Dec. 8 Tuesday - trained at 3:30 pm...cold 32°F & very windy (Southwest area - Riverside Park) Pounce did two X-Box marking drills (long and short with an orange bumper) and did well...Gigi started with the Pin Point marking drill and was pretty much clueless as she over-ran the falls by quite a bit....every time. I was going to call it a day (that bad) when it was decided to see what she would do with a white bumper. She did NOT over-run any and was "right on" every single. There was a  thick cloud cover and a strong tail wind. The orange vs. white was night and day different for Gigi.         note: Pounce can see orange and it is now confirmed that Gigi cannot. 
Dec. 9 Wednesday - afternoon…high 50°F...Pounce and Gigi each ran two X-Box marking drills
                      note: both marked well
Afterwards, there was about an hour left until sundown. We went directly to the goose blind on

Thorson Pond and worked until dark to remove all the "camo" covering and the frame. The platform will remain in place for next year. Rain and snow with freezing weather are near.

Dec. 10 Thursday - trained at Riverside Park DTA - Gigi ran a set of six blinds in the "Point Blind" format. The focus was on responsive reactions to the whistle sits and taking accurate casts. It

was a very good session.  Pounce then ran two 125 yard "stand alone/send back" singles each followed by running a blind to the same pile Gigi had "worked". Lastly, Gigi came back out to run the same two, "stand alone/send back" singles Pounce had run. Much was accomplished in the short time frame available. Rain and snow is coming tomorrow. 

Dec 5 Saturday afternoon…high 41°F repeated yesterday (different section), each did two sets of six singles…different positions & LONGER
           note: Gigi needs more focused practice on marking (steady until released was better
                     (today)… trainer at the line requires consistent, relentless practice

I went back and refreshed my information on how to introduce doubles. Gigi is not easy!

Beginning Doubles - the "memory bird" is the first bird thrown and should be short and easy for the dog to remember. Memory is not an issue in itself. Her skills vs. thinking are not working at the same speed. The "go bird" is the last bird thrown and the first one she will be sent to retrieve.
Yesterday was too much, too soon, too far and too late (sunset). Distance decreases responsiveness.
           note: The "drive around van" approach will "ditched" and in the spring done with the UTV. 
Start easy.....and walk. Begin with wide spread double marks. Gradually increase the distance to the memory bird as Gigi's responsiveness improves. Speed and desire are an issue best dealt
with by being up close. Next lengthen the distance to the go bird
in order to increase the time it takes before the dog is sent for the memory bird.  Train a fast dog slowly!!!   
note: This will not be a one day and done process.
Today's training began around noon. With the high being in the 50's, the only weather issue was 40 mph winds. Using the walk around approach, the setups were less cluttered with equipment (mainly the van). The distance was close to create better focus and control. Gigi was amped and more than one repetition was required. On the third presentation, her derive and performance were more in tune and she did well with the practice. She was able to complete the double with no issues in skills. It is obvious the marks were easy once repeated. However, this was not actually just a marking drill.  It is more like "can you run and chew gum" at the same time. Now that the routine has been established, the next step is to work on precise repetitions and then begin dealing with more factors and degrees of difficulty.

Dec 19 Saturday - Gigi and Pounce trained late in the afternoon and finished at sunset. Both did two sets of X-Box marking drills. The first three were in-lines on one side and the last three were check-downs on the other side. All singles were run using the "stand alone/send back" approach. Both were accurate and fast.  With cloud cover and sunset, lighting conditions for photos were not good.
               note: Two different gunner lines were used to avoid having too many, confusing AOF's.

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Dec 20 Sunday - Training will depend on how much light there is after the Bear's game.       There was  was time, but no energy. A day off seemed reasonable. Gigi and Pounce slept all afternoon.
Dec. 21 Monday - high of 41°F - trained in the afternoon...The extended weather forecast is not going to allow any more goose hunts on Thorson Pond...unless we have a January thaw (season ends 14th).
It was cloudy with a 15 mph NW wind and not much time until sundown. The Thorson Pond DTA bean  field made for a quick setup to run a new point blind. Gigi and Pounce are becoming very good with their initial lines. Both needed one handle on the first go and they each lined their last four. Gigi was literally flying on her lines and the last one was 310 yards. Just like that we were finished. The rolling terrain in this section is mostly they were faster than normal. I gave Pounce a bit of slack and made her lines just a a bit shorter (and less walking for me).

Dec.12 Saturday - day off
Dec. 13 Sunday - After Bear's game, it was 29°F and decided to not train. Two days off for Gigi
and Pounce seemed reasonable. They both trained five days in a row Dec. 7-11

Dec. 14 Monday - high 27°F..wind NW, train...afternoon...used 3" foam filled, canvass bumpers Pounce and Gigi will do two "stand alone/walk back" doubles followed by two a sets of three, wide blinds. To save time and reduce walking, the running lines will use a flip-flop approach. 
         note: Depending on snow cover, foam bumper color choices are white, black, black/white
                   "combo" and orange (softer, easier on teeth). They tend to stay on top of any snow.
         note: In deeper, fluffy snow, black flags will be added.
         note: Due to the poor traction of my Ford Transit dog van, the UTV and enclosed trailer
                   are parked for the rest of this winter.
The plan for today resulted in a lot of futility because marking was not very good (especially for Gigi). The snow cover was mostly melted leaving small pockets of snow EVERYWHERE and Gigi simply could not visually sort things out. Daisy was a bit better only because she is not as fast as Gigi. They did get a lot of exercise. 
Dec 15 Tuesday - cold with a high of 30°F It will be four plus months before running any tests and whether that happens will depend on getting the Co-Vid Shot. Both dogs are relaxed and sleeping in the living room. After searching for some motivation to train, I found none.
Dec 16 Wednesday - high of 35°F, overcast and a slight breeze out of the northwest. At 3:30 pm, there was less than an hour until sunset. After a ten minute drive to the Rockton Road DTA, a new point blind was in place. The lines ranged from 125 yards to about 150 yards. Gigi ran first. After two crisp whistle sits and casts, she was all over the pile of Dokkens. The next line only needed one cast and she lined the last three. Pounce was out next. She had three handles on the first line and was very effective on the last four (only a few casts for being slightly off line).

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Dec 17 Thursday - high of 34° off from training  
                           note: very little snow......all the way until Jan 1st

Dec 18 Friday - high of 38°F - wind SSE at 15 mph..trained both dogs..There was no more guessing or using the Google Map distance tool. I brought out the Bushnell Yardage Pro and put a fresh battery in it. This afternoon's new point blind was Google Mapped and the Yardage Pro checked it.  Gigi ran first and made it look very easy. Pounce was second and her yellow coat reinforced the decision to buy a black retriever for long distances in fall, grass cover. With Pounce, I was guessing at the end.

Dec. 30 Wednesday..My son finished the snow removal from the driveway saving me a lot work. He did the stairs and walk, too. The three cars in the drive are no longer buried. Gigi and Pounce repeated yesterday's indoor pool room session. Pounce was almost finished when I violated a simple rule. Never say "here" to a well trained dog that is sitting on the other side of a pool.....when it is covered. Duh!
Dec. 31 Thursday - did not train and going to bed way before midnight  

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Dec. 4 Friday afternoon…high 43°F…Rockton Road DTA - orange, canvass bumper…”stand alone/send back” singles…calf-high cover…Gigi retrieved with the primary focus being steady (did NOT pick up every single and alternated with handler picking up every other one)…Pounce retrieved and watched (alternating) with the primary focus being exercise/practice   


Pounce & KwickLabs "Magical" Day

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Dec. 6 Sunday afternoon…high 41°F…using ”stand alone/send back” singles Pounce did two different X-Box-Drills in cover with an orange, canvass bumper & Gigi ran Hillmann’s Pin-Point marking drill (first time) using an orange bumper at 50-75 yards in cover (Riverside Park DTA – NW area)
            note: about fifteen singles...randomly tossed
            note: with each single, Gigi’s marking became more accurate…for a fast retriever
                      covering a lot of ground, being accurate is very important
            note: Gigi’s “stand alone/steady” routine at the line has improved...not a single issue
                      today (practice is cool)

            note: there are a few points about "stand alone" marking to accept..first a trainer is NOT   
                      beside the dog plus
the dog is "in charge" of the line and secondly the dog at the line
                      is looking at two things
- 1) the trainer/thrower and 2) the AOF. This makes shorter singles
                      even more difficult to deal with because the AOF can be quite far from the handler causing
                      difficulty with their focus. Precise practice with the same repetitions is significant.
Dec. 7  Monday afternoon…high 39°F…repeated yesterday's lesson in a different area (north-east)
             note: Pounce’s X-Box Drill "gunner distance"was increased by about 25 yards to 125 yards       
             note: Gigi’s Pin-Point singles distance was increase to 75-100 yards with a noticeable
                       improvement in marking focus 
             note: finished just after dusk, darkness came quickly (poor light for photos)

Dec 1 Tuesday - early afternoon - It is 33°F and there is skimmed ice on Thorson Pond. Nearby Legend Lake has some geese up and standing on ice. With the night time temperatures (for the next seven days) in the twenties, it is most likely over. However, it is not unusual to have a brief, winter thaw. 
Dec 2, 3 Wednesday/Thursday - 40's and the goose pond ice is building after each cold evening. It has become obvious that the long summer of no testing impacted the conditioned habit of regularly training Pounce and Gigi. The last three days have revealed an issue. The only real justifications are they like to train and need the exercise. Looking forward into the cold, snowy months of December, January and February is somewhat gloomy. The drive to train is simply not there. I have always trained my dogs to have a desire to train. It is rewarding......for them. A few more days off will not impact Pounce or Gigi much and maybe this moment will fade.  
Dec 4-8 Spent a few days deciding how to deal with journal entries the rest of this winter. The first step was to create a WORD spreadsheet separate from the WEB pages. Each day the sessions were described and then the progress for each day was entered. The following link is to a page reveling what that looked like after a few days.

Dec. 11 Friday - up early to beat the rain....snow to follow...It was cloudy and cold. Trained at the Riverside Park DTA and searched for a downwind section to run a set of four cold blinds. This was the day to find out if Gigi was ready. Four orange stakes were placed in a wide pattern with distances in the 125 yard range (kind of like a Farmer approach). Two Dokkens were placed at each stake to add some suction/distraction for Gigi. The orange poles (on a very cloudy morning) were difficult to locate at first (for me) and she has not demonstrated seeing orange easily. Gigi was very good on each blind. Whistle sits were prompt and she took the right casts. There were not many casts as I used about three to five whistle sits and it was balanced in terms of left and right hand casts. Her excellent memory did not result in attempting to return to any previous blinds where the other Dokken remained. In a way, today was a challenge and she passed with consistent, responsive handling. Gigi's next phase in blind skills is practice.

Next up was Pounce. She is experienced and had no issues with this setup. When comparing the two, Gigi is more difficult to run because she is much faster than Pounce. With Gigi, anticipation (on my part) must be much more focused and prompt. Split seconds can result in many yards offline....quickly.  Both of them make running blinds a lot of fun. After this morning, Gigi has taken a huge step forward into transition...on land. Northern Illinois water will soon be very hard which means a delay in that process. However, it will not be that big of a deal because most of the preliminary "stuff" has been completed and she had been running big water, point blinds.

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Dec. 22 Tuesday 37°F wind SSE 15 mph - the plan is to run a "drive around double" using the van.       Since the UTV is now stored for the winter, the conditions are such that this first "go" will be a start. We could do a "walk-around", but I want to imprint what we will be doing some of early next spring.   
                                note: Hillmann has a new video demonstrating this technique.

My time to train was shortened a bit. We did not arrive at the Rockton Road DTA until twenty minutes before sunset. Needless to say things did not progress smoothly and Gigi ended up retrieving about five singles. The "drive around van thing" was simply too complicated (for her) or we tried to do too much too soon. Since I do quite a bit of training with my retrievers in remote positions, I have cut back on that "arrangement". When the trainer is not at the line, a dog begins to think they are the one in charge (there) and this creates a conditioned response that is not all that desirable. Now that the "picture" of the UTV doubles is more obvious, the setup progression will be a bit more gradual and a better balance will be practiced. If Pounce could talk, she would have asked, "Why did you bring me? The rest of our winter training will be geared toward not competing with sunsets.
Dec. 23 Wednesday 53°F with showers in the afternoon. The plan is to beat the rain.

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Dec. 27 Sunday - watched Bear's game..did not train..ordered black/white, canvas bumpers with flags to use in the snow...January and February will not be ideal...mostly exercise (dogs) and reading. Began reviewing DL Walters' "Training Retrievers To Handle" and James B. Spencer's "Blind Retrieves".

Dec. 28 Monday - no training, needed to prepare for a big snow storm, cars, van and snow blower ready

Dec. 29 Tuesday - high 31° with ice and snow on the ground....easy decisions. Stay inside and read. The indoor pool room is heated with a deck all the way around that makes for warm OB sessions. The major snow storm has begun. It is good to have a viable, warm alternative.          The setup was designed to work on precise repetitions. Two large "camo" foam bumpers and a Mallard Dokken provided the focus. Using an elevated "place board" in an intermediate position, Gigi and Pounce practiced heeling, casting, remote whistle sits and precise delivery skills from two different directions. It was cozy warm with no wind and "very little cover". 

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Dec. 24 Thursday at 10 am it is 11°F. With a high at 16°F and single digits in the evening, winter has arrived = day off.....So, I decided it would be a good time to Dremel Pounce and Gigi's nails. I used a wall in the pool room to snub Pounce up and it went smoothly. Next up was Gigi. I could tell right from the beginning via her muscle tension this was not going to be easy. I struggled quite a bit to get three paws Dremeled and finally gave up. The Dremel noise lit a fire I could not extinguish. Some iodine took care of the nicks on my hand. This is not the first time the "wolf" in her surfaced.
Dec. 25 training
Dec. 26 Saturday - high of 35°F...trained - Gigi and Pounce repeated the walk-around double concept in a different area. This took less than an hour (door to door). With very little wind it was pleasant.