"what I do with my pups"
|A young dog in transition
must be able to deal with many concepts. By teaching in a
drill format, concepts are easily "isolated and taught". This approach is more efficient. Evan Graham's description of a drill called the Four Phase Drill forms the basis for a process of incrementally exposing a dog to diversions. It is a series of drills which teaches four marking concepts - running past the gunner, by an old fall, under the arc and through the old fall.
The first step is to establish a pattern blind in a terrain with zero factors (short grass
at about 100 yards). However, when I am ready to start the drill, I use a previously
established pattern blind. This eliminates the need for a new pattern blind and extends the value of one already taught. In doing this, I have a favorite place that has a great view of the terrain. It does have factors, but they are minimal (harvested bean field). Basically, the dog is familiar with the location. In addition, the pile is at 125 yards instead of 100 yards (per the normal drill presentation). This has not been an issue because the dogs have "fogged" the blind pile with style from previous, early transition training. Established "mo" is useful in drills.
Once the dog is ready (smoothly running the pile), it is time to perform a preliminary step....running past (behind) the gunner without marks being thrown. This is to
eliminate flaring. The dog needs to line the pile without flaring a gunner.
Since my pups have already run the pattern blind and are quite familiar with stickmen, this step is relatively simple. They are quite ready to quickly jump right to Phase A. When using a real gunner in the field, the routine is to have the gunner move farther and farther from the line (getting closer and closer to the pile) in predetermined (flagged) positions. A closer proximity to the pile creates more of a diversion. As noted, my pups see stickmen regularly and are familiar with them in the field.
Next, is behind the gunner (throwing marks)....Phase A. The marks are bumpers
thrown away from the line. The dog picks up a mark, delivers to the line and then
runs the blind. This is repeated three more times with successively further distances from the running line. Phase A should be repeated often until the dog runs it with style ("gets it"). The dog may not finish all four retrieves and blinds the first day. Phase B is past the old fall, phase C is under the arc and phase D is through the old fall. Photos (worth a thousand words) of each phase are provided below.
Progress is more a function of reading the dog, teaching and doing what the dog
needs in each session. Handling is normal and attrition is your friend. My variation
is that there are always four stickmen in the field instead of one moving, real gunner
plus the use of remote wingers. I use 3" black & white flagged Avery flashers for the
marks and orange bumpers in the pile. The terrain is such that the bumpers (marks)
and fall are very easy to see (down hill run and up hill to the fall). With wingers there
is no assistance "out there" to help a dog on marks. However, this is not a marking
drill.......so they should be simple marks.
I do not make this drill a singular focal point of training. It is mixed in with many other different kinds of training sessions and not run every day. There is no rush to finish. Giving a dog time to assimilated concepts is more efficient in the long run.
ranslated.......that means going slower is usually faster.
With my last pup, Gunny, the blind was established in late February and the total Four Phase Drill presentation wasn't completed until March 28th. Again, we did not work on it every day. It was a gradual presentation per the rationale described above.
As an interesting aside, Gunny's Four Phase Drill was taught via the "poor man" gunner process (solo, no wingers). It was an experiment fostered by recent concerns on the Internet about not being able to do the drills because of not having wingers or anyone to be a gunner (so much for that excuse).
I walked to each of the stickmen, threw the mark, returned to the line, ran him on the
mark/blind and repeated this at each of the four gunner/BB stations. He was very steady and did just fine with this approach (got a lot of exercise, too).