Sunday, September 19, 2010

Town & Country Camp Ground pond blinds

I attended AKC obedience and rally judges seminar this weekend in West Salem, Ohio, hosted by Linda & Mike MacDonald, long time obedience competitors. I had another enjoyable camping experience at the Town & Country Camp Ground that's all of about 1/4 mile down the road from their property. Lo and behold, there was a great big flat and closely mowed field right across from the camp site I selected that worked great for the Walking Baseball field drill I did Saturday morning. There were also several ponds on the grounds. I asked at the check-in office if it was okay to swim the dogs, and was told it was okay. So, when the seminar finished Saturday afternoon, I headed back to the campgrounds and did some training. When I got home, I looked the campgrounds up on Google maps and grabbed the pond photo to make my diagrams. I love the internet!

On Saturday, I did these blinds with Gryff:

Blinds 1 & 2 had a similar theme of cross open water and then parallel the shore. As expected, he kept wanting to cut in to the shore on Blind 1. Pretty ugly, in fact. Blind 2 was better, but it was also further off shore. On Blind 3, he tried for the point instead of going past it. There was a tree about a yard to the left of the blind, and once past the point, he swam straight for a long time, seemingly marking off the tree.

And these with Ty:

I put a pile of bumpers at spot X for her, and did it multiple times from different spots along the shoreline from which the shorter line originates. We finished up with the long blind. The blue zig-zag is an approximation of her path to the blind. LOTS of trying to go to the right shore. It was quite a struggle. Once she got beyond the point on the right, it smoothed out.

Today, I did these two technical blinds with Gryff:

I taught him the blinds via back-chaining, starting at position 1, then moving back to position 2, then ended by running the whole thing 2-3 times from position 3. His cheating tendency, especially when there is a shoreline to his right, showed up on blind 1 when starting from position 2. He wanted to veer right to take a bit more land instead of the desired entry near 1. Then when we'd backed up to position 3, he kept trying to land early and enter water late. The photo doesn't show the Gazebo that was between pos 1 & 2, to his right as he ran the blind.

He had a lot of trouble on blind 2 exiting the water near position 2 and taking a straight line across the land to reenter the water. We've done a fair bit of decheating lately, and I think he was being overly honest. But once out, he'd take a line like he was going to run around the left end of the 2nd portion of water.

Today, I did this series of blinds with Ty:

I was really pleased with her effort today. She does continue to want to enter the water in the same place, which means if we move down the shore, she veers. I stopped her and called her back to try again. I did some moving up. Once, I had her stay and walked forward and showed her the entry point. On her last blind, which was essentially a repeat from Saturday, she leapt in with enthusiasm, and did a very nice job. The photo doesn't show the fountain that was spouting, nor the 3 geese swimming off to the shore at the top of the photo :-). Whereas she kept heading for the right shore on Saturday, today she seemed to be heading for the fountain, then the geese, but then corrected and did most of the 85 yd blind without intervention. Bravo, Ty!

The biggest downside? They smell like a swamp. But what valuable training it was!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The rare combination of Ch OTCh MH

Earlier this year, when Gryffin earned Master pass #3, an email friend told me that his Toller was only the 5th retriever in AKC history to have earned the special combination of Ch OTCh MH. That has been in the back of my head ever since, but I didn't want to jinx myself and do any research myself before Gryffin finished.

In the past week, I've corresponded with John about this rare achievement. He said the AKC was unable to verify without spending a boatload of money for reports. Not the way to go. It would seem that Gryffin has joined these dogs:

Two Golden Retrievers:
(someone sent me who the other dog is, but I can't find it)

Two previous Flat-Coats, both owned by Paulette Schwartzendrubber:
CH OTCH Hob-B's Knite Ryder, MH , WCX
CH OTCH MACH Clisocha Big Tyme Hob-B, UDX, MH, MX, MXJ, WCX

One Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, owned by John and Marie Simon:
Ch OTCh Westerlea's Sir Edumnd UDX3 OM1 MH WCX

So with Gryffin joining Paulette's two Flat-Coats, that puts Flat-Coats in the lead for the most in this elite club.

I think it makes him a one-in-a-million dog :-). And I'm especially proud that I have done all of the training and exhibiting to all of these titles.

Master pass #6 for Gryffin

I'm writing this from the Chain O' Lakes campground, where the dogs and I camped the past two nights. We're having a leisurely morning before heading home.

I got up way early on Friday morning (had to teach until 9 pm Thursday), hit the road at 5:30 AM, and was at the test site by a bit after 8 AM, for the Friday Master test at the Backwater Retriever Club. We were running under Dan & Peggy Ramsey. I've run Dan's tests numerous times, to Peggy for the 1st time back in July (pass #4). They seem to put on very reasonable tests, and are really pulling for the dogs. And they both really like Gryffin :-).

Most of the tests for the weekend were near Albion, Indiana, where our field events were held for the National this year. Because of the big entry, the Master flight (division) I was in was held in Topeka, IN, which based on the large number of horse and buggies, is a large Amish community. If my info is right, the test site is owned by Amish people, which means it can't be used on Sundays. The site was an old gravel pit, and frankly, a bit of a junk yard, but it was nice to be in one place - with a porta potti - and not have to drive around at all.

The test started with a land triple, double blind, and an honor. We were in a flat field that had clearly been carved out of the land in the past. It had fairly steep sides on the left and back. The first mark came from a gun station up on top of the cliff to the left - kinda cool, I've never had a mark come from way up high like that. It landed conveniently next to a small mound, which gave me a good land mark to remember (I'm a terrible marker - it's why I appreciate my dogs' abilities). The 2nd one came from the middle of the field and landed behind the large patch of taller cover in the center of the field. The 3rd was a shot flier from the right side of the field. Gryff was his usual Steady Eddie self, grabbed up the flier, having to hunt a bit on the center bird, and going right to the bird by the mound. The shorter blind was to the left of the tall cliff, cleverly tucked into a little pocket with trees and bushes and a hill behind it. He went almost al the way to it on my initial send (yeah, Gryff) and had just a couple little handles at the end. He essentially lined the longer blind, which was between the left and middle stations. His honor was rock solid, as usual.

The 2nd series was a walk-up (walking to the line, the first bird goes off while you are still in motion) water double with a blind. What was unusual was that we had a 2nd flier - never had that before. The flier came out of a station on the left shore, and instead of landing about in the middle of the pond, it was hit late, and landed where the 2nd bird was supposed to land. So we had a 'no bird'. I put him back in his crate and waited for 3 dogs to run (as is typically a good idea). One of the skills that I realize I don't ever practice is coming out of a holding blind and having to stop to pick up the handler gun. I frequently carry one out of the holding blind, but the stopping to pick it up while maintaining control needs some work. I need to come up with a gun stand in order to do so. I got some ideas from some friends at the test.

So on our rerun, the flier was shot correctly, and the other bird came out and landed farther to the left than where the no bird one had landed. This meant the two birds were pretty close together. As he swam out for the right bird, he looked longingly over at the high-floating flier. He ducked in behind the bush where the no bird one had landed, but fairly promptly came up with the bird. No problem on the 2nd one.

The blind was set up so that it was under the arc of the flier. This is one of the scenarios I drilled with him quite a bit in August, and wow, did the work pay off... I lined him up, gave him his cues, and he locked on and swam right to it. Very proud training moment! This time, there was no doubt in my mind that we would go on to the 3rd series.

My training partner Corinne was running her Toller Neon in just their 2nd Master test (1st pass back in July), but in the other flight. At the end of the day, she really didn't think she'd get called back, but between me and one other person, we convinced her that staying when you haven't passed is much better than leaving if you have. Turns out to have been a good choice, since they nailed the last series and got their 2nd pass.

I got to the test site earlier than planned, which turns out to have been good, since they called for test dog almost as soon as I arrived. It was a land/water triple, really fun little test. We ran from back in the woods, looking out across two ponds separated by a narrow dike. The first bird came out left to right across the ponds, landing in the back corner. The 2nd one came out of the woods to the left across the right side of the closer pond, landing cleverly in a patch of leaves, which very effectively camouflaged the duck. The final bird came out of the first gun station, but came straight at us.

We had to sit on a bucket as the birds went down, and during the handler briefing, Dan had shown where he would put it if he was running a dog, but said we could put it anywhere we wanted. After how inattentive Gryff had been on the walkup the day before, I was very pleased when he came out of the blind with me and lo and behold, did a very fine sit stay while I moved the bucket and picked up the gun. The apprentice judge even made a note about his fine line manners for that one! When I sent him on the go bird, he leapt into the water with a big squeal of delight, something I don't remember him doing in a test since he was 16 months old in his first WC test. He got right out to the first bird. I sent him for the shorter right one next. He got out and veered left, almost as though he wanted to peek over the hill to see if that middle one was still there. He had to hunt a bit for the bird that was hidden in the leaves, but his nose won. When I sent him for the middle bird, he took a nice line to the dike, but then hunted to the left. He then ran back along the dike and around the right side of the pond, cheating black heart that he is. He quickly found his bird, ran back around the edge, but when he got to the dike, he ran back along it until he was straight in front of me, jumped in and returned. A small spurt of consciousness?

I got hugs from both judges before leaving the line, since they weren't going to be at the awards that evening. it was great to know before the ribbon ceremony that we'd passed :-).

So that is our 2nd of the needed 6 passes to qualify for the 2011 Master National. It sure was a fun test, and though I was somewhat nervous, nothing like when going for the title. Kind of like after you get your final OTCh points, suddenly, you are hard to beat :-).

Ty ran her last Senior test and was fairly awful. Makes me doubly glad she titled last weekend! I ended up calling her in on the land blind because she was totally ignoring my whistle sits and casts. In fact, I ended up walking out to her to put her leash on her, since she wouldn't come. I think that got her attention!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Dream Realized

Today, I accomplished a goal that seemed like an impossible dream early in Gryffin's life. I think it was my dear departed friend Leslie Reichard who first planted the seed... CH OTCH MH. I poo-pooed the idea. I think she even suggested that before Gryff had his JH. I had done the first two titles with 3 other dogs. But an MH? Naw, too far fetched. Leslie was nuts! I couldn't possibly. I'd never even earned a JH on a dog, let alone anything higher.

Back in January this year, we reached the pinnacle of obedience, and my jolly boy completed the requirements to become my 5th OTCh dog. So, I set my sights on reaching that impossible dream. We had earned 2 of the 5 passes required for the title in 2009. Could we get three more? It became my #1 goal for 2010. We earned leg #3 at the FCRSA Specialty. We failed our next test, but I learned a critical lesson. At $70-75 an entry for a Master test, believe me, you remember the lesson when you do something dumb! We earned leg #4 in July. Last weekend, we failed again. Granted, it was on the toughest test we'd been in, but still... Add to that Ty's failure in Senior, and we had our 1st double flunko weekend. I was SO disappointed Sunday. I thought a lot about an essay I wrote early in 2009 about dealing with disappointment. Although we still had several more tests we could enter this fall, I wasn't sure I could maintain the training schedule. I pushed myself to train this past week,
and we had a lot of up and down sessions, especially for Ty. Friday, I tried to remind myself to concentrate on Gryff's successes instead of dwelling on Ty's poor work.

Gryff got through the first series yesterday without having to handle on one of the marks that many people DID have to handle on. While his blind wasn't 1st class, it was okay. The 2nd series had me nervous. He again did the two marks (a double with the very close 2nd bird a 'wiper bird', i.e., one thrown across the line to the 1st one to wipe out the dog's memory) without any handling from me (the generally preferred method), but the 2nd half of the 1st water blind was not very good. Okay, it stunk! The 2nd one was very nice, though.

So we went home exhausted late last night with no real idea of whether or not we'd passed. I arrived back at Omega about as the 2nd series was wrapping up, hoping we hadn't made the trip in vain. And we made it through to the 3rd series!!! Yippee, another chance!
The final series was a water triple on a pond on which we had failed two 3rd series last year. We've trained on it a lot this year, which has it's good points and bad. He got the left go bird promptly, but had a looooong hunt for the right bird that was thrown on the right end of an island. To his credit, he stayed tight in the area of the fall, but geeze, did it give me a racing heart, trying to make sure I was ready to help him if he got too far off! I had my whistle in my mouth, but having seen several handlers need to handle on the long middle mark, I didn't want to use it up on the right bird. When I took delivery of that right bird, he looked out up the middle, and locked on the spot where the middle bird had landed. I gave him a loud GRYFFIN to send him and he rocketed out and almost immediately snatched up that bird. Oh how sweet it was!

So my dear, wonderful, jolly, goofy boy is now:

Ch OTCh Grousemoor Gryffindor UDX RE MH WCX

Thanks, Leslie, for planting that seed so many years ago. I sure wish you could have been here to see it realized, but somehow, I think you know.

Adele & Gryffin CH OTCH MH

Ty's 4th SH pass

I'm very happy to report that Ty earned her 4th Senior Hunter pass at yesterday's Michigan Flyways test @ Omega Farms, and is now:

Ch Grousemoor Timeless CDX *SH* RE WCX

Her land series work was simply superb, probably the best overall she's had in a test. We had to do a walk up to the flier as a single, then run the blind behind the flier station, then do a double to the right of the flier station. While I didn't watch close to all the dogs in Senior, of those I watched, her marking was the best. I actually saw a lot of handlers having to handle on their marks. Her initial line to her blind was fabulous, carrying her 3/4 of the way to the blind before the slope of the hillside, the mound of dirt, and the flier station all sucked her down the hill. That was so exciting! And then she went and 'stepped on' both birds in the double.

After the week we've had training water (mostly really, really frustratingly poor), I figured the only way we could possibly do a passing water blind was if the destination was one she had been to in the past. We got very lucky :-). We were on the heart-shaped pond. The line was on the north hill. The memory bird was just on the shoreline on the east side of the pond, and the go-bird into the north east corner of the pond. She got the go bird very nicely. After taking delivery, she didn't quite wait for me to send her, but headed off enthusiastically. She got into the water, but then turned back to check. I kept my mouth closed, and she figured it out. She started hunting to the left of the gun station (fairly common), and suddenly headed back along the shore towards the go bird location. Shades of last week when I stood and watched her run all the way back to the go bird location! I blew a whistle tardily just as she got behind the very high grass on the shoreline and she disappeared. I was sure she would pop out near the go bird, when suddenly she appeared out of the corn up the hill from the duck. I'm not sure how well she was really responding to my come-in whistles, but she did get there pretty quickly once she appeared out of the corn.

The water blind was to a point on the opposite shore. When we did this blind 2 weeks ago, there was also a gun station on shore to the right which had sucked her in badly. The start was shaky at best, which didn't surprise me in the least, but a light bulb went on and she got going in the generally right direction. The end wasn't beautiful, but it was successful. We had to honor to complete the test, and she watched the next dog's birds go off with great interest, but remained steady.

I was thrilled to complete her title under two Flat-Coat owners, Clint Catledge and Ed Zawodny.

Next step for her? Attempt to build her water confidence on blinds! Oh, and that pesky UD title yet to be earned...