Friday, September 18, 2009

Ramblings on Ty's Progress in the Field

Ty has made such progress on her field work this summer. She's in the phase of training typically referred to as "Transition." This is the phase when a dog moves from a basically trained dog to one who you can handle on blinds, both land and water. The dog can also do more complicated marking set ups.

She ran her first cold land blinds on July 5, and has progressed to water blinds in the past month. I got some sage advice from Bunny Milliken after Gryff's and my 2nd Master test, which was to concentrate on water work until the weather gets too cold. Her biggest problem has been understanding that she should get in the water and swim, not get in and then turn around with confusion to look at me. While we still have a long way to go, the consistent work on simple water blinds is paying off.

Her ability to tread water was lacking, as was her ability to turn in a tight spot to face me. What really helped was taking Mitch White's advice, which was to hold a bumper in front of me, talking to her, shifting my weight from foot to foot, and swapping the bumper from hand to hand. I finally saw the look I wanted from her - staying in place, head lifted up out of the water with her ears up and her attention on me (well, probably the bumper, but that's okay!). Initially, she always turned clockwise when she would hear my sit whistle in the water (also her typical turning direction on land). Convincing her to take a right back after the too-large clockwise circles took a while. It still isn't easy to change her mind about where she's going once she's convinced she knows her destination, either on land or in the water. I would imagine that will be one of our long-term projects.

This spring, I realized that we needed to backtrack to help her to better understand the desired response to an e-collar correction. I had been tip-toeing around using the e-collar with her because her response to the corrections has always been different than Gryff's, and even a low-level correction could cause a too-dramatic reaction. In the past, I wouldn't usually see progress after a correction until the next day. It was almost as though she needed some time to think about it. With her increased understanding of what the corrections mean, I usually see improved effort within a couple of repetitions. This has also contributed to her progress.

I am finding it very interesting learning to handle her on blinds vs. handling Gryffin (he's my first handling dog). Timewise, he's about 3 years ahead of her in training, but because of my increased knowledge, she's had more exposure to advanced concepts than he did at a similar stage. My membership at Omega has also made a huge difference, simply because of the many varied training opportunities that the property presents.

Last year, I stopped field work in late August because of the need to gear up for the fall obedience trials. This year, I'm thinking about how to continue fitting at least some work so we don't lose too much of what we've all learned this summer.

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