April 18 trained...cooler, cloudy & upper 40's this morning...The ejector spring part for my "new" used Winchester pump shotgun arrived yesterday. After finding an excellent YouTube, the "fix" was easy.

                             note: In two more weeks Gigi will be five months old and collar conditioning "ala"
                                       Hillmann wiil begin. The regular efforts with a leash/tether to and from
                                       everywhere a few weeks after she came has effectively become a smooth
                                       routine. She heels "loose lead" (both sides), sits when asked and just recently,
                                       she has begun to simply sit when I stop (no verbal), enters and exist crates
                                       in the house and van with no "fuss". However, she is not a "calm" puppy.
                                       "Capping" energy is an interesting process. Distraction proofing has not come
                                       as easily.  
                             note: This morning Gigi was standing in her crate next to Pounce when I noticed that

                                        she is almost as tall. The "long and lanky" look has not changed much.....just
                                        more of it.
                             note: Here is an interesting fact. Gigi has eaten about 65 pounds of dog food since

                                       she came home at eight weeks of age (a little over two 30 pound bags).  She is
                                       four and a half months old and weighs 33.7 pounds (vet scale).

Pounce's HRC "Practice/Distraction Setup" was enhanced "a bit" in this next phase with Dogtra Remotes (sound) at each station. This was done to focus Pounce's attention toward the direction of the "marks" by being aware of each gun "motion" at the line. There are no shots or sounds in the field during most Finished tests, but establishing conditioned responses for "marking off the gun" is the rationale. Wingers with Dokkens will be the next distraction phase and lastly real mallards. Also, her schedule will include weekly/evening  group training sessions starting next Tuesday and Thursday. Pounce's first Finished HRC test is in early June.

Gigi came out for a "free" walk as I picked up the setup stakes. The is a part of the training day where Gigi works on the "here" command (with no bumper). Afterwards, she was given water and a short rest while I "picked up" the HRC line equipment. Gigi then came back out for her "training session". The walk before......does "blow off a bit of steam". Also, the idea of working on "a trade" with Gigi to develop bringing a bumper back was scrapped...made it simpler...something we can actually deal with. The idea of producing a conditioned response seems more doable when it is not complicated.

Since engagement is an issue, she/we did short, two yard retrieves in a semi-confined space wearing a rope (van parked parallel to a dense hedgerow). Using "Traffic Cop" and the short rope, she was given two yard tosses off a "Hillmann sit". This was an "easy do" because her sits are very good (intensely focused). However, after a release, visualize a black, four-legged, 34 pound butterfly with sharp teeth on a short lead. The positives were glimpses of "thinking going on" (with Gigi) and I can physically manage this situation. However, getting old is becoming a "pain in the donkey".

April 19 Friday...upper 50's & no school for Lylah...We took both dogs to the vet clinic (puppy shots for Gigi and  "wellness exam" for Pounce). After dropping Lylah off at the house, a trip to the Harrison Road DTA had both dogs "busy". Pounce's 60 yard "HRC, three station distraction drill" was setup with the third run to include a diversion bird and "shot" blind.  Pounce was sharp and engaged. The best clue that this approach is working is that her feet have not moved at all.

After preparing for Pounce's session, Gigi was brought to take a long, free walk. There was no training except a few well timed "here" interludes. The primary focus was to "take the edge off" before her "real" training session (after Pounce's). Hillmann's program is all about maintaining balance. That earlier "run" with Gigi is to bring her down from "wild and crazy" to a more focused, excited puppy. There is "excited" and then again there is "just too excited". Gigi's training session was much better today. The focus was on distance vs. balance and no retrieves were longer than a few yards. The  farther away Gigi is....the less we are engaged.
April 20 much warmer..train mid-day...repeat/practice yesterday's session in a different area Also, Gigi will have an extra session called - "Off the Van to the Line" (which will be practiced regularly), This consists of 1) sitting in her van crate with the door open for one minute, 2) exiting crate and  having a collar/lead put on her, 3) sitting outside of crate (in van) with lead on for one minute,  4) sitting outside of the van for one minute, 5) heeling to an airing area, 6) airing (on long lead), 7) heeling to holding blind, 8) sitting in holding blind (with time gradually increased) plus being in the "down" position, 9) exiting holding blind and heeling to the line and 10) sitting next to me on an HRC bucket. During this routine there will be moments of Hillmann's "Game" (working the "on/off" switch). This will be practiced every training day "until the cows come home" (regular maintenance).

The importance of this is significant. Gigi has no idea of what is "out there" in terms of a shotgun, birds in the air and exciting retrieves. She has watched Pounce work. However, her initial experience with distractions will be limited to the "line". This area will become familiar territory (with repetitive practice) before actually seeing wingers/gunners and ducks (full setups). The often  overwhelming anticipation of "everything" initially will be altered and practiced in a gradual, seamless process.                    note: Gigi did her first, full "Off the Van To the Line" session. (see the above description) 
                   note: Gigi will be only five months old in two weeks and shows no signs of teething (yet). 
                             For now, most everything will be fun introductions in a specific context.

April 8 trained in the afternoon at the Harrison Road DTA, high in the 70's....shot at an HRC line with the "new" used Winchester pump shotgun (a bit "sticky" at first, but "warmed" out of it). Pounce "worked" the line with a holding blind, blank gunfire and double Dokkens at two stakes in the field (practice). Two other "members" arrived to train. When Pounce was finished with her setup, Gigi was taken to the far corner of the property for a good walk through some light cover and treeline. Neither dog had any issues with the sudden warm temperatures...but both are sleeping soundly fours later.
April 9 trained again...Harrison Road DTA, high in the upper 60's with a pleasant breeze...Pounce repeated yesterday's set with three longer/wider "double piles" in a different area. The new, "used" shotgun was given a good cleaning last night and performed much better. Gigi again was watching from the "gallery" (right out of the sliding van door). Afterwards, we went on a very long walk. She was much more focused on keeping track of me (many long casts followed by regular "check back ins"). This aspect of our engagement was simply not possible before (deep snow, thick ice and cold). It did not take long for it to "kick in". At one time, a robin flushed from below a large scrub pine and Gigi chased it. Flying low and slow, she had a long, exciting free run. When it finally disappeared, she came running right back to me ready for "What's next?" Today's trip "cemented the deal", riding in the van is cool. 

April 10 rain and a high of 37°F...radar window this morning (about an hour) After a five minute drive to the Thorson DTA and a few minute to setup, Pounce had an excellent session. We did a repeat of the "Gun Line Drill" (3rd time). Afterwards, Gigi came out and did a "run around free while I pick Pounce's setup" session.  This spontaneous effort was almost magical.  

Right away she snatched up one of the Dokken mallards from the line and took off. A quick loop back resulted in a "Here....take this and toss it for me!" Very quickly this became a game. After each toss, fetch and return, her grip on the Dokken became more centered. The "returns" were greatly impacted by the fact that she was wearing a long rope. The idea of bringing something back to me was enhanced. Our brief "stake pickup session" accomplished several things 1) the two field stakes were "in hand", 2) Gigi was exercised, 3) Gigi's retrieves now involve a more obvious reason to return, 4) picking up big, fat objects was exciting and became easier, 5) there was a noticeable increase in her engagement and 6) we beat the rain. The only negative for the morning was I forgot to bring any gloves.

On the way home we swung by Farm & Fleet to purchase some gun scrubber and oil. This "big box" store allows leashed dogs. Gigi and I did a long stroll through the aisles and worked on our heeling.  Since some of the "steam" had been released in her Dokken session....she was absolutely wonderful.
I did leave the "gun stuff" on a counter and took her to the van first. Standing in line at the cash register (without her) was much simpler.  This was a very cool day for two dogs and an old man.
                                note: It is now about 1:30 in the afternoon. Two dogs are "sawing wood".

                                         Then we had about 15 minutes of heavy snowfall.....which melted quickly.
April 11 not going anywhere.....windy with showers and thunderstorms likely. High 52F. Winds E at 25 to 35 mph. Chance of rain 100%. Winds could occasionally gust over 40 mph         Went shopping 
for adult crates for Gigi and of all places located just what was needed at Menards (local "box" lumber yard). I bought a larger one for the day area and a slightly smaller one for the bedroom.
April 12 cloudy, 37°F and windy...Pounce did the "line drill" practice with three stations simulating a triple.....incremental distraction practice. The focus of this type of session is practicing the HRC line/gun/field teamwork (retriever and handler). The first "go" was shooing three times "left to right" with three mallard Dokkens to be retrieved. The full "off van, airing, to the blind and finally to the line" routine was practiced. Pounce was "put up" in the van and Gigi came out to do her run around fun "stuff" with a mallard Dokken. Pounce then came back out to repeat the previous routine except the three shots (Dokkens) were done right to left.  She was put up and soon came back out to repeat and practice the same routine for the third time. This final sequence was shots left, right and middle. Lastly, Gigi came back out (second time) for a much longer romp with a Dokken while I picked up the black stakes in the field. Gigi did several short Hillmann sit, Dokken retrieves. The Dokken was bloody. When she woke up from her nap, I did a teething vs. tongue check.....no signs of teething.
                               note: The shooting at the line practice is for BOTH of us!!!
                               note: The weather for the next twenty days is not going to be all that wonderful 
                                         (especially for water setups)...mostly in the 50's with five days in the 60's
                               note: to some extent that will not be an issue and makes it much easier to focus
                                         on "HRC distraction proofing" with Pounce & fundamentals with Gigi
                               note: "a tired puppy is a good puppy"
                               note: found tick in beard....shaved it all off....both dogs are on Frontline Plus

April 13 trained at noon...43°F with 15 mph winds...repeat of yesterday (same DTA, different location)
After Pounce's first run, Gigi was brought out mostly to stretch her legs and air (just a good walk for me). After Pounce's 2nd run, the entire setup was again run (3rd time) "from off the van to the line"  (more practice). After picking everything up, the three black stakes in the field were retrieved as
Gigi practiced her free run "routine" 1) a long walk/run, 2) several sits before retrieves, 3) checked out the backwater area, 4) "kind of" stayed in touch by working a bit on the natural "here" when she was far away, and 5) before the run watched up close when Pounce did the setups with primer loads. 
                               note: 6:00 pm....both girls are "sawing wood" in the living room

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April 15 Initially, the plan was totrain indoors. However, the following reversed that initial idea.

During this "phase" of Gigi's training (called "OB to the line"...not in the field), Gigi will be wearing a 2.25 mm, prong collar. It should be noted the prong collar is NOT a Hillmann "tool".  However, it does fall into the "fair and much safer" category (if used properly) in comparison to the effects of a 6 mm rope on the trachea of an aggressive/dynamic young pup.

Thorson Pond DTA

When the snow vanished rapidly, a quick training trip to the Four Lakes DTA  made for a good day of practice. Pounce ran two Y-Drills (angle in, angle back and flat throws) plus a few extra singles with a primer pistol and Dokken. The stand alone/send back approach made this an "easy do". Gigi again had a "front row seat" watching Pounce retrieve. Then it was Gigi's turn for her long walk with a few retrieves. The regular field area was cut short. However, "The walk" took her into some challenging cover. We went into short, stick remains of mowed shrubs that were....well, simply "sticky" like. They did not phase her at all. Every once in awhile, I would stand on the long rope (up close) and steady her for a short, Dokken single. This routine has improve quite a bit in the last few outings (actually, there have not been that many). We were about finished and still fifty yards from the van, when she took off (looking for water) and turned to look back at me when there wasn't any at the van. I could not resist the temptation and "sailed" a Dokken back to the north. Gigi "lasered" it. The walk back to the van was all smiles and "good girl"!  

        note: Gigi continues to wear her small e-collar when training, but it is not turned on....yet...two
                  more weeks and the Hillmann approach to collar conditioning will begin (a very low level
                  of reinforcing....when doing the right thing - "sit"). She will be five months old. 
April 16 upper 50's. trained late morning...again at Four Lakes DTA...Pounce ran seven singles in a "pin point" marking drill using the "stand alone/send back" technique. The marks were angle in,  flat, angle back and one long right behind the gunner (Dokken and primer pistol). Gigi then came out and   had a run with a few retrieves. Then she became distracted by the wrong scent....everywhere. One of the issues with a public dog training area is some people use it as a pit stop for their pets. Therefore, we switched gears and did an extended session of heeling using the "issue" as a distraction.
April 17  upper 50's late morning with rain in the afternoon...trained at Harrison Road DTA....One more day without a shotgun (ejector spring part arrives today)....Pounce ran two point blinds (setup and ran last year "repeats". She remembered them like we ran it yesterday. Gigi went for a long walk with a Dokken and did a few retrieves......but she was more interested in exploring.  She finished with a brief session of heeling. Gigi is trying to do too many things at once and her high energy and scent surges are simply not "organized". Her "train of thought" jumped the track several times.
                             note: It is time for simplification. A few hours later, "The Game" was modified to
                                       include another bumper. "The Trade" is not a new idea, but in the Hillmann
                                       mode.....why not? Went outside in the yard and experimented. It was very
                                       effective for a first attempt. The "On/Off" switch was kind of working. The only
                                       issue is a leaping, teeth flashing wild pup. However, the "trade deal" was
                                       beginning to sink in and so were her sharp, puppy teeth. Gigi was not
                                       wearing an e-collar, but I got "nicked" a few times. Leather gloves?

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April 1 Today's entry involves the use of a humorous and cryptic phrase describing Gigi's training "issue". The phrase "can't walk and chew gum at the same time" is often used to describe an inability for multitasking. Gigi will need a specific/patient approach to learn how to "heel & carry a bumper at the same time". Combining Instincts and excitement with skills requires patience.....especially with a young, driven pup. It is somewhat like combining oil and vinegar with an emulsifier.....then regularly mixing.  The goal is to have that skill in place by the end of this month (done gradually/seamlessly).
                 note: It is very fitting that on April 1st the house water system needed a huge repair. All the
                           above ground "well system" controls and holding tank had to be replaced $$$.
At 2 pm it is cold and windy...both dogs are looking at me with a Well? look. It is not amusing!
Piled "higher and deeper", I finished our income tax yesterday.....not good news....tax reduction my Donkey!  Soooo....I really do not feel like training this afternoon......maybe later?
                  note: late evening Gigi dd some easy heeling around the indoor, pool deck
April 2 worked on income tax trying to reduce it....no luck....Pounce and Gigi had the day off.
April 3 spent the morning cleaning the garage of winter equipment and loading training gear into the van (wingers, blind stakes, holding blinds). In the afternoon, Pounce ran an HRC double with  a blind

and a single with a blind....Gigi did another long walk to the pond and  brief session of Hillmann's Traffic Cop. The last month has provided a very good "view" of Gigi's talent, traits, behavior, etc. "Sizing Gigi up" was done in a summary late last month (see the following "copy")

                                  the four month old analysis/inventory of Gigi 
              strengths - very intelligent (quick study), physically - agile, very fast, drive - extremely high
                                  (at times), has an on/off switch (at times), affectionate, very high potential                           weaknesses - somewhat soft when "pushed", timid/
immature (at times)....inconsistent (fairly
                                   normal for a four month old pup) extremely aggressive on retrieves (possessive,
                                   head shaking)....this is "The Issue".....work toward willing "hold and drop"
                                    including remote "drop"
                     This is not near the norm for any four month old pup I've ever had before (10).
                                   note: overall plan - Proceed carefully (slow down), be consistent, incrementally
                                             teach. Most of all, keep it fun and strive for a "want to", engaged mode 
Late this evening, a review of an RTF thread discussing "What are Grady pup's like?" was revisited.
The rationale was motivated by one "trait" in the above review. There were several different Grady pup trainers using the phrase "slow to mature". This provided a much needed explanation for much of what I see in Gigi. She has all this (it shows) intelligence, speed, drive and instincts but "holding it all together" indicates making sure this is followed "Train a fast, driven, talented and immature pup slowly." I should mention that every outdoor walk or airing session consists of regularly checking the smell, texture and taste of "everything" on the ground small enough to get in her mouth.  Awhile back, I sent a photo of her to the breeder. His reply was "She looks like trouble!" If  she looks like that in a photo...you can imagine what she's like "up close and  personal".   O

A precocious pup is often looked up as being  advanced, old beyond one's years, forward, ahead of one's peers, mature and prematurely developed. A young, precocious pup (Gigi is only four months old) needs to be taught more slowly. This approach will be a better fit with the maturity "issue".  

April 4 Pounce & Gigi did not do any training session as such. However, just the daily routine in the house continues to be training.
April 5
spring cleaning in garage...Remington shotgun to gunsmith (minor repair) and bought a used Winchester 12 gauge pump shotgun since the HRC tests most often use a Winchester.  In the late afternoon, Pounce and Gigi trained at Four Lakes DTA. Gigi went on a fun walk around the technical pond. Two nesting geese kept a close eye on us. After the "walk" with a few retrieves, she was placed back in her side of the Ainley "two dog" crate. The van was moved so that Gigi would have a clear, ringside view of Pounce running several, short "stand alone/send back" singles (for exercise).
note: At home, Pounce and Gigi spend quite a bit of time next to each other in their crates.

                         This has made her transition to the van "two dog" on training days almost seamless.
April 6 Saturday - 65°F for the high...trained in the afternoon...the short term goal for Pounce is running HRC Finished tests......River Valley HRC 2019 Hunt Test   June 1,  2019 (entered)  (1hr 30 min)                                                      Mazomanie , WI     Entry Express    Pounce - one test
                                       Horicon Marsh HRC 2019 Hunt Test - June 22, 2019 (entered)  (1hr 36 min)
                                       Horicon , WI      Entry Express   Pounce - one test
                                       WISILL/Badger State HRC  June 29 & 30  2019 (1 hr)
                                       Kansasville, Wisconsin    Hunt Secretary   Pounce - two tests?
                                       (there are two more in August)
Pounce and Gigi trained in the late afternoon at the Four Lakes DTA again. Gigi did a repeat of the double walk around the technical pond with more retrieves. She got a bit more wet today. The combined water and air temperatures were 122F° (the minimum for training is 120F°). Pounce had two retrieves from the water as Gigi "observed". Pounce then did several short singles with the van positioned for Gigi to watch from her crate. Then we went on a short trip to the Harrison Road DTA where Pounce did two "stand alone/send back" Y-Drills with a primer pistol. Again the van was positioned so that Gigi had a good view of the setup. After Pounce was "put up", Gigi came out and did three short singles from her Hillmann "Traffic Cop" sits on the "placeboard". The long rope was held about five yards from Gigi with several "tug/sit" reinforcements before releasing her. 
                  note: transitioning Gigi's feeding to twice a day eliminated her diarrhea (no pun intended)

                     note: Gigi has improved dramatically now that the weather has made it easier to provide
                            more space and exercise outdoors.  
Gigi's training is progressing quite well. She is young, very smart and a quick study. Hillmann's program has been exciting every day...for both of us. She is 4+ months old, very precocious and ready for the next skill to be developed....the trained retrieve. The following Bill Hillmann YouTube provides the perfect approach for Gigi (teach and practice).                   

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     April 14 rain/snow..high 39F° - low 26°F..winds NNE 17 mph = day off for everyone (excellent timing)

Gigi's "action"

"front yard"

April 21 Easter Sunday - relatives visiting and most likely no training.

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Pounce's Two Point Blinds

Pounce's "action"

Retriever training is a relative new adventure compared to almost forty years ago. I left my "day job" and began training, breeding and racing harness horses. It was a seven day work week with many long days spent driving to and from the popular parimutuel race tracks in the Chicago area (Hawthorne, Sportsman's Park, Maywood Park and Balmoral). This was a ten year adventure and an emotional roller coaster. If I had it to do all over again.......

April 7 We trained at the Four Lakes DTA again using weather radar for a window in the rain to train. Gigi did the twice around the pond walk (repeat of yesterday) and she got a bit wetter today (but not much). During the "free run' she "discovered" the limestone rocks on the path near the pond. After "blowing off some steam" (evidently not nearly enough), Gigi did some up close Hillmann "Traffic Cop" work and a session of on lead heeling. The main focus of today's session was to start working on her "close fetch and return" skills. She was way more than a "handful".      A few segments of Gigi's efforts were made into a YouTube video. Pounce then ran six "stand alone/send back" singles with 209 primer shots. A Dokken was thrown at 100 yards with "angle in, flat and back" singles (three on both sides). She was fast and precise.

link to YouTube

Gigi's YouTube Video