Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Freebie: 2nd Night of FTP

Last night (Tuesday September 1, 2009), I ran Freebie on a FTP drill once again. The line to the back pile was slightly longer than the night before. On the previous night he showed me complete focus and confidence as we performed the drill. We were even able to run a series of back casts to the pile from a remote position. Once again, this animal showed complete confidence and focus running the drill. I was very happy with his performance. Out of 24 retrievers he only broke once. Not bad for a animal who when I started to run this drill had a issue with having to retrieve "NOW" whether I said go or not. I continued to use the white 5-gal bucket as pile indicator. The plan is to continue to use the 5-gal bucket and slowly fade into using a 1.0-inch diameter PVC tube over a time peroid of the next 7-10 days. Within this period I also will be replacing the white bumpers I am currently using now with orange. Thoughts of using a different color bumper are also on my mmind; gotta buy 'em first!

Looking forward to a third night of successful FTP drill work with him. Should we run the drill without any glitches, I plan to start expanding into reducing the size of the back pile marker, utilize orange bumpers instead of white, moving into 3 handed casting, whistles sits, and slowly bring everything together.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Breaking Down Drills for Confidence

What a night. Took the Freebinator (Freebie) out to train. Now Freebie is a long story... For a rainy day. Anyhow, we started Force to Pile (FTP) back the end of July, 2009. Due to a few health related issues, we haven't been able to train on a regular basis. Things are on the up and up now.

Well, Saturday I attempted to perform some FTP with him across a pond that was mostly running water. This ended up a disaster. Barn Swallows kept distracting him and robbing him of focus. The water was too much of a obstacle; it took away from his focus I believe. The stress of the drill and dive bombing Barn Swallows consumed Freebie to the point of over stressing him. It just didn't work out well.

Sunday he still showed the typical signs of residual stress from Saturday. He stayed at home while everyone else was loaded into the truck for the trek to Omega Farms and a training session with others from our training group.

Now it's Monday. As I put together a tandem welding wire demo for work on Thursday, I would find my thoughts drifting to how I was gonna break this drill down further for Freebie aimed at a session of success. Well, my thoughts paid off.

I used a white bucket to mark a back pile out approximately 35-40 yards. I randomly set out the bumpers in front of the bucket. As I walked back to the truck to get the boy, I focused my thoughts around my actions for performing the drill. Should he take off without being sent, "No!... Here!" would be the correction. As I envisioned myself lining him up and he would look in the direction of the pile, "Sit... Good... Dead Bird, right there. Dead bird, Back." If he would happen to spin (as he has done previously), "No!... Here!" would be the correction. Regain heel position, slowly walk him forward towards the pile commanding "Dead Bird... Back."

I got a good vibe from him after he exercised and got the e-collar cinched up. As we walked towards where I planned to run him from, he had already picked up on the white bucket and was intensely staring at it. Commands of "Good... Dead Bird... Right there... Back!" came from my mouth. He strongly ran straight towards the bucket and scooped up a bumper.
Promptly returning to heel and delivering the bumper, Freebie looked out towards the bucket once again. "Sit... Good... Dead Bird, right there. Dead bird, Back." was said and Freebie, again, ran straight towards the pile and scooped a second bumper. Nine more times we repeated the drill and finally the last retrieve was made by Freebie. We now completed 12 repetitions without one single spin and only one break for the pile without being sent. Hmmm.... What's different?
The difference I believe was the white bucket as a marker or identifier.
I replaced the 12 bumpers again at the pile and chose to rerun Freebie. The first send was from heel position. "Sit... Good... Dead Bird, right there. Dead bird, Back." Freebie sprinted to the pile and scooped a bumper. As he returned I made him perform a front sit to me. I took delivery of the bumper and slowly stepped backwards as I commanded "Sit". I slowly stepped off to my leftside. He watched with intensity, like asking "What are you doing there?" I raised my left arm above my head and commanded "Back!". He turned in the direction of my arm, looked out with a little pause and took off to the pile. A smile came across my face and praise was delivered to Freebie. I was able to get him to take four (4) more left back casts with more confidence each time. After returning from the fifth left back cast, I switched it up and repeated stepping off to the side, only this time to my right. Success was delivered 5 more times, this time only from the rightside. The final retrieve of the 12th bumper was from heel position. He sprinted to the bucket, scooped the last bumper and returned promptly to heel. It never felt so good to deliver a fun bumper to a dog who lives to retrieve. We celebrated by me throwing a couple more fun bumpers. What a sense of accomplishment.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Saturday's Training (August 29, 2009)

Today was a good training session. Started out with some BB Blinds across a pond having different bottom features. Some of the pond was running water, some of the pond was swimming water. It's very interesting to watch dogs develop through this drill. There is a lot of hesitency when starting this drill. As a dog progresses through this drill and understands it, it neat to see the wires connect. If one (the birdboy) pays attention the animals eyes, you can pick out when things are connecting and when they aren't. I've heard it said before, "They eyes are the windows to the soul." I will also say "They are the windows that show understanding.".
After working dogs through this drill, we then moved to another field and created a set-up with three (3) marks and three (3) blinds. One (1) of the marks was identified as the main memory mark. The weather was tough. Strong winds from the West, Northwest, and drizzling rain made for a tough training session, on both the handlers and dogs.
In this set-up, the dogs would come and run the main memory mark as a single, then we would repeat the mark as part of the triple mark set-up. All of the bird stations had white stickmen placed at them. The two shorter marks were on the outside of the main memory mark. One of the marks was a short breaking bird, only approximately 30 yards on your right. All of the dogs worked through this set-up very well. Each one of them showed a strong understanding of where each of the marks fell and executed picking them up successfully without assistance from the handler.
The three (3) blinds were well placed. One of the blinds had the influence of the lefthand mark. The dog was required to run past the gun station, on the right. All of the dogs ran their blinds strong. The blind past the gun station was very strong for all the dogs. I believe this had to do with the BB Blind drill performed earlier. The BB Blind drill builds confidence to run near or past gunners to find a blind retrieve. Yesterday, you saw the dogs look out, pick out the gun station, and associating the blind retrieve ques really dialed the dogs in for the blind. All of the dogs took strong initial lines and picked up the blind with minimal whistles.
Today's objective: water marks and blinds. This is one area (water marks) that appears to need improvement. Why is that?... Is it partially because water training takes longer because of the resistance water presents to the dogs? Are we too impatient to make strides in success with our animals we only spend a small amout of time on water work? That's the $50 question.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday August 29, 2009

Today I'll be hitting the field with my wife and our training partners, Glenn and Adele.

Spoke with Adele on the way home yesterday and discussed what type(s) of training we wanted to focus on with todays session. We both agreed, water is a must. We are gonna meet out at the grounds around 1:30PM - 2:00PM.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday August 28, 2009


Today I decided to start a blog about my retriever training.

I've been training retrievers mostly for hunting. It wasn't until after I met my wife I learned more about how and where to compete with the dogs. It's been down hill since then.

My training is mostly based on the involvement of the animal and reading the reactions from them while teaching them new skills. These type of techniques allow you build more of a relationship with the animal and not have it so one side that the animal calls it "quits' and refuses to work further with you because you are forcing training down their throat. This training also shows people the strength you can build in the relationship between man and dog.