June 3 Monday - Gigi's 4th AKC OB class is at 6 PM.......Pounce has the day off while Gigi worked on her retrieving skills. The "reviewing skills" were described in Hillmann's YouTube link cited in the May journal. The summary of which consists of the following. Retriever puppy's have varying levels of prey drive (the instinct to chase something and pick it up). The behaviors of 1) holding. 2) bring it back, 3) heeling, 4) siting and 5) delivering (out) are NOT NATURAL. Which means each of those must be taught individually so as to produce a completed retrieve. "They cannot be taught all at the same time." This was the most significant concept taken from the video.
Therefore, an inventory was taken. Gigi's instinct to chase and pick up a bumper is very high. She is very steady - sits erectly, does not move and watches intently and waits to be released (counting slowly to ten is pretty cool). She is very good on the marks (lines it and "the nose" prevents any over running). For the few marks that she has seen...Gigi is a very good marker and fast. Picking up is clean, accurate and fast and she heads back quickly. The basics of the return (here) is initially good. At about ten yards out "what to do next" becomes predictable. She is 1) holding, 2) moving fast but 3) slowing down , 4) heeling, 5) siting and 6) delivering (out) are not part of the program. One good thing about the retrieves is she is smart enough to not barrel into me. Stepping on the rope is not going to "cut it". Listing the taught skills that are presently in place a workable solution is now being practiced. The present skills in place are 1) fetch on command is good, 2) walking fetch is
good, 3) holding while heeling for extended distances is good, 4) sit while holding is good and she understands 6) "out". The pieces are in place.....linking them when she is excited is the challenge.
I have always found the use of a rope "cumbersome" (at best). The use of a long Flexi-lead was observed long ago by a friend (who was a pro trainer). Gigi began "the process" by fetching and hold it as we heeled to a place board. She was "place" on the board on a sit (holding the bumper). I walked away the full length of the Flexi-lead verbally reinforcing the "sit". The "here" command is given and she comes to me wheels and heels to a sit (good) and the bumper is released on the "out" command. The "parts" were already taught....putting them all together in a manner which could be practiced probably would not have happened without hearing Hillmann's analysis. The only issue
left is "How do I get her to slow down?" Fortunately, Pounce provided the answer a few years ago
June 9 Sunday - cloudy, slight breeze, lots of bugs.....Pounce and Gigi went to the same DTA's as yesterday and both ran four more singles in a different area of the Harrison RD. DTA. Then after a
short drive to the Four Lakes DTA, Pounce ran seven "stand-alone send back" water singles in the
technical pond (Dokken and primer pistol). The "send-back" line was in the same spot of the known "exercise" blind ran yesterday. Pounce "knows" this pond. However, the "grassy" shoreline is not
usually this "over grown".
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"Gigi" - five & half months old
note: Gigi's evening at the OB class again revealed just how useful this work has proven to be.
With the wide variety of distractions provided, her OB has steadily improved. At just six
months old, she has taken to the process well. The focus has been on having her learn
how to deal with the high energy of her genetics. Taming the beast has been interesting.
June 4 Gigi did an early morning session working on remote "sit", "here", "heel", "sit" and "out" while carrying a bumper "hold"......in an "up beat", Hillmann "game" session. Several reps working
on developing precise responses were completed including a few times entering a "dog hide" and laying down in it, jumping up on a two foot tall table and sitting on "place boards". She is now at the stage where all of this is done in a smooth flowing session. She does not realize it, but the weakest area has been "hold". Since it is only one "concept" out of many in the session, it has become "not" a big deal (anymore). The key idea to this is to create an overall set of interrelated skills which express the concept, "This is what I do because it is all I know how to do." Well conditioned responses are a "cool"......when linked properly. The last three words are the challenge.
note: Now that all the skills are "somewhat" in place, the next phase will precise repetition
(practice). Distractions will be slowly introduced. Entering and exiting the van is solid.
Airing and dealing with holding blinds has begun. And she knows what it is to move
at heel to the line. Sit, watch and being steady at the line are very good.
note: Collar conditioning is well underway.
note: It is important to keep her age and growth in perspective. She is growing rapidly and at
six months old Gigi is already taller and longer than Pounce. Her growth plates are not
not closed yet.......running and working distances are not being stretched.
Late afternoon, Gigi and Pounce trained at the nearby Thorson Pond DTA in the south "grassy area". Gigi was to do the same routine we had been practicing indoors. Clearly the new setting was distracting and resulted in a "not so good session". This was not much of a surprise. The next session will be done outside again but "dialed down a bit" matching the need. Pounce worked on her physical conditioning by running a set of five "stand alone/send back" singles (fast/accurate).
June 5 With our autistic granddaughter no longer in school, finding time to train has become a big issue. Afternoon temperatures are getting hot. For today, Gigi did a bit this morning before 8 am and
worked mostly on remote sits with here to heel. Again, heeling while holding a bumper was the main focus. Sunrise is at 5:15 am and I may need to "hit the road early" more often. The problem is no shooting.
June 6 nine weeks until HRC Finished tests (Pounce).....no time to train her. The extra long Flexi-Lead arrive today and the remote sit distance with Gigi has been extended.
June 7 Gigi did more practice focusing on an issue that must be dealt with. The following link is to a page dedicated to the analysis.
June 8 very nice weather - upper 70's mid-day at the Harrison Road DTA - Pounce ran four remote winger, Dokken singles with the "off the van, holding blind and to the HRC bucket line" - very sharp
afterwards, the wingers were reloaded and "aimed" for two flat throws and two angle ins. The van was situated to accomplish two impacts. The first was Gigi could watch Pounce "work" her singles.
Secondly, the van was situated to form a "wall" behind the line to impact slowing Gigi's returns (in theory). Evidently, given the previous (not extensive) remote "sit/here" practice, Gigi was actually very much more into the returns. The grass was calf high, but she marked all four singles really well.
The results of this session were 1) Pounce is getting back in shape nicely after her surgery and 2)
Gigi seems to have "turned the corner" (slightly). After picking up the wingers, a short drive to the
Four Lakes DTA had Pounce doing a nice channel blind swim. Then I found out that letting Gigi out of the van with no e-collar on or wearing a long rope........was not amusing.
June 1 Saturday - "Duh" focus was on getting the van removed from the mud near Thorson Pond.
June 2 train Gigi early in the morning working on "here....heel". Gigi and Pounce trained in the afternoon doing three retrieves from remote wingers. White bumpers were landing in ankle high,
lush grass and "out of sight" if not right on it. Pounce marked really well (expected) and Gigi was
almost as good (wow!). The off the van, to "airing", then to the holding blind to the line routine was "practiced" by both. The only area that Gigi needs working on is the last ten yards of the retrieve (here, heel and deliver). This will be a major focus for the next three weeks (or more). She did the first practice in a midnight session right after her late night airing.
note: Gigi is now 6 months old and bigger than Pounce (long & lanky).
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YouTube Video link
June 10 Pounce - day off...Gigi - up-close skills practice (twice). At 6 pm Gigi's attended her AKC OB class. The distractions of many dogs in close proximity provide useful training enhancements, It took about ten minutes before we were in "I can deal with this mode". The most signficant moment of the hour session was her ability to communicate " I need to air....right now!" She waited until we had exited a side door to a grassy area and all was good afterwards. The instructor is not thrilled with the fact that I am not teaching "stay" and/or "wait". It ha been almost eight weeks since she began the class. Wow.....Gigi has rather quickly become a much larger puppy.
June 11 cloudy, slight breeze, in the 70's.....Pounce and Gigi went to the Tuesday training group session put on by pro trainer Corey Zandonai. Pounce ran a triple and two blinds. Gigi had her first encounter with birds - dead mallard and a shackled pigeon. The results were a total surprise. I expected a very aggressive behavior. Instead, she was cautious and intimidated...clueless.
note: Gigi whistle sits have been "worked on" during regular heeling OB and during
Hillmann's "Traffic Cop" routine. Essentially, whistle sit is "known" when
used during the sit from her heeling motion or when sent to or stopping
on a "placeboard". This is a precursor to sit when handling.
note: Gigi has been thoroughly introduced to the low level, collar reinforcing
of well taught commands. After serious analysis, low level pressure collar
applications have been introduced. This is NOT part of Hillmann's program. Her
extreme high drive for bumpers/Dokkens and responsiveness are now more in
tune. Praise and rewards are not nearly as effective if they cannot be dispensed.
Prey drive is cool (or not). I did not expect the Or Not on birds.
June 12 With rain in the forecast, training outside was "iffy" at best. A mallard, pheasant and chukar were thawed last night. Hillmann's technique for eliciting high excitement up close was immediately effective. Gigi's prey drive for birds was wildly awakened. Moving fast was significantly important to avoid sharp teeth and claws. I did not need any iodine afterwards, but it was too close a few times. With each bird (starting with the chukar), Gigi did hold while heeling around the pool deck. The duck was a bit more of a problem because opening wider was an initial issue (good start). Gigi did another session after the evening airing. The chukar and hen pheasant fetching and holding while heeling went well. A mallard is bigger and opening wide was not happening. Since she has not actually been forced on birds and in this session wearing a prong collar, tightening the prong collar at the same time as saying "fetch" (applying some pressure), the duck went in and the prong collar tension was released. Rinsing and repeating resulted in the desired response (heeling with a solid grip on a mallard). The desired results in both sessions had several "good dog" verbal rewards.
Jun 13 In the morning, Gigi "repeated" the holding while heeling work with a hen pheasant and mallard. This second session was better than yesterday. In the afternoon, Pounce did a remote wingers double with a blind (mallard, chukar and Dokken) in the Thorson DTA "grassy area". Gigi then ran the two remote wingers as singles. These were her first marks with wingers. A half-hour to the Four Lakes DTA had Pounce doing five "stand alone/send" back water singles. The timing of this was to make it possible to attend the Thursday evening training group session at the Harrison Road DTA. Pounce ran a HRC mallards triple with a blind using the shotgun/bucket at the line.
June 14 Late in the afternoon Pounce practiced wide HRC line "swings with a gun" on doubles (right to left and left to right). It was a productive session. The angle between the two marks was about 150°. In between Pounce's two doubles, Gigi did the marks as singles. She is steady at the line, marking is good, but finishing retrieves is not happening. Out of the five factors in a balanced retriever (retrieving, birdiness, focus, control and responsiveness), responsiveness is her weakest.
This is having a negative impact on progress.
June 15 trained mid-day, drove to the Harrison RD DTA and a group was training. With not a lot of time, opted to train at the Roscoe Retention DTA. Pounce's focus was wide swings to marks in HRC.
Gigi's focus was (using the same marks) to practice being steady, mark and retrieve back to the line four singles. Steady and marking were good (easy cover). Bringing back is not part of the process (slight improvements with each). No more until "here" is much better.
note: All other potential factors were minimized.
June 16 I should probably not train today.... ....57th wedding anniversary. However, at 1:30 pm,
Gigi was working on 10 yard remote sits followed by "here" to a front sit. This has been done before and served as the "warm up" for the new step. Gigi, on a remote sit, observed the dropping of a 3 inch white bumper 10 yards away. After returning to the line (beside Gigi....focused on the bumper), she was released with hand down on "Gigi". She fired right away and returned to a front sit where she was vigorously praised. This ("Gigi/Back" release/send) was then repeated four times. Then two more times were done with just the "back" command. Gigi was a very "quick study" on this lesson.
note: Saying "Gigi/Back" is called chaining commands......repeated often enough, either one
by itself means the same thing......make a retrieve. Eventually there will be a distinction
between the two. "Gigi!" will be used for marks and "Back!" will be used for blinds.
Hillmann only uses "Back!"
note: The "Here!" command's motion was being reinforced with a very low level e-collar "stim"
note: Gigi's collar conditioning has been steadily progressing and is now well developed.
Commands that have been properly taught, precisely practiced, consistently reinforced
and distraction proofed produce useful conditioned responses (in theory). If corrections
are often required, the trainer failed somewhere in the blue section. It's not the dog.
June 17 train - Pounce/Gigi afternoon training plus Gigi's 2X "delivery" practices
June 18 train - two sessions....early and group training in the late afternoon plus Gigi's two practices
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