Saturday, March 28, 2015

Triples with embedded blinds

When I left the house to pick up three assistants for local training on land this afternoon, it was sunny but we were nonetheless having a light snowfall. It was below freezing and with a stiff wind, the wind chill was 20 degrees. Just sayin'.

Anyway, we ran two series that were similar but run in different orientations on the field.

Series A. Land triple with embedded blind.

First throw was on the left, thrown LTR at 220y. Second throw was on the right, thrown RTL at 180y. Third throw was in center, thrown RTL at 110y. Gunner for the third throw was in line with the fall of the second throw, a configuration called a reverse hip-pocket. Blind was at 230y on a line under the arc of the third throw, and I had Laddie run the blind after the first two marks but before picking up the long mark.

Series B. Land triple with embedded blind.

The configuration of the gunners and throws, and the distances of the retrieves, were about the same as for Series A, but the blind was behind (to the left of) the first gun. Also, the line to the second fall was thru a diagonal strip of high cover.

For both series, Laddie's performance was good all day, except that on the last mark of Series B, which he ran after running the blind, he took a line too far to the outside and, about 30y from the mark, which was thrown into cover, he apparently became confused and turned around to sit and face me. This was an unusual pop in that he just sat there staring at me for a long time, even though I never moved a muscle. Typically, when Laddie pops, as with other dogs I've seen, if the handler doesn't move, the dog turns away and starts hunting within a few seconds. But Laddie didn't do that for perhaps 30 seconds. Eventually he finally did, and found the bumper with a short hunt.

I'm not sure why his behavior was unusual on this occasion. These days I usually call "Sit", then walk out to pick Laddie up and rerun him on the mark when he pops, which has become fairly rare, thank goodness. But I'm having considerable pain in one of my legs, so today I followed the more usual protocol I've seen handlers use for a dog popping, which is to just freeze and not give the dog any response at all. The goal of that tactic is to not reinforce the pop in hopes that the behavior will become less probable in the future, though I haven't noticed that effect with Laddie over the years I've tried various things since popping crept into his game. Picking him up seemed to be more effective. Most effective, however, as I've described before, I believe, is to train with fake throws, so that Laddie gets accelerated experience with confusing situations that he can successfully solve without popping.

By the way, another reason for not responding to a pop, besides the fact that it may reinforce it and make future pops more probable, is that, in the case of a marked retrieve in an event, if you just stand there, the dog is graded down only for a pop, but if you handle the dog out of the pop, the retrieve becomes a handled retrieve, more costly to the dog's score.

I'd have preferred to end the day on a mark run where no pop had occurred, but it was a good day of training in difficult weather and I think all the humans were happy to get out of the cold.

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