Friday, July 18, 2014

Club training day

One of the retriever clubs I belong to has occasional training days in which the offer separate hunt test and field trial groups. I brought Laddie to Sunday's training day and had the opportunity to run him on an all-age land triple and an all-age water blind.

As usual, each trainer/handler was free to use the triple-mark setup however they felt would best benefit their dog's training.

The triple consisted of a 260y mark on the right thrown RTL, a 160y mark on the center thrown LTR, and a 70y flyer on the left thrown LTR. The line to both memory birds was across a pond with an island.

I felt the most challenging way to run that would be with the center gun retired and the long gun out while the center mark was run, then retiring the long gun when the dog was coming back from the center mark. Based on regular training on land setups with my assistants, I felt Laddie had a good chance of being successful with such a setup and planned to run it that way.

However, I compared my thoughts with a friend who said he would run it a different way with his more experienced all-age dog, so I thought I should follow his suggestion. Accordingly, I left all the guns out until Laddie entered the pond on each of the memory birds and then retired that gun.

Laddie was steady watching the throws, did not swing his head, and had no trouble with the flyer. On both of the memory marks, Laddie took a good line until he entered the pond, but then veered right to square the bank of an island in the pond. Carrying that new line brought him up too far right on the far shore. For the middle mark, he then turned sharply left and ran straight to the bird, even though by then the gunner for that mark was retired while the long gun was still out. However, when coming out of the pond for the long gun, he continued on the wrong line for some distance, reached a dirt road, turned left onto the road to head in the correct direction, but began to hunt short. I called for the gunner to make himself visible and call "hey hey," and that was enough help for Laddie to complete his run to pick up the bird.

Although I could have handled Laddie in the pond as training not to veer off line and to help him be more successful on the marks, I felt it might do more harm then good, making popping more likely on future marks of similar difficulty. But I made a mental note that we needed to work on not changing course to square a bank.

Later on in the day, we ran the 180y water blind. It required a tight corridor and included four water entries plus a short, difficult page to the far bank only a yard or two from a side bank, and ended amidst a number of trees, a mound, and a final channel crossing all of which acted as suction to the right. Although Laddie handled satisfactorily on some of the challenges, the blind was over his head in overall difficulty.

We have done little training on water blinds since winter because of limited
time and access to technical water, and this blind confirmed that Laddie is not yet ready to be successful on all-age water blinds, or at least was not on this one.

It was a grueling, 12-hour day that included four hours of driving and working as the middle gunner for one shift in the hot sun. But it was just as valuable as I had hoped it would be as an opportunity to train on a great property, with other advanced dogs, on setups designed by an experienced all-age judge.

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