Gigi is the one that is difficult to photograph.
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One Year Ago - Winnebago County - "Four Lakes DTA"
April 11 high 60°F (rain late) Pounce and Gigi trained in the afternoon at the Roscoe Riverside DTA. Some muddy spots required a quick dunk in the Rock River. Gigi worked the three pile
lining/handling drill. The focus was mostly on whistle sits. Lining was sharp (fast off the line).
Whistle sits need a lot of work. The session was going along fairly well, until a curious lady
walked up obviously wanting some feedback. It was a huge distraction for Gigi. I asked her to
watch from behind my van, but the session was soon ended as Gigi knew where she was.
This was not that big of a deal and revealed a need for more distraction proofing. In addition,
whistle sits definitely need work. Using the "stand alone/send back" method, Pounce ran
several singles (for exercise) and cleaned off in the river.
April 12 rain...late in the afternoon At 3 pm, Gigi began a daily yard session on whistle sits. The regular, routine OB format applied indoors during the day has been effective. Hillmann's YouTube video dealing with whistle sit begins up close (short distances) and "The Game". Today, there was an unplanned, brief distraction. Two neighbors and their dog (on leash) walked by. Gigi saw them briefly, but did not loose her focus. The plan is to solidify her whistle sit skills into an automatic reflex at any distance.
Hillmann's approach is work close first. At the end of today's session, Gigi sat on the whistle, pivoted to sit facing me...less than a yard from a short, tossed bumper. Frankly, I was surprised. The critical component of his approach is that the reward for a snappy, precise sit is the bumper right there in front of her (when given the hand signal to pivot back). Hillmann suggests that building a strong foundation up close is critical. Working and teaching up close eliminates the fact that distance erodes control. Once close control and teamwork is established, then distance can be added. If that dos not happen, the expression "A Bridge Too Far" comes to mind.
April 13 max wind chill for the day will be 31°F....My daffodils are not happy (no training today).
April 14 Tuesday - repeat yesterday..."old bones" say "no way" because there is no reason
April 15 Wednesday warmer.....not much
April 16 The weather trend is improving - most of the training equipment is loaded in the van including six remote wingers and charged Dogtra remotes.....The following link is to a page written by Dennis Voigt about training during the recent pandemic.
April 17 snow - Pounce and Gigi ran around in the airing yard like wild puppies. The snow set them off and the energy they had built up over the last few days was quickly released.
April 1 - Gigi and Pounce made the long trip back from Clinton, Arkansas. After two months of training with Pro Corey Zandonai and winter finally behind us, the next several months will be JUST training (no testing because of the "you know what").
April 2 I picked both dogs up this morning. Corey had his rig parked at our local club's training area and clients were to drop in at assigned times to pickup their dog(s). He had a setup in place and ran each dog so the owners could observe what they had learned. I had two goals when mine went south. Gigi (my youngest) needed to become adept at retrieving ducks and move beyond her immaturity. Her session went really well. She marked and retrieved fresh ducks nicely. Corey had three other young dogs running Derby distances. All had been stretched out to over 400 yard singles in short cover. During the two month trip, he regularly sent photos and videos of many of their training setups.
My older dog, Pounce, had one issue that needed fixing. She runs advanced, master level concepts really well. However at the line, busy feet+ have been an ongoing issue.....not anymore! She was like a perfect statue (solid triple with two blinds and never moved a toe). Corey explained how he had managed to fix her "busy" issue.
note: From the following photo, it is obvious they are glad to be home.
April 19 Sunday....a little warmer & better breeze Gigi repeated anther session of up close whistle sit practice and did another two pile drill working on lining, whistle sits and handling.
The location of the drill was shifted east about twenty yards. She did not do any marking.
Pounce, however, ran a setup very similar to yesterday's. I need to charge the fan battery.
Today, Pounce and Gigi began working a new drill. Gigi is heeling on the left and Pounce on the right. The ultimate heeling goal is "after every four steps is a silent sit" (sans equipment).
note: Did a drive-by along the north shore of Thorson Pond (check "temp" soon).
April 20-3 Mon-Thurs The remote wingers were ready and the van fan battery is fully charged. However, I was not motivated. Looking around the property, there a many things that have been neglected for quite awhile which led to a few days of adjustments (one of which included
my ongoing shoulder issue). I moped through the last five days and nothing was solved. I am positive, that Gigi and Pounce would like to have been more active. Thursday afternoon, Gigi did an in the yard session/practice working on our whistle sit skills....and she is FAST. Consistency is not one of our strengths today. Her speed tends to make it more challenging.
April 24 Gigi trained in the yard at 4 pm again practicing the whistle sit skill when lining a tossed bumper. Mixing in a review of Hillmann's "Traffic Cop" and showing her by slightly altering the presentations clarified the expectations. Toward the end of this session, Gigi was noticeably more engaged and precise. Her return to heel is improving as her speed has made this somewhat of a challenge. There was a lot gas left in the tank (her's) when we quit.
note: Mostly likely Gigi will be my last pup. There is no question that 1) she has more
ability than any pup I ever had before and 2) she is more challenging to train than
any pup I have ever had. The most challenging aspects of training Hillmann pups is
coming to grips with precise practice, reproducing persistent, correct repetitions and
regularly dealing with distractions. Other than that it has been a fun walk in the park.
April 25 drizzling rain most of the day....Gigi worked indoors and we did an extended bumper in mouth OB session - heeling, remote sit, here returns to sit stressing controlled precision. The main emphasis, however, was to keep it upbeat and fun. Late in the session, Pounce was brought out to sit, watch and serve as a close distraction. Much of the recent focus is a result of reading and re-reading Dennis Voigt's insight (refer to link in the April 16th journal entry).
April 26 warmer...upper 60's in the afternoon...Trained at the Harrison Road DTA for the first time this year. The setup was a simple Y Drill (three singles - angle back, flat other side and an angle in (check down) in front of the angle back. Pounce was first mostly because I wanted to make sure the three wingers were fully functional. Both dogs were very steady at the line (zero motion) and were not sent quickly. The session went smoothly. Gigi marked all three cleanly, but Pouch blew right by the check down before working back to pick it up. My only issue was loading the wingers. With the bad right shoulder, every automatic memory had to be reversed.
April 4, 5 Saturday...Gigi had her Rabies shot..checked urinary issue... Sunday - rest
April 6 Monday - back to training...afternoon setup in the "Grassy Area" at the Thorson Pond DTA. The primary focus for Gigi is practice whistle sits and handling. Pounce will review and exercise. One will run the setup while the other observes.
April 3 Friday - Pounce and Gigi will have the day off - more R&R time. With no test for many
months it seems reasonable to take a brief break after the Arkansas trip.
Pounce ran the setup easily. An easy session was just what she needed. Gigi has not done any handling for two months. After a few minutes, it was obvious she needed to review. One pile would have been much better. This is the first time at doing the "Honor Watch".
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The long range plan is to have Gig through swim-by mid-summer and ready to run a Derby (or two) in late fall. Pounce is ready to run Master tests, but unfortunately that's not going to happen for several months. We may include some group training...but justifying the "why" for even considering that is not easy.....given the possible consequences. A vaccine would be tremendous.
April 7 Tuesday- high of 75°F...nice day and nowhere to go...The motivation to train was low.
Gigi is on antibiotics starting today (probable urinary infection). This summer will consist of mostly yard work......real yard work.
April 8 trained in the morning (perfect weather) in the Thorson Pond "Grassy Area" DTA Gigi's 1st session was a back pile of Dokkens (simplified from yesterday) lining, re-enforcing back, whistle sits and left/right back casts with no shopping. The big, tight pile of Dokkens was not much of an issue. She finished with deliveries that were not particularly precise or tight (need to work on Wagon Wheel lining deliveries). She did stop facing me and took every left or right back cast correctly. It was rather obvious that the previous work we did two months ago was not forgotten. Next up was Pounce with several "stand alone/send back" singles before finishing with two doubles. Gigi then came back out to do two, short, "stand alone/send back" doubles. Her first attempts were done easily. (no big deal)
note: Gigi's drive off the line using "Gigi!" or "Back!" is powerful.
April 9 phone conversation Doctor's appointment was scheduled for noon - no training
discussed ongoing shoulder issues which confirmed that I will need to learn how to
shoot left handed before next hunting season. What will make it simpler is my right eye dominance issue no longer exists. Right eye problems have made me left eye dominant.
April 10 1:30 pm with a wind chill of 36°F.......seems like a nice day to NOT train
While both dogs were training in Arkansas, Tracy Zandonai spent a few days capturing
photos of the retrievers Corey Zandonai was training. The photos are arranged in files on Smug Mug and can be purchased in a variety of packages. The payment/transfer is easy and the right to use them in my Website is included. The following are wonderful examples.
April 27 Monday...cooler with rain beginning about noon.....trained close (non-marking day)
note: either need a new fan battery or the charger is not working well
At about 11 am...Gigi worked in the yard continuing to strengthen our whistle sit standard in her early transition training. The focus is on having Gigi develop the required muscle memory. Hillmann's approach is to work up close first. In essence, this means distance is an important factor when teaching. The difficulty was in determining how to model an effective distance factor for Gigi. There is a difference depending by the uniqueness each pup. With gradual changes, what seemed to be most effective was having Gigi run from a remote line. A bumper is then thrown, Gigi is released. As she reaches a position close to me, the whistle sit is given RIGHT THERE providing maximum engagement (Traffic Cop). She sits quickly, pivoting to look me right in the eye for the "Good" verbal reward. Then a cast sends her for the retrieve. She returns to heel, delivers and the is cast back to her running line. This setup eliminated the specter of "no goes" and suddenly the light went on with several, accurate repetitions. Accurate is defined by stopping quickly with a quick pivot and no looping with a look of "OK. What's next?" Again the whistle sit position is very close which promotes engagement with a great deal dynamic, confident speed before and after. Gigi was very suddenly making quick stops (wheel and square sits) with no more "I don't see what you want" posturing. A critical aspect of this presentation is Gigi's complete understanding of how to respond to being sent back to an unmarked, remote position. note: Pounce had the day off and rain appeared right about a noon.
April 27 Tuesday....cloudy and cool, rain arrived early afternoon...just as we finished training.
Gigi and Pounce ran a set of eight "stand alone/send back" Dokken singles in the northwest corner of the Harrison Road DTA. Gigi went first and this was her first time running this type of setup in cover. I did not know exactly how she would handle it, but confident that she was ready. Wow!! She crushed it!! Pounce had been running this type of setup for several years and does it with ease. This was the first time for Gigi.....fast, accurate and impressive......in cover.
April 18 weather forecasts are consistently in the 50's or better. The early spring break is over.
April and May training will be on up close skills and engagement with distractions. Gigi will practice marking, handling, lining and delivery skills and begin swim-by in June. Pounce's focus will be line manners in the face of close, exciting setups with more distance in June.
Pounce and Gigi trained in the south "grassy area" of Thorson Pond (five minute drive). Gigi did a quick review of whistle sit up close and then ran a two pile drill working on lining, whistle sits and handling. Pounce was up next and ran four "stand lone/send back" singles which served as a setup for running them as doubles (fast and accurate). Pounce was simply in this for the exercise and fun. Gigi came back out and ran four singles which served as a schooled intro to her very first "stand alone/send back" doubles (one from each line). She was focused and responsive. This was her first session of running doubles with this method and it went well. The temperature was just cool enough for today's fast paced work. Observing from a tie-out was something new.
note: Afterwards (back home), they slept longer than normal.
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April 28 cold - all day off
April 29 spent the entire day working on the mortgage refinance application
April 30 finished around noon - Gigi did a short session of simple heeling.