With the UDX behind us (finally), and only the National obedience trial planned (June 1) between now and October, I'm focusing on field work for the most part with Gryff and Ty. My friend Corinne, who breeds and trains Tollers, has a hay field near her house we use. The owners cut down some scrubby bushes and made an impressively long brush pile earlier this week, with some places narrow enough for the dogs to jump over. We took advantage of it and set out a bumper pile 10-12 feet beyond one of the narrow places. I ended up having to call Ty over it because she seemed convinced that she couldn't possibly jump over it (this from a dog who leaps a baby gate with nary a thought). Once she realized she could, she was fine with it.
We've done pattern blinds in that field quite a bit (Corinne far more than me, naturally, living so close) (pattern blinds are blinds that you teach a dog via back chaining, usually in groups of 3, over several days). Gryff ran them some last year, Ty only a bit, since she was just getting to that stage last summer. When I was there 2 weeks ago, I ran Ty on the middle of the trio of blinds, which she did quite well. The right one presented more problems, because she REALLY wanted to go back to the left one. Yesterday, I started by teaching her how to navigate the brush pile blind, then put her up to rest. We came back out and started with the right pattern blind. On the first attempt to send her, she sat there (too much like a cold blind, which she's not ready for). We moved up a short distance. Then she veered to the left toward the middle blind. So we moved up some more. Finally, at about the 1/2 way point (I think it is about 120 yd blind total), it was like she went, "Oh THAT destination!" and headed in the correct direction. We then did the middle one from the top of the hill, then repeated the right one from near the top of the hill with fine success. Then we moved over to run the brush pile one. I think it's 150 yds from the top of the hill. We moved up some, but, if memory serves, I think she got herself all the way there and hopped the brush pile.
When I taught Gryff the brush pile blind, he wanted to go to the right (where the original pattern blind has been in the past), plus wanted to run around the right side of the pile. I used the e-collar on one sit, which seemed to wake him up. We ran the other two blinds as part of a blind drill (a mark in combination with a known blind), then reran the brush pile blind from the top of the hill. It was a two-whistle blind, and he made some excellent line corrections on both casts. It was really satisfying! There are times he responds to my casts by ping-pong-ing back and forth across the correct line (ugly and frustrating), so this on-the-money responses to my casts was fabulous to see.
I stopped at a pond on the way home for some water work (they were in the water for the first time this year last Sunday). Last year, Gryff had a HUGE amount of problems running a blind at a workshop in Ohio where he had to swim across a channel and then exit the water and run another 50 yds on land parallel to another leg of the pond. I got him across the channel reasonably quickly and out of the water, but could not get him to drive back along the shore - he seemed convinced he need to get back in the water. I found a local pond where I could reproduce this soon after that, and again had a lot of trouble. I'm happy to say he did quite a nice job on that concept yesterday. I put 3 bumpers at the end of the land dike, and after a successful first run, we moved to our left so that the line to the blind was gradually angling from left to right in the water this time. As he passed the right channel, he made a fairly obvious cut in to the shore (he often arcs/drifts right in the water, but this was a clear "oh, let's get to the shore" kind of move). We got a lot of practice on left back casts, but he was listening and responding pretty well. We finished with another move to the left so he had to do the initial part of the blind with a shore to his right.
With Ty, I worked on basic pile work across the narrow channel. After I tossed a bumper to ID the pile (so a mark), the next send was poor, but after that, she was doing a nice job. She didn't quite master treading water last year, but she was showing signs of being better at it yesterday.
I went home feeling really good about my dogs :-).