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May 8 Saturday warmer, nice day to train, but a lot of other "stuff" going on.....did manage to squeeze in a marking/blind session in the middle of the afternoon - three remote winger mallards and a blind at the Riverside Park DTA. Some delays were inevitable as people walking their dogs around the road to the north where the winger stations were located. Using the wait time we worked on her holding blind skills. It was a good session. Gigi and Pounce marked lights out and ran the blind with very few whistles.

Placing the white stakes on the other side of Thorson Pond provides markers for two 40 yard piles.
The pond is 25 yards across. The grass on the other side is ankle high making the bumpers not visible until right on top of them. However, they are right in front of the white stakes. Today's focus was three actions 1) go off the line with a purpose, 2) stop, turn and tread water on the whistle and 3) take the back cast turning the correct way (and not spinning). By removing tempting shoreline issues, Gigi's focus was simplified. After "doing" the left pile of two bumpers, the pile to the right went smoother. Therefore, progress was made and more "reps" will be done the next several days.

Once the two piles are run with no issues, then handling from one line (taking a cast) to the other pile will be introduced (split casting). Eventually, the square end of the pond (to the right and east) will come into play as the piles are moved gradually in that direction. Also, singles will be thrown down the middle of the pond (a lot) and perpendicular to the lines run this morning. Then (VERY gradually) the lines to marks will be moved closer to the shorelines. Gigi has a great memory for where she has been. This complicates other setups that are in the same vicinity. We need to get the point where her responses to the handler are more significant than her surroundings.

May 7 Friday - This morning, I went out to the storage area and eventually found four, dirty, small, orange Avery Hexa-bumpers. They were scrubbed clean with soapy water in the kitchen sink (wife not thrilled with that). Later, Gigi and I went out into the front yard (mowed short just yesterday). Gigi was placed on a sit 15 yards away and I tossed them in the air and they landed between Gigi and I. Walking back to line, Gigi was rearing to go and fired on "back". She flew right over the four bumpers and into the neighbor's yard and pulled up with a perplexed body language. So we continued until there was enough of Gigi's saliva on the bumpers to indicate what she was after. Fortunately, there won't be any orange bumpers in tests. The orange stakes on blinds are not much "help" either. Fast forward to this evening and we were at the Riverside Park DTA to run a set of four blinds. Two used  black stakes and the other two were orange all  with Dokkens. Pounce ran first and required just a few handles. She was consistently dealing well with each blind (efficient and accurate). Gigi was up next. She needed a couple of whistles on the first and second, none on the third (lined it) and one one on the last. Gigi's issue from yesterday was a small blip on the radar. She was actually taking better lines than Pounce (today). Hooray for our side!

May 9 Sunday - no rain in the morning, only 58°F for a high...Very windy and a Mother Day's gathering on Thorson Pond resulted in a solid yard OB session with Gigi and four mallards. Pounce had the day off.
                    note: one week until Gigi's first hunt test
May 10 Monday - picked up several live mallards for training. On the way home we stopped at the nearest field trial property to shoot some "flyers". Gigi had three and Pounce had one. The rest are in the freezer.
May 11 Tuesday - Gigi did two sessions of duck in mouth OB and several short retrieves (in the yard). In the late afternoon, we attended the large Thursday group training session. There was a walk-up and then
four singles with blinds. Pounce ran the five mallards and did the last single as a poison bird. She was very good! (ready for Master tests). Last Thursday, Gigi marked lights out and has been consistently doing so all spring. After, the walk-up....this Tuesday's singles all resembled retired guns. Gunner stepped out, shot "boom" gas gun, threw duck (not very far) and RETIRED. Gigi was totally confused and ran all over the place to no avail. Gunner finally began to walk out and help......too late to make any difference. I talked to a field trial friend and received this opinion...."retired guns can be very confusing unless done correctly". I have decided to simply continue throwing ducks where there is clearly a hunt test setup...... ....hidden guns.
May 12 - Wednesday....decided to take the morning off. At about 5 pm, Gigi and Pounce were trained at the Thorson Pond DTA. Three mallards were used to do a set of "stand alone/send back" water singes. Each mark moved to the east down the north shoreline (one land and the next in water close to shore). Gigi did a total of nine retrieves using the (by design) some "nasty" ducks. The "send back" line was on the south shoreline toward the west end. Pounce did her nine retrieves after Gigi's. A rough calculation of the total swimming distance per retriever was close to 6-7 hundred yards. It was cool and they were wet. So as to avoid coming into the house and do a slow dry-off, we stopped at the Rockton Road DTA and each ran seven singles using the alternating "stand alone/send back" mode. They will sleep solidly this evening.

May 14 Friday - Pounce...Vet appointment at 8 am and the income tax must be mailed. Train later???

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May 1 Saturday - high of 83°F....cool at 7:30 am....However, Gigi was up early and at 7:30 am we were doing the first day of her water split casting drill introducing the two piles identified by white stakes. It was a brief session (Gigi lined the left pile one twice and then the right twice). 
                    note: This was about two hundred yards of swimming. 
From previous experience, Pounce was not an "easy do" on water honesty. Her training provides an approach that will be a perfect fit for Gigi and she is a more driven cheater than Pounce. Therefore, a review of the "down the middle first" approach with Pounce will be revisited with Gigi.

May 13 Thursday - Harrison Road group training (late afternoon) with "Gigi" doing yard work" in the morning. Gigi's morning sessions were enhanced by including a holding blind and Dogtra electronic sounds (quacks/beeps) in the background. The first segment focused on Gigi's orange bumper issue (not seeing them well). Three piles of seven orange bumpers (each one done at a greater distance) provided twenty-one encounters with orange bumpers and the orange blind marker. In addition, a small orange stake was used. After the orange work, Gigi went back into the holding blind to do the routines leading up to field retrieves. Once again, the Dogtra electronics enhanced the excitement. However (in this segment), the use of a mallard for up close duck handling with precise, under control and more relaxed deliveries was the focus. Given the five factors for a balanced retriever (focus, control, responsiveness, retrieving and "birdiness"), training setups are presently designed to enhance focus and control. By designing setups and interactions that force me to develop these two factors (focus and control), responsiveness will increase and "glue" everything into a homogeneous, balanced mix....in theory.


Gigi and Pounce trained with a group later in the day. Pounce ran a poison bird single/blind first. Up next were three remote winger singles from behind large pine trees....and last was a long blind. Gigi ran the three singles. All marks were winger launched mallards. Pounce was solid. Gigi has improved (including her holding blind manners). She is AKC Junior steady, waits to be released and her marking was excellent today. The "retired gunner" and "boom gun" presentations presented in Tuesday's group was a stark contrast to her marking today (no confusion or distractions).

Photos of the  "Out-Side In" Approach

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 Gigi's Intro To Water "Split Casting Drill"

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May 6 Thursday - Gigi did a three pile lining and handling drill in the grassy area of the Thorson Pond DTA. Her casting was good, but the loopy sit needs additional work. In the afternoon, the Harrison Road group training was attended for the first time in quite awhile. Pounce ran two singles and then a poison bird blind plus another blind. She is ready to run AKC Master tests. Gigi ran three singles and did those well (marking was excellent, mallard handling was good, at the line OK for AKC Junior not Senior). Gigi was sent for the longer blind, lined it and then did not pick up the bumper. Looking for another duck? not sure..did not come back in....asked.....often.          grrrr!

With a warm afternoon (80's), Pounce and Gigi trained in Thorson Pond late in the day. Nearly the same setup that Gigi did this morning was repeated again. However, the piles/stakes were moved farther apart. For Pounce, it was mostly for the exercise. The afternoon session was different in that there was a 17 mph cross wind out of the west. Pounce and Gigi did well at keeping on line.      
                                  note: About ten geese were not enthused with our intrusion.

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At noon, the plan was to have some flyers shot for Pounce and Gigi. The first flyer with Pounce came to the ground (not killed) and ran around in plain sight. Pounce acted as if she were brain dead. It was not a pretty sight and totally out of character for Pounce?????...I called it day...maybe too quickly. However, Pounce (and Gigi) will have encounters with a few "not able to fly", very live mallards in the near future.
May 5 Wednesday....high of 63°F - live training mallards will be available Monday...the first traing setup was at the Thorsom Pond DTA. Gigi continued her "swim straight"  training by doing a remote sit (from place) with a retrieve back to the "place" position. Her return to the line is similar to disciplined casting. After several reps, the geese at the othed end of the pond were glad that we left. The next session was three remote winger, Dokken singles at the nearby Rockton Road DTA. The sessions was begun with an extended "walk to the line" practice. Pounce was excellent. The contrast between Gigi's "walk at heel" to the line vs. Pounce's is stark. Gigi's is not excellent...yet.

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May 4Tuesday...up early so that Gigi would have time to work the "down the middle" water concept
There were four geese on the pond making it easy to place the three bumpers. Gigi picked them up in order and stayed on line (not sucking to the shorelines) and was given and a lot of "atta-girl", good dog rewards (and she liked it.....me too). Not much wind provided stationary bumpers.

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May 2 - Sunday...forecast high of 83°F and windy - trained later in the day....wind had calmed down quite a bit. A similar setup to this morning was run with Gigi and Pounce. The white stakes were moved a bit farther apart. Gigi and Pounce then lined each pile twice. Next up....each was "asked" to change their initial line and take a cast/line to the other pile. Pounce consistently took better changes in direction casts than Gigi. This was expected because Pounce has more experience.

Gigi slowly realized that she needed to work with me and struggled at first....taking several whistles and casts. Each time she was slightly better....and with the last few began to pay more attention. It was a good learning session for Gigi. Her responsiveness improved. Before we left, the decision to work on the cheating penchant of Gigi took another turn by using an approach I used only once several year ago. Taffey was going through transition using Dobbs. She was very quick at learning whatever was thrown at her. This was a good thing because I was just beginning. The concept is "tell" the dog when they are doing the right thing vs. making the wrong thing not very rewarding.

There is an old de-cheating itechnique based on the dog reaching a decision that "this is good and that is bad". Essentially, the choices are 1) dog gets nicked with the e-collar when running the bank...enough to be unpleasant and simply annoying. In addition, the trainer says nothing (no rewards). Then the trainer throws a bumper out so that coming straight back in is obviously going to happen. When coming in straight to the trainer, the trainer becomes animated and provides a lot excited praise for the dog as he comes right back in straight. It is important to make a dramatic difference in the two choices. The two tosses are perpendicular to the shoreline vs. an angled toss where the dog is most likely to swim to the bank and then run along it back to the trainer.

It is important to make the two presentations distinctly different (obvious). Having the dog swim straight back to you is a conditioned response. A quick thinking retriever (or a lazy one) will more often than not choose the easiest and/or quickest way to do something. This is not an easy presentation for a trainer to apply and it is only the second retriever (out of seven retrievers) that I have need to try this on in the last twenty years.

When preparing this for a May '21 journal entry, I recalled a friend from the past that said his Lab was a very persistent bank runner and was failing most of the Finished HRCH tests because of it. To make this a bit briefer, he wanted me to help. So we met and setup a training session. The first step was to have him demonstrate how he was attempting to "decheat" his dog. As the dog began to cheat it was obvious that there was an issue. The dog was barking (more like screaming) all the way around the corner. I said, "Stop!....what are you doing?" He replied, "I am trying to de-cheat him. But he will not pay any attention". The dog knew the faster he ran....the sooner the collar corrections would stop.       
                                     Finesse is a fine art and not for the heavy handed.

It was in the 80's when we finished and both dogs were very wet and hot. Therefore, we stopped at the Rockton Road DTA. The plan was to take advantage of the cloud cover and high winds to do a few, short "stand alone/send back" singles with Pounce and Gigi. This would accomplish two things. The first was they would dry off some and the second a few exciting retrieves would balance the handling session on the pond.
May 3 - Monday - warm with a chance of rain in the afternoon...arrived at the Four Lakes DTA and waited for a few dogs to finish training. Gigi then did a review of lining and handling in the east section of the technical pond. As the session progressed, swimming toward the shorelines on the way back got better (some). Gigi is fast off the line with no signs of letting up. Her desire to "beach" early is not going to be an easy penchant to overcome. A seven bumper, down the shore setup for Pounce was next. I did not see the longest, seventh bumper which turned it into a six bumper lining drill (counting after finished revealed the missing bumper). It began to rain on the way home.

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