After the goose blind shooting window cover installation, it was a ten minute drive to the Riverside Park DTA. The W Drill was setup to measure Gigi and Pounce's lining and handling skills. The lining version of the W Drill was done by Gigi and it was obvious that her lining skills were excellent (in this drill).
September 9...Friday..another wonderful weather day...Pounce and Gigi ran a "split-Casting" Drill at the Riverside Park DTA. Pounce's sits were quick and precise. Gigi has slipped back into "loopy" and remedial work is next for her. Afterwards, both took turns retrieving short bumper throws out into the near-by, cooling water of the Rock River. The warm weather seems to finally have had a noticeable impact on the corn and bean fields. Their green crops' color is beginning to reveal splashes of yellow.
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September 16... Friday...warmer than yesterday...trained late morning at the Riverside DTA. Pounce and Gigi did individual sessions of the skill set we have been working on over the last week or so. Precise practice with regular sessions produce reliable conditioned responses. The "OK!...What's next?" attitude is fun to run. After both worked their sessions, a drive to check out the water level in the Four Lakes DTA revealed some progress. Deeper water with a lot of grass clogging up the open water. It may take awhile to get everything back in balance. Next up was to drive back to Thorson Pond and throw a "bunch" of short water singles for Pounce and Gigi. Not much skill was involved...just "go get-em" and then do it again.
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September 7...Wednesday...Pounce & Gigi's training session had a trainer (with sore knees) looking for an easy way to train both dogs. We are in the hunting season mode (no testing) which means training is every other day (having fun, practicing and exercising}. The trainer's goal has been to make work easy on his knees. Today was designed for exercise and to emphasize responsiveness. Gigi and Pounce needed to think and adjust. The plan was to upgrade the "stand alone/send back/walking singles" to a two dog alternating session. Where to sit, how to exchange each retrieve, understanding that the dog that just retrieved must sit and watch the other dog return to the line did not come easy. Repeating the alternating pattern was quite a bit to absorb. Recent training has focused on paying attention to the trainer. Both began to look to me for assistance (the main concept in today's session). As practice continued, the routine began to flow nicely. Paying attention is an important concept/skill.
The first four photos entered below are of Gigi running the same blind as yesterday with the entry now 25 yards farther up the shore (same angle). The last two have Gigi practicing the same blind (past the goose blind) that she has run before. The difference this time was a breeze from the west began to push a surface curtain of duckweed past the line.
this year - Thorson
September 10...Saturday - day off from training...However, after seven hourly sessions of "whacking" the tall weeds on the north shoreline of Thorson Pond that section is now cleared. The following photos are the before and after. Today was the seventh session (done every other day..about). This was an excellent effort to provide the much needed exercise an 82 year old man needs. The first day was extremely difficult and close to heat exhaustion (the weeds are chest high with). Today was not nearly as difficult. It has been a bit cooler lately and that made a difference. The next session of shoreline to deal with is on the east end (taller, wider, not as long and almost all grass). Also, that shoreline is not as steep (four/five sessions...about).
September 14...Wednesday...sunny, with a good breeze on the low 70's. First on the list was more weed "whacking" on the east shoreline of Thorson Pond. With the influx of new water from recent rainfall, there is about a yard of weeds out in the water. However, the tall, grassy growth up on the shore was cut down.
Gigi's Lining Session
September 2..Friday...the high will be 85°F...weed whacking has been kept at an every other day routine. That is about all I can deal with. However, Pounce and Gigi will be doing training sessions every other day. This morning it was around 70°F and both ran the Thorson Pond Point Blind (along the north shore line) three times in sprint mode (total distance run of about 930 yards). If September's weather continues to be this pleasant, a great deal of training will be possible. There are no geese willing to fly much in this warm weather. The result is Illinois early goose season will most likely not happen.
September 3...Saturday....this morning a waterproof fabric was installed over the shooting window in the goose blind. This will keep the inside dryer. Training this month will include regular sessions of the W drill (handling and lining) with alternating sessions of walking/send back singles. Another September/October focus will be to have Pounce and Gigi "running" routine training singles out of the blind in preparation for the regular goose season (in November). note: dodged two small thunder storms
In addition to reliving previous hunting trips, reviewing past training situations may be recalled and /refreshed when necessary. Today was an excellent example. On May 14th last year, Gigi was working
on a new variation of "swim-by" and since we were training alone, the concept of the "remote drop" was incorporated. Also, the following photos revealed a striking difference in the pond's appearance when compared to this year. The heavy cover of duck weed happens every fall (sooner this year).
north shoreline "wall of weeds" - before (8/19/22) north shoreline cleared of tall weeds - after 9/10/22
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September 23...Friday..Pounce and Gigi have the day off (no training). The weather for the next two weeks will be dry with high's in the 60's. Beans will be harvested before goose season opens (October 22).
September 24...Saturday...cloudy and cool (in the upper 60's)...a perfect day for exercise. Pounce and Gigi needed a good run. Therefore, four bumpers were dropped off (on land) at the west end of Thorson Pond. The drive back east provides a clear run of about 200 total yards (one way). Gigi went first and ran full speed a total of 800 yards in the mowed grass. Pounce was next and she did the same with her two bumpers. They never seem bored with running this routine point blind. With a five minute drive back to the house, this fun session was a quick do.
September 25...Sunday...day off from training...may soon be training both dogs (individually) to ride in the passenger seat of the UTV or simply walking (exercise). Heeling beside the UTV just seems too risky.
September 26...Monday...high 61°F...and down into the low 50's rather quickly. Pounce did her usual sprint exercise and that went quickly. Gigi was "asked" to do a short water, angle entry exit, cold blind and it was obvious that the "cold" part of it was not something she cared about. Eventually, she picked up two blinds and then pointed out to me that cheating on the way back remains to be a not so easy issue to correct. Gigi ran the three long land blinds fast and this got her dried off and heated up some.
September 27-29...Tuesday-Thursday.....highs in the upper 50's...three days off
September 30...Friday...high 69°F...Pounce/Gigi one more day off note: Illinois duck & goose October 22
The next stop was at the Riverside Park DTA to continue practicing the precise use of heel, here, sit, place, fetch, remote drops and casting in conjunction with retrieving short throws of a bumper all in about a thirty yard circle with a "placeboard" as the focal point. There are many different skills in this drill that required paying attention. Responsiveness, focus and control in fast paced, varying segments required thinking and reacting quickly. Yesterday was the introduction and good efforts were observed. Today it appeared that Gigi and Pounce were determined to follow the random flow more precisely and having fun. What helped to keep things moving well was that most of the session was done in the shade.
note: The main focus was to make a very clear distinction between "here" and "heel". There will be no
creeping when "here" means move to sit beside me and do not leave until told otherwise. While
"heel" means just one thing....walk beside me. At this point it may appear that being precise with
positions and commands could end up seemingly painted into a corner. The dog is sitting beside
you on the sit command (or stopped to sit because you stopped) AND In this moment, you have
two alternatives. One is to begin walking with the dog at heel and the other is to begin walking
again and not have the dog at heel (with you). This is accomplished by teaching the dog that if
I step off with my left leg (dog sitting on left side), the conditioned response is to begin heeling.
If I step off with the other leg (right side step), the dog knows (again another conditioned
response) that they are not going to be moving off at heel and therefore remain sitting.
note: Conditioned responses require many precise repetitions.....correct practice.
note: When teaching this process, the most interesting aspects of a balanced retriever becomes more
obvious - retrieving and "birdiness" are more easily dealt with because the dog is taught how to
focus, becomes more responsive and functions under control. These are Julie Knutson's five
factors of a balanced retriever (easy to say...not so easy to recognize and manipulate).
September 15..Thursday..late morning low seventies...repeated yesterday's "pay attention to the handler"
September 8...Thursday...in the 70'a with a steady breeze...This morning's hour long weed "whacking" session was just about too much. The following photo represents several one hour sessions. Incrementally slow probably describes the process best. Exhausting might be more precise.
Checked the Thorson Pond water level and it is almost two feet higher than before the recent rainfall.
last year - Thorson Gigi's Remote Drop (camera capture)
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September 20...Tuesday....another outstanding weather day...Pounce had today off. Gigi trained first doing 30 yard angle entry/exits to a shoreline pile in the east end of Thorson Pond. Her tendency to square entries and exits needed to be modified. It was a good, fresh start. I am fairly certain this will require regular maintenance.
September 12...Monday...in the 50's...cloudy with a slight and steady drizzle...day off for all
September 13...Tuesday...cool day...perfect for training and "whacking" weeds on Thorson Pond. All the exercise that has been planned must be having a positive impact. Pounce and Gigi's focus today was practicing to make a distinction between two commands - "heel" and "here" (refer to link below). After the land training session (clarifying commands), some fun retrieves from the cool waters of the Rock River had them both amped. Today was the first day that training and weed "whacking" were attempted. It was easier than I expected. Regular exercise is necessary when one gets older. The next three to four weeks of warm weather appear to be perfect for getting ready for goose season and keeping physically fit.
September 17...Sunday...good weather...Gigi and Pounce had the day off. I went to Thorson Pond for one reason. Yesterday, both dogs seemed to find a way to walk into a dead cockle burr bush, A PVC cutter did a few quick surgical snips and the seed covered bush was transplanted in the burning pile
September 4...Sunday....70's for the high, cloudy with a good breeze...perfect weed "whacking" day on Thorson Pond...Gigi and Pounce had a day off (training every other day), lawn mowing in the afternoon
note: Early morning it was in the 60's with cloud cover and a good breeze when the shoreline
was "whacked" again. Chest high, heavy cover on an uneven slope does not go down
easy. I quit before the weed eater ran out of gas....AND no geese....anywhere near.
September 5...Monday - Gigi and Pounce trained doing a set of five stand alone/send back singles of about 150 to 190 yards in length in knee high cover. The Dokken provides enough scent to reduce the difficulty of finding the marks. Pounce is a bit slower and more precise. Gigi began to slow down a bit more when approaching the falls as her first couple were run right over (too fast toward the end expecting to see it). She began to slow down a bit toward the end of the subsequent marks end finished finding each mark quickly. This was a practice and conditioning session. Both slept well tonight.
September 11...Sunday - more rain and a much needed day off....Over the past many years, Thorson Pond has had many different fall seasons. The two most difficult conditions to deal will are early freeze-ups and/or low water levels. If there is not enough rain, the water level will be low and surface weeds with not be flushed out. This also tends to make freezing over more likely (less water to cool down). This year is the second worst pond level and weed issue in the last ten years. Early today, a large, slow low pressure area carrying a lot of moisture began to move across northern Illinois and it is still raining as I write. I scouted the pond late this afternoon and there was what appears to be an influx of water where the normal stream flows into the pond. The impacts are the water level improves and excess floating weed growth is flushed out of the pond. In addition, cooler temperatures will reduce the weed growth.
September 21...Wednesday......day off for Pounce and Gigi....lawn work
September 22...Thursday...Gigi trained working on the concepts of angle entries and exits. Much of what a dog does routinely while being rewarding becomes a conditioned response. Therefore, it is important to find ways of having the dog do the right things. Having this happen is often times simply a function of how it was presented. If doing the wrong thing is easy, then it would seem that making the wrong way not so easy might change a dog's perception. In addition, when a dog does something right, a trainer makes a huge mistake by not conveying a meaningful enough reward in that moment and then failing to review "that moment". Well conditioned responses are a function of precise practice. Therefore, how does one (in the moment) tell a dog "That was well done. Keep up the good work!"?
This fall has been warm. Pounce has been working on taking better lines when working on land/water transitions. Much of what a retriever does when running blinds is similar to a wave of energy sent out and encountering varying mediums - different kinds of cover, water, shoreline variations, visibility, wind and continuously different angles. If one were to treat a retriever in action as somewhat like a wave their interactions are very similar. The angle of entry plays a critical role in what a dog is likely to do. The following is a narrow, abstract description of the basic possibilities. (more to follow)
Pounce's Lining/Handling Session
September 1...Thursday...opening day of the early Illinois Goose Season...The plan was to scout and not set up any hunt with decoys until a few began to use the pond. Two nesting pairs raised a dozen goslings in the spring. However, nothing has revisited recently. The water is lower than normal with a lot of floating weeds. The pond may not see any goose traffic until the bean field is harvested which may mean no early goose season. Teal season begins September 10th and they have shown up infrequently early in the morning (in the past). With the low water level and very little current, the pond will freeze over earlier than normal. At least the beans will be harvested sooner than if corn had been planted and it can't be any worse than last year. At 9 am there were no geese on the pond. With little wind to motivate flying it would have made no difference. The floating weeds made it green everywhere. The nearby large lake usually has geese on it this time of the year. Nothing has been on it for several weeks. The dry spell has dried up quite a few small ponds and most geese are several miles west on the Rock River. It appears that goose season may turn into dog training...which is not what was planned.
In the afternoon, the wind from the west began to push the floating weeds to the east opening up the surface. The two days of whacking weeds along the south shoreline provided dead grass which blends in nicely with the blind. Less contrast is better and short cover along the shoreline will appear to be safer (from hidden predators). For the short haul, geese will graze on the easy to approach, lush grass. Also, it will provide a land loafing area (more shoreline will be "whacked").
September 18...Monday...good weather equals training for the next eight days...First up today was the land practice routine (refer to Sept. 15th journal entry). There is an afternoon, small shady area where a brief practice will work for Pounce and Gigi. The Kelly-Meyer DTA is about a fifteen minute drive. The drill was over quickly and a fifteen minute drive had us back on the shoreline of Thorson Pond (to practice the setup we did on Saturday). A steady easterly breeze had pushed the duckweed to the west making a "cleaner" pond surface. Gigi worked an extended session. She has a tendency to look for the easier way to get from one place to another which is not always acceptable. Therefore. this session was not brief. It may take awhile, but eventually, Gigi will learn there are no other choices. Pounce did not need the extra work.
note: It will not be long before winter shows up. Therefore, the garage and shed will see
some "shuffling" of "stuff". The first job will be converting the UTV from its
training equipment platform to the goose hunting equipment box.
September 17...Saturday...In the 70's...Pounce and Gigi trained about mid-day using Thorson Pond for the presentation. It will be useful to take advantage of the excellent September and October training weather. Judging from today's retrieving, both Gigi and Pounce could use a bit of refreshing on the concept of swim-by. Thorson Pond is a short drive and that will make it easy plus save quite a bit of money by not needing to buy gas.
One of the advantages of keeping a Journal/Website is being able to go back in time and refresh memories.
Forgetting is a powerful process and by recording the past it is easy to recall and avoid forgetting. A good example of how this works is demonstrated by simply using the following link to go back ten years and read a detailed essay of the events at that time.
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September 6...Tuesday - I "whacked" shoreline weeds on Thorson Pond and ran out of gas before the "whacker" did. Most of the shoreline weeds are growing on land that is normally below water. Last year, the water level was about a foot below the front, bottom boards of the goose blind.
After Gigi's angle entrance and exit session on Thorson Pond, a quick, forty-five mile drive to the W Property provided her with a seven bumper line lining drill. She has become well conditioned to the concept of getting back into the water on the shoreline "picks". After the lining drill (which tested Gigi's penchant to avoid angles), she ran a few short doubles in the tall grass and showed off her pin-point marking skills. She seems to know exactly where they fall and is very animated in her approach (fast and precise) .
Pounce's session was more of a test in that her handling skills are very good. The lines were tight and tempting. She had no problem working this setup - swiftly and accurate.
Northern Illinois Duck & Goose Seasons Open October 22nd.
Refer to post number nine in the above link.