My biggest takeaway from Day 1 of the 3.5 day Basic and Transition field training workshop with Mike Lardy was foundation, foundation, foundation. Just like in obedience (or piano lessons, for that matter), if your foundation if poor, it is hard to build advanced skills. The seminar started with a short amount of lecture, then we moved over to watch several advanced dogs running land marks in preparation for the weekend's field trials. Once those dogs were done, some simplified marks were set up, and all 10 participants dogs ran the 3 marks. This gave Mike a chance to "make book" on the dogs' issues. We then went to "the yard" for some obedience work and some other yard drills. We finished the day with the Swim-by drill with a couple of dogs.
Purina sponsored a BBQ dinner right at Mike's property, and there was a drawing for a bunch of donated gear. Remarkably, my name was drawn first, and I made a beeline to one of the 4 heeling sticks. I had a heeling stick, but lost it last fall on my final training day at Omega Farms. A heeling stick is similar to a riding crop used with horses. I found it incredibly helpful in getting both Gryff and Ty under much better off-leash control during advanced field work, and have been meaning to order a new one so I could get Sonic used to it. I have seen heeling sticks used in ways that at least appear downright abusive. I don't plan to use it that way, don't worry.
It turns out all but 2 people won something. I felt badly for those 2.
Before the dinner, Dee Dee Rose threw some simple marks for Sonic. She didn't return to me on the 1st one, but instead went to Dee Dee because I forgot to get her attention with the extra bumper that I had remembered to keep with me. After that, she returned nicely. I took each dog out individually after that and did 'Stand Alone' marks, where you leave the dog in a sit stay, walk out however far you want to go, throw a mark, and release the dog to retrieve it from out in the field. I've done these with both Gryff and Ty for several years after reading about it in the Retrievers On Line magazine. Dennis Voight, editor of RoL, is in Florida to train for the winter, and gave a presentation at the end of the day's seminar presentation about using Stand Alones for training by yourself. It was great to meet Denise at the party. Sonic did a very simple version of this on my long flexi.
Today, the morning was devoted to more obedience and yard drills, finishing the morning with more swim-by for the two dogs from Day 1. It was good to see all the dogs making progress. The afternoon was devoted to water marks and some of the transition water drills, with a land tune-up drill Mike demoed with one of his Advanced dogs. We were very fortunate to not get rained on today other than a tiny bit of sprinkles at the end of the afternoon, when the win picked up and the temperature dropped a bunch.
Dee Dee threw several marks for each dog before we came back to the motel room. Except for dashing off to see the nice man in the white coat faaaaar across the field (I wasn't aware he was there, shame on me) when I got Sonic out for her turn, it was quite successful. The final mark she ran was 80-85 yds in length, and she did have to do some hunting, since we were not on mowed grass. She really seems to be getting the idea of the simple mechanics of the job. Very satisfying!
When we got back to the motel, I put Sonic on a long line and we worked field-related obedience in the motel parking lot for 10-15 minutes, including walking (vs. heeling) on each side, doing sit stays, recalls, whistle sits on her return to me, finishes to heel position and to a sit at my right side. I'm going to make the attempt to have Sonic be a two-sided dog. I feel pretty awkward with her on my right, but I'm gonna try. I was very pleased with her work.
Here's Sonic's articles from last night - Day 4 of Week 3.
Tonight we started Week 4, and it went just fine. In week 4, 4 of the 7 retrieves have the cheesed article with the cheese down instead of up, so she had to use her nose instead of her eyes to find the right one. Correct on all counts!