This morning the session
focused on two areas 1) conditioning and 2) reviewing the remote line rules
for “stand alone” marks.
Each dog did the regular “off the van to the line” routine
(including airing). Afterward, on the way home I started analyzing the
differences in each dog so as to design training specific to each dog's
needs as they relate to area(s) of weakness. The rationale is marking issues
can be the “read” of a dog out of balance. Therefore, by attacking the area
of weakness balance will be restored and marking will improve. It doesn't
necessarily have to be marks that improve marking. The five factors are “birdiness”,
retrieving, control, focus and responsiveness. If something is wrong, work
to improve a factor (or two).
was first. She is intense, driven and often lets anxiety infect
performance. In addition, she is a very sensitive dog in that heavy pressure
tends to make her “mousy for a moment” which impacts focus more as a
distraction. She is
tough, driven (can almost get manic) and can sustain that level for long
periods of time then become sensitive suddenly. This issue was greatly
having her spayed a couple of years ago. However, four years of acting this
way didn't do much to make it easy to extinguish her negative behaviors.
With respect to “stand alone” marking, she will almost always
look back at me for the release. She seeks approval to avoid making a
mistake. This "baggage" tends to create cause lack of
focus for all marking (including the ones that are not stand alone). She
often “saves herself” because of a tremendous nose and great speed (both of
which allow her to have a larger than what I want AOF). Not testing for over
a year seemed to help a great deal. She is more confident and consistent.
Therefore, this morning, I worked much closer and made the angle at which
she had to look back at me exaggerated. This seemed to clarify choices. I
need to stay in this “close mode” to create better habits. Throwing wide, in
shorter grass areas (visibility increases focus) with short singles
will be necessary (for quite some time) on her “stand alones”.
came out second. He is a full sister to
(second litter). He's different. His bad hips have had some influence on
drive, but he likes to train and hunt. When doing “stand alones”, his focus
is not intense (almost casual) and he looks back at me as if to say, “OK..whenever.”
He generally takes a good line, knows about where the AOF is and figures he
can find it when he gets there. If the mark is a duck, he is much more
focused. Most of the time, he looks at me after a stand alone mark is thrown
and acts like he is in no real hurry. When hunting
is more driven and a much different dog (for the better). He doesn't handle
pressure really well.
Therefore, I need to use birds more often in training plus do the “visible
and short thing” for awhile and see how it goes. I will do more “YaHa”
inlines for his “stand alones”. With hip issues, the process will have to be
carefully measured. It may come down to, “do what is doable” and be
satisfied with what I get.
came out third and literally “explained” why he is my very best, pin-point
marker. When a mark is thrown, his body “blows up” with a singular purpose in
mind. His stare is intense, glassy-eyed and he knows exactly which blade of
grass the mark fell by. He does not want to look at me, needs no
reassurances and hardly can stand the wait. His body is like a coiled spring
ready to explode. On top of all that his memory is outstanding. All this makes me still think about wanting to run a
“Qual” with him......until the little voice in the back of my mind reminds me that he
vocalizes on a flyer.
Kooly will serve as the
ideal target marking expectation to aim for (except for the vocal thing).
was last. She has seen everything and knows it. At twelve, there is a bit of
entitlement to her demeanor. Still, she remains very intense and driven. Her
marking skills are based on being very good in many areas. She takes great
lines, has excellent depth perception and has always had a tremendous work
nose is “scary excellent” and coupled with high skills her advanced titles prove
talent. She's very intelligent and pretty much knows where each mark is. Her
memory for “what's next” is her trademark, but she's not the “blade
of grass” marker. However, across the board, she's just what you love to
work with whether testing or hunting.
since she's almost twelve, I've surrendered to the “cutting some slack” approach. Taffey
will always be “The One” and makes for a super test dog in our daily
The following represents a "balance analysis" for each dog based on the five
factors - “birdiness”, retrieving, focus, control and responsiveness.
needs more channeling of her focus and finding a way to “level off” her
erratic level of responsiveness. She can often be too high or melt easily. However, she
recovers from moods swings quickly with no grudges. Establishing clear
expectations will be the focus. I need to practice on this theme "Train a fast dog
Gunny is a
full brother to Daisy (second breeding). As a singleton pup he has had a few
issues. When training he is often not focused. This is not so much of a
problem when real birds are involved. He is the most steady dog I have and
that's because he is laid back. I have not had much experience with this
attitude and it is refreshing.....to a point. For me, Gunny is just not very
focused on marks. He will look around with a kind of a “ho-hum” attitude.
This frequently results in poor lines and bigger hunts. His nose is
extremely good (which bails him out) and he is always responsive to any
whistle commands or aid I might provide.
Therefore, in terms of his five factors, Gunny
needs more birds to aid increasing his focus. Shorter marks with greater
visibility for quite some time is another choice. Short marks will help the
hip issue, too. The marks vs. cold
blinds ratio needs to be fine tuned. Birds on his cold blinds will be a
He needs to feel like everything is fun which means control must be
finessed. Too much pressure will stifle momentum, confidence and intensity.
On the other hand, I don't want to create an "out-of control" dog as a
result of lowering standards. That is sort of what happened with
Kooly...overcompensation "fixed " a sensitive dog with no drive and turned
him into a manic, skilled retrieving machine with very little responsiveness
and weak control. If I had a choice........I rather split the difference.
work on his responsiveness and control with respect to “his go button”.
What's new? He needs to recognize and acknowledge the handler is not a
“potted plant”. Somehow the "too late, it's cast in granite" phrase comes
to mind. He's nine years old, but we may go back to running a blind before
picking up ANY mark. This routine uses what I call the Anti-RSG blind. (RSG
stands for ready/set/go). Is there a miracle "fix it" drill?
needs to enjoy what she is doing and I need to be happy she is still with
me. However, it wouldn't be right if we both stopped dealing with the “who is in charge
In the end.....for each, “It's not the dog's fault.”