On Wednesday and Thursday (Feb 27/28), I joined Mitch White's training group. On Wednesday, training consisted of 3 singles on land for each girl: medium, short, long. We did a mind-blowing Influential lining drill (18 buckets - 8 is the most I've used).
I did a final water-force session with Sonic (well, I hope it's the final one :-)). Then swim-by work with Little, whistle sits in water with both (Sonic hasn't figured out how to tread water yet, but she is turning and focusing on me pretty promptly). Ended the day with 3 water marks for each. First was across about 40 yds of water, up over a sizable dike into another small bit of water. There were cheating possibilities, but neither fell for them. Second one was out near a bunch of posts in the water. I did the 3rd one from up a hillside with a long log at the water's edge, which they both handled a bit clumsily but without trying to cheat around it.
Thursday's training: 2 land marks up hill, the left one behind or just in front of a long log, the right one with several patches of brushy cover to go through (or dodge around as several dogs did). We also attempted - and succeeded at - a land blind for which they had to go through some more of that brushy cover. A cold blind for each of them! I had to move up, but I was quite pleased, given their lack of exposure to casting into cover. Did the marks as a taught double with both girls. Neither did very well. Reran later and both did well on the rerun. Moved to water and did a taught in-line double. Long mark was beyond a whole string of fence posts that are in the water. Both girls did that well. Closer in mark was from a launcher behind them. Little stood and jumped forward when that went off. She visited various decoys when I sent her for the memory mark (which she'd ignored when she ran it as a single the first time), but got herself out to the mark. Cheryl Knapp and I then went over to the Horseshoe Pond and worked whistle sits in the water with Sonic and Gem-E, then I did some swim-by work with Little. We finished up letting the girls run and play together, something I haven't had/taken the time for. They had a lot of fun dashing about and going in and out of the pond numerous times. I guess the day's work hadn't exhausted them.
On Friday, after a slow start, we started with 3 cold land blinds ("cold blind" means one the dogs haven't seen me put bumpers out nor does it have a nice attractive white bucket for them to focus on). They were about 120 yds each. Little's first one was poor - she did NOT believe me when I sent her, but we kept plugging and when she spotted the orange stake, woo hoo!, she zeroed in on it and dashed in for the retrieve. The 2nd was better, third about the same. Sonic did very well on the 1st one, poorly on the 2nd (there was a log to go over), and very well on the 3rd. Next, I did swim-by work for Little that didn't go very well. I was feeling like *such* a swim-by training failure (I never really felt either Gryffin or Ty really 'got it'). While there are some parts that were much better than when we arrived, we weren't as far along as I'd hoped to be. It seems to be my Holy Grail. Then I got Sonic out with the goal to start teaching her how to take over casts (going left or right) in the water, something we'd barely touched on earlier in the week. She proceeded to do so well that she was doing better than Little had. It just seems to make sense to her. That bouyed my spirits a lot. That got me thinking that what I need to do a lot more of with Little is land disciplined casting, which I CAN do when I return to the cold north. I also played with teaching Little to circle a bucket for treats, which she thought was splendid (food=splendid in Little's world). I did this because it was something I did with Sonic, and I thought it might benefit Little. Later in the afternoon, Mitch coached me on improving Sonic's whistle sits in water and more swim-by with Little. She was actually much better in the bigger pond than the one we've worked on since Tuesday. Cheryl and I did a 200 or so yard Postman marking Y-drill (back and forth) to give Sonic a chance to stretch out some.
After checking out of the motel, I started Saturday morning with Swim-by work and Little did the best she's done. Being in the somewhat bigger pond makes a big difference for her. Sonic didn't do quite as well as she did in the smaller pond on Friday, but still was doing quite well on the early stages. Then we did 3 new land blinds. Unlike yesterday, when Little was mystified about what we were doing on the first blind, she took off like a rocket on her first blind today. Not quite in the right direction, but at least she had momentum :-). It was very windy that day.
I spent Saturday night with a college friend in Clearwater, who I hadn't seen since her wedding 23 years ago. After keeping somewhat up to date on each other's life through annual holiday letters, we had a lovely time catching up with each other.
It was a boring couple of days for Sonic and Little after 9 straight days of swimming/field work. I taught 6 obedience lessons Sunday and Monday, so they had a lot of crate time. It was great to catch up with so many of my Lakeland friends.
Monday evening, I drove to Betsy Reiney's in Palatka, where Sonic swam for the first time outdoors last spring. We had a nearly perfect weather day for field work on Tuesday. I joined Betsy's Tuesday morning group for land work - some marks with ducks from launchers, as well as a site blind (which they both lined on their first try, which I did before running the marks), and then did swim-by with both girls back at Betsy's - quite successfully - that afternoon. The land blinds we did weren't quite so successful.
We had another full day of training on Wednesday. There were some very good things from both girls, some not so good things. They have different strengths and weaknesses. We started with Bill Hillman's Star Drill. Sonic did quite well, while Little had a lot of trouble. We did a marking Y-drill and reran the blinds from the day before, with much better results. In the afternoon, I did some water whistle sits and swim-by work.
On Thursday, I did the Star Drill again with Little (better than Wednesday, but lots of room for improvement), and then we set up an 8-bucket Influential Lining Drill, which went pretty well. We did 3 new land blinds. Sonic 3 or 4 whistled the first one at 150 yds - I was thrilled with that! The other 2 went almost as well. Little had a ton of trouble on the long one, so we repeated it after running the right one. We worked more water whistle sits, but decided not to work on swim-by. I was ready for a break from it! After lunch, Betsy threw 3 long water marks for each girl.
And with that, our training for this wonderful voyage was over. I am so grateful for the generosity of all my hosts and the use of their training grounds. We had an uneventful drive home, stopping again on the way home to stay with Bonnie. Altogether, I put over 3000 miles on the Burb. And it was worth every mile!