Monday, August 26, 2013

Goals and Hard Work

I don't usually talk about goals in August. I tend to do a review of the past year in late December, and set goals for the upcoming year at the same time. Here are the goals I set for Sonic and me in late December:

Sonic – 16 months old
  • Get to do water in the Derby at the April National, which means doing land well enough to move on to water. In my dreams, we place. But being realistic, getting to water would be a grand achievement. I just have to hope that there are enough entries to hold it - the Derby was canceled in 2012 due to entries being too low. (There were 5 dogs who started the test. Three of us got to run the water, Sonic and me included, all dogs failed the water test. Still, I did accomplish my goal of getting to try it. It was WAY over our heads in terms of difficulty.) 
  • Finish her JH. (Done in May)
  • Get her running cold blinds, land (March) and water (May)
  • Earn her WCX - 4/21/13
  • Run Senior with her in the fall. While I'd love to earn her SH, that is a pretty tall order - I think. (pass 1 7/20, pass 2 8/17, pass 3 8/24, 8/25 TITLE!!!)
  • Earn her RA (March 15) and RE (4/22)
  • I've been completely focused on field work with her lately, and plan to continue that as much as possible this winter, so I don't know if I'll devote the time to obedience titles or not. If I do, we might do Novice in the fall. Or BN (4/22). Or GN. Or none.
In reviewing these, we have achieved all of them. Her field work for Senior came together much faster than I imagined back in December. And this weekend, she finished the title with some solid work. We've had a really rigorous field training schedule, but she seems to be thriving on it, based on her eagerness to hop in the Burb for another day of training.

If I can pull myself in from the great outdoors, I want to start shifting my focus over to obedience this fall. IF. My goal is to do some Grad Novice trials this fall at some local trials to test the waters for how ready or not she is, then to start her in Novice in January, with the final goal to show her in Novice at the FCRSA National in June. I don't want to stop field training, but simply reduce the number of field sessions a week and shift those to obedience training. Time will tell how well that plan works :-).

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Michigan Flyways August 2013 Saturday Senior Test

After our successes at the July hunt tests, I decided that doing one day of the Michigan Flyways August hunt test weekend and both days at Marshbanks the following weekend was a good choice. I didn't dare do two days with Little, since she had 3 weeks of no training with me, due to her conformation shows (3 more points!) followed by my vacation at our family cabin in Ontario, where Sonic got to swim lots.

Little was first dog on land. It was a walk-up, with the memory bird on the right, flier on the left. She sat on my walk-up whistle. Turned for the flier. Flier flew, gunners shot, gunners missed, bird flew away. No bird. Went back behind two guys already in blinds. Second try, gunners got the flier, but it went waaaaay deep and well to the right of the ribbon. She had a very long hunt on it, giving me some moments of panic (remembering Ty's failure in a Senior test when I failed to stop her from returning to an old fall). Helen was hiding in the Burb, too nervous to really watch from anywhere close by. Little finally came up with the bird, delivered it, and had a much shorter hunt on the memory bird. The blind was 180 degrees from the marks, down a hill. There was a cover strip to cross and ponds on beyond. She took a *great* initial line, blasting down the hill through the cover strip, and got to it in 2-3 whistles. She honored just fine. So very happy with her!

Sonic's marks were super - very little hunt on either bird, and though she was sucked in by the blind station some on the blind, she also 2-3 whistled the blind. She honored just fine.

Little ran 2nd on water (Angie Becker snuck in ahead of me). Her marks didn't fall where the judges wanted them to, but were instead much more visible than they intended. She had no problems with them, other than coming back very slowly through the plant growth in the pond, slogging along at a walk. The beginning of the blind was shaky - she sucked in to the marks a bit, took several whistles to really stop and acknowledge me, but once she got rolling, she rolled. I debated trying to get her straightened out some in the last 3rd, but let her continue, and she drove out of the water beautifully and went right over to the blind stake (10-15 yds up on shore), and I was so pleased to get her first Senior pass. This time, Helen was able to watch.

Sonic's marks were again fine. During her bounding to the memory bird, one of the judges said, "She has such nice style!" and I turned around and said, "Thank you!" Then she said, "Oh, I'm not supposed to say that out loud!" . Sonic took a *great* initial line on the blind. I wish I had blown my whistle before she got out of the water, but I didn't. My attempts to handle at the end were crappy - she was hidden in the tall grass, she wasn't listening/watching very well, etc. But she got herself there with her nose. I asked the other judge if we were okay as I handed him the last bird, since it was that dreadful of an ending, and he said, "Oh, yes." Then I thought back to Gryffin's 2nd Senior pass, when he had similarly great work up to a *totally* dreadful water blind, and still passed. Sonic's blind was only dreadful at the end. :-)

Two tries, two passes. It was a very long day, but such nice results! Next up: Marshbanks tests next weekend.

Ft. Detroit Golden Retriever July 2013 Senior Tests

In February this year, I set a goal to run Sonic and Little in the Ft. Detroit Golden Retriever Club's July hunt test at Omega Farms. At the time the entries closed, I just didn't feel like Little was solid enough on her blinds to spend Helen's money, and only entered Sonic one day, as there was a lot of polishing I felt she needed.

The Saturday land series was a double with the memory bird landing on a mowed area in front of woods, and the flier, shot right to left, to the right of the memory bird. The blind angled into some heavier cover on the right. The honor was also on the land series. There wasn't a walk-up in either series.

The water series was on the Area 5 ponds. The memory bird landed near the end of the left pond, the go bird toward the end of the middle pond, and the blind was at the end of the right pond. We had run a blind to nearly the same spot earlier in the summer when we were working on channel blinds, but the last time had not been very successful.

 Sonic did a nice job and earned her 1st Senior leg. Our water blind wasn't brilliant, but far better than our previous blind on that pond. Little ran test dog on Saturday, and had she been entered, would have earned a leg. What a confidence booster for me! It was the best any of my dogs have ever done running test dog - Gryffin and Ty were both quite awful the times I did test dog with them at Senior tests. I was very relaxed with Little, which was a good reminder of how crucial MY mental game is. I was a bit more nervous with Sonic, but not horribly so.
The next day, Sonic ran test dog - I wanted to see how she would do two days in a row - and did a fine job again. The walk up on the land series required us to come out of the last holding blind, walk towards the judge's Easy-Up (where the crowd of handlers were watching), make a right turn at a stake and walk toward the mark. Talk about a great proofing opportunity! 

The water series, which included the honor, was quite a bit harder than the previous day's. We were at the M-52 pond/Area 2 at Omega, an 80 yd long oval pond. The memory bird landed 10-15 yds out on shore at about the midpoint of the pond, the go-bird with a small splash just on the back edge on the right end. The line was well up on shore. The blind was on the left end of the pond, with a sharp angle entry that was 25-30 yds of land before they hit the water. 

Sonic went right to the go bird, and didn't have too much trouble with the memory bird. The blind took quite a few whistles, but she was working with me pretty well.

Little ran bye dog. Normally, the bye-dog doesn't get to do the blind, but I asked the judges if we could try it. I really didn't think Little was ready for that long of an entry, nor that sharp of an entry, but darned if she didn't prove me wrong :-). She blasted away from me on a great initial line. She looked to be veering to the left just at the water's edge, so I blew my whistle - just as she turned to get in. Drat. But she did a very credible job on the rest of it, another great confidence booster.