May 30 Monday - warm again (high 80's)...trained close by at the Thorson Pond DTA - two HRC walk-ups, two diversions and two blinds. This was practice for Pounce and more of a measuring stick for Gigi. It was easy  for Pounce and her work was sharp. As for Gigi, her behavior at the line was good, but it was quite obvious her water blind work needs for practice. Since she will not be running a tests with blinds, the timing  for next year is ideal. Pounce will be "finished" and Gigi should be ready by next summer.

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May 18 Wednesday - 51°F...cloudy with sprinkles = day off....the twice a day routine of practicing the use of a 12 gauge pump shotgun at the HRC line continues. During many HRC line training setups the shotgun of choice has been my Hatfield 12 gauge break action, 12 gauge single shot shotgun. The premise has been to take the time to shoot and reload to work at keeping the dog in a steady mode. The action is slow and very deliberate. Waiting and being steady is a skill not enhanced by exciting, rapid shooting and shucking. Sit, wait and watch are skills best taught slowly. The ducks are not going anywhere and will still be there once sent. The rest of the process (before releasing the dog) is done slowly while the dog focuses on the falls. It includes extracting the last shell casing and placing the gun in the gun stand. The dog waits to be released. Today's morning routine of practicing began with using the newly adjusted grip. With a longer middle finger than my index, the adjustment was to use my middle finger as the trigger finger. After a few rounds of three, this approach quickly became much easier. After ten rounds of three blanks, the pump action was smooth  and almost automatic (pun intended). 

May  24 Wednesday - rain developing  in the morning suggested that I get up early and train before 7 am.
I went back the the Harrison Road DTA (see yesterday's journal entry) to setup the HRC bucket drill. Got there at sunrise and it was cloudy with a good breeze out of the east. This was perfect for the planned setup. The HRC bucket drill is designed primarily for dealing the the skills set involving the HRC action at the line. Marking is NOT the focus as white buckets on stakes identify where the retrieves have been placed. Beginning with the off the van routine, airing, walking to the holding blind and then "shooting" the buckets as if they were a triple keeps the focus where it is designed to be (up close and under control). Three buckets on stakes indicate where Dokkens are placed. The dog's responsibility is to come off the van, air, walk to the holding blind and finally approach the running line OFF LEAD. There the triple (three piles) are "shot" and the dog is released to work on retrieving a "triple". Pounce was first and Gigi worked soon after. However, they went back to the van to wait and then repeat the entire routine. It is called practice......precise practice. It is not about marking. It is all the other "stuff" that must be practiced.  

May 11- 13  Wednesday-Friday...three days of sweltering heat (Friday 92°F)..mowed the lawn...had to...and stayed indoors most of the time. Lylah's schooling is coming to a close and my 102 year old mother-in-law requires constant supervision. The idea of training regularly in preparation for hunt tests has been difficult to justify. Therefore, Gigi and Pounce were scratched from entries I made earlier. The plan to have Pounce get her HRCH title will be the focus. Gigi will not be rushed along with no testing until August.  I will be 82 years old August 17th. Outside of two bad knees and bicep tendinitis in both shoulders, it could be worse.

Because of the shoulder issues, it became necessary to begin special exercises. They were not much fun and produced no positive results. Therefore, the exercise routine was modified to fit the situation. Each day the new exercise routine is done twice (morning and then in the evening). At first, it was not pleasant. Motivation helps. My Winchester twelve gauge shotgun is loaded with three primer loaded only shot shells that have already been fired. Therefore, I am using "blank-blanks" and running through the routine of "shooting" at imaginary triples. The daily exercises have accomplished three goals. The first has been an improvement in the HRC routine of aiming, dealing with the safety and shucking while shouldering the gun. The second is that my shoulders seem stronger and more stable. And lastly, practice has firmed up the necessary habit of always finishing with the "open/on" protocol.
May 14 Saturday...heat has subsided...upper 60's at 7 am...decided to train at the Harrison Road DTA. It is about a thirty minute drive. No one was there and heavy dew was cool. The plan was to setup an HRC triple. The shotgun at the line increases the excitement. Pounce went first and the decision to run the triple schooled first made for better control at the line. Pounce has a lot of HRC line experience and is running Finished. Gigi has not run any HRC tests and does have an AKC junior title. Both did well on the first go which was singles (schooled triple). The setup was run a second time as a triple. Pounce had no issues

and Gigi did much better than expected. She was steady and waited to be sent. Her marking was pin-point. There were three skills that were the focus of this session. First was for Pounce to practice. Second was to see where Gigi fits into the HRC skill sets. The last was for the trainer to practice handling the dog while shooting and trying to manage the Dogtra winger release buttons at the same time.  It was awkward and very "fumbly".....need a plan and to practice.

May 17, Tuesday - Gigi trained in the morning in the Thorson Pond DTA grassy area and did a repeat of the handling drill done on May 5th. It was only a five minute drive away. After picking up, the next session was after a thirty minute drive to the Harrison Road DTA. Three cold blinds were setup with mallards. Pounce went first. She lined the this two and one whistled the third (fast and flashy). Gigi was up next. She was fast and all over the map. Slipping whistles and hacked to the very end of each blind. Sooo, I drove around and planted all three mallards again....same spot. Gigi lined all three.....very fast. The solution is to spend a lot more time on the whistle sits and precise casting going back to the up close use of graph casting and alternating with a split casting drill routine.

            

Harrison Road DTA

May 5 Friday - cold with light rain late into the early evening.....both dogs enjoyed the day off (me too).
May 6 Saturday - sunny and into the middle 60's....Gigi trained in the grassy area of the Thorson Pond DTA. The setup was based on Hillmann's Star Drill. Four white stakes were use and the focus was "pay attention to the handler". Lining, whistle sits and casting were practiced. By the end of today's session, she had learned what was expected. The white stakes were close enough to keep from getting a full run and sitting was randomly rewarded with close, tossed bumpers. The presentations were varied so that she had to think and react differently in each moment. Gradual progress was made and her manic mode seemed to be more controlled as we progressed. Pounce ran the two hundred yard point blind three times for exercise. I will be preparing for turkey hunting in a couple of days....much warmer.

The chance of rain later in the day did not materialize. Pro trainer Corey Zandonai's Tuesday training group was a go. With two holding blinds to the line, there was a longer, winger thrown mallard that followed a hand thrown walk-up. After picking the first phase up (two mallards), a short walk in the opposite direction was greeted with a wide, tree line, "Moma-Papa" mallard double. There were two blinds. One was an easy white stake blind at about sixty yards. The other blind was a much longer, more challenging blind with an orange stake. This session was a good measuring stick for Pounce's up coming HRC tests. She was very good at the line. Gigi was good in the holding blinds and, revealed much better line manners (hoorah for our side). On the mallard double she stepped on each one. She lined the easy, white stake blind (not really a blind for her). Question number one was answered. Pounce is definitely ready to run HRC Finished tests. The "test" for Gigi was how will she react to everything going on at the line? The answer was much better.

May 8 - Sunday..sunny, sixties with a good breeze out of the south east. The plan was to  exercise and practice. With that wind, the best place close-by was the Rockton Road DTA. Grass had grown quite a bit and it was a perfect afternoon to run six, long, "stand alone/send back" singles. Gigi went first and was steady at the line (from afar), fast and accurate. Pounce was next and she ran  an excellent set of six singles. The grass was tall enough to prevent them from seeing the retrieve until they were right on top of it. Their nose prevent any "run past" issues. And "just like that" we finished making this a good session to run on Mother's Day.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dN2_8_vDmw&t=178s

 May 5 Thursday - upper 40's late morning...Pounce and Gigi trained at the Harrison Road DTA. The set up was six cold blinds. This was practice for Pounce.  With Gigi it was more of a measuring stick to see where she was in blind running skills. It was not pretty. Therefore, I cut the distance in half. Needless to say it wasn't much better. On the way home, we stopped at the Roscoe Riverside Park DTA to revisit thee-handed casting with a "placeboard"......A review of basics is the plan. The best approach for Gigi will be to begin working with Hillmann's Star Drill (up close...clear visuals, better focus and more control). 

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May 23 Tuesday...pleasant day...drove to the Harrison Road DTA to train, but a pro was training there. Therefore, we drove a few miles to the Four Lakes DTA and setup a short HRC bucket drill. The grass was over knee high and it proved challenging for Gigi. Pounce's experience made it easier for her.

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May 15 Monday - high in the upper 70's, sunny with a pleasant breeze out of the west...After a 30 minute drive to the Harrison Road DTA, a set of three remote wingers were in place for Pounce and Gigi. Pounce went first so as to make Gigi wait her turn. The idea of having her "wait" for just about everything has forced her to be more patient. She has not run any advanced hunt tests. The first level of testing begins with singles. That does not promote being steady. Seeing marks thrown and then having to wait for the second or third supports the concept of being patient. The last few days, waiting for "what's" next has become a steady expectation. In today's session, Gigi waited in the van while Pounce ran a triple. The van was parked so that she could NOT see what was going on. Also,her from the van to the line routine has become an off lead process. It has taken awhile for her to realize that not being at heel means no forward progress. Getting to the line via a holding blind has been taking several minutes. Persistence is an unrelenting tool. Today was better than the last. However, Pounce went first. She did OK at the line, but when picking up the triple she had a big hunt on the middle mark. Gigi was next....and ran her very first HRC triple. It was setup to run just as Pounce did. Gigi watched and waited with a focus that I liked. Then she proceed to pick up each mark in the same order that was expected by Pounce. The only difference was that Gigi picked up the two outside marks and then pinned the last, middle one mark. She has always had an excellent memory on point blinds. Evidently, she has memory skills for marking. The recent, huge improvement in her health and anxiety issues has proven to be wonderful.

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May 31 Tuesday - cloudy, low 80's with a chance of rain later in the day.....In the morning, Gigi did a land seven bumper lining drill at the Roscoe Riverside DTA (fast, easy and sharp). Then after a short drive to Thorson Pond, Pounce and Gigi did a seven bumper lining drill at Thorson Pond. This is an excerpt from Gigi's blind setup from yesterday. Sometimes the "KISS" rule is ignored. Therefore, Gigi's blind presentation was modified so as to render the process more seamless. The first thing to do was to trim the tall grass on the entry (improved visuals). The second step to correct was using the seven bumper lining drill scheme which provides a clear visual of bumpers (3" white bumpers on a weed free shoreline). Now that the visual dynamics were simplified (improved), Gigi was able to focus on the required skills set (lining. whistle "sits" in water, casting and delivering). Each visual bumper provided a framework for practicing water blind running skills. Clear presentations often occur after the initial issues are identified and altered. Experience reduces the learning curve (in theory).

May 29 Sunday...windy and warm...Thorson Pond DTA...HRC land..."meaty" triple with mallards. The original plan was for Pounce to run an HRC line triple with mallards and do three singles with Gigi. In the last moment, I scrapped doing all singles with Gigi and she was to run her first triple. Pounce did well with her triple with a small hunt on the middle mallard which was the last duck to pick up. Gigi went to the line and then we turned around and went back to the van. The second approach to the line was much better and I decided to test her with an HRC triple. She ran it better than Pounce..no hunts and pinned each mallard mark. The plan is to practice more with singles and doubles with blinds for awhile and maybe only run a couple of started tests near the end of this summer. Next year Pounce will not run any more tests and the focus will be only on Gigi. Her health issues seem to be making great progress. 

May 1 - Sunday..day off
May 2 - Monday - in the fifties with a slight breeze...Pounce and Gigi trained at the Harrison Road DTA. The setup was another HRC line with three singles in another area. The decision to use bumpers instead of mallards was intentionally made to take just a bit of the edge off at the line. The presentations were slowed down a bit and both had to wait longer than usual. Gigi's last single was done with the "bumper in mouth" approach. She was a great deal more focused this time around. Pounce was very steady and relaxed...good job. The main idea was to establish reliable expectations from the van to the line. Paying close attention to the handler's direction and behavior does not come easily.

May 19 Thursday - 82°F...partly cloudy and windy...Today is supposed to be the first Thursday afternoon group training session. Family matters will prevent attending. In addition, the plans to run HRC hunt tests have been altered (with entry scratches) until at least the middle of August. There is no rush to title Gigi and Pounce only needs a few passes for her HRCH. 
May 20 Friday - near 70°F this afternoon, cloudy with a breeze.....no training today, got the lawn mowed
May 21 Saturday - 59°F for the high with rain probable
May 22 Sunday - sunny and cool, ran Dobb's "Y" Drill (at 60 yards).....granddaughter came along and helped (kept things simple as she is non-verbal autistic. Gigi's first run was to line each pile several times (three piles and eighteen bumpers total). She did her session without any issues (fast).  Pounce was next and ran every variation possible...perfectly (very sharp, experienced and more like an easy exercise). Last year my mother-in-law came to live with us. Nanny was 102 years old and fought the good fight to the very end. This evening she passed away.

Gigi and Pounce's behaviors at the line have improved considerably (driven by several expressions lifted from the following link).

May 15 Sunday...mild, cloudy day...entry from yesterday suggested a plan...The shoulder issue is not going away without some effort. At my age (82 in August), muscle mass loss and bicep tendonitis is an issue.  With that in mind, an exercise routine was designed to work on the muscle issues and at the same time improve the weak and not very coordinated efforts of shooting a pump shotgun. Having used an automatic for most all of my hunting, there is no skill set for the pump. A Benelli M1 has been my hunting gun for many years. Last goose season my right shoulder became so painful that I began shooting left handed. It was not that difficult (got a triple on geese). Getting back to the present issue....a pump shotgun. I've had a Ducks Unlimited Camo Pump-Shotgun in my gun safe for many years. It was never used for hunting., shooting a pump gun was something new....no practice or experience. However, a pump shotgun is required in HRC tests and it has been extremely awkward. I never really thought about why. Removing the recoil pad help some...not enough.

Recently, I began "shooting" ten rounds of three primer shells (with the primers already fired/spent) twice a day....practice.  Today was day two and I am feeling an improvement. I did not realize how uncoordinated my reflexes and actions were until realizing the issue. Each of the very small segments magnified the issue. In two days, I have see a big change for the better....already. Becoming more adept at shooting a pump shotgun will make having to shot it at triples in HRC and running the Dogtra winger remotes at the same time in training will be easier...in theory.  

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May 3 Tuesday - rain until late afternoon....high 47°F.....winds NNE at 15 to 25 mph...easy day for all.
May 4 Wednesday - sunny in the 50's, cool with good breeze out of the northeast. The plan was to train at
the Harrison Road DTA. However, the grass was wet and a few tire skids, I turned around, closed the gate and drove to the Four DTA which is just a few minutes away. The van remained on the gravel road and the setup was walking singles with a primer loaded, single shot shotgun. Pounce went first and making her wait until Pounce runs is perfect for her routine. Pounce ran seven "stand alone send back" singles with each one longer than the previous wit the last at about 120 yards. Gigi was up next and the plan was throw her nine singles with the first two closer than the first one thrown for Pounce. Being closer at first had her more focused and quickly fell in stride with the expectations. How far she would proceed was to depend how each single progressed. She was very solid, steady and focused. There was no need to end up having to make the decision "OK, that's enough." She was steady until released on every single and pinned the first seven (see slide show). I decided to give her two more that went beyond the mowed grass (farther than Pounce and the slide shot) into taller cover. She flew into that cover and jumped on both of those. It was cool!

You Tube Link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyYjrE98itk

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May 26 Friday...high of 67°F...pleasant....both dogs have trained five days in row...we really need a day off
May 27 Saturday...high of 77°F..train...Pounce and Gigi reviewed the seven bumper lining drill (land) and then moved a bit to do a 50 yard, split casting drill (at the Roscoe Riverside DTA). We then drove to the Harrison Road DTA where both dogs did three HRC walk-ups with wingers, Dogtra "sounds" and primer
loaded shotgun blanks. Te Four Lakes DTA is not far away (10-15 minutes) and Pounce did a down the shore, seven bumper lining drill. It was a good thing I had taken a bottle of water (got dizzy for a few minutes). Pounce's first hunt test (this year) is a Finished HRC at WISILL (Bong)  on Sat. June 25th (four weeks away). Gigi is still a work in progress before she does any testing this summer. There is no rush. On the way home a brief drive to the turkey blind in the Thorson Pond DTA resulted in dismantling it to

storage for next season. While being near Thorson Pond it was kind of exciting to see to sets of six goslings swimming around and being protected by there mother geese.

May 9 - Monday...into the 70's this afternoon...scouted for Turkeys (no luck). A twenty-five minute drive to
the Four Lakes DTA found the water has begun to fill the pond. Pounce and Gigi did several retrieves across the pond to the north using the "stand alone/send back" marking setup.  Both did a double and were flashy. No water for several months was fun. Afterwards, a short dive to the Harrison Road DTA had Gigi running the same blinds we ran the other day. Her memory is superb and we only needed a few quick handles  on two of the five. She lined three of the five....not really blinds....anymore.

May 10, Tuesday - in the 60's around noon and then the heat wave will begin. After arriving at Thorson Pond, it became obvious that my plan to hunt turkeys out of a blind on the east end failed rot recognize that each spring at least one or two nesting pairs of geese raise goslings. They were guarding the east  end of the pond. Pounce and Gigi ran five singles in the "stand alone/sen back mode.

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May 25 Thursday....showers late in the day....no group training...Gigi and Pounce trained in the afternoon. Lylah came along for the ride. The first session was a review of the seven bumper lining drill at the Roscoe Retention Pond DTA. There is a small playground there and Lylah spent her time swinging and sliding. Gig and Pounce did a review of seven bumper lining drill. The grass was deep and it was challenging (which is a way of saying "not very good"). Went to the shoreline of the Riverside Park DTA and both did several retrieves out into the current. Both were excited and this romp session went fast. On the way home we stopped at the Thorson Pond DTA to do a better job on the seven bumper lining drill. The grass had not been mowed recently and a close-up version with some big, clean, three inch, white bumpers was better.

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             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."

               Frankly, I am having some difficulty in understanding
"If you speak or give commands

               then you just took the responsibility off the dog." The explanation was provided. If the retriever
               knows (taught) what the proper response is supposed to be, then a steady, low level e-collar
               application will support the behavior. It is kind of like saying "Yes! that is the right thing to do."   

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May 22 Monday..sunny and in the 60's...Riverside Park DTA is about a fifteen minute drive. Pounce and Gigi ran a three point Star Drill working on lining, handling and conditioning. Pounce is very consistent, has a quick sit and is fast. Gigi is faster and quick sits are a work in progress. Overcast and cool made the long runs and exercise easier to deal with. At 5:30 pm they are usually up and hinting about being fed. However, right now they are sound asleep.