he seemed to remember it, though we rarely run quads and all the guns were retired. Indeed, he took a good line the first 140y, that is, to the bottom of a shallow ditch, the same ditch that the converging #3 had been thrown into. At that point, Laddie lost his bearings and began to hunt, then suddenly darted toward the old fall of #3, at which point I called for help from the #1 gunner.
That completed Laddie's work on Series B, and despite my detailed description of his faults, this was one of the most difficult versions, if not the most difficult version, of the way the various dogs ran this series, and Laddie showed his good marking ability throughout, even with all the memory birds retired, with the exception of having apparently forgotten the distance of #1. In retrospect, I might have been able to help him by saying "way back" before sending him if I'd realized that might happen. Granted he tried to run the bank for the water re-entry during #2, but as another trainer commented, he seemed to remember where the fall was and might well have run straight to it after running around the inlet if I had not handled him.
After everyone had run and all the equipment was sorted out, one of the trainers was kind enough to help me with one last retrieve for Laddie. Namely, I had Laddie rerun just the water segment of #2., with the thrower using a silent throw. I was pleased to see that this time, Laddie swam between the first two points as before, but around the final point rather than over it, completing the entire swim without difficulty. He then picked up the bumper and completed the return swim, again without difficulty, rather than getting distracted halfway back.
Too bad he hadn't run the water segment that way the first time, but I guess that's why we have to continue training. Like any other field dog I guess.