Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tune-up blinds, land blinds, water blind, re-entries

[Note: If I'm going to continue to record every Laddie retrieve, or even most of them, I have to be careful not to take too much time.  This post, for example, took nearly two hours to write, even though I tried my best to be brief. The risk of continuing to need so much time for these posts is that either I'll record less, or that at some unconscious level I'll reduce Laddie's training to save time later needed to record.]

Yesterday afternoon I drove Laddie to a good friend's property, to train with a group that included a pro who was staying there overnight on way with 20+ dogs to a field trial further north. It was a sunny day with temps in the 50s and 60s.

When Laddie and I got there, they had already run a set of marks with a flyer. They were now running an all-age-level double blind thru the old falls from the marks.

While others were still running their dogs, I took Laddie to an unoccupied area to air him and to run three tune-up blinds. Each was 100y or more, and each featured one or more tight keyholes. On two of them, Laddie was a bit slow on his whistle sits, resulting in Walk Outs. He stopped on a dime for all his whistles on the third blind.

I then ran Laddie on the double double land blind, with a gallery watching. Both blinds were 300y+ to a pile of bumpers. Each one went down a hill, thru a tree line at 180y, and back up another slope. The left blind, which everyone was running first, was more difficult, because a crate of live birds sat at the tree line, a little to the left of the line to the blind, and then a holding blind, behind which was a bag of birds, was further up the hill, again on the left of the line to the blind.

Before Laddie ran, the pro graciously mentioned to me that Laddie would be running a more difficult series than the others had, because he hadn't run the marks and therefore would not benefit from an advanced dog's tendency to stay away from old falls.

Laddie ran both blinds reasonably well: He took good, long initial lines; in general he had good, tight whistle sits; he had relatively little trouble being cast back on line when pulled left to the live birds and then the holding blind; he took all the keyholes; his overall blinds were within a narrow corridor; and he never vocalized. He did slip one cast around the bird crate, and I called out Sit, which he did. With all those other trainers present, I decided not to take the time to walk out, but just continued the blind. As for the second blind, he two-whistled it.

The other trainers told me that it was one of the best performances on that series that day, perhaps even more meaningful because of the pro's observation about Laddie not having seen the marks. I assume, however, that the verbal Sit would have prevented us from being called back in a trial.

The group then moved to a different location, where the pro set up a 180y qual-level water blind. The blind featured a long land section, an angled water entry, a point of land on the right that the dog needed to swim past despite a section of running-depth water near the point, a second point of land also on the right that the dog needed to get up onto, a cove behind the second point shaped to create suction to the right, and a short land section leading to a pile of birds on the side of a mound.

In addition, the pro stationed a gunner off line to the right of the line to the blind, at the base of the second of the two points, and for those handlers (including me) who requested it, the gunner would sluice the water toward in front of the point after the dog was lined up to run, similar to a diversion shot but with more suction, since the dog could see the splash from the sluice and could think that a duck might have been thrown near the line to the blind.

Laddie could have lined the blind to the second point, but I felt he was too wide of the first point based on the standards I learned at the seminar, so I handled him toward it, yet was still able to stop him and straighten him out before he got onto it, which I thought was a pretty good bit of work. Laddie then had a good line to the second point, but as he approached he began to veer left, and rather than letting him think he could swim around it, which would be his preference, I whistled and cast him onto it. He then had good momentum over the point, and I think he would have been fine if I'd let him continue without handling, but the pro had commented earlier that in a trial he would always handle a dog to the left when the dog was about to exit over the point, rather than try to rely on momentum and watch the dog come up on land to the right a few seconds later. Accordingly, I did stop Laddie on the point and cast him off with an angle left. He took the cast with his usual exuberance, but he went straight back toward the blind rather than to the left. We ended the blind with a little more handling to minimize hunting as Laddie got close to the birds. The pro commented that it was impressive to see Laddie sit after he was able to wind the birds.

This was a fairly routine water blind for Laddie, and he ran it well except that he vocalized several times, both as he entered the water on his own and also on a couple of the earlier casts. The pro told me that some judges would have had a problem with it while others would have ignored it.

That ended the group's day, but I took Laddie back to the pond for a three poorman water marks, each featuring an initial cheating angle-entry across one cove, then a strip of land, and then another cheating angle-entry across a second cove (the re-entry), with the line to the fall only a few yards from land as Laddie swam across the coves. To my pleasant surprise, Laddie took every entry well, never showing any tendency to veer off line and never requiring a handle.

I then dried him off and we made the drive home.

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