Thursday, July 9, 2015

Five blinds at golf course (with photos)

Yesterday afternoon, Laddie and I again ran blinds, all in the range 150-200y, at the nearby defunct golf course. Here are notes and photos of the five blinds we ran. In each pair of photos, one photo is at normal focus to show distance, and one is at zoom focus to show more detail of the later part of the blind.

#1 Water blind with long land segment, angle entry, and line close to point

The land entry for this blind was much longer than any qual water blind I've seen, but the water segment was fairly typical, in that it involved a shoreline swim that ran close to, but not over, a point of land. Judges will typically not call back dogs that stay clear of the point; the whole reason for setting up the blind that way is to see whether the handler can maintain control, and keep the dog off the point, while keeping the dog on the line to the blind, which means a close approach to the point.

Other challenges for some dogs involve getting the dog into the water in the first place, rather than running around the pond, and having the dog swim out into the first section of water rather than hugging the bank, but Laddie took a good cast into the water. However, once in the water, Laddie veered a bit to the right, characteristically for him so that he could stay away from the point. When he got almost even with the point, I blew my whistle and cast him left toward the point. Then, just as he got close, I stopped him again and cast him straight back, making another adjustment or two near the end. Based on my experience, Laddie ran a high quality blind here.

I guess some dogs will run a blind like this in a trial by swimming on a straight line past the point, and some will run toward the point and then be handled out and past it once they get close. However, handling the dog from the outside toward the point and then stopping him just before he reaches it, as I did with Laddie, seems to be a reasonable strategy at least at the qual level, since it shows the control the judges want to see. I don't know for sure about all-age judging, but I think the same applies.

#2 Keyhole blind

The challenge on this blind was that the keyhole was a long way from the start line, further than any qual keyhole I've seen. Laddie ran this with two whistles, both in the first half of the blind. If he had shown any tendency to miss the keyhole I would have stopped him, but he took a confident line right thru it. 

#3 Land blind under tree limbs and over fallen branch

I've never seen a qual blind that went under a low-hanging tree branch, but it seemed like a good handling challenge, and the fallen branch further back is somewhat like some obstacles I've seen.

Usually if Laddie is going to have a slow sit, it's at the beginning of the day's session, but Laddie had tight sits until the first sit on this blind, which was a bit slow. I walked out to pick him up and ran him again, and then he ran it well.

#4 Land blind over log and thru double keyhole next to treeline

For some reason this was easily the most difficult blind of the day. Laddie had a lot of difficulty jumping over the log that occurred early in the set up, trying repeatedly to run around it. And then, once he made it to the area of the keyholes beside the treeline, twice he veered outside one of the keyholes at the last moment, prompting me to call him back to the start line to try again. On his third try once he jumped over the log, he ran the rest of the blind well.

#5 Water blind onto point with horizontal re-entry

This blind was typical of the qual water blinds I've seen: a swim to a point of land, then a water re-entry and a swim across a second section of water to the blind at or near the far bank. 

This is also the configuration where Laddie is most likely to vocalize, but I was most pleased that Laddie didn't make a sound running this blind.

Laddie ran the first water segment in a way that was unusual for him: He made no effort to swim around the point, but instead took a straight line to the tip of the point and climbed up. There I stopped him with a whistle to prevent him from continuing into the water on the other side.

The reason for stopping him was that I think it's risky for a handler to let a dog disappear on the far side of a point of land and hope that when the dog comes back in sight, the dog will still be on line. The risk is that instead, once the dog is out of sight behind the land, the dog will follow the curve of the land around and show up in shallow water next to shore, or possibly even climb up onto shore.

To avoid that risk, my approach, which I think is the same as most trainers and handlers for dog's at Laddie's level, is to stop him once he's on the point and then cast him off the end of the point into open water. Once he's in the water, I then stop him again and handle him straight back to the blind. As far as I know, qual judges consider that a satisfactory, and perhaps preferred, way to run such a blind. Again, I'm not sure about all-age judging.

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