May 13 Fox Valley Retriever Club Senior test at Bong Recreational Area (Wisconsin) failed

OK, I arrived home from the test.....early. After a brief "old man's" nap, a realization re-surfaced that a similar situation happened last year. "Duh" trainer did not think it was a big deal. Evidently, I should have thought more about lunging water this spring. Driving through shallow water and  whistle "sounds" do not mix very well. In addition, excitement reduces responsive awareness. 

So the first series (water) has a walk-up, "cheaty" memory to the left in lunging water with large clumps of tall grass plus plenty of wide open, tall upland grass beyond. The "go" flyer is straight across the water (90°) with about an 80-90 yard swim. problem. This was a "solid" Senior test (not easy).

However, on the "cheaty", lunging water memory, she quickly drove splashing through the clumps of tall grass and blasted right past the AOF. Then it gets more interesting. Pounce does not hear (or ignores) the whistle(s) and does a long, wild hunt in the tall grass area beyond and eventually ends into an area where the scent from the flyer station has carried. It was not long before I walked north along the road to "pick her up", but not before she stumbled into the scent cone of the memory. I gave the duck to the workers at the winger station and we walked back (long walk) to the van. 

I did remember to thank the judges for their time before the "walk" to make my "retrieve". On the drive home I eventually played back a similar situation in a test last summer. The "little man on my shoulder" said "You dumb donkey" (not exactly in those words), why have you not trained/handled in some lunging water (at least a few times)....since then?" I had no immediate answer.
                  note: Afterthought, "old quote" from RTF - "It's just dogs picking up stuff (or not)."
May 14 Sunday decided to get some sort of an answer.....15 minutes to the Roscoe Retention Pond DTA. The Rock River has been a near flood stage most of the spring. The gate to this area has been locked (often). However, after a short scouting walk it was rather obvious the small pond area to the south was perfect (and not small this year). With plenty of grass growing up in mostly lunging water it was ideal. Went home for hip boots and bumpers and was back soon setting up a drill.  Pounce was not having any issues with the whistle today. Her mind was focused and the drill went really well. The grass was just thick enough to keep orange bumpers in "floating piles" near three black stakes. The photo has been "touched up" to show where the stakes were stuck in the mud. The drill design fits the pattern of a basic three pile casting/lining drill (which she is familiar with).
               note: A "distraction blind" (white bumper) was placed about 10 yards to the left of the 3rd
                         pile (left stake) and was easy to see in the thin grass. It was somewhat like a
                         visual "poison blind". She was good with that. Never "blew off" any whistles.
               note: no issues...the drill went extremely well...very responsive and fast (nine retrieves).
               note: This did answer some questions about the "issue" in the last Senior test. Pounce
                         could hear the whistle (then again maybe not). Her mind was obviously not "in
                was somewhere else (test, flyer excitement.....more info?).

May 7 trained at the Winn. Co. DTA  - two sets of "Flip Flop" - Walk-up Doubles land and water
Did this with an "AKC line" and using remote wingers and mallards. Ran the land sets walking

from the north and water from the south....line mechanics practice...eight marks...more "reps"

                    note: four walk-ups.....focused and deliberate
                    note: bumped FrontLine Tick Meds up one week  

May 10 After a last minute change in directions, Pounce trained at the Bong Rec. Area in Wisconsin. All the usual training spots were taken. The last chance was the Stick Pond. Strangely, no one was there. Setup two wingers and planted two blinds...then drove up on the bluff. It was clear why no one was there. All the railroad-tie steps down the steep bank were torn out to be replaced. A stack of new ones were ready. Since we were setup, the "old man" carefully made it to the bottom "upright" and with no witnesses discovered another good use for the AKC "fake gun".
                   note: Pounce marked the double with no problems, but was a bit "cheaty" on the
                             returns. Her blinds were excellent. The long one she three whistled. The last
                             cast was into a tall grassy, swimming water section. She was out of sight (did not
                             realize this when setting it up). Waited and waited, then suddenly she appeared
                             out of the water, still on a line to the mallard hidden in the grass. She carried
                             that line on her own and the  blind was downwind, too. The only bad thing about
                             this was there were no witnesses. The second blind would have been a whole lot  
                             easier if I had remembered it was two trees to the left of where I kept sending her.                    note: Land was a good "intro" to the tall grass expected in her upcoming tests.

May 2 Late last night and during this morning's "airing" in the yard, Pounce was "all over Daisy" wanting more than to play. Her heat cycle is "peaking" and she'll be scratched from Sunday's test.
                             note: air alone for a couple of days......keep calm & relaxed as much as possible
May 3-4 two more days off....definitely "ditzy" not want to re-enforce any anxiety issues
May 5 busy day....had about an hour around 4 pm. Needed to get back into the training routine. It
is a five minute drive to the Thorson Pond DTA and Pounce ran a drill in the "grassy area" (see drawing below) and followed that with a brief water session reviewing angle entry/exits and parallel (to the shore) swims.  (slight, dark discharge.....wild "ditzy" stage over, cycle ending)     
                             note: Daisy was exercised

May 30 "Iverson" yard drill in the morning and did the late afternoon "training group".
Ran remote wingers, mallards double with two blinds and an honor......spent time on lead walking around and watching, absorbing the atmosphere - more poise and "good stuff"

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                                    Flexible Training Plan Projections
                          focus = precise practice & work slowly
                                     ("descriptive inventory")
May 1 AKC triple plus blind - precise "reps" at the line (practice) 
√May 2,3,4 days off....heat cycle peaking = very "ditzy"
                note: scratched from  6/7 Wilmington AKC Senior test
May 5 lining casting drill & easy review of water no cheating
next seven days in the low 60's with rain Tues
May 6 two "walk-up" doubles with blinds plus six walking
                singles around a small technical pond
May 7 "Flip Flop" 2 sets of 2 walk-up doubles  (land & water)
May 8 mid-day set of land walking singles & four cold blinds,
                no afternoon training group, ran two blinds & Y-Drills
May 9 scouting & five water singles at the Sand Ponds DTA
May 10 two Senior setups with mallards (land & water)

      May 11 "AKC Line Drill" with mallards plus water setup(s)
                late afternoon training group
May 12 repeated long blind from last night, did "AKC Line Drill"
                three walk-ups...then triple (mallards)....finished with a four
                bumper, "cheaty" water lining drill
May 13 Fox Valley AKC Senior test at Bong (Wis)
May 14 lunging water, lining/casting drill (answers)
√May 15 day off
May 16 morning, six lunging water singles & afternoon training
                group - water double with a blind and honor
May 17 easy, upbeat yard work session
May 18 yard-work line time session - "Iverson Drill" (1st time),
                then a water handling drill and the late Thursday afternoon
                training group session (double and two blinds)
May 19 rain most of the day, did squeeze in "Iverson Drill" late
May 20 rain until about 4 pm, did two Flip-Flop doubles + blinds
May 21 Valders AKC Senior test (Wis) = pass #4

      √May 22, 23 two days off

      May 24 did enhanced version of the "Iverson Drill" (practice)
May 25 repeated "drill" (more of the same) & four water singles
May 26 three-peat "drill" (some changes) & water handling drill
May 27 to the line "Practice" and a continuation of water "work"
May 28 Sunday -  day off
May 29 "tune-up" drill, three "down-the-shore" singles & blind 
May 30 "Iverson" yard drill & training group double with blinds
May 31 five blinds and four "walking/send back" singles - water

May 22 day off from training - wonderful day (weather) and time to do a lot of yard work - mow, kill more weeds and pick up small branches (tree debris) plus divide and plant a good number of large hostas.
                  note: I reminded myself that Pounce needs one more pass for her AKC Senior

                            title. Today is the entry dead-line for another test in Valders (two weeks).
                            What she needs and what I want are sometimes in a momentary conflict. The
                            rule (that is easily ignored) is to "do what the dog needs". Compulsiveness
                            is always lurking. Therefore, she will not be entered. Pounce's next test will
                            be in late July.
                  note: upcoming projects - work on a new boat blind & re-organize the garage
May 23 day off  there will be a no late afternoon training group - at least for us (rain)
May 24 rain moving in.....did an enhanced version of the "Iverson Drill" following a concept
emphasized in Hillmann's program - practice. This matches a common sports training axiom "Practice Like You Play". In one of Hillmann's many blog videos he stresses the importance of going back to work on skills that were not done properly and practice correctly. In his new Advanced Retriever Training, this same issue is discussed in detail.
                 note: The old "van to the line" routine does  not come close to what we are
                           working on now. Pounce is having fun doing it and her trainer is seeing
                           a huge improvement. It is somewhat amazing to experience how much can
                           be accomplished in 10-15 minutes of focused practice that is fun. It would be
                           somewhat of a mistake to label these sessions as just work.
In looking at Pounce's progress to date, her "in the field" skills are developing quite well.  However, getting to the line is less than stellar. This is holding us back. The onus is on me to set-up regular "practice" sessions designed to get "us" back up to speed. How and what are now clarified. Her next test entry won't be for about two+ months...if "practice" goes well.

                 note: The plan includes effectively using her twice a week group training sessions.
May 25 trained in the morning repeating a variation of the "Iverson Drill"....focus working off lead with Daisy "staked out" right in the middle of the exercise. The focus was on precision
and practicing plus being in the correct position with her focus on the "one in charge". (basically....strengthening responsiveness enhances control)

                note: much "tighter" today
group training was supposed to be this afternoon.....grass grew a lot and mowing did not take training. Went to the Four Rivers DTA (Winnebago Co.) and Pounce did four double "angle entry-exit", "stand alone/walking" singles in the technical pond. Spring rains have filled the pond to levels not seen in several years.
May 26 rain in the afternoon - late morning....practiced another variation of the "Iverson Yard Drill" first ....then "weed whacked" the shoreline at Thorson Pond to run a water handling drill with two diversions.....just finished picking up when the rain began
                 note: diversions used a "Zinger Uplander" placed below 2nd tier bank (in tall grass)
                 note: wind "right to left" was definitely a factor to deal with
                 note: Daisy was exercised

May 8 trained mid-morning at the "New Place" first did eight walking singles in deep cover (almost knee high). Took Daisy for a walk and fun bumpers while planting four cold blinds for Pounce. This session did not take all that long. Home to mow lawn and do a "honey do" list. Drove to the Winn. Co. DTA late afternoon and the Monday training group evidently was called off. Home early after Pounce ran two cold blinds and two short, "Stand Alone Walk-Back", Y-Drill doubles. 
May 9 trained in the evening at the Sand Ponds DTA. A new pond was recently dug (cement company property) and watched it thaw out this spring. Did a "walk in" session to see what could be done. Pounce did five singles with the first two sending her on casts to a remote spot. She was good with that. The first two singles had no issues. However, walking to the line on the third one revealed that I should have worn some knee high boots. The sand surface was not solid and ended up with wet feet. No matter...Pounce did several nice water retrieves and the pond in now officially "scouted". Clean, bigger water five minutes from the house (does not get any better than that).

                note: add "stuff" to the "practice drill" designed to maximize excitement

                          list = "in your face", real ducks, duck calling (from trainer & wingers),
                          primer shotgun (when applicable - HRC), walk-ups & diversions
May 19
morning rain and cooler (in the 40's) - perfect timing for a retriever "sleep-in"
                note: easy day - kept a watch on the radar (rain)....repeated the ten minute       

                          "Iverson Drill" around 4 pm (had a small "window", but it was enough)
May 20 Saturday, steady rain in the 40's until about 4 pm - trained late afternoon...50's
ran two short "Flip-Flop" remote winger doubles plus blinds....AKC line, holding blind and AKC line (1st was a walk-up)......Daisy was given several hand tossed singles for exercise
                 note: in tall cover at Winn. Co. DTA
                 note: Dremeled both dogs' nails
May 21 AKC Senior test...Valders, WI  (170 miles....2.5+ hours) no rain!!!, took hip boots
Driving north on Interstate 43 was not fun....dense fog....but we arrived with time to spare,
both setups were challenging and fair (for Pounce....not easy)......fog lifted and it turned into an ideal morning for a Senior test (put on by the Manitowoc County Kennel Club). Ten out of the sixteen dogs were run by "pros". The test moved along quickly even though there were a few "waits" for handlers to arrive from other tests.  Pounce did well in each series.....after she left the line. A little loose is too much, but she was better. No handles on the marks and the blinds were done very efficiently....very few casts. Never gave a single verbal cast (all silent) and she/we were "in tune". The nice thing about AKC Senior is a "pre-test" reminder that the water blind is by invitation (so the handler knows a pass is possible and the blind is "in play"). Pounce now needs that next (fifth) pass for a Senior title. (We did not run any Junior tests.) On a side note, driving back south through Milwaukee on Interstate 43 was like being on a carnival thrill ride.

May 1 Pounce trained in the morning because "radar" is a "cool training tool". The "window of opportunity" was determined by 1) the "time slot" with no rain, 2) how fast the front is moving,
3) how much time it takes to drive there and 4) how long it will take to setup/run/pickup. Could have left a bit sooner, but everything was completed just as the "window closed". We had "May flowers" and a late reminder of "April showers". The technical pond water level is very good.                              note: Pounce ran a triple with a blind. The focus was precise "reps" at the line...
                                       "practice". It is five days until Pounce's first hunt test of the year (an AKC                                         Senior). Hopefully, she will no longer be in heat (it will be close). 

Hunt Test "Season" Begins

YouTube Video (links)

May 12 day before Senior test.....repeated last night's long blind, then setup the AKC "Line Drill" with mallards. First it was run as three "walk-ups then reloaded to run an "in your face" triple. Drove to the Winn. Co DTA and ran a four bumper, "cheaty", stay in the water (past bumpers) lining drill.

note: this photo was vertically "stretched"

Analysis: Well, today was spent searching for answers. First of all, I am not totally convinced that some of the residual "ditzy" effects of her recent heat cycle were not involved. However, collected some newer training data and found out some interesting perspectives. First of all, lunging water in itself does not necessarily render it more difficult to hear a whistle. It is important to note this was an initial belief.

I normally would not have trained today, but went to a large, exciting and challenging  lunging water area. Pounce ran a lining, casting drill with several changes in directions required. This session revealed  zero hearing issues with lunging water. She was very sharp (accurate and responsive) and displayed a huge difference compared to the test.
This did kind of rule out the "ditz" factor.

In another vein, being a retired research chemist and having taught chemistry/physics in high school, collecting data and analyzing it tends to be a normal routine. A Master's thesis involved quite a bit of information about adrenaline and analysis is somewhat of a compulsive habit.

So what is the explanation? There was a flyer and it was a hunt test. Excitement is significantly different in tests…..much greater and unrelenting at times. What does excitement do that probably does not happen in a training drill? A rather obvious factor is adrenaline. Trying to make training exciting vs. actually doing so often comes up short.

Therefore, I looked up the side effects of adrenaline. This jumped out. In times of high excitement, the brain is hard-wired to send a surge of adrenaline and there are a number of physical side-effects that can occur…one of which is hearing can become tunneled forward preventing hearing things from another direction. It is not the water “noise”….it
is a combination of the level of excitement and subsequent adrenaline rush effects

In addition, vision can become tunneled in a forward direction - often causing things from the side to disappear from the field of vision. Would that not impact remembering the AOF for some dogs? Some dogs deal with the abnormal re-focusing aspects of adrenaline better than others and successful learning experiences may make a difference. Practice?

Further more, events that are accompanied/impacted with an adrenaline "rush" tend to be remembered (good and bad memories). Therefore, it is best to avoid negative experiences during an adrenaline "rush". 

In what appears to be a contradictory and yet related topic, during a class for the "right to carry" (a concealed weapon), the instructor pointed out that in instances with high levels of excitement (involving stress and adrenaline), it is not unusual to afterwards provide inaccurate descriptions and have little recollection of what actually happened (after the fact)....even for those with a lot of training and experience. She (we) need to create more excitement and distractions in our twice a week group training sessions to better deal with the adrenaline driven testing environment. 

After thoughts: When at a training group session everyone goes out of their way to avoid interfering with other trainers and their dogs.....maybe too cautious? What comes to mind is the name of a marking drill called "Organized Chaos".  It seems like having an "In the area of the line chaos drill" might be more useful (having several dogs engaged with a similar concept - on lead). In a regular AKC OB class, dogs do a figure eight heeling routine around two stationary handler/dog teams. Distraction proofing requires real test line distractions. Tip-toeing around at the line and avoiding conflicts in group training sessions may actually be counter-productive.  

May 15 day off
May 16 trained at the Roscoe Retention Pond DTA. Pounce ran six "wading/send back"  singles in the lunging water area. The water dropped about a foot in one day. However, this area remains extremely useful for unique presentations. Hip boats remain necessary and most of the wading was often over knee deep. Since this area is normally a  grassy plain like area there are no sudden changes in the bottom. It still required a wading stick.
Pounce does extremely well with "training alone" approaches ( responsive and dynamic).

                     YouTube Video
The "Iverson" Yardwork Drill - Practice

late afternoon training group at the Four Lakes DTA (Winnebago Co.) - water double with winger thrown mallards plus an honor (temps. in the 80's) - relaxed/focused in the holding blind, to the line, off lead at heel to the line where sit was solid....."Hooray!!!"
                note: right "in your face", splash "go mallard" 

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Thorson Pond DTA

single #1 (approximately) 105 yards

May 6 Saturday trained at "The New Place"...ran two AKC walk-up doubles with mallards plus blinds. Daisy "helped" pickup the equipment and did a few retrieves. After a ten minute drive to the Winnebago Co. DTA, Pounce ran six walking, "cheating" mallard singles using various angles around the technical pond. The recent rainfall has the pond much higher than the last few years.
                note: doubles and water session went really well (sharp, upbeat and having fun)

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The On-Going Process started after Pounce passed her third AKC Senior test last summer. The main thrust was "no more" tests until line issues were "adjusted". The one thing that would not change was moving away from her Hillmann foundation. There were some skills that were obviously not well developed. The process has been was slow and incremental.

Fast forward several months and Hillmann's new set of training videos just became available - Advanced Retriever Training with Bill Hillmann. The first segment dealt with what we've been working on and provided several "fine tuning" ideas that will fit in quite seamlessly. She is close and Hillmann's insight will definitely aid in polishing things up. 

May 17 Today was too busy to go to the field to train, but we did do a yard work session. Training a retriever is somewhat like bowling. When first attempting to do is good to have "gutter guards". She (we) do not need those anymore, but higher "scores" will require more polish.
            note: A key component of "going to the line" is responsiveness. In the past, most  
                      of my dogs were very good at running with what I called the "potted plant
                      handler". My job was to take the ducks and avoid interfering.  Responsiveness
                      was poor. However, with Pounce holding blinds and going to the line have
                      finally become an accepted part of the overall "game". There is no rush to
                      move on.  "Capped" energy is amazing......for both of us. 
           note: This week's training group session revealed notable progress and the very
                      next day Hillmann's new videos, "Advanced Retriever Training", provided the
                      necessary fine tuning right when WE needed it. It is not just for the dog. 
            note: The last few months have involved a new approach in Pounce's training. We
                       have regularly trained with something called the "Line Time Drill" which
                       focuses primarily on the "van to the line routine". Using remote wingers and 
                       mallards (all very close) increases the excitement level. Responsiveness is
                       the primary focus (no heeling stick and/or pinch collar, but using Hillmann's
                       "soft" collar, re-enforcing techniques). Timing, precision and practice are

                       required. Pounce likes it, but it has not been a "Kwick walk in the park".
May 18 trained  in the morning first doing a "larger scale" skill practice, yard drill in the "front yard" (first time).....had a rough idea of the sequence and decided to video the session to have a better grasp of both of us at "work". Outside of not aiming the Zinger Uplander properly on one "toss", there was a lot to analyze and fun to watch afterwards. Some of what was "thrown into the mix" were a few things we've been working on plus an  an Influence of ideas from Hillmann's newest "video adventure" - Advanced Retriever Training.  A decision was made to name this drill "The Iverson Drill" (practice). A Kwick rationale for taking videos of training sessions is to "capture" an "in the moment", visual perspective. After a short break, we then took a five minute drive to the Thorson Pond DTA to do a water lining and casting drill (more practice).  That was completed rather quickly and back for a mid-day nap before heading out for the late Thursday afternoon training group. Pounce ran a mallard double with two blinds followed by an honor. It was a full day. 

May 11 Pounce trained in the morning at the Thorson Pond DTA. First up was a mallard, land triple with an AKC line. Kind of "Flip-Flopped" the wingers afterwards to run a water, AKC line double with a blind and then a single with a blind.  The memory in the water double was wind blown about 15 yards from the "splash" AOF. That did not cause any problems. Marks were good and so were the two blinds. Daisy was exercised. 

Afternoon group setup (for Pounce) was a double with a long blind. Marks were very good. The blind was almost exactly like the one we ran the other day....except the trees produced a large shadow in front of the corridor and she began to "ping-pong". Had to move up and work. Finally, the light went on. It might have been better if I had not worn a dark colored sweater. A short "single and blind combo" were run next......too easy. Holding blind and honor was almost perfect. Line manners (busy feet) were definitely improved.....progress.....still a ways go.

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note: see May 5th journal entry for casting/lining drill diagram

May 31 went early to Thorson Pond and "weed whacked' the northwest and southwest
corners of the pond (three tanks of gas and hip boots). Went home (five minutes away) and picked up Pounce and Daisy. Pounce ran four "walking/send back" singles and five cold blinds. Pounce was eager and aggressive the entire session with a great deal of swimming. Water was not a strong "suit" for Pounce....early on........huge improvements this spring. Patience has paid off.  Daisy was exercised.
                    note: It was an excellent month (group training & practice - lots of practice).

May 28 off
May 29 trained at Thorson Pond after "weed whacking" the east shoreline. Pounce ran a "tune-up drill" and then three singles "down the shore" with a "toward the shore" wind factor plus a cold blind (holding blinds, remote wingers and mallards) 
                       note: Daisy was exercised afterwards

May 27 ten days are good for training. Trained mid-day back at Thorson Pond.
Did a setup as a continuation of yesterday's work. First up was the "to the line, two holding blind" practice. The white stakes were removed and blinds were placed so that Pounce would be picking them up in the three slots (like yesterday) and then running additional blinds through the wall of weeds adjacent to the slots. When setting out the blinds, the original idea
was to run four through the tall weeds.....changed my mind and put out three. When back on the other side I forgot the "change" and sent her to one that was not there. Duh!!! In addition, there were two geese with one lone (small) gosling very intent on occupying the same general area. The two geese did not go into attack/defense mode and Pounce was not intimidate or intent on pursuing them. Been there, didn't care. This drill session was effective. Pounce is not phased by "new stuff" or "hic-ups" and is very responsive. The coolest thing about her responsiveness is the manner in which she "presents" each retrieve at the line. It's like "Here ya go..what's next?  

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