April 5 - Tuesday...rain in the afternoon with a high of 56°F...day off for both dogs...time to begin taxes
April 6 - Wednesday..windy - high of 51°F...trained at Riverside Park - basic KRD (easy, short grass)
pickups - 1) 70 yard single, 2) blind wide of fall, 3) blind wide behind gun and 4) blind tight behind gun
In about two weeks, we will add the next two concept blinds - through the old fall and under the arc.
                 note: "stand alone/walk back" single (black & white bumper) from a "camo" chair "blind"
                             with white stakes/(black & white bumpers for blinds (short, basic review)
                 note: Gigi and Pounce will repeat/practice the crate to the line routine every single time.
                 note: After a couple of sessions, the HRC line will included "shooting the blinds".
                 note: Today's "gunner" blind was a "camo" chair staked down with a gun stand. The wind 
                           was tipping the chair over.
The focus was on being steady at the line with no handler ("stand alone" mode). This was tested by leaving the line, throwing the single and then walking back to the line to run the setup (single and three, very easy, "visible" blinds). Gigi and Pounce were relaxed, focused and very patient.


April 14 - Thursday...high of 45°F with strong winds out of the west...gusts of 45 mph. The wind chill is 32°F...Therefore, a mallard was thawed indoors for tomorrow. The coup de grâce was applied to my turkey season a few days ago. The first Illinois turkey season was five days in length. Rain, then cold and finally two, tall and dead pine trees fell into the corn field just north of the pond. They were about 40 yards from my turkey blind. The last three days the farmer spent some time cutting and removing them. It was not that big of a deal because the weather has been lousy. Fortunately, I have two more permits for early May.
April 15 - Friday...high of 55°F...trained Gigi indoors doing a very good session of "mallard in mouth" OB The steadily improving attitude has suggested her heath issues have been mostly resolved.
                  note: I spent most of the day getting taxes taken care of and TurboTax continues to work well.
                           The only thing left to do is print and mail.
April 16 - Saturday....high of 46°F with a stiff breeze...2nd day off for Pounce...Gigi trained in the morning doing a repeat of "mallard in mouth" OB. Then in the afternoon Gigi did a close up session of retrieving using the same mallard..in the yard. The continuous, persistent practice is revealing dividends. The key for today's training session is distance. Close means more focus and control which enhances responsiveness. An  increase in those three factors tends to reduce the excitement of "ducks in mouth" issues measured in "birdiness" and "retrieving" skills. Keeping a retriever in balance requires monitoring the five factors. 
                                         note: tax forms and payment are ready to send in on Monday

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April 26 - Tuesday - weather just like yesterday - sunny, cold and windy...trained at the Four Lakes DTA and used the outhouse as a windbreak. Gigi and Pounce ran an HRC line practice similar to what we did yesterday. Each got about eight retrieves with half the runs done as "doubles". Pounce was smooth and accurate. Gigi was ready to fire.....hot, so we slowed way down.  

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April 24 - Monday - high in middle 40's with wind gusts to 28 mph...The morning was spent waiting for the load of road gravel to be delivered. The UTV winger rack was mounted. The plan as to drive about 30 minutes to the Harrison Rod DTA and practice on HRC line skills (review for Pounce and introduce with Gigi). The line was setup so that a large scrub pine tree served as a windbreak. Two piles of bumpers were planted about eighty yards away and wide enough apart to avoid any conflicts. Primer loads with a single shot shotgun kept this simple and a bit slower than a pump shotgun delivery. The off the van to the line routine has been practiced for quite awhile (all winter and indoors). It includes a step suggested by Bill Hillmann. This idea fits right in with the philosophy that the dog needs to pay attention to the trainer and respond appropriately. It becomes a predictable step by step sequence that requires paying attention to the trainer. The two piles are somewhat like easy blind piles each with a white stake and several bumpers. On the first presentation, each pile was "shot" as a single with the gun swinging (that means moving) toward the target from somewhere else. The idea is the dog needs to learn that the gun is a "pointing" device....."Watch Me/Pay Attention!" After the first go of running singles, the dogs are taken back to the van. Essentially, there are two steps in the session. There is no rush in the presentation. Going to the line properly is not achieved without correct practice.  (refer to link below)
         note: Both dogs ran their second single after using the "first bumper remains in mouth, hold and
                   watch". After the second retrieve is shot (in the contrived double), the dog then delivers the
                   first bumper before being sent for the second...not rushed. Focus and control require practice.

         note: The action at the HRC line can be "busy" and distracting. If the skills at the line are practiced
                    correctly (and become comfortable), then the action "out there" will be easier to deal with.  

You Tube Link:

April 2 - Saturday - yesterday's snow  melted then today's storm arrived - Wet, heavy snow with slushy accumulations and low visibility expected (snow up to 3 inches). Pounce and Gigi trained indoors. Gigi has one more AKC OB class session which we are skipping.  note: Gigi's second day of fenbendazole

April 10 - Monday...At 9:30 am, 47°F and cloudy with a stiff breeze out of the west. Illinois turkey season
opened this morning. A halfhearted scouting search revealed no turkeys were moving. With rain in the forecast for tomorrow meant three not so great days left. The next turkey season is May 5-11. Gigi and Pounce trained at the Four Lakes DTA. With a stiff breeze out of the west, a "placeboard" line was walked out to set up a series of "send back/stand alone" singes. When this type of setup was taught to Gigi, it was important to keep the first few singles very short so that my physical presence kept her steady and easy to correct. Therefore, in returning to a setup we have not run since last fall, her singles would be thrown so as to make it easy to "be in her face" quickly. The guess was good....her first one required that I step in front and send her back. After that, she was perfect. Pounce's sequence was flashy (very good). 
                                        note: Today's session was a spring warm-up and review. 

April 17 - Sunday...high of 45°F....stiff breeze and it is Easter Sunday - We had a day off from training and spent the morning getting income taxes filed....on line and a day early. It was not easy. 
The following are excerpts from Force or Correction "Reconditioning a Dog's Mind" (March 3rd entry). The concept is not an easy adjustment and the idea that "It is not always the dog." is difficult to engage.   
             1) "Dogs by nature are silent communicators."
             2) "Training plus Motivation plus Consistency equals trained Response."
             3) "The main ingredients of the rehabilitation process is a dog must focus on the thrown bird
                    while maintaining a peripheral focus on the handler's movement and cues."
             4) "The dog's part is simple: All she has to do is respond to what the handler is doing. The
                   handler has to RETRAIN his own motor skills to respond quickly to what the dog is doing."
             5) "The handler's responses must be second nature. Remember, if you speak or give
                   commands then you just took the responsibility off the dog."
April 18 - Monday...high of 40°F with about 1" of snow.. I worked on income tax all day. In the past several years I have used TurboTax and it was easy, accurate with no issues. This year nothing went right. The E-Filing process did not work and I spent all day and night working in it. The checks and balances stated that it was ready to file. It wasn't and things went downhill from there. At 3 pm this afternoon (with no sleep), I went to the post office and mailed a hard copy. Then I went back home to find a way to get  a refund for the failed e-filing. I am fairly certain that sleep will eventually put things in perspective.

April 19 - Tuesday..high of  50°F...sunny with a breeze out of the northwest. The wind direction did not have
any impact of the planned mallard retrieves. Both ran the Kelly Myer DTA, 200 yard point blind (mostly for the mallards with Gigi plus the aerobic exercise for both). The next several weeks will continue to be focused on Gigi's duck handling skills because doing so is having a positive impact on everything else.      
                          note: The indoor, winter training and recent yard/field work has been effective.

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Pounce and Gigi trained around 1:30 pm at the Thorson Pond DTA. Using an established pattern blind, the plan was to practice (without a leash) an "off the van", around the van once to an airing area, then to the line routine. "Off the van" requires 1) sit in crate with door open as I walk around the van once (out of sight) and return, 2) exit crate and sit on "place board" (still in the van and remain there), I then walk around the van out sight again, 3) dog exits van to an immediate sit, heels around van (off lead) back to open van door, sits, walks at heel (off lead) to the line, sits....runs known blind pile, delivers to hand and returns to van (off lead), sits outside of van, enters crate on "kennel up" to await the next go. Gigi and Pounce repeated the process three times (alternating turns). Correct repetitions produce consistent, reliable skills....in theory. In addition to the practiced skill sets, the aerobics were a much needed conditioning component of the day. The total distance covered by each was 930 yards (full sprint mode).
                 note: Both dogs knew they were wearing an e-collar that was turned on. 
                 note: An e-collar can tell a dog when they have been good or not.  
                 note: The main focus of training is pay attention/watch me and practice precisely.
                 note: Teamwork requires at least two players working in concert.

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April 29 - Friday...61°F for a high, breezy and then cloudy with rain on the way. Drove to the Harrison Road DTA and setup three remote wingers with mallards. The plan was three HRC line singles. When setting up the remotes were placed out of order. It was a good thing that Pounce went first because I could manage her well enough to do her three singles correctly.  Then one of the electronics did not work with Gigi. She did not react well to my fumbling around. Then it began to drizzle. After a few misunderstandings at the line with Gigi, we managed to avoid getting wet. It rained all the way home. More was expected tomorrow. So as  to avoid the remote winger electronics issues, I wrote the number of each one on three fingers and pointed.

In the photo, one can see that the line to the pile is about three yards from the "left field" fence. Therefore, when Gigi responds to a whistle sit, her speeding/fast, left turn/pivot is restricted to less than two yards in diameter. Many repetitions of a quick pivot sit will establish a conditioned response. Consistent, tight turns will become the norm. As for Pounce, her pivot is the opposite of Gigi's. Therefore, her back pile is placed where Gigi ran from (reversed). Then Pounce's tendency to pivot to the right was restricted and practiced. A quick, tight turn and sit keeps the dog closer to the line of a blind. On each whistle sit the dog may be cast on to the "back" pile or to an "over" pile. Once in while, the over pile is lined, dog is stopped and may be cast to the long pile. The session provided alternatives requiring paying attention to the handler. Becoming too predictable may cause a dog to loose focus in the moment. A great many successful "reps" with variations can be presented in one session. The drill is a very exciting, high drive setup. Dogs need to be driven (self-motivate....somewhat) in order to enjoy this (gottawantu).
April 10 Sunday...sunny, windy and 59° early afternoon...trained at the Kelly-Myer DTA. Pounce and Gigi ran the "no loopy sit" drill using 83 yards of tall. tight, chain link fencing. Pounce went first and ran about fifteen lines....fast. Gigi was up next and is faster than Pounce. Both kept at it with no let up. Gigi caught a tooth on her tongue and some of the last bumpers were a bit bloody. At a little after 4pm (afternoon) both are sleeping well in the living room. It was an excellent session. On the way home in a round about route, two "batches" of turkeys were out searching for some action. It is finally getting warmer.

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April 12 - Tuesday...high of 67°F...winds SE at 20 to 30 mph...higher wind gusts possible....A round about side trip to scout for turkeys was done before training. Nine turkeys were very  "busy" in a yard near the Legend Lake subdivision....and oblivious to my observation.

April 3 - Sunday...high 49°F...first season for Illinois turkey is April 11-15th...find range scope/pattern shotgun chokes/shell choice. The turkey blind needs "gunning holes" (cut). This afternoon, there is quite a bit of snow on the ground (for April). Gigi and Pounce trained indoors (again). Practice and repetition continues to pay dividends. One special aspect of keeping a journal has become obvious.
My memory is not nearly what it use to be and Prevagen is not something I wanted to test. Gigi was supposed to receive a three day regimen of worming meds. Today I lost track of how that was going.
The journal made it easy. Gigi's third day (last) of fenbendazole treatment`was today....for sure.
April 4 - Monday...high 51°F (snow disappeared quickly) We are now in "mud season". Both dogs trained this morning (indoors). This afternoon Gigi practiced the "sit', "whoa" and "down" commands (again).
Gigi's fifth AKC OB class session was at 7 pm. Today it became rather obvious that the main distraction in her class is the presence of treats....everywhere. The instructors are tempting moving dogs all the time and there are dropped treats and pans with treats in them sitting just out of reach. The value of this situation has become very questionable. Gigi has only one thing on her mind. It is not constructive anymore (at least for Gigi). During the OB classes in the past, the instructors did not take an active roll in motivating any dogs. That should be left up to the person training their dog. The instructors are there to show the handlers what to do. I called a friend that is very active and successful in AKC OB and Agility to find out if this is right. It is not.

As an aside, in today's session (near the finish), a small platform about 18 inches wide, 6 feet long and about 10 inches high was placed in the middle of the ring. Each dog was to get up on it and "walk" the full length (on top). Not one single dog did it until Gigi's turn. She stepped up without without hesitating, walked the full length and hopped off (not a big deal)...focused and not needing treats. 

On the way home I began to think about why she had no issues. Then it dawned on me. When she was just a small puppy, I bought a couple of 2"X12"X12 foot boards and glued carpet on one side. The carpeted boards were then set on bricks to simulate a platform. A small puppy has a lot of room to "walk the planks" at heel. However, not paying attention would result in a small fall off. Therefore, she learned to heel rather quickly on the elevated boards (with no treats). Three years later the conditioned response surfaced again....out of nowhere. Therefore, the value of treats for training advanced retriever skills is obviously not always a plus. We are finished with Gigi's AKC OB class (even though there are two sessions to go).  I do not want her going to the line in a hunt test expecting treats and seeking attention from hunt test judges or whoever is taking care of the ducks.    

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It has been three years since Gigi arrived as a pup. The plan was to continue the same "in house" living arrangements as we did with previous KwickLabs. Right now there are two and they are well trained. Two
is good company and three becomes a crowd. That seems to be the most reasonable arrangement.

The predicted rain did not appear. Therefore, a short drive had Pounce and Gigi getting in some aerobic exercise at the Kelly Meyer Field DTA. Both have run "the" 200 yard point blind. Gigi went first and soon it was obvious that her memory wasn't there. On the third go...things were clarified. Then Pounce came out and did it on her first go...easy.

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After a short drive to the Kelley Meyer DTA, Pounce and Gigi practiced their "Kwick Sit" lining drills for the third time. Videos of today's sessions were taken. To repeat, it has taken awhile to get back up to speed with the process of eventually publishing videos on KwickLabs YouTube channel. (updates soon)

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After we finished the lining drills, a drive to the Harrison Road DTA revealed it was occupied (again...the same as yesterday). A brief drive west to the Four Lakes DTA found the wind in a perfect direction to run Pounce and Gigi on a set of  "stand alone/send back singles".  Both made quick work out six singles (a similar setup to yesterday, but a bit longer). They slept soundly after today's work.
April 13 - warm in the upper 60's, breezy with "iffy" rain...The first setup was a short drive. Gigi and Pounce
practiced two HRC walkups using a  remote winger with sound (ducks quacks, beeping, primer report) and a black and white flagged bumper. A primer loaded shotgun was carried and I "shot" the bumpers. Both dogs were steady and sat on the launch. Practicing "walk-ups" means doing them regularly, 

Before each walk-up, the entire "off the van to the line" routine is practiced/described in the following photos. The exiting rules (in order) are 1) sit in van with crate door open, 2) exit crate to sit on "placeboard", 3) dog remains sitting on the "placeboard" (alone) as I walk around the van, 4) back at the van door the waiting dog exits and sits, 5) dog walks at heel, off lead/or not (depends) around the van again and 5) is taken to a place to air. After that, it is either back into the van or head for the holding blind (predictable).
                                          note: This is practiced before at least one setup per training day.

April 9 Saturday...high 50°F/no rain 'til Tuesday/Wednesday...train next two days..cut shooting slots in turkey blind, hunt turkeys on Monday (not all day) and maybe train...design easy-up rain cover over the turkey blind for Tuesday/Wednesday (or not hunt)...Find time to begin working on income tax due the 18th.....It is good to be retired.           note: first Illinois turkey season is April 11-15.

Early spring is an ideal time to deal with "issues". Gigi and Pounce have loopy sits. Gigi's loop is to the right and Pounce's to the left. They are conditioned responses enhanced by speed and "letting the horse out of the barn too soon". Therefore, altering that habit required a fair and reliable training adjustment that consistently produced the correct behavior. Not allowing it to happen was the conundrum. It is best if the process does not involve aggressive corrections. Show me and then being able to consistently repeat would be best. The following photos reveal something that was tried (just a bit, a year ago). It was effective, but not enough time was spent practicing. Reliable conditioned responses are rarely a few
sessions event. This spring, Gigi, Pounce and I will deal with the issue using regular, relentless practice

You Tube Link:

April 20 - Thursday - high in the middle 60's...Nice! Pounce and Gigi did HRC walk-ups. Gigi ran two and Pounce one. Gigi, also, did several retrieves of a mallard up close with "duck in mouth" OB. Pounce ran one walk-up (see yesterday's entry). Then each ran the 200 yard pattern blind with a mallard.
April 21 - Friday - cooler(in the forties) with rain and wind...Nasty!...day off from training
April 22 - Saturday - high of 78°F...Mud made pulling the enclosed trailer out of its winter storage area a challenge. Four yards of road gravel will be delivered Monday. The UTV winger rack will be re-attached and a more regular "kwick" field training mode begins soon. Meanwhile, turkey scouting has indicated more movement. The 3rd Illinois turkey season is May 5-12. 
April 23 - Sunday - upper 60's, sunny with a breeze...cleaned the dogs' airing yard, need to move trailer to make room for road gravel. Gigi and Pounce worked in the yard doing an eight bumper lining drill. Pounce has practiced this design often using seven bumpers and did well running it from two different angles. Gigi has not done this nearly as much and had issues at first. Then the light went on......orange and "camo" bumpers mixed is not nearly as easy.  After two days off from training, the work was needed. It should be noted that this session was a modification of Hillmann's Seven Bumper Lining Drill used as a refresher with an aerobic focus.  

April 8, Friday - 36°F & breezy, slight mist and a few snow flakes...Turkey scouting has been unproductive and the weather is not improving. Last spring, we had turkeys in the backyard almost every day. Then one morning, I was working (in the backyard) when not far away (in our subdivision) a single, loud blast from a shotgun boomed out. I am fairly certain a neighbor was NOT checking out a choke pattern.         

April 7 Thursday...cold with rain beginning around noon...starting to work on taxes and there will be no
training today. Pounce and Gigi are sleeping off the increased distance and exercise done yesterday. I

have scouted for turkeys and have not seen any. The weather does not look very good for the upcoming
spring turkey season. Rain is the issue. The plan is to put a waterproof camo-fabric over the blind. Cold temperatures and getting wet is not a good combination (at my age). I may "break-out" the Little Buddy.

        note: continued to run KRD's and slowly increase the difficulty...in different areas. Check Harrison
                  Road DTA for mud and see if the Four Lakes DTA is open. The Rockton Road DTA looks like
                  it is good to go...need to check for mud first...not just naively driving in.

The weather delay in training today had me thinking about how well Pounce and Gigi trained yesterday (first outdoor, field training session since last year). The winter plan was to NOT train outdoors and the  indoor, heated, swimming pool building restricted training/teaching distances to less than twenty yards.

Balance in a retriever can be described as a function of five factors - retrieving, "birdiness", focus, control and responsiveness. The distance between a retriever and trainer has a huge impact on the last three factors. When the trainer is near the action (at the line and end of a very short retrieve), the  three factors of focus, control and responsiveness are more easily engaged. The length of retrieves permits manipulating balance.

In addition to the larger number of short retrieves, an increase in the use of doing OB drills with either ducks or bumpers in mouth OB sessions allows balance to be more easily manipulated (closer enables more control). Indoor training without distance and fewer distractions creates a more consistent training environment where focus, control and responsiveness may be gradually enhanced. The conditioned responses then are transferred to the larger setups in the field (distance) and distractions are added. This analysis tends to support the fact that running long marks with very young retrievers is often times a "bridge too far". The idiom “a bridge too far” is used to reference an action that is too ambitious or drastic to be realistic. It describes an action that is too complicated/challenging to execute so much so that it is likely to fail.

At about 5 pm it was breezy and cool. The mallard from this afternoon was still in the cooler and ready for another training session in the yard. The Saturday 16th session with Gigi was repeated. Knowing how things went in that session made for better adjustments and timing. Gigi was more aware of what was being done and a good jump in progress was made. She was relaxed and focused while doing OB with our "mallard in mouth" routine and a reliable, controlled walking, mallard fetch was established. She has begun to accept the fact that ducks are not hers. Gigi's point blind session required running four hundred yards with a "mallard in mouth" for half that distance. And lastly, since the same mallard has been used in several sessions and remains almost pristine, suggests that we are making progress.
April 19 - Wednesday...high of  50°F with a stiff southeast wind and rain soon. Decided to train close (less money on gas) and do the same setup as April 13th. Pounce and Gigi alternated turns running three HRC walk-ups with a remote winger, mallard and holding blind. Also, the "off the van to the line with no leash" routine was practiced each time. However, they are wearing an e-collar. It did not take a lot of time since the training area is five minutes from our house. There was some time left and it is a short drive to the Kelly Myer DTA. Gigi ran the 200 yard mallard pattern blind (once). That blind is now an "easy do" for her and provides a long retrieve with a solid carry/delivery of a big mallard. The weather has been fairly cold and not putting the mallard through a daily freeze and thaw routine evidently is a good thing.
            note: Last year's April weather entries were compared to this April and they are about the same.
Turkey hunting was a "bust" for the first Illinois season and I have seen very few when scouting with zero in the small area that I can hunt. Today I happened to look out the living room window and like clock-work we had the annual visit to our back yard. There is a narrow strip of land between our lot and the one behind us that is "owned" by the electric company and it is wooded. Turkeys use it kind of like a safe highway.

April 27 Wednesday - colder, windy and a freeze warning for this evening...Pounce and Gigi are sleeping at noon and I have better things to do....one of which is not training. Early afternoon was a good time to Dremel dog nails. Pounce went first and the sling made it easy. Then it was Gigi's turn. After each leg her dislike for the situation began to build. With some distractions supplied by my wife during the last paw, it was soon over. The next time we will be better prepared.
April 28 Thursday - cold, windy with some occasional drizzle...needed to train and then stop at Farm & Fleet on the way back (one trip, less gas). A quick, aerobic session seemed logical. The plan to save on gas money often includes taking care of two or more things in one round trip. First up was the training session. Gigi and Pounce ran the 200 yard point blind. Gigi went first and she had a choice because there were three Dokkens and one well aged mallard. Not surprisingly, the duck came back first even though it has seen better days. Gigi was sent one more time and then Pounce picked up the last two Dokkens.  Not much skill is involved, but the aerobics will get us past the lousy, cold weather in good shape.
We stopped at Farm & Fleet on the way back to do some shopping. They allow a dog on a lead which means Gigi went in with me to work on leash skills in a crowded store. I bought two pair of bluejeans, a big bag of grass seed and a multi-plug wall device. Shopping the pile is not a bad thing. When we got in line to checkout, an old guy in front of us had a cart full. That was a good thing because Gigi had to sit and wait. He was almost checked out and then contested the price on a bundle of white socks. The clerks were all busy and it took quite awhile for the lady to get help. She was flustered and asked me if I wanted a treat for my dog. I said, "Not a big deal...having to wait in line is good for my dog's training." She relaxed and said, "That makes me feel a lot better'. Eventually, we left and Gigi had been exceptional in the store. The last stop (half-way back home) was to fill the van with gas (near empty). That multi-tasking trip cost nearly $300. Training is expensive.

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April 1 - Friday...high of 45°F with snow on the ground...Gigi and Pounce will have puppies soon.         Actually, Pounce and Gigi will be working on HRC skills. The first HRC test is River Valley HRC June 4-5, 2022 Mazomanie, WI. The next three are WISILL HRC June 25-26...Kansasville, Wisconsin...Mississippi Valley HRC July 23-4 McCausland, IA and Muddy Waters HRC Aug. 8/7 (last year) Junction City, WI. and a WISILL HRC (fall test) plus FOXRIVER VALLEY HRC Sept. 18 &19 last year. Pounce needs three more Finished test passes for her HRCH and will be ready to run Finished in June. Gigi will begin to prepare for HRC Started level tests in June.

Pounce had today off. Gigi went with me to Farm & Fleet. They allow dogs on a leash in the store. This makes for a good session of OB with different kinds of distractions. Also, she needs another routine of worming meds (fenbendazole). While in the store, I noticed they had hula-hoops for cheap. In Gigi's AKC OB class, three hula-hoops were placed in a line and the dogs (on a lead) walked to the first to do a "sit" inside of it, the next was to "stand" and the last was "down". Gigi has the sequence down pat when training alone. During her class there are three rings filled with dogs doing OB and more waiting until the later sessions. Distractions up the ante on being able to focus (that is why she was enrolled). 

You Tube Link:

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Spring 2007 Training Seminar

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April 30 - Saturday...65°F for the high... 4 pm heavy, brief rain. Tornado warnings this afternoon (right now).

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