Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sonic at 17 months

I just found this unpublished blog post, written in mid-January 2013. While it will show up out-of-order here, I've decided to publish it, as it is a record of where she was nearly a year ago.
I am pleased to report that last Saturday (January 12, 2013), Sonic completed the training of the field Double T to my satisfaction. We've been gradually working up to it for what seems like forever (since sometime in the fall), but the final week of it was a bit anticlimactic. After 3 days of the full Double T with very few errors, I was satisfied, and we have moved on to starting walk-out blinds. For these, you and the dog walk out into a field with several bumpers. You reach the destination of a blind, sit the dog close to the end, toss a couple of bumpers out and let the dog retrieve them from that close distance. You toss the bumpers back out, then walk to the other destination, which should be a bit closer than the 1st one. Repeat the tossing/retrieving up close, toss the bumpers out again, then walk back to the starting line. Send the dog to the one you just came from, handling as needed. Repeat with the first one you 'planted'. The two days we have done those has gone very well.

We've also been doing a lot of lining drills, including Carol Cassity's W Drill. You place 5 white stakes in a W formation, three in a row about 20 yds apart and two 20 yds away from that row, also 20 yds apart. You put bumpers at each stake and, moving around the field, line the dog to the various stakes. It gives you a lot of opportunity to work on 'slots', where they have to go between at least two closer, tempting stakes to get to the farther away one. After a few successes in one spot, you move.

I find it much easier to work on blind-related training - lining and casting - since I can do those drills by myself much more easily than marking training. But as has been pointed out to me, marking is paramount. At Clint Catledge's recommendation, I've been working a lot of hand-thrown multiples: I throw 2-4 bumpers out in an arc around us and she retrieves them one by one. This allows us to work on the mechanics of running multiples: I send her to retrieve the last one I throw - the "go bird" - and when she returns with it, take delivery facing the next one she is to retrieve. I get her focused on the area, then send to retrieve, etc. It is definitely helping with this whole aspect of teamwork.

Yesterday, in addition to two Walk-Out Blinds and hand-thrown multiples, we did some 80-150 yard 'Stand Alone' marks. I leave Sonic in a sit stay and walk out away from her. When I've reached the desired distance, I throw a bumper, then release her from out there to retrieve the bumper I just threw. She then brings it the short distance back to me and we repeat the process. I have permission to use a wonderful hay field a mile from home that has fabulous rolling hills with the chance to run across the face of the hill, something they need to learn how to do. Most dogs prefer to run down or up rather than across.

Our progress in obedience is considerably slower because we simply haven't been spending much time at it. She is my primary demo dog in my classes, so she does get practice that way. I also had someone else start teaching one of my Novice Practice classes so that Sonic and I can attend. We've been doing that for the past several months, and she has certainly made steady progress. Her focus on heeling is quite nice, though heeling with fun toys on the ground continues to be hard. I'm not crazy about her halts, but I really like the rest of her heeling. She can do some lovely left circles at a trot if I keep them big enough.

Sonic continues to be very eager for the work, which makes her a joy to train.

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