I sent a post for yesterday's training, but forgot to send a post describing the previous day's training with the same group but on a different property.
So on Saturday, Laddie and I had the opportunity to train on three simulated all-age setups: a quad, a triple, and two blinds. Except for the first two marks of the quad, which Laddie ran as a double with the long gun retired like almost all the other dogs, these were all land/water retrieves starting and ending with land segments and crossing water, in the form of technical pond or canals, as many as four times.
I requested that the two water marks of the quad be thrown as a double, but Laddie tried to run the bank on the first mark, so by the time he got back, I wasn't confident he had a clear memory of the second one. Since that one also tested water honesty, I wanted to be sure he had a clear picture of the line to the bird so I had it thrown again. When he ran it, he drifted too far left for the first water entry and I blew a sit whistle, not realizing he was just about to leap in the water. As soon as he landed he veered away from the shore and back toward the correct line. That put me in a dilemma: Do I stop him because he slipped the whistle and take the chance he interprets it as a correction to his current correct performance, or do I let it go? I decided to let it go and in retrospect am reasonably happy with that decision. He was then the only dog running from the unmodified start line, I believe, who correctly swam past a point in mid-pond rather than climbing onto it, and was also one of the only dogs to run straight to the bird after reaching the shore, requiring no hunt.
The big triple consisted of two marks across the same pond, one toward the left of the pond and one toward the right, and thrown as converging marks, plus a separate mark off to the side requiring several water and knoll crossings, ending with a swim between two points.
The most advanced dogs were running the setup as a double (the converging marks) and a single with the gun retired, using a gunshot and a short throw into a nearby pond by a fourth gunner, mostly to give the long gun a chance to retire, but also as a breaking test.
That's how I also planned to run Laddie, but he looked away from the long mark too soon so I sent him immediately without calling for the second mark. He nailed that first mark, one of the only dogs, maybe the only dog, to do so. He needed a hunt when we ran the other of the two converging marks as a single, but it was still one of the better performances on that mark. Finally, he ran the retired mark with the little pond setup throw without help taking a perfect line to the final land segment and found the bird with a small hunt. I believe that was the best performance on that mark of the day.
I then tried to run Laddie on the longer of the two water blinds, but I could not get him across a cove without him cheating and did not want to let him finish and could not move up to him across the intervening channels, so I just called him in and ran him on the shorter blind, a mirror image of the longer one and only a few degrees to the left, but with a shorter final land segment and somewhat easier factors. Laddie completed that but not with the level of accuracy or control that would get called back in a trial.
So all in all, the day was an excellent opportunity to take stock of some of Laddie's strengths and weaknesses as we continue to prepare for all-age competition someday in the future.