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“Sit May Not Mean Sit” When Training Alone.
Everyone strives for the “steady” retriever. A common theme for success is based on maintaining balance and there are many “variables” in the path to high standards.
Pounce presented an “after-the-fact” example of how easy it is to unknowingly slide down the wrong path. Beginning with HIllmann’s program, Pounce demonstrated the ability to “learn things” very quickly. “Traffic Cop” produced a very stable, solid sit standard……she has always been a quick study.
“Sit” coupled with expectations of the “place” command had Pounce “steady” for “stand alone” singles quickly. Soon the process of throwing marks in the “stand alone/send back” mode was an “easy do” (with distance). She was literally a statue at the line and “ready to fire” at my request.
Looking at another train of thought (when running tests), the handler is standing beside the dog and not out at some “impressive” distance. Later, during the process of having training look more like a test, the use of videos as an observation and perspective tool quickly revealed the hint of a balance issue - busy feet.
It should be noted this written “discussion” process began with the concept of maintaining balance.
During this time-frame in an Internet conversation with an RTF Hillmann trainer that 1) uses Hillmann, 2) is successful in field trials and 3) does/did quite a bit of training alone, the topic of “line time” surfaced. He mentioned it using this phrase “it is a weakness”.
Pounce was very at ease in dealing with what was required when I was not beside her. The standards were very clear and repeated successfully many times with “stand alones” and we trained alone often. Wingers were soon to become part of the mix.
It is said that distance erodes control. One might surmise that in “stand alone” presentations a retriever learns now to deal with the expectations as presented (one of which is “the trainer is not there and up close running the show”). Pounce knew what she was supposed to do…..and understood my role from afar. Eventually, the long distances separating us resulted in effective, well established marking expectations.
Eventually, the decision was made to make it look more like a test where the trainer is in charge (and in control) at the line (theoretically). Suddenly, I (the trainer) was very close and physically, verbally expressing control. This was the same control that Pounce was very conditioned to deal with (on her own) without any input from the trainer.
Essentially, expectations changed dramatically when we were in a hunt test format. The closeness (and resultant increase in influence) became a distraction which was expressed in her physical animation. This was all new “stuff" for Pounce which could have quickly evolved into conflicts with the introduction of pressure and/or corrections (which were not attempted). This strongly suggested the need for a lengthy re-teaching process to fix and establish new expectations (which is what we are presently doing). And this (from my experience with Pounce) was not going to take just a few weeks to fix.
Hillmann’s Heeling Program has been gradually and effectively redefining our roles and relationship when close. Late fall and winter are becoming “doubly” cool.
note: The title photo is a "stand alone" water single. Pounce was cast/sent to a "position" from about half-way around the shoreline. Then, I walked back to the "line", threw a single and released/sent Pounce for the retrieve with a visible signal. She is always "rock solid" until the release. That became an assumption when marks were very long. At about 175 yards (especially in dead, fall grass), I cannot see the yellow "fur ball". The timing of when she does finally come into sight always seems about right (and somewhat of a relief).