Today was a potpourri of four setups:
- Two tune-up blinds, both 150-200y, both with a steep uphill segment, and both ending with a potential wrap around a section of woods. Laddie did a good job on both, with no need to walk out for slow sits (the main point of our tune-up drills) and solid casting.
- A poison bird single: First a 300y+ land single was thrown, with a difficult line over a crest where the dog would lose sight of the fall for about half the distance. But before Laddie could run that, first I had to run him on a land blind a few degrees to the left and almost as long. While he was running the blind, the gunner for the mark retired. Laddie did ok on the blind, but he took a wide initial line, unusual for him but perhaps because the mark had just been thrown. When he got back, he had forgotten the mark, again unusual but it was a tough setup. The pro had the gunner come out for a moment, then retire again, and then Laddie had no trouble with it.
- A retired land double. As is usual with these pros, this was a tight, concentric double. The first throw was on the left, thrown LTR at 300y+. It was the same long mark from the previous series, and again retired. The second throw was on the right, thrown RTL at 100y. Laddie flat out nailed both marks.
- A water mark and a water blind. Although the mark had the potential for cheating around the bank, only one dog attempted that, and Laddie nailed it. The primary purpose of the mark was, as I understand it, to create suction in the direction of the mark when running the blind, which was run on a tight angle to the right of the mark, as usual with these pros to create a trap for some of the dogs to return to the old fall and be corrected. The line to the blind was over a wide point of land with a tree on it. To create additional challenges for the dog, duck feathers were spread around on the point and a bundle of bumpers was placed at the four of the tree, creating more suction to the left since the line to the blind was on the right of the tree. After Laddie nailed the mark, I sent him on the blind and he took a great initial line down the hill, across the first water segment, up onto the point, and past the tree. I then blew the whistle and cast him straight back and into the second water, and he carried that cast straight to the blind on the far shore. The pros and another day trainer were highly complimentary, since some of the dogs had a great deal of difficulty with that blind. One of the pros said, "I think he would have lined it." I jokingly replied, "Someone told me I'd get a zero if I didn't blow the whistle." But that wasn't it. I later commented to the other pro that I've discovered that I'm better off stoppjng Laddie while he's still on the correct line, and cast him straight back, if I think the situation is such that he might be about to veer off, rather than trying to line it and having to save it if he gets into trouble, in this case potentially disappearing behind the point and coming up on the side shore. I was pleased that the pro responded with the comment that one whistle wasn't going to make a difference in the placements, and he'd blow that whistle every time. :0)
It might seem that today was a pretty good day, and from a training point of view, I'd say it was. But emotionally it was quite hard. I find it difficult to read the pros, and constantly feel off balance, as if they find me alien. Of course they probably do, both for cultural reasons and also because of the differences in our approaches to training. It's hard to describe the chemistry, but I can't seem to break the ice with them. This is often the case for me, so it's not surprising, but working with them day after day amplifies the effect. On top of that, a casual chat at the end of the day brought out their opinion that Laddie will never achieve QAA. Not just that he's not ready now, but that he never will be.
Sigh. Ah well, how long have people been telling me what Lumi and Laddie would never be able to do? Yet we've broken thru a lot of those can't-be-done barriers anyway. Maybe this time everyone will be right and Laddie, trained without force, will never get QAA. But I'm not ready to concede defeat yet.
And meanwhile, training with these guys is a fantastic benefit, whatever the psychological price I might be paying.