Yesterday was the last day of the five-day retriever workshop Laddie and I were attending this week. Here's what we did:
- A water-blind tune-up drill consisting of five blinds. As in other tune-up drills I've seen the pro set up, each blind had a different start line and a different bumper placement, but all went thru roughly the same area, and all were highly technical, meaning that the dog had to run a narrow corridor with any number of factors such as logs to jump over and key holes to go thru. This was Laddie's third time running this particular setup, so like some of the other advanced dogs, we used start lines that were further back than the standard ones. Laddie's barking on initial casts has gotten worse during the workshop, and I decided not to handle him on his returns, but aside from that, he did good, solid work.
- A big land quad in a step valley with a flyer, which only one dog actually ran as a quad. Laddie, like the other advanced dogs, ran it as a big single with guns out, a retired double with flyer go-bird, and another big single, this one with the gun retired. Laddie didn't need help on any of the marks, but he needed a big hunt on the memory bird of the double. He nailed the flyer and the physically challenging last single and had a small hunt on the first single. It was another good series for him.
- A multiple-blind setup. Like the other big dogs, Laddie ran two long blinds, tight and with similar designs: down a steep hill, across a small pond, up a steep hill over variable terrain including a plowed field, and into a sparsely wooded area continuing on a steep ascent. Like some of the other dogs, Laddie had a pop on the highest, steepest, furthest section of the longer blind, but other than that had another nice series.
After five days of watching all the dogs who were still there (some didn't stay for all five days, so that only six dogs remained till the end), the pro offered some summary thoughts to each of the handlers. The pro saw Laddie at four workshops last year, one interrupted by a pull to Laddie's iliopsoas, and he said this was the best he's seen Laddie. Like some of the other trainers, the pro said Laddie looked like a young dog despite having turned 9yo last month, and he pointed out that Laddie was running difficult series in this session that he would not have been able to do successfully last year. Like others who have watched Laddie work, he again remarked that Laddie's performance was amazing given my unusual training approach. And he gave me a list of things for both Laddie and me to work on, such as Laddie's barking, my casts sometimes before Laddie is ready, and my loss of composure sometimes when things go wrong during a retrieve.
I appreciated the summary, one last element of another wonderful and invaluable workshop. I've been wondering if Laddie is ready to begin running trials again. I guess he is.