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Jan 24 Sunday - very cold again.....Gigi worked again (indoors) doing OB and the retrieving skills routine with a focus on faster sits. Pounce had the day off.

Jan 25, 26 Monday/Tuesday - dealing with the upcoming 5-6 inches of was again indoors. Pounce had another day off. Gigi did her regular retrieving & OB routine. There has been one aspect of the OB that was not pushed early on. The decision to add it to the mix revealed a very hesitant, slow response (most likely the result of not showing her why). Doing down for treats (like they do in AKC OB classes) seemed to work well. She was aggressively eager. However, there seemed to be a limiting factor. It tastes good, but she was not actually engaged with me. It soon became rather obvious that Gigi was out of balance. Using the "Thoughts on A Balanced Retriever" approach, an alternative was designed. 

Comparing and contrasting "sittng properly" provided a parallel. Doing the right thing can be rewarding. Learning that retrieves are rewarding is a winning theme. Gigi's reason to do "down" was not in place
because the reward was not  based on retrieving. However, the transition into a skill required one, focused  session. It began within a limited space (less than six feet). Responsiveness is a function of distance.The first step consisted of a six foot bumper toss, fetch, heel and delivery...repeated several times. The next step was sit and then "down" (hand signal and/or downward tug on lead).....fetch and verbal good. The bumper was her new reward (familiar expectations). The  lesson progressed quickly to no tugs down. She wanted the reward (retrieve). This progressed smoothly into consistent repetitions. Therefore, we continued.

A bumper was thrown to the "long" position which she has retrieved from before (a lot). First, we reviewed the retrieves from the pile including the intermediate, remote sits followed by retrieves (rewards). Then she was asked to "down" 25 feet away from me, off lead while on the remote sit on the way to the pile. The good thing was her eye contact. I could see the wheels going around. Slowly she went down and received a rather relieved "Good!" After that, it was a "snappy", done deal with consistent, confident "reps". It was "fetch" run into a remote "sit", followed by the remote "down" and  "good girl", "fetch" for the last three reps. (off lead, no "juice", no heeling stick exciting fun)  

   Her focus, responsiveness and control were balanced and enhanced by the high level desire for retrieves.
                  note: Training is more likely to be fun and rewarding when the process is seamless. 

Jan 27 Wednesday high of 16°F feels like 5°F at 11 am with 6" of crusty snow on the ground....five more weeks until March.......Gigi trained in the afternoon (indoors) and repeated/practiced the same routine as yesterday. It went faster and smoother today. In the evening, Pounce trained with Lylah and heels right next to Lylah. Then we did some retrieves with Lylah at the line taking the bumpers.

Jan 28 Thursday high 22°F...Gigi trained in the afternoon. Her session was divided into four segments. The

first was up close OB emphasizing the down command. Next was working a pile with whistle sits and the down command. The third was two simulated HRC doubles with a single shot shotgun using primer loads. The last was a repeat run of Gigi's OB expectations. Pounce and Lylah repeated yesterday's session.

Jan 29 Friday - Gigi repeated yesterday (precise practice)...Pounce had the day off
Jan 30 Saturday - Gigi began with an OB session. Next up we worked on retrieving skills while injected the "down" command in well spaced intervals. She was more responsive and aware of what was next. The session was completed by simulating three HRC line doubles with the focus being "marking off the gun". 
Gigi has not completely stopped shaking retrieved objects nearing the line for deliver. This occurs more when the retrieved object is not picked up in the middle. Therefore, when she shakes it there is a reaction which appears to simulate that it is alive. Arousal is not something she handles well. Therefore, the main focus on retrieving is to simple defuse that reaction. She is out of balance. To correct this reaction a three pronged approach to increase focus and control by asking for more in mostly pay more attention to me. Do not just feed the beast! 
                     note: "here"..."heel"...."sit"...'hold"..."down" must be in balance with "fetch"    
Pounce worked with Lylah later in the afternoon. Their session was divided in three components. First, Lylah did heeling (on lead) with Pounce. Next, Lylah took several bumpers to a pile. Then Pounce retrieved those bumpers back to the line and delivered them (to Lylah). They completed the session by repeating the heeling segment. Every day, Lylah seems to do just a little bit better. Autism is not cool. 
Jan 31 Sunday - Pounce worked with Lylah again. Each day it is becoming easier for Lylah with following directions on new "stuff". A brief search in the duck freezer found a decent, frozen mallard that slid right in  an old, long hunting sock. This will greatly limit blood drops and feathers indoors when working Gigi on the swimming pool deck. In the evening, Gigi did an extended OB session with a "duck in sock in mouth". The focus was quiet mouth and precise OB. It was quite obvious that she wanted much more action. However, the session was all about the three factors - focus, responsiveness and control. The "socked" duck was a huge distraction. By emphasizing hold, aggressive behaviors with a duck were greatly reduced and verbal praise was a reinforcing tool. "This.....not that" training required a plan and the session was effective.           
                   notes: January training was consistently effective. The snow in the airing yard is more
                               than chest deep (dog's chest). February is the four week, last gasp of winter.
                               I am in the Phase 2 group of CoVid shots (which means testing this summer). 

Jan. 2 Saturday - high of 28°F with a crusty, 5 inches of snow.....trained indoors....Gigi and Pounce will practice HRC line "stuff". This will be fun and easy. The difficult training has just begun. My non-verbal, autistic granddaughter is being taught how to be a bird girl. The first lesson was to convince her that tossing a few bumpers, six feet into the corner of the pool deck was fun. No dog was involved and she was not totally convinced of the value of what transpired. That observation reminded me to keep the sessions brief. This is going to be way more difficult than harnessing the instincts of a well bred, driven puppy. Where is the reward? Hopefully, she will find helping a dog have fun will be fun and rewarding for her, too. The most important aspect of this attempt will be applying the KISS method.....Keep It Simple Stupid. Precise repetitions (and not many to start with) will frame each session. Later in the afternoon, dogs were added to the picture. Lylah ignored the practice from yesterday (where she tossed bumpers into the far corner) and decided to throw them toward a dog. Pounce and Gigi had bumpers to retrieve, but Lylah did not see any reason to do what we did yesterday.
Jan. 3 Sunday - The Bears' game is later in the afternoon. Therefore, Pounce and Gigi will do a session of HRC "gun at the line" retrieves with "primer shots"...indoors. The setup is such that one will watch

(and honor) while the other works.
Jan. 4 Monday mid-afternoon - 26°F cloudy & snow cover...Gigi and Pounce worked indoors using a running line, a five bumper pile and a "placeboard" half way around the pool deck - each did ten retrieves with whistle sits, casts, returns to and past a "placeboard" with precise deliveries at the line.
          note: I was still light outside when Gigi trained. The sunlight and reflections off the snow

                    plus many windows in the pool room building make photography impossible. Pounce
                    trained when it was dark out. When editing her photos, I finally figure out how to manipulate
                    the perspective editing process which eliminates curved and non-vertical objects.
          note: The last photo is a snow covered view of Gigi and Pounce's airing yard.

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right click on icons for larger photos

Jan 9, 10 Saturday/Sunday......Gigi and Pounce did ten quick retrieves in the heated pool area on Saturday and Sunday. However, most of Sunday was spent suffering through the Bears playoff game, the Bulls basketball game and finally the Illinois basketball game. It was a long.....long day.
Jan 11 Monday....high of 31°F  with four inches of crusty snow on the ground....12 weeks until the end of
March....snow Thursday and Friday (not much)......Gigi and Pounce worked indoors today. The first session was on  extended heeling (forwards & backwards) with repeated sits practice (OB). Each then did ten retrieves working from a running line and off a remote placeboard. Remote sits and precise hold/deliveries at the line were practiced. It was warm and we liked it.
Jan 12 Tuesday - high 33°F...Gigi did an extended indoor OB session followed by ten retrieves. Pounce was up next for her ten retrieves routine. The total retrieving distances add up to about 600 yards (for each).  They are not at at full speed, but running fast enough to provide a measure of aerobic exercise.
Jan 13 Wednesday - high 36°F and cloudy..The plan was to run a 125 yard pile through a soft, 5 inches of snow at the Riverside Park DTA with each running it four times. The running line had to be moved because the county was dumping truck loads of snow in the wide concrete area just off to the east. There was plenty of room to run in the huge, snow covered area (to the west). Gigi and Pounce had no issues with the line and we were soon finished after a refreshing and vigorous exercise session. The skill set focus was on 1) lining up properly and taking good initial lines, 2) carrying that line with only  a few, prompt whistle sits 3) with handles 4) and lastly 5) precise deliveries. The key to precise practice is responsiveness (working together as a team). The two county snow trucks added a level of distraction proofing that was not planned.  On the way home, we stopped at Farm & Fleet to purchase a 70 pound sleeve of sand for the back of the van (more traction) and 50 pounds of snow melting chemicals for the drive-way. Winter is now well into its regular irritating mode.  

Jan 16 Saturday..Gigi's OFA hip report was a GOOD and elbows are normal. Her PENN HIP score is 0.22
(and in a much better end of the range). The next set of testing will be eyes and key genetic tests for Labradors. Gigi and Pounce did a very good, indoor practice session working on their leash OB skill set. The second session was practicing retrieving skills. Five ERGO bumpers were retrieved. They are hard and shaped to enable/encourage holding in the middle, The second set of retrieves was done with five,
four inch foam bumpers. The contrast in the bumpers (hard and "in the middle" focused vs. big, light and soft) makes for handling different objects with the same responses (hold properly and deliver precisely).

Jan 17 Sunday.....Pounce and Gigi repeated yesterday's OB on lead session and the retrieving skills drill.
During the retriever training, Lylah sat near the "placeboard" as a distraction.

        perspective editing practice....window panes are squared, gun and Pounce are true sized

Rockton Road DTA

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Jan. 1 Friday - 4-5 inches snow/ice (all day) - Gigi trained indoors...practicing some retrieves with large

canvas bumpers (open wide & hold in the middle). Pounce had the day off. Tomorrow Pounce and Gigi will begin regular practice sessions similar to the HRC line expectations demonstrated in the following YouTube with Pounce.

Jan 18 Monday high of 28°F - four inches of snow plus a hard crust on top equals no training in the snow
             note: Gigi and Pounce continue to work on the two skills sets we have recently been practicing.
                       One of the critical components of balance is responsiveness (teamwork). It begins up close.
                       Today, a third pile of five very different objects were added to the retrieving practice.

Jan 19 Tuesday - high 24°F and low 12°F with more snow late in the day. This meant another day of training indoors. Today, Lylah did her first heeling session with Pounce. It went so well the first time that it was repeated. Both Gigi and Pounce did about twenty retrieves and deliveries around the pool deck working with a variety of differently shaped and weighted objects. The results are that snow and ice problems outside are not creating any lost up close, responsive practice time.
Jan 20 Wednesday...early afternoon wind chill is in the teens & more snow...Gigi and Pounce did extended
heeling sessions before practicing precisely the retrieving and deliveries of sixteen various objects. The total distance covered at a moderate speed during the retrieving session was determined (by measuring) to be around 1200 yards. This means both are getting some useful aerobic exercise along with a great deal of repetitive, precise practice with responsive expectations. Winter training can be warm and cool.   
                  note: Pounce paces herself and is not full blown excited with this phase of training. Gigi
                            "on the other hand" is aggressive and dynamic "all the way".
Jan 21 Thursday - colder...Gigi trained in the afternoon - indoors and the precise repetitions are creating a huge change in Gigi. Pounce did her session later and Lylah was the one to practice OB with her. Today she was "taking" bumpers back to the pile area saving me a lot of extra walking. 

Jan 22  Friday afternoon 17°F with 3°F early in the morning .....Gigi was almost perfect today in her longer

OB session. Wow! It has been an interesting ride. NOT running any hunt tests with her last year has turned into a very good alternative. I think it is probably a case of slow to mature and I like Gigi did the
usual retrieving practice and her OB session was excellent. Pounce did her OB session with Lylah on the leash. I am not sure which one was in charge, but in this case Pounce's job is to train Lylah.
Jan 23 Saturday - bitter cold, early....23°F this afternoon...Gigi & Pounce practiced again indoors and the precise work is producing excellent results. However (from previous experience), indoor training is devoid of distractions which means there will be more to do when it warms up....and we venture outside.     

                    note: Two very useful training information links were visited today.    

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Jan. 5 Tuesday - Gigi is going to have a specialist X-ray & PENN Hip hips - she just turned two. 
              note: Last night it took over an hour to retrieve the dog van from our driveway. The

                        solution (besides shoveling) was salt and oil-dry.  Up-hill out is a pain (often). 
Jan 6 Wednesday - My VET is a radiology expert and sent me Gigi's PENN HIP report today along
with a congratulations on the .33 PENN HIP score. In addition, there was no radiographic evidence of OA in either hip. In researching her pedigree data base, the first six retrievers in the pedigree include three excellent and three good. Based on the PENN HIP score, Gigi's OFA looks very promising. The first litter out of Gigi's mother (different sire with four far) include threes excellent and one good. In that litter, there are four that already have HRCH and/or MH titles.
              note: The trainer's issues are not nearly as good. The painful, frozen shoulder symptoms with
                         the right shoulder have been joined by increasing issues in the left. The next year plus
                         is going to be very be unpleasant.
Jan 7, 8 Thursday/Friday - high of 30°F and the snow is not melting - Hibernation mode is setting in.
When you are older, there are times when recognizing that problem must be continuous. With snow and ice, falling is not fun. When the ice is an issue, a pair of cut-off Muck Boots with YAKTRAXs make

walking easy. They are cut-off because of being worn out (old). These are especially important in the dogs' airing yard (not level). If there is too much snow, then a regular, new pair of Muck Boots come into play. If ice AND snow test the safety, it is simple to transfer the YAKTRAXs to the taller boots. 
                note: With bad knees and poor flexibility, a portable boot jack is like magic. 

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Jan 15 - Friday..another winter day...Training indoors was skipped today. The wooden balls project has moved on to finishing off all the Dokkens that do not have balls. That did not sound right after reading it, but then again it is accurate.          A slightly larger hole (than the 3/8's of an inch one that is already there) is drilled half-way through. The end (of the rope) is then pushed through. A small knot is made and then "crushed" back into the hole. These make throwing easier and become very handy when carrying many.

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Jan 14 Thursday - cold with rain, sleet and eventually snow...Gigi and Pounce did an extended session of on leash OB using the heated, indoor training area. The large, foam bumpers purchased for winter training in the snow did not have throw ropes. With plenty of long line rope (from diver hunting) and ordering some round, wooden balls  (1" diameter & 3/8" hole), winter is a good time for adding to the equipment. Six were made for starters and I have several Dokken Mallards that need to be "balled".