Yesterday the pros again set up tight doubles, one on land, one on water, both with converging throws.
Although Laddie did not need help on the land double, I was not pleased with his performance, since he needed a short hunt on the shorter mark and a long hunt, which took him behind the gun several times, on the longer mark. The terrain was hilly and the grass was fairly high, and with the lines to the marks so close together, I guess it was harder than I thought it would be. Some of the pros' dogs had as much of more difficulty, but some did not. I guess some have run that setup or similar ones far more often than Laddie, since they train on several setups every day and that's been nearly the only kind of setup I've seen these guys use in the three weeks I've trained with them so far.
When it was time for Laddie to run the water double as the last dog, the pro who gives me guidance was on the phone and couldn't tell me what he wanted me to run. But every single dog who had run that setup, whether as singles or a double had required at least one handle, and several had had a great deal of difficulty with one or the other of the marks. To be honest, I thought Laddie could run it as a double, even with the side throw some of the dogs were also getting, but I was pretty sure the pro would have wanted me to run it as singles (which I confirmed later), so I called for singles. Laddie nailed both marks.
Let me repeat that. Laddie nailed both marks, swam/ran without any sidewise movement, straight to each fall. Only dog to do that. Was this a competition? No. But it was, I admit, somewhat stressful to me that the pros did not say a word to me about it. Why wouldn't they make some comment about such exceptional marking?
One possibility was that Laddie's returns were both terrible. I'm requiring him to return on a direct route, and not only is he not trained to do that on water retrieves, he has many years of doing the opposite. That results in a difficult handling battle. It is no fun and is certainly not attractive. Hopefully he will eventually learn he has no choice and will quit trying to cheat on his returns, but till then, I have to keep handling him to prevent him being reinforced for a successful cheat. I'm pretty sure the pros find my approach on how to deal with this situation unsatisfactory.
At the end of the day, the pros set up a pair of water blinds just for the day trainers, not their own dogs. Laddie ran both water blinds relatively well, except that he vocalized on some of the casts. Because it was late in the day and I am feeling considerable tension with the pros, one of whom is not talking to me any more, I didn't take the extra time to call Laddie back for vocalizing but just ignored it. It wasn't affecting his behavior, it was just noise. I know it could hurt us with at least some judges, and as readers of this blog know, I invested many sessions last summer and fall working on nothing else. But yesterday did not seem to be the right time to deal with it in my way, even though I know that means Laddie was learning that it's OK to do it, digging the hole that much deeper again.
Training again today, then home for the weekend and some time with my darling wife.