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"Thorson Pond"

Sept 15 Tuesday - trained first at the Rockton Road DTA (five minutes from home). The setup was walking singles with the dog returning to a "place" line ("stand-alones") after each mark. Pounce went first and had the area with heavier cover. The plan of using two different sections of land avoided scenting complications on any marks for Pounce going second.  Gigi went first and did a lot of hunting to dig out her marks (heavy cover). Pounce was second and her section had much easier cover. Tomorrow, this will be a repeated setup with the area for each switched (easier this time for Gigi and more challenging for Pounce).

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At 5:30 am..practiced the "whistle sit drill" in the Thorson Pond grassy area (refer to yesterday's journal entry photo). Both showed improvement. The reward bumper enhances responsiveness.

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YouTube Link:

Sept 19 sunny, high of 65°F - trained in the afternoon...This morning it was time to review some of
Hillmann's approaches to training. The following video came to mind.  

         "stuff" to work on in August & September (early goose season Sept. 1st)
          begin Hillmann's 5 Point Star Drill - Gigi  (finished with the three point ✔✔) 
          Pounce exercise✔✔  red arrows thru 8/30...green thru 9/30
​          whistle sit drill ✔✔✔✔                                        water lining drills ✔✔
          take the swim-by skill set Gigi has so far to the Gallagher swim-by pond ✔✔✔✔✔
          continue the sequence of inline singles with both dogs 
          practice Gigi's double entry/exit water point blind ✔✔
          second, land point blind at Stoughton DTA (long) ✔✔  third, Thorson ✔✔✔✔         
              begin running Gallagher/Stoughton point blinds from different lines ✔ 
           have Gigi begin the big pond point blind ✔✔ run full distance ✔✔ 
                                                    second point blind full distance                
           remote winger walk-ups with mallards or Dokkens D (yard)
           do close HRC line triples with mallards + blinds
           practice HRC marking out of a dog hide (getting ready for hunting)✔✔✔✔✔
           begin running KRD's with Gigi (review with Pounce) ✔
           yard work (lining & OB practice) every other day (maybe) ✔✔
           train on the "down" command (up close, remote & in hide ✔✔✔✔✔✔✔
           build goose blind on Thorson Pond soon (season opens September 1st)

At about 3:30 pm, Gigi did a session to test/see how the orange stakes "looked" in no cover. We trained at the Riverside Park and ran a set of six vertical orange stake blinds in short grass that had more distance to them. With no cover, this presentation more than doubled the visible height of the orange stakes. She had no issues (lining four and quick handles on the other two). With a stiff breeze out of the west, a decision was made to run  two sets of "stand alone/send back singles" in the Rockton Road DTA (short derive, refer to the September 16th journal photos for similar setups). This time we moved into terrain farther south. Pounce went first and ran eight singles in slightly different areas to avoid old falls for Gigi. It is useful to have many different training spots within 15 minutes (or less).

Sept 25 Friday - high of 78°F, cloudy with a pleasant, afternoon breeze...Gigi did another Renegade Drill in the grassy, north east section of the Thorson Pond DTA with shade to park in. Several different skills were practiced. The routine exiting the van for a training session is 1) A sixty second count remaining in her crate on a sit before exiting, 2) a sixty second count sitting on a place board (still in the van), 3) a leash placed on her while sitting on the place board, 4) out of the van to an immediate heel where she will be sitting for another sixty seconds. The 5th segment is precise heeling for another sixty seconds (or more) to an off lead airing session.

Today's first training session was a repeat of the Renegade Drill. One especial useful part
this drill is how sending a dog to a distant placeboard allows and simulates a quick turn and sit when lining. Gigi was very precise today. When finished with this drill, the van was moved to another shady parking spot. The off the van routine was again repeated with Pounce and Gigi. The second setup was a walking gunner throwing and shooting a water double. The mechanics were simple. The challenge is having a dog remain steady during the entire presentation. Pounce and Gigi were like statues at he line....waiting patiently for the gunner/cameraman to return to the line so they could pick up their double. I did not want to spend a lot of time setting up two or four wingers. By spending more focus on Gigi and Pounce rather than equipment, the unique distraction created more responsive dogs. It was a fun day.....and back home quickly.

Sept 20 Sunday - drove north to the W-Property to run some field trial like singles with Pounce and Gigi. For the last thirty years, my dogs have been primarily "gun dogs". Hunting was the priority and running hunt tests were something to train for and run the other nine+ months of the year. However, the "thing" prevented running any hunt tests this year (too old to take any chances).

This "intervention" prevented my youngest retriever, "Gigi", from doing any testing while allowing the focus to train for more technical skills. While doing so, it became quite obvious that her pedigree and inherited traits are much better than any pup I have had before. My other Lab, Pounce, has a very nice pedigree, also.Therefore, she will train right along with Gigi and I will be wearing white....most of the time. Yesterday morning focused the direction. I took my four camo-fabric holding blinds and spray painted them white on one side. The training setup was the beginning as they both ran four longer singles (mallards) on the W-Property which is one of the four properties used by the Madison Retriever Club. I've been a member there since 2009 and run quite a few hunt tests. Goose season in Illinois is still on our list of priorities as winter in northern Illinois tends to inhibit much of our training (especially water).

       note: Our 10 year old autistic granddaughter comes along for the fun and she is beginning                              to become a useful helper. Her favorite thing to do is the couple of "zippy" trips around the 
                 field trial grounds in our UTV (going over big mounds is a close second).
       note: The dog hide is part of the line ritual (hunting is still a priority).

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note: If the last two photos are examined carefully, it is rather obvious that Gigi never
          adjusted her hold on the big goose Dokken prize. Good dog!

Sept 6 Sunday - thunderstorms...Gigi is doing some remedial training with the concept of the hand signal for "down" (close up, then in a dog hide and eventually at a distance...with no hide).
Sept 7 Monday high 71°F - trained in the morning - Gigi worked a session on the "down" command in the living room. She's aggressive, smart and quick. I was not quick enough - had a bloody hand afterwards. In the early afternoon, Gigi worked another session on the "down" command in the living room (with no bleeding hand this time). I was more cautious and altered the presentation. In the late afternoon, both dogs trained in the Thorson Pond "Grassy" DTA. Pounce and Gigi worked the Modified Three-Peat "Lining, Whistle-Sit, Come-In-Sit & Casting Drill" (with the primary emphasis on square whistle sits).
    note: Before any setup was run, Gigi did a very good session practicing an extended "down"
              command (off lead with no tie-out). After the lining drill, we stopped on the far east end of
              the training area where Gigi and Pounce lined the long point blind....twice.....for exercise.

Sept 3, 4 Thursday/Friday- hot/two days off for Pounce and Gigi....bought a second stake out plus another dog hide. When the second hide arrives, both dogs will be aired and then staked out while training setups are completed. Having two dog hides near the line will add another layer of controlled distractions which will aid in enhancing better focus and control. There will be seven stages for each dog in this setup 1) in the van crate, 2) airing, 3) staked out close to each other, 4) called to and placed into a hide, 5) exit hide, here to heel, sit (when it is their turn), 6) run the setup and 7) back to their hide. All this will be accomplished via varying intervals of the long wait drill. The watch word will be "smooth" which will not come without a great deal of precise practice. 
Sept 5 Saturday - trained at Gallagher, took the UTV and Lylah went along for the ride and to help...Gigi and Pounce did four remote winger singles with real mallards (HRC line, wide, long wait drill presentation using a tie-out and a dog hide)....parked van in the shade and ran the setup from the shade
Pounce was sharp....Gigi was on the edge the entire time....slowing way down did not have much of an effect...the down command and relaxing in the hide need to be "reviewed"....got home and no wallet
went through the van twice and the house often...nothing....credit cards, FOID card, Conceal Carry lost

decide the wallet is somewhere in the grass 60 miles away. The decision to drive back to Gallagher 60 miles away was made and I took both dogs.....might as well train while we are there. The area where the wallet was lost had to be at the line where we had parked. The Matted down grass revealed nothing. So for the "umpteenth" time, I searched the van. I was ready to give up and glanced down behind the passenger side, captain chair at a small ledge. Clearly there was nothing in view. For a moment, I slid
my arm way back underneath and there was my wallet completely out of sight.

         Well, since we are here..might as well have Pounce and Gigi run the 178 yard, mound point blind and do the third). Pounce has done both, but Gigi has only run the first. Both lined the first. The third line is 180 yards. With the water much lower, it was more challenging than usual. Gigi did not handle the exposed, "sucking" point very well.          note: The Google blind distances have been revised. 

There was a recent training forum post which was pertinent to Gigi and Pounce's latest training.
They are working on responsiveness, focus and control at the line and are both very high drive. Gigi
would be the higher of the two.  The quote was "Most of these critters are high drive."

The virus thing has probably made it so dealing with drive has been easier. Not entering any tests this year because of that issue probably was the very best thing for my youngest. Gigi can do "big stuff" easily and is driven. However, I must be persistently patient in making sure the message is clear.

Gigi has no choice but to deal with the long wait drill. Her first position is to be staked out about five yards from the running line with Pounce already in a dog hide waiting for me. The tone is set way before coming to heel for marks. My I-Phone is part of the training equipment. There is a five minute wait doing nothing between every retrieve launched. note: The journal banner is from this drill. 

There is gunfire (primer loads) and lots of goose calling plus time where nothing is going on. Pounce is in the down position in a dog hide. She is not actually at the line until the "Here", "Kennel Up" and "Down" sequence. After more goose calling, there is action with something exciting in the air (maybe more than one) and some shooting. The gun is retired and eventually a request to heel from the hide is issued. When on a quiet sit, the hand is placed down and she is told how good she is doing. There is a casual count to ten with maybe another "good dog" thrown in. I may even stroke her lightly to let her know how well she is doing. The hand down, count to ten before she is sent is the finish of that phase. The long wait is quite a few slowly presented distractions. The closer we get to making a retrieve the more things are slowed down. Again, she is informed as to how well she is doing (or not). 

As one might surmise, this process is not likely to be the way a training group would operate (too much time and everyone has other things to do). Patience requires discovering that the "jump down, spin around" urge simply does not teach a dog patience. Time is the correction. It takes time to think.

Too repeat...four exciting, splash Dokkens with goose calling, primer loads and doing a lot of nothing but waiting takes time. It is easy to be swept into the anxiety of desire when speed is allowed. Doing nothing but sitting quietly is a skill requiring...too repeat...take the time to do so. I train alone a lot with two dogs watching each other up close. Any nonsense simply means waiting longer for their desired actions. In our fast paced society, that is not normal.   

Many years ago, at dog training seminar, pro trainer Rody Best said it best, "Don't feed the beast!" I had no idea about how to not do that. Everyone is in a hurry.

So Gigi and Pounce each watched the other train. It took over an hour for each of them to run four, very short, splash Dokkens. Actually, Gigi's second two were launched as a double. In addition, there was a good chunk of time just setting everything up and breaking it back down for the trip home.

When we actually hunt, most of the time usually involves a long wait between any action. To repeat, doing nothing well during lengthy lulls is not what most usual training sessions present because everyone is in a hurry. The axiom "train a fast dog slowly" is often lost in the rush. It's not the dog.

Today's final training session was at the Riverside Park DTA where Gigi ran her second KRD.

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Early evening...Gigi and Pounce did a challenging whistle sit drill at the Kelly Meyer DTA. 
                       note: Both are stopping and turning quicker.....decreasing the loopy "thing".

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Sept 26 Saturday...last warm day for awhile...Trained at Thorson Pond (again). Gigi ran the Double Renegade lining/handing drill plus had a surprise intro to a big Dokken Goose at the end of the long, taught Thorson Pond point blind. I will be 175 yards away and she will figure it out...open mouth wider than ever before......without any "interference" from me ("easy peasy"). 
                            note: The next two weeks will have highs in the 50's and 60's with no rain which
                                      means we must train often. Water soon will become an issue....ice.

                            note: Northern Illinois Goose and Duck season begins October 19th and according
                                      to the long range weather forecast, "iced out" will make it a brief interlude.
                            note: farmers are working diligently to get their crops in

Sept 23 Wednesday - day off....good weather will have Gigi working on a balanced presentation of field work, handling skills and water. The field work will include long singles and marking. Handling will have her working on the following drills over the next two weeks (a change of pace). These are
Kwick variations of Carol Cassity's Renegade lining/handling drills (except the last one).

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Sept 14 Monday - early afternoon  trained at the Riverside Park DTA - the setup was a KRD (Key Relationships Drill) (Pounce & Gigi - first time for Gigi). The drill process is 1) pick-up single, then run four concept blinds which are 2) past the old fall, 3) wide behind the gun, 4) tight behind the gun and 5) under the arc.  note: this may be run with or without a winger/gunner (winger today).
                           note: A fifth concept blind may be run "through the old fall" (not today).         

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Sept 21 Monday - trained at the W-property again and the angle of the previous setup was altered.  Four  singles were run from a huge mound on the south-west side of the same training area. The smaller mound we ran off of yesterday is now about half-way making the distance much longer. Since it was a bit warmer than yesterday, the second single was in the water.

Sept 16 Wednesday - trained in the morning back at the Rockton Road DTA where Pounce and Gigi ran a second set of "stand alone/send back" singles similar to yesterday. This time they each ran their sets toward the other angle (different look/cover....refer to yesterday's training photo/diagram). Gigi went first and did well on the first four. The fifth fall was right in front of a dark wall of cover and she had trouble with that concept (more exposure....soon). Pounce's six singles were in the heavier cover to the northwest (this time) and had no problems. We were back home by 9:30 am. Both dogs were fed and slept well until noon.

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Sept 24 Thursday - cool morning & trained at the Riverside Park DTA...Gigi ran her first Renegade handling drill using Dokkens and a place board. For the first time, it was easy for her. Send on "back" to a "placeboard" where she pivots and sits squarely facing me with a body language of "OK! What's next?" And she did ten excellent "reps". Then five orange
stakes were placed in the high cover to the north with ten Dokkens. Pounce went first and lined/handled to her five blinds. Gigi came next and was totally lost in the setup. We have been running blinds with white stakes. She could not see them from five yards away in the cover. I have never had a dog so completely unable to see orange. This does not make that much of a difference except blind positioning will require some adjustments. Being almost blind in one eye with poor depth perception makes running long blinds not a "walk in the park". Later today, an experiment was done to see if orange stakes would appear differently in no cover.

Sept 22 Tuesday...at 1 pm, Lylah and I headed north to the W-Property to run Pounce and Gigi on their third day of running long singles with an obvious gunner station (white). Again, the UTV makes less work in setting up the four stations plus it is fun for my granddaughter. With a steady breeze out of the southwest and the sun at our back, the setup was obvious. In addition, we had a small rise to run from......home by 4:30 pm with plenty of time for a quick swim (indoor pool). 

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Sept 1 Tuesday - opening day early goose season in Illinois - start building a blind....half the tall pine trees on the north side of the pond are dead or dying and a few have fallen. I do not want to be under one when it lands on the old blind site. The following photo is revealing. The blind is built right in the dark slot under the "go mallard" notation among at least eight dead pines.

Sept 17 Thursday - day off for Pounce & Gigi...trim dogs' nails day, clean garage and gas in UTV
Sept 18
Friday - the original plan to to travel north to the Gallagher field trial property changed to

a shorter trip to the Stoughton property. Remote wingers were set-up to run four inline singles and then do a "flip flop", second set on the reverse side after moving the line (Gigi 1st & Pounce 2nd). Both dogs did well with the first set of singles. However, the second flipped set to the south went south when Gigi had trouble with remembering the falls of the first set. Essentially, they were "momma/poppa" singles which she has not had any experience. To add to the problem the third and fourth remote winger electronic were evidently low on charging and did not fire on the two longer singles. Therefore, the session was over. The adjustments, will be better charging, only one line of "in-lines" and using mallards instead of Dokkens. This was a "duh" trainer day.

Sept 27 Sunday upper 60's with scattered thunder storms everywhere....got lucky and trained at the W-Property. Gigi and Pounce will have trained twenty-three out of the last twenty-eight days.  With goose season in about nineteen days, the focus will be on water skills.....specifically, Gigi's cheating issues. Therefore, we worked on over parallel to the shore concepts (ala Carol Cassity's drill). With the shape of the swim-by pond and low water, it took some thinking to set it up. Things went well and Gigi stuck with it. After Gigi's session, rain was eminent so two long blinds were run by Pounce and we beat the next storm bearing down on us. Several small cells were passed under on the way home.

Sept 8, 9 two days off from field training except for some "down" practice on Wednesday... extended rain last night and into some of the 9th with more than 2" before it was all over...must NOT drive the van anywhere off road in the grass for a few days which means training will be at the Riverside Park (river did not flood), Four Lakes DTA or the Kelly Myer DTA.  
                         note: later in the day on the 9th scouted for rainfall issues 
Sept 10 Thursday rain....However, there was a "radar window" of about an hour around 1:25 pm this afternoon. Both dogs got in very nice handling drill (more distance to the drill done on the 7th plus a few more Dokkens). The Weather Channel is a significant training tool plus having six places to train withing 15 minutes makes it easier. I am retired and can still move a bit.
                     note: The focus of today's session was precise practice - heeling, delivery and
                                lining up correctly. However, Gigi's weakest area is her speed impact on

                                stopping quickly. Physically she is capable of stopping fast, but the urgency
                                is not there. The distance needs to be shorter/closer for better results.
                                Shorter and closer provides/creates more responsiveness and thus makes it
                                easier to stop (theoriticalyy) . Getting rid of any loop is the primary goal. 
Sept 11 rain - Gigi worked indoors - new dog hide (larger) on down command
Sept 12 Saturday...rain in the morning - trained mid-afternoon at the Kelly Meyer DTA...Gigi worked on a whistle sit drill. The setup focused on presenting a better method of developing her desire to stop quickly and pivot to a sit when in full stride to a distant pile. To motivate this
action an immediate reward retrieve was often tossed behind her so that the turn and pivot had more significance. It was not done on every send, but enough to make her more aware of the 

alternative. Since she is high speed and driven. This is a rather physically rigorous drill. There was no quit in sight when the drill was concluded and obvious progress was made. The plus
weather for the day was cloudy and cool with a very slight mist. After working the Dokkens in
a very demanding drill, five Dokkens were planted at the far end of the field. Pounce ran two times to the known point blind that she has not run for quite some time.....no whistles/fast. Gigi had a brief rest and could watch Pounce's runs. The first "send" for Gigi was from  half-way there (two whistles). The last two were full distance (one whistled the 2nd and lined the 3rd).

The Line
Aug. 30th

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Sept 2 Wednesday - trained at Thorson Pond DTA in the morning...Gigi ran a water lining drill through

high cover with a square entry (seven bumpers...done well). Pounce and Gigi lined the newest point blind twice (practice for Gigi and mostly exercise for Pounce). A site for the newest goose blind has been selected. (home before 10 am)

Sept 29 trained in the late afternoon, early evening - Pounce and Gigi ran a 125 yard blind (twice) at Riverside Park (to stretch and exercise). Then we drove to he Harrison Road DTA for a small training group run by pro Corey Zandonai. This was our first training group of the year. The initial setup was six inline singles from holding blinds (three short to long and then three long to short). The most important part of this training session was to observe Gigi from the van "to and in" the holding blind, to the line and her skill sets at the line (steadiness and delivery). Steady was an extended wait before being sent and she did very well on this. Marking was sharp and fast with a consistent heel, hold and delivery. She was in the holding blind a long time...which was a good thing. Going to the line was better than xpected. The "no no", big log obstacle blind was done in a teaching mode (right up tight and bumper tossed over). That went well, too. The easy, big white stake blind was too easy for Gigi. Pounce ran the long blind and skipped the white stake blind. The session was attended to get some answers......time well spent....no surprises.....good info.  
Sept 30 - day off for everyone - this was a good month of training

Sept 13 Sunday...sunny with a high of 72°F - weather for the next seven days is sensational. The training plan for today was to repeat yesterday's whistle sit session - late afternoon
                  note: Each time Gigi is moved outdoors for an airing session, she works on the
                            down command in the living room (before and afterwards) plus each training
                            session begins with being down in the hide waiting to be called to the line.                        note: Given the five factors used to measure balance in a retriever - focus, control,
                           responsiveness, retrieving and "birdiness" EVERY, setup for Gigi is designed
                           to emphasize responsiveness which is OUR weakest link. Focus and control
                           require responsiveness.
Given the above, today's adjustment for working on Gigi's sit to whistle on the fly to a pile of Dokkens was interrupted by whistle sit commands at random intervals with a white bumper falling out of the air as she turned on hearing a quick whistle.  Her focus and sit was prompt. The white bumper is an immediate reward for a quick, tight turn and immediate sit facing me. With sixteen Dokkens "out there", the process began to produce tighter, eager "turn-stops" and "facing me" sits. This well timed reward has been proven effective in two sessions. The rest is now easier because we are ready for the precise practice and repetition mode. This will be repeated very regularly over the next two weeks. note:Before Gigi's training session, she spent some time "waiting" away from the line in the "down" position in a dog hide. When ready, the call to the line set into motion the session (again...planned responsiveness).

The move to another nearby DTA was done quickly and after sizing up the possibilities it was decided to take advantage of a section of not mowed recently, heavy, knee high cover. From a remote line, two sets of singles were thrown in the "stand alone/send back" mode.  Pounce went first with two sets of angle in, flat and angle back singles with a Dokken. 

Gigi's turn was done in another section to avoid any old falls thrown for Pounce. The cover was high enough that I could only see the head of each dog when they were sitting at the line. It was interesting how their marking skills differed. Pounce was totally a tight area marker while Gigi was very impressive as she practically leaped on each of her six singles. I was excited with that observation. The difference was striking and bodes well for Gigi's future in next year's tests and/or competitions. The rapidly disappearing sun provided a silent, golden adios for today's training.