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June 21 rain all day with cool "temps".......recent heavy rains raised the water level two feet in Thorson Pond (more on the way). Today's training group "won't" happen. I will be taking hip boots to Saturday's hunt test. At 3 PM put on rain and went to Thorson Pond (five minute drive). The ground was too wet to drive to the pond and walked in about 200 yards. Pounce ran five "down the shore" singles in the "stand alone/send back" mode plus one blind. She did a very good job dealing with the opposing wind factor. It seemed stronger than the 5 PM weather.
June 20 Wednesday much cooler......needed to shoot some "flyers" (not Friday.....test Saturday)
In the early afternoon, drove to Hook Lake to shoot a few "flyers" for Pounce. The last time she "did" live "flyers" was May 17th. There were no ssues then and none today. After catching three ducks from the pen (messy, not fun).....Pounce did three short setups. The first was an easy, close "walkup flyer". The second was a double with a "flyer" as the "go bird" (no "walkup"). The third was a double with the "flyer" as the memory from a different line. This type of training setup is a continuation of Hillmann's "distraction" practice concept. In addition, Pounce did three "off the van, into the holding blind and to the line" routines. The "practice" stressed excitement with real shooting, lots of Dogtra remote noise and "in your face" live flyers (plus each flyer had a "sluicing shot"). Both the remote "Gunners Up" winger and the "Zinger " Uplander had primer loads.....a lot of "noise"/excitement.
note: Daisy got her exercise "doing" several water retrieves. It was an excellent day.
June 3 Sunday morning early - Pounce ran two sets of three cold blinds (different locations) using thawed pheasants at the Riverside Park DTA. The tall cover was again a challenge for Pounce. However, handling was greatly simplified by the running line being situated up on a good sized,
long hill on the east side. Both sets were fun, fast and exciting with the rest of the day off.
June 4 day off for Pounce.......not so much for trainer......yard work....mow lawn & "whack" weeds along the full length of the north shore of Thorson Pond......should have done only half.
June 5 Pounce did two, easy cold blinds at River Side Park. The tall grass that was "interesting" has been cut and appears to be ready to rake into "windrows". Pounce went to the evening group session run by Pro Corey Zandonai. The setup was a triple with two blinds. We did not run the short blind. This setup was kind of a "barometer" of where Pounce stands in the decision to run her first AKC Master test. She's entered the Muddy Water's Club test near Junction City, WI on June 24th.
June 6 Pounce trained in the afternoon...."Line Distraction Drill"....close with mallards at the Harrison
Road DTA. In Hillmann's program, a great deal of time is spent focusing on precise, repetitious practice. When the skill/standard is established, the next step in the process is distraction proofing. Training in a group will provide a great deal of useful excitement, but much can be gained by focusing on making training alone very exciting. Shooting a flyer at 20 yards is more exciting to a dog than one at 100 yards. Having a duck splash in water (close) is more challenging. However, this would not be the situation to begin a planned exciting, distraction proofing process. The primary focus is to make "yard work" and close "stuff" as exciting as possible....a yard to field "tweener".
To repeat...all too often, "yard work" is just plain "work". The dog learns how to deal with low excitement creating an assumption that his responsiveness appears to be acceptable. Introduce some high energy distractions in the field and what was learned in the yard may not completely carry over. In the same train of thought, if there is no high energy generated in training alone....responsiveness when excited will often prove to be "disappointing".
To repeat...anyone that has observed even a few of Hillmann's training sessions will notice the dog is continually kept in a highly excited state. They are taught to deal with excitement via "capping" and channel their energy. The final steps for establishing a skill set are completed by going through a process called “distraction proofing”. Basically, this means “can you maintain the same focus during exciting distractions”?
Therefore, when training alone what can be done to create distractions? First of all, I want/need the dog "off the wall excited" when we are training. A retriever functions best in “prey drive”. This is where creativity and some common sense are require. For what it is worth, those two concepts are often in conflict. The following is an example of a "distraction proofing" setup.
Pounce trained in the afternoon...."Line Distraction Drill"....very close setup with mallards (at the Harrison Road DTA). Three remote wingers were placed in a tight pod behind some low shrubs to throw "noisy", "in your face", exciting mallards (right , left, last straight in). The van to the holding blind routine was repeated three times. The marks were very short, thirty yard singles. The first “go” included a "walk-about" more than a simple, brief, tip-towing sterile "walk-up".
The 2nd and 3rd mallards were singles with the focus on being steady and consistent deliveries with "one bird in mouth" sequence. When finished with the first "go", Pounce was "put up" and the wingers were reloaded. note: bird in air means "sit" is a standard
The same setup was then done as a triple. During the extended "walk-about", a 4th Dogtra remote was providing "quacks and beeps" from behind us plus I was blowing on a duck call and carrying a fake gun. The "walk-about" included turns and reverse heeling in different directions with no predictable pattern. Pounce had to be "responsive" to keep in touch with where the walk was "taking" her before the triple was finally thrown. Before being released (every time) a reverse, one step backward heel was required. This went well as Pounce began to realize (more aware) that she had to pay attention "to be in the game" (responsive). After the first set, the three wingers sere moved to the north side of the brush to do a full, "flip-flop" repeat. This “training alone” session was an exciting precise, repetitive practice.
note: Pounce began working on Hillmann's "Heeling Program" last September
note: On the two sets that were done as triples, Pounce was NOT wearing an e-collar. Any
"correction" was done by simply changing directions with no nagging command.
Nothing exciting happened unless she was doing the right thing. The sought
conditioned responses are "being at heel is necessary" and "bird in air" means sit.
A companion sequel to this setup is "hedge-row" walk-ups (every 20-30 yards).
note: trainer "yard work"....mowed yard
note: sixteen days until test - plan three "flyer "days
June 7 Thursday - late afternoon training group at the Harrison Road DTA.....Pounce ran three mallards as individual 'walk-ups" and ran the longer cold blind. This choice was predicated by the
fact that the three marks were almost identical to the ones thrown by the Tuesday night group.
June 8 Friday - Pounce did a two-pile lining drill exercise "skill reps/practice", exciting, fast paced in the morning....around noon repeated the "Distraction Practice" Drill (see June 6th journal entry) in a different area...longer marks, better responsiveness...more reps/practice doing the "right things"
June 9 trained at the Harrison Road DTA.....Pounce ran a remote winger triple with Dokkens plus two concept blinds (change in setup.....left mallards in garage...duh!)....stopped on the way home, picked up the mallards and ran six blinds in Thorson Pond
June 10 worked the Madison Retriever Club's Master B test at Stoughton....Weather was supposed to
be rain most of the day. However, it blew through sooner. It was cool and cloudy with a huge bonus being the infamous hordes of black gnats were "resting". When the third series was finished most everyone left for the clubhouse for the "results". Pounce did several send back solo singles "rapid fire" and Daisy had her usual fun bumpers for exercise. It was an easier day than I expected.
June 11 Pouncewill begin a training routine of 4-5 days a week.....need time for my "yard work" (can't keep up with mowing and weeds)....master test 6/23 (two weeks...need to do some "flyers"
The afternoon weather was "wonderful" (upper 60's, cloudy with a good breeze out of the east).
Pounce ran an old 200 yard pattern blind (mallard) at the Roscoe Riverside Park DTA. Then we drove to the Harrison Road DTA to run a new "point blind" (three different lines to mallards). The finishing set was three walking singles using a mallard.......back to the van.
June 12 Tuesday.....training group around 4 pm....setup was a triple (wingers with mallards) with a walk-up. Pounce ran the setup "without" an e-collar.......the holding blind is no longer an issue, not perfect at the line......but are we getting closer. After working the 3rd series in a Master test last Sunday, there were many that......not going to comment any further....Pounce will be OK.
June 13 Pounce trained at the Harrison Road DTA and "worked" another "Line Distraction Drill". The first set was a very close triple with mallards. The second was run as three singles using the AKC wooden gun. The last was a second triple with a real shotgun and primer loads. Responsiveness was the focus measured by her willingness to remain at heel and to heel backwards when asked.
June 1 Pounce had the day off.......mostly because it fit in with the work she has been doing.
June 2 After searching through ideas in other publications for a useful presentation of marks in the ABCD routine, the one that seemed most appropriate within Pounce's present skill set and her training routines was one from Carol Cassity's "Building A Retriever - Drills and More". Two marks are thrown in three sets from three different lines. Roscoe Riverside Park DTA has not been mowed recently and the grassy cover is over knee deep. Last year, she ran one Senior test where my hip boots were "not enough" (got wet).
There are four holding blinds in the field with remote wingers behind B and C. After two singles
are thrown and retrieved, Pounce is "put up" and the two wingers are reloaded. Walking up the cent does not disturb the lines any of the marks. The double throwing order was reversed to make #2 the memory. The cover on the memory was too high to see her the last 50 yards
There were no issues....good session. Daisy was exercised while picking up.
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June 14 evening training group.....three marks and two blinds, the close mark was run as "poison bird with what was for most a "walk up".....next was a double with two concept blinds. Pounce was simply
"not herself" today. Not lot of momentum on the blinds, did not mark very well and was breathing a lot harder than normal. The humidity and temperature was not that bad.....????
June 15 day off and hot
June 16 another hot/humid day....went early morning to Roscoe Riverside Park. Daisy and Pounce did some fun retrieves in the Rock River. The river was high with a good current. They were swept down the shoreline on returns from retrieves. It was fun and relaxing. Driving around the park to the east side, Pounce ran a setup of four blinds from to widely spaced lines off "Momentum Ridge". It is in the shade (for awhile). Pounce was running downhill for a good distance then out on to a very long flat with a distant horizon. On blinds.....they literally fly on the back command. Based on the last few days,
this was "a very good, fast turn-around session".
note: Today was our 56th wedding anniversary. I remembered......just in time.
June 17 Pounce had the day off and more of the shoreline around Thorson Pond was cut in the morning. After two tanks of gas, the heat and humidity made that more than enough. The next project is spraying about one-third of the weeds in the pond (definitely not tomorrow).
June 18 This afternoon it was 92°F with heat index of 100°F........nasty!!! However, Pounce was at the entrance to Roscoe Riverside Park at 6:20 am just as the local Police opened the gate. A three blind KRD with a remote winger was set up quickly. Pounce ran the single and three concept blinds (behind the gun, under the arc and wide of the fall) off "Momentum Hill" (which was still in the shade). With a bit of a breeze off the river it wasn't too hot (yet) plus the wind kept the gnats at bay. After picking up the setup, Pounce cooled off in the river and Daisy got in some easy swimming exercise. We were back home in the air conditioning in about one hour.
June 19 rain.....Tuesday's training group probably won't happen, but maybe a "window" will open.
Group training cancelled....too much rain and muddy training area. At about 6:30 am there was a brief, radar beak in the thunder storms. Pounce got in a quick paced, fun "split lining/handling" drill in the "grassy area" of the Thorson Pond DTA. Daisy was exercised, too.
note: new toy arrived (riding lawn mower) and I thought my knees shouted "hooray"!
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note: The backwards heeling skill is a major component of sustaining engagement.
note: There was one instance of an "event" to apply a Hillmann correction right at 47
seconds and her response was very good. There was no verbal...simply a level
three nick. Her backwards "scooch" is quite obvious (on a large desktop screen).
June 22 It rained all morning. With a break in the afternoon, Pounce ran an easy remote winger setup at Thorson Pond with pheasants. Tomorrow's test will use phesants and she has picked up some before (just a review). The second winger did not fire and the setup turned into a "no bird" rerun plus a blind up the middle (not planned, but useful). This was a very solid session.
June 23 arrived on time (early after a 3+ hour drive to a really great field trial property near Junction City, Wi. for the Muddy Waters Master test. Immediately off the van, Pounce was
"into" a mode that was not what I wanted to see. She was "antsy" and began marking every area that "peaked her interest" (acting more like a male and she is like this for a few months after every heat cycle). As the test time approached, this "issue" increased and when on lead she was not very responsive. Finally, when going to the line through two holding blinds, the old Pounce was in "full bloom" and seemingly oblivious to what we had worked on for the last TEN MONTHS. Out of the last holding blind to the line was not very pretty (not as a team). When the pheasant flyer was shot (last), Pounce was a very "healthy" five plus yards in front of me dancing on her hind legs. Once back at heel, she promptly nailed all three marks in the triple (in the order I selected). Then I proceeded to turn the blind into a bunch of whistle "cluster"....as many others did. On the honor, she sat like a stature (knew she was finished). The drive home seemed longer than the 4 am morning trip, but we arrived a day sooner than what was in the plan....with a few, fittingly extra passengers....ticks.
note: The timing was such that the red Entry Express "remove" button for our next
Master entry was still available. Initially, the thought was to keep that "date" and pick her up after "the creep". However, a one time "treatment" seemed more like
June 23 I have already had a lot of advice. For me...there are two possible approaches. The first is to accept the fact that "Life sucks....and then you die!" or the second which is " 'Tis but a scratch in the "grand scheme of things".
June 24-7 After four days of "mulling" this over plus a group training session (simulating a hunt test) resulted in deciding to shut Pounce down for awhile (see June 30th entry). At 4 PM the regular, "end of the month" training day was put on by pro trainer Corey Zandonai. The session was at the W-Property of the Madison Retriever Club and Pounce's planned "approach" provided a "performance" which produced some "obvious" answers.
note: The duckweed on Thorson Pond was sprayed/treated. This was a first time
process (by me) and will keep the surface cleaner for hunting this fall.
June 28-30 taking a few more days off......because it is dangerously HOT and will be so for several days. After a great deal of thought, the decision to have Pounce spayed (or not) went through several phases (in the last week). update: Wishful thinking is a trap. Did NOT spay.
In the afternoon, Pounce worked on a new point blind run from the east side of the large technical pond. Not being up on a mound and the tall grass (needs mowing) made it very difficult working across points. She was out of sight too much, but was responsive and persistent (when i could see her). Pounce completed did the first four. On the way home no one was using the Stoughton Field Trial Property and Pounce was more than eager to do her favorite setup....several stand alone/send back singles were marked really well. It was a full day.....(very "easy/fun something" tomorrow).