Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Drill Work

I went back to the Ann Arbor airport today for drill work. I ran the middle and left pattern blinds with Ty, which went quite nicely. Then we tried the right one. She was convinced that she needed to go to the middle one again. I eventually got her to the right one, but it was really ugly. I sent her back to the left one, then tried the right one again. Ugly again. Somewhere during one of those ugly blinds, I used a small e-collar correction, which seemed to get her going again.

I put her away and set up my two launchers, aiming for in-line marks, with the launchers to either side of the line to the right blind. Since I still don't estimate the length of launch (ridiculously long for a bumper) very well, the farther away one ended up under the arc of the closer one. I decided to start with poison bird blinds with Gryffin. I launched the closer mark, called him off that and sent him to the left blind. He needed just one whistle to get the blind correctly (it helps a lot that he's run these blinds several times in the past week - a LOT). He picked up the mark eagerly. Then I launched the farther away launcher, called him off and ran him to the middle blind (behind the closer launcher). He did veer to the right after passing the launcher, but handled reasonably quickly to the blind, then picked up the mark. He finished up running the right blind.

I got Ty back out and ran the two marks and then reran all 3 blinds. I moved up quite a bit for the right one, given her problems earlier, and it went much better. I had Gryff run the marks as a double and do the right blind.

I moved to another area and set up the Split-Y drill that I did with Gryff on Thursday. This was Ty's first try. I used our white trash cans to mark the piles, and started to teach her about angle back casts. I had to stop her several times the first try at each direction, and call her back in a few times because she was getting too close to the middle pile, but subsequent tries were better. She's running some nice, straight lines. I had Gryff do just a bit of this drill (to finish picking up the bumpers) and called it a day.

Sure was nice to have sunshine today instead of a steady downpour!

Thursday Water Work

We headed over to the Pardee's pond in Concord yesterday for some water work. It was starting to sprinkle when we got there and we had a steady downpour towards the end of our session.

We started out with 3 blinds. The first was across two points with another between to go past, with the bumpers on another bump out from the right side of the pond. The points were high enough that we lost the dogs behind, and both dogs who ran it sucked to the right shore while out of sight. The second blind was across the right corner of the swim-by area of the bond and a nice run up the hill to a round hay bale. I was picky about the line across the corner of the pond and handled a couple of times to good results. Couple more whistles to the hay bale. The final one was a blind placed in a spot we'd run to the previous visit, but from the north side of the pond instead of the east side. The line to the blind was alongside one of the points (point on dog's left) and past an island. Gryff got in but veered right away from the land, I think getting sucked in by the 1st blind's location. The point was not the distraction I thought it would be.

I did some swim-by work with Ty, and she was timid about it. It occurs to me that working her in chilly water may not be enhancing our work :-/. She did gain some confidence, but it was nowhere near as good as the last session at Jane's pond.

Next we did a few marks. I did one across an island with both dogs. Ty had a no go :-(.

I ran a land blind with both dogs that we'd run the previous visit, now much easier to get to since the hay had been cut on much of the field around the pond.

My friends left at that point. I set up a couple of white cans to do some sight blinds with Ty. One was angling up hill, the other was a somewhat rolling one. She is showing signs of understanding the idea of going to a different place than she just went.

I finished up with an Split Y drill with Gryffin - center pile in front of a tree with two white cans beyond, one on each side of the tree. Lots of fun casting variations to play around with, especially angle backs. Gryff really seems to love doing pile drills - he drives harder and harder as we go along.

My new rainsuit mostly worked... considering how hard it was raining, I came through reasonably dry.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Pattern Blinds

Pattern blinds are a set of blinds, usually in sets of 3, that you teach your dog one at a time over the course of several days to help them learn to run long, straight lines.

While I have taught Ty several blinds this spring, and she's done some blind drills last year and this spring, I haven't really done a set of 3 blinds consistently. With the progress I saw during our trip out east, I was eager to get serious about some pattern blinds with her.

I decided going to the Ann Arbor Airport property was a good bet. It's only about 3 miles from home, and there are actually 3 different areas I can potentially use for pattern blinds. I taught her the first one (the left of the 3) on Sunday. It went pretty well. Then I set up a launcher and ran a mark and then all 3 blinds with Gryffin. He had a TERRIBLE time :-\. He was convinced he had to go back to the mark. Now, this is NOT a new concept for him. Clearly, he needs more work on it!

I got Ty back out, let her run the mark and then redid the blind. It was a pretty messy affair, too, but she did eventually get to the blind bumper.

We squeezed in a short session yesterday morning (had to be short because of horsing around getting the flat tire fixed...). Ty did fine on the blind she'd learned Sunday, and then I taught her the loooong right one (I think it's 180-200 yds). We finished up running the left and then the right again. She's still fuzzy about switching between different blinds, but is improving. I ran the blinds with Gryff (no time for the launcher) with somewhat better results than Sunday.

Today I taught Ty the 3rd of 3 pattern blinds. I'm really happy with her progress.I ran the left and right ones with her first, then taught her the center one, then reran the outside ones again. I'm pleased with how well she's stopping on my whistle and mostly taking good casts. She seems to be getting the idea to change direction when I stop her. Then I put out a launcher for Gryff, ran the center blind, did the mark, then ran the outside blinds, then the center one (under the arc). He did much better than on Sunday, though still interested in going back to the mark's location. Then I finished up rerunning the center blind with Ty past the launcher, then did the mark and the two outside blinds. It's cool seeing the many weeks/months of basic work starting to gel for her. I plan to go back on Friday for another session, maybe even with both of my launchers out.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Finding training places

Yesterday morning, before leaving the Super 8 motel for home, I did some drill work with the dogs behind the motel. There was a nice hillside on which I did some T work, to give them some work driving up a hill, as well as doing overs across the face of the hill. Then I did a longish but otherwise uninteresting sight blind (one with a white trash can marking the end of it) with Ty, which went well.

I finished up with a connect-the-dots blind with Gryff. The pictures show the blind. There is a corner of a gravel parking lot (complete with a school bus), followed by a dried up pond bed that was about a foot lower than the surrounding grass, with some weeds in it (the higher cover you can see beyond the gravel), followed by having to go by the large bush on the right. I had the white trash can out for Ty.

With a connect-the-dot blind, you leave the dog at the line and go to a point along the blind where the dog is likely to veer, and call them to that point and then resit them. Then you go to the next likely point of confusion and call the dog to that spot, and continue to do this until you are close enough to the end of the blind to send the dog to retrieve. Then you sit the dog at the end and teach them the return path in a similar way. I left Gryff and called him to the first edge of the pond bed, then left him there and went to the other side and called him there. Then I sent him to the blind from there. When I resent him from the baseline, he went nicely into the pond bed, but started veering right (away from the weeds), so I stopped him and cast him. It was a fun little blind to run with some interesting factors.

I tried something similar with Ty, but it was too much for her - she kept wanting to veer to the right of the weeds in the pond bed and she was having confidence issues when I was trying to cast her, so I moved the white can and bumpers closer, to the far edge of the pond bed. That worked much better for her.

This workout was great to get in with them before starting the long drive home.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

WCX test

I spent Friday at the National's WCX test in Eastern Connecticut, running and successfully completing the test with Gryffin. Ty couldn't run because of coming in season, which is too bad because she's the one who hasn't ever run one before. Gryff passed a couple of WCX's at least 3 years ago (1 pass is all it takes to earn the title), but failed the two we have run since then.

Normally, our WCX test consists of a triple on land with distances of 60 & 80 yds for the outside marks and 100 yds for the center mark, and if I'm remembering right, normally all 3 marks are thrown in the same direction, either left to right or right to left. Yesterday's set up didn't look like that at all :-). The flier station was the long one and was on the left, going right to left. The middle station was the short one, going left to right, and the right station was the middle distance, also left to right, with a road to cross. I was actually happy to see that set up for Gryff, because I think it was more like what I will likely see in a Master test, which is what we're really aiming for.

I had a nice compliment from one of the judges - when I stepped out of the last holding blind to go to the line, I had Gryff sit before proceeding to the line, which helps with control and also gives him a chance to have a brief look at what's out in the field. She said that is a good idea to do that.

In spite of my heart going like a trip hammer (this was our first test in a year), I took my time and did my best to make sure Gryff was looking where he needed to be before sending him for each duck. He was nice and steady at the line, always a pleasure to see. He did have to hunt for a while on each bird, but stayed in the appropriate area well. One of the judges said something about an intelligent hunt on the last bird, using what little wind there was to help himself come up with the duck.

We finished the land triple at 9:30 AM (we were about 1/4 way through the group of 36 dogs) but didn't run water until 3:30 :-(. The judges had to wait to finish the land series for several exhibitors who were running in other stakes, and then they changed the water test twice before settling on the one we ran. We had a no bird on our first trip to the line. This means that something happens to make the test not fair - sometimes a gun doesn't fire right, or a launcher doesn't release, which is what happened for us.

The test consisted of a water double, with the memory bird landing with a splash in some reeds just in front of a large flat rock to our left. The go bird was tossed off a point of land on our right in open water. Gryff had a nice straight swim and return with that bird. I got him facing the rock for the memory bird, and sent him off. He was on a great line until about half way out, did a head check towards the go-bird station, then veered towards the island that was to the right of where the memory bird had landed. He swam between a couple of big rocks near the island, then hooked in to the left and came up with the bird pretty promptly. We finished up with an honor sitting on the road above where we'd run from closer to the water.

I hung around to watch a few more friends run and to visit just a bit more, then left to head west about 5:30, though the test was far from over. I wanted to get some miles under my belt before needing to stop. We ended up spending the night in Amsterdam, NY at the Super 8 there.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Day 2 of obedience at the 2009 FCRSA National

On Tuesday, I showed Gryffin in Versatility, where he earned a leg towards that new title. We had to do the Novice Heel on Leash & Figure 8, the Novice Recall, the Retrieve on Flat, the Broad Jump, the Moving Stand, and the Directed Retrieve. He got 2nd place in the class, 1/2 point behind Chris Van Byssum and Eagle.

Next up was Brace. Gryffin was kind of blah in both classes, and didn't start on the Figure 8 for some reason. I got all the way to the end of his leash before I really realized he was stuck, so had to give another command. On the start of the 2nd 8, I got smart and said, "Gryff heel" since Ty was chugging right along. The 2nd one was much better. The off-leash heeling went very nicely, garnering nice comments from judge Tibby Chase. On the recall, on my "Dogs come!" command, Ty rocketed in and Gryff sat like a lump. When I realized he wasn't moving, I gave a come signal to Gryffin, at which point Ty dropped :-). This video doesn't show all that. Ty had come into a nice front by the time Gryff arrived. He fortunately came to the correct side of Ty. Their finish was not so great, but at least they were both there to do it . We were 2nd of the two braces thanks to the recall. Here's a link to the YouTube video of our performance.

Team was a hoot, as it usually is. We had really good heeling & Figure 8s, but Ty sat during the SFE, and only two of our dogs did the recall correctly. All 4 dogs on the first place team did the drop exercise correctly. For those who haven't seen the exercise, all handlers leave together, and then one at a time, call and drop their dog about half way. Then all call their dogs to front at the same time, and then finish on the judge's command. It is the make-or-break exercise, typically. One of the teams first handler called and got all four dogs at once :-). Anyhow, we ended up with 2nd place and had a lot of fun.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

2009 FCRSA Obedience Day #1

Day 1 of the FCRSA National for me included Utility B with Gryffin and Open B with both dogs. The day dawned chilly and breezy but bright and sunny. Gryff was scheduled to go 4th in Utility, with the class starting at 9:00 AM. The first 3 dogs all Q'ed, which can be a good omen or a bad one :-).

Gryff had a nice solid performance - very much how he performs inside - and won the class with a 195.5, good for 6 more OTCh points (his total is 88 now). The UB ring was pretty decent, with ruts only in one corner. Of course, we had to heel into and out of that corner, and that's where glove 3 was placed, fortunately not in the rut, but on the grass above it. We did have to do the fast up hill, and that was also the go-out direction.

Open B was scheduled to start at 10:45, but didn't actually start until 11:30. Ty had very nice individuals EXCEPT for the Retrieve over the High Jump. I accept 75% of the blame for that, because my throw was not very long, and it bounced a bit to the left. She jumped out, picked it up, turned left, and 2.5 strides later, was past the jump. It didn't look like it even occurred to her that she was wrong. I was far more disappointed with myself than with her. But she was in good company - all 7 dogs in the first group NQ'ed the individuals! Ack. We petitioned the judge to skip the stays altogether, but he wouldn't go along with it :-). Ty held her sit stay (hurray!), but when the boy dog next to her came over and invited her to dance, she accepted the invitation. Oh, well. The judge said he would be willing to rejudge her, but since Gryff was in the one and only later group, I declined.

Gryffin was as poor in Open B as he'd been solid in Utility. He did a sit on recall, had a hideously long sniff instead of retrieving over the high jump (this in spite of me hollering FETCH... NO! FETCH... GRYFFIN GET IN HERE! etc. to absolutely no response). I was admittedly really PO'ed at the boy. I actually had enough time to wonder if he was going to pee :-(. Thanks god he didn't! And to cap it off, he went down on his sit stay. However, a very bright spot for the stays was that he was next to my friend Chris's neutered male Eagle and never looked twice at him. Two years ago, Gryffin was next to Eagle, fell in love with him, and broke the down stay to visit him. Ten months later, when we got together to train, Gryffin had not forgotten his unrequited love. Neutering is a wonderful thing :-).

HIT went to Chris McCluer and her OTCh Remington Twelve Gauge Shot Gun OA NAJ, with a 198.5 from Open B, and HC went to my friend Chris Van Byssum with her boy Eagle.

Last night was the annual Ring of Honor, in which special dogs are honored. Past winners of BISS, BOSS, HIT, and our Steady Singles competition are invited, as are new and former inductees into our Hall of Fame. Since both of my dogs have won a Specialty HIT, they were both included.

Today is for fun - Versatility with Gryffin to start us off, then Brace with the pair of them, and then Team this afternoon with Ty. Unfortunately, it's shaping up to be a much warmer day, darn it, but at least all stays will be in sight and shorter!