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Jan 1 At 8 AM it was -8°F with a wind chill of -24°F. There is always the heated, indoor pool  deck for productive sessions. Pounce will continue with Hillmann's "Heeling Program".

Jan 15 In the early morning.....removed 4" of snow from the driveway. There will be no training today other than the usual heeling session on the pool deck. The forecast for the rest of January is much warmer than normal. Once February arrives, warm weather will not seem all that far away. Last February there was a very good early thaw and a shallow pond was warm enough (60°F) for a few short, fun retrieves. That February 19th water was a first.

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"to the east"

link to video:

tilted, cropped Google "shot"

Jan 20 Saturday- busy weekend with rain tomorrow  and not very pleasant. However, a quick, late afternoon  drive to the Roscoe Riverside Park DTA provided a productive training session focusing on Hillmann's heeling distraction phase. Two videos were recorded for a film study analysis. It is not always "just the dog" that needs practice.
                   note: Background "noise" of geese returning to the river roost added a nice
                             "touch" to the session.  

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Jan 10 warmer at 45°F.....repeated yesterday's setup (plus a forth winger) in a different position near the main gate (to avoid getting stuck). The singles were slightly longer (using the south wind) with three "Son of Guns" and a larger "Original Gunners Up". They were aimed to produce four wide AOFs.  As usual in cold weather, 3" camo foam bumper were used. Again, the session focus was to continue in the process of developing a reliable heeling standard. The foundation of this is Hillmann's Heeling Program. The final goal is to have a retriever with responsiveness as it relates to heeling. "This is where I want/need to be until told otherwise"....a conditioned response. Today.....I could feel it!
                       note: the photo diagram used a Google summer snap shot (no snow)

          There is a difference between performing a skilled action because a reward is
           expected vs. doing so because it is a conditioned response. 

          There is difference between doing something because I have to vs. doing so
           because this is simply what I do.

Jan 29 Monday with a high 26°F  Pounce had the day off from field training. However, she did a very good session working "line standards" in the heated, indoor training area.  The focus was precise "reps" of proper heeling and sit positions (both sides) plus a review of the "whoa" command. In AKC OB class dog must "stand for examination" and Pounce was simply taught with a different command. In the middle of March, Pounce is signed up for an AKC OB class which will provide six weekly sessions of an hour with very close "distractions" from about a dozen dogs and their trainers.
Jan 30  repeated yesterday's indoor heeling "plus" session (precise "reps"....practice)
Jan 31 forecast high of 40°F - Repeated the "distraction" process using the three winger
setup at Riverside Park. (see Jan 24th) The "look and line" were different. However, Pounce's line expectations had nine more "distraction "reps" (precise practice).

Jan 13 at 1 PM it is cold, 12°F  wind chill of 0° field training, day off
                            note: still dealing with a cold...coughing  and sore throat
Jan 14 Sunday....9 PM +5°F wind chill -4° 1:30 pm is was 18°F wind chill +4°F and not
all that comfortable. Today's session was again at the Harrison Road DTA and it was a big

challenge to see if my bare hands would thaw out the gate padlock. Once in, the wind direction was noted and a triple with two blinds was setup quickly.  It was not possible to put stickmen in the ground or for that matter a holding blind. The next best thing was to clamp a white towel to each winger. The reason for this was to make sure the gun stations were visible. There was no snow on the ground and again used 3" foam, "camo" bumpers. Pounce slams into her "prey" and rubber bumpers at a low temperature are like rocks. The setup went smoothly (all wingers, primers and remotes functioned perfectly). The triple was set up with the memory as a longer mark through the inline "go bird" and after picking up the other mark off to the right side. She "drove" straight to the long memory with no hesitation or confusion. Both blinds were sharp, too. It has been awhile since she's done any triples.....did not seem to make a difference.
                         note: A cold, biting wind is not noticeable after a session goes well. 
                         note: This was the most field distraction exposure Pounce has had to deal
                                   with since she began Hillmann's heeling program toward the end of
                                   September (last year). She was not absolutely perfect and close is not                                       good enough. However, we have several more months until any tests.                 

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Daisy is almost fourteen and was exercised.

Jan 4 The original plan was to train in the snow. At 3 PM it is +8°F with a wind chill of -5°F.
The only question was "Why?" A warm, indoor, evening heeling session was a "no-brainer".
                    note: After two more very, very cold days, Sunday will be 30°F.
                    note: the last few sessions of heeling worked into stage #9 and Pounce's
                              response to this lesson was rapid  and effective
Jan 5 It was bitter cold last night. At 11 AM Friday it is +5°F with a wind chill  of -8°F. After

warming the van up in the driveway, Pounce was taken to do an extended session of warm "distraction" heeling in the lumber aisles of Lowes Building Supplies "Big Box". This session moved on into Stage #10 which is distraction introductions. In the "program", distractions
are introduced in field work. With this being January and cold, we are not doing much. 

However, since distractions are required, the next best alternative is people. Pounce always has issues with individuals at the line in tests. She has evidently been conditioned to seek attention. She likes it.  It is in her nature to not ignore people and wants to interact. Therefore, Lowes heeling sessions are perfect for dealing with this issue. The staff will interact or ignore depending on what you want. Today, we spent a great deal of time just walking near and right by as if they weren't there. It was good to see that conditioned responses kept her focused more on staying in the heeling position. However for awhile, her walk had an "antsy shimmy" to it as we walked right on by several employees. It was a good session with a visual, measurable difference at the finish.  Next up is more practice and repetition.
                   note: On January 22, Pounce will be three months into Hillmann's "Heeling"
                   note: Conditioned Responses attained by seamless presentations via precise
                             practice and many, many correct repetitions are not anything like the
                             "wishing well" promises of a "two week quick fix".

Jan 6 At 10 am Saturday morning +1°F....Sunday it will be +28°F with temporary warm up.
                   note: Pounce did an indoor heeling session using sound distractions - a Dogtra
                             remote ("quacks and beeps") with a GunzUp CD playing in the background
Jan 7,8 two days off for trainer.....sick with a "nasty" sore throat and cold
Jan 9 35°F  Pounce began stage #10 in Hillmann's Heeling Program - field distractions. We trained at the Harrison DTA and parked just inside the gate because of the snow cover (no issues).  The original plan was to use the Winnebago County DTA, but it was closed for the season. This is the first winter they did this and probably to save money (maintenance).

A setup of three Gunners Up remote wingers with Dogtra Electronics (duck quacks and beeps) with primer loads on the first set (forgot on the second). Pounce has already "encountered" the correction phase of the program and only gave me a slight reason to do so in this session. That one correction was "kind of" manipulated even though she was doing so well.

 Pounce's heeling expectations were given a very "vigorous, challenging" session and she responded well. Since there are still three more months in the plan (until the end of March), I was somewhat surprised at how well today's six singles were done. The next few weeks will be interesting. Pounce has always learned "stuff" quickly and we have been moving very slowly through the process. The plans are to continue being methodical because going slower is often faster over the "long haul".  Since there are still three more months (until the end of March), Pounce is right on track for the desired conditioned responses. 

At 1 PM it was -1°F with a wind chill of -17°F. This getting old very quickly. Happy New Year!
At 10 PM  it was -6°F with a wind chill of -16°F. Pounce did a session of heeling tonight and it was comfortable. The pool room is kept at about 55°F in January and most of February.  
Jan 2 Pounce did two session of heeling....first brief and the other a late night, full session. 
Jan 3 At 1PM it is +15°F with a wind chill of -1°F  plus another inch of snow last night. Three more days of single digit temperatures and then ten days of warmer "temps". Pounce and Daisy went to Roscoe Riverside Park DTA for some exercise and a romp in the snow. There will be no heeling work for today.           
                    note: cleared driveway of snow to prepare for training outdoors
                    note: A camera was taken to provide a few action shots in "beast mode".

Jan 16 Snow and cold were enough to not do any field training. However, in the evening
Pounce did some retrieving on the pool deck of bumpers thrown by Lylah (my eight year old autistic granddaughter). That was a fun session for Lylah...and Pounce responded well to the need to deliver each bumper "patiently". We will see how well this proceeds over the the next few months.
An attempt to work on tossing bumpers in the yard was  done last summer and did not go well. There were too many distractions with the openness of the yard not allowing Lylah to focus plus Pounce's animation was "scary". That "event" was not clearly understood at the time, but today, evidently the tight quarters of the pool deck suddenly "clicked" with Lylah and Pounce's animation was confined by the tight quarters.

Jan 17 at 8:30 AM...four inches of snow on the ground, +1°F with a wind chill of -10°F
Around 1:30 PM, Pounce ran four new lines from the south to a point blind (exercise).
                         note: It was 18°F with a wind chill of +1°F.

link to video:

The primary focus of YouTube video training sessions is to observe what went right and that which requires "modification". Several viewings resulted in the following list.
                  1. Pounce's sit position is not consistently "nose and toes" and at times
                      is a bit wide of being  right beside me.
                  2. Pounce's butt is not always on the ground.
                  3. Her motion at the line has improved quite a bit, but we are not "there" yet.
                  4. She is responsively seeking to deliver the retrieve, but it is not smooth.  
                  5. I am casting on blinds way too quickly.....slow down.
Jan 27 Setup a another "look" at Roscoe Riverside Park DTA in a different area and simplified. Ran two sets of three singles focusing on the four "points" above. With "just" singles, this reduced distractions and much "better" reps took place. The third set was two singles each with a poison bird blind and paused before each cast  (only two casts on each one with longer blinds than yesterday). Simplifications made a significant improvement.
                note: There will be no testing until late June which means we have four
                          months to practice on line standards.
                note: On a side note, there is no frost in the ground in areas with no shade.
Jan 28 Pounce has been practicing "at the line" quite a bit lately. In order to change things up a bit for balance, today's setup was a "just go get them" day. Nine singles at the Harrison Road DTA were in the "stand alone/send back" mode. She was "firing on all  cylinders" and "looking for more" even when finished. Used a primer pistol and
a flagged, black/white 3" bumper with a duck call. The line was a "placeboard" plus a white stickman.  With no leaves on the trees, mark "arcs" were much easier to "track".
                  note: 28°F, cloudy with a stiff  breeze and no snow on the ground

Pounce - "Beauty and the Beast"

Happy New Year!

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Jan 11 warm thaw in the 50's and freezing rain later......Pounce "breezed" three different lines to a 200 yard point blind at the Roscoe Riverside Park DTA for a quick exercise session.
                              note: just before the rain began (which got rid of the last snow)
                              note: Dremel dogs' nails day (Pounce and Daisy)
Jan 12 Friday...high was 21°F with a single digit wind chill and for next five days more cold

Trained at the Harrison Road DTA  and had to use bare hands to thaw out the padlock from the ball of ice it was encased in. Setup two wingers to run two doubles with cold blinds in a "flip-flop" set up. Ran the first to the south and the second to the north. This is an efficient way for one person to do quite a bit. The first set Pounce did very well  (marks and blind). The second double was excellent, but the blind was complicated by me being directly in front of the low, bright sun. (not a big deal) The most important part of the day was the continuing  heeling and line responsiveness progress.  (big "thumbs up")
                              note: another good day in the field and no snow!

"to the west"

Jan 21 Rain will not begin until around 2 PM. Therefore, another session in a  sequence building on an analysis of yesterday's videos will be done at Riverside Park DTA. Pounce's heeling is presently demonstrating a very good, responsive "habit" of being in the right position no matter how I move. What needs more work is to keep the motion when in the sitting position "less active". Moving less frequently with longer pauses between any heeling will provide more emphasis on the sit. In addition, the "count to ten" routine before a release (from "sit") will be consistently practiced. ("action" with less motion and more precision)  
                note: Videos provide instant perspective. There are two possibilities. 
                          They are "How To" and "How Not To".  Objectivity is a skill.  The
                           meaning of objectivity is easy to remember, when you see the
                           word "object" embedded within it.
Finished the session at 1 PM.....foggy, no wind, 40°F with a patchy snow . Setup three
remote wingers farther north and ran three sets of three singles using two Dokkens and a 3" camo, foam bumper. The approach was to reduce the amount of heeling motion and emphasize no motion on sit. All releases were done after a slow count to ten. The Dogtra "quack and "beep" plus a duck call at the line were used before each single.  In addition, each of the nine repetitions were done precisely the same way. For Pounce, It was one of those "I get this!" moments. The precise practice phase is next.....repetition.
               note: this was a major distraction session and it went extremely well
               note: There were no corrections ....just two-way responsiveness (show me)
               note: "busy" feet disappeared and were replaced with an intense focus

      The "adjustments" in today's session were caused by reflecting on advice received  
      early on from my Hillmann mentor (Jim Wegner).
If training is not going well, look at
      what YOU need to do differently for success.
Re-viewing yesterday's videos revealed
      the "adjustments". The one area that is weak with Pounce is motion while sitting.
      The idea of using pressure to make her NOT move was unacceptable because there
      will be times when MAKING her not do it will not be possible (during tests).  The 

      reality that "moving" demonstrated a lack of responsiveness indicated the best
      way to deal with this was to increase and/or modify responsiveness.

      Indirectly (as this relates to sitting), Hillmann's heeling  program greatly increased
      her responsiveness. She Is  "glued to my side" and comfortable (when heeling). No
      matter where I move (or how fast), she is right there (a conditioned response). This
      seemed to have a "domino effect" on the sit command. She responds to it differently
      because of the newly developed responsiveness from heeling repetitions. A retriever
      is not likely to be selectively responsive. Either they are or they are not. Essentially,
      the newly developed, responsive "heel" expectation/standard had a direct, positive
      impact on the meaning of "sit". Hillmann talks about the usefulness of "The Game".
     There are
"Games Within the Game".

Jan 22
warm, fog and rain with a small window around noon to train......Pounce ran
four blinds (from the west) to a point blind position. See photo on Jan 17 (green lines). Pounce was muddy when we finished. The river was thawed out some near the bank next to where we parked and a two yard retrieve from the river made her yellow again.
Jan 23 There is fresh snow on the ground plus it is windy and cold. After four very productive days in the field, a warm, short, fun, indoor session seems appropriate. 
                  note: Last night was spent watching a new, well done, exciting Hillmann
                            video production "The Game" starring my mentor - Jim Wegner and
                            his "pack". This is another "gem".
                  note: Pounce will be attending eight sessions of an AKC OB class in March.
                            The rational for this is exposure to additional distractions. Generally,
                            a dozen or more trainers and their dogs are working in close proximity.  
                           This atmosphere is a wonderful "change of pace". Retrievers in tests
                           are in the field essentially alone, but there are often a lot of "people
                           and dog" distractions at the line.
Jan 24 Pounce trained at the Roscoe Riverside DTA around noon. The Temperature was
29°F with a breeze out of the west and two inches of snow on the ground. Yesterday, the Rock River had ice from the south shoreline to almost the north side in the bend around the park. Today all the ice is gone. In the next ten days there are forecasts of 40 to 50°F.
This session was more practice. Three wingers (again) were set up in a different area. Three sets of three singles were run from three different lines. The third set consisted of singles thrown from behind the line. In addition, after each set, a much longer cold blind was run (different spots & much farther than any singles). The focus was on  practicing line expectations.....consistent "reps" with no motion responsiveness.    
                    note: each of the three setups began with "The Game"
                    note: one single in each set was run "bird in mouth"
                    note: specifically practiced heeling before, during and after the session
                    note: each release was after a "no motion and count to ten" routine
                    note: duck call at the line, "Dogtra quacks 'n beeps" with no primer report

                              (because this is a city park)
Jan 25 Thursday forecast high is 40°F - day off from outside, but did an inside session. Pounce practiced -  working on close "game" eye contact.....enhancing responsiveness
                    note: also, went to Hillmann's "blog" to review several YouTube videos
Jan 26
Friday....warm, cloudy and windy....trained at the Roscoe Riverside DTA and did three remote winger doubles with two having a cold blind. Again this was practice on the line standard expectation. The three "runs" were "measured" by taking videos of each and combining those into one video. We are not yet at the precise standard, but she is getting closer. Her enthusiasm is contagious.

     note: The following YouTube video was re-edited for  "just the action".

link to video:

Jan 18 day off for all.....As of lately, all Pounce's "free time", in the house OB (especially the heeling standard "off lead") is being practiced 24/7.
Jan 19 middle thirties at noon and sunny with snow on the ground....Trained five minutes from the house at Thorson Pond in the "grassy area" (covered with snow). The plan was to setup two wingers in a "pod" to practice heeling to the line and at the line focus. The first four "runs" were singles and Pounce is in the "distraction phase" of Hillmann's heeling program. Therefore, everything is focused on precise movement and sit. The session began with four remote winger singles (two in two sets) with Dogtra "quacks 'n beeps" plus the primer shot. The last four marks were thrown in two "pod set" doubles.
               note: Pounce is positioned in a remote "place" and remains there while wingers
                         are reloaded. During the session there were four singles and  two doubles
                         with a precise positioning for Pounce required between each segment.
               note: An interesting situation came up in one of the doubles when the "go bird" 

                         fell slightly off line of the "memory" which was shorter. Before she was
                         sent my initial thought was "What will she do when encountering the short
                         mark (easy to see in the white snow) when lining to the longer "go"?
                         Evidently, her drive and focus made it invisible as she blasted right on by.
                         Back at the line, she whirled around with a body language of "OK, now for
                        the other one!"

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