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Jamie
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I'm curious if anyone has a unique training setup or drill that is not directly linked to one of the popular retriever programs (Lardy, Hillman, etc)? Or even share a favorite drill that is from one of those programs! I'd love to hear of other drills that you do inside that develop skills needed in the field? My dogs and I are going stir crazy during the week lol!

I'll start with mine, currently I'm working on skills for an upland test in HRC. I know my puppy can do the portion out in the field (sit to flush, sit to shot, retrieve to hand). What I'm not sure of is his ability to honor another dog and do a walkup off leash (skills also needed in seasoned and finished level tests). My puppy is only ten months old so its not that he is lacking, we just haven't developed those skills yet.

So I've been trying to figure out a drill to practice this myself at home. This is where having three dogs comes in handy :) What I tried last night that worked super slick was putting two of the dogs on their place boards where they have to watch the working dog. The working dog is in a heel at my side at the beginning of a hallway. I leave the dog and go place a couple pieces of kibble in a bowl at the end of the hallway. Then we practice heel forward and backwards (all off leash) until I release the working dog to get the kibble. Then I switch out dogs and work the other one. Now that I've introduced the game I'll make the environment a little more exciting than a hallway.

My dogs are super food motivated so that bowl with a couple pieces of kibble is super tempting for them (for the puppy its borderline torture because he is insane about food). They are also very competitive with each other, so the honoring is not easy.
 

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the party's crashing us
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If you like drills of course buy Carol Cassidy's "Building A Retriever" book. There's a new version out. It's an encyclopedia of retriever drills.
I did a ton of them with Fisher when I was first learning how to handle.
Now that I'm a few dogs into it, I find I need fewer and fewer drills to get the point across. Instead focus on a strong foundation : obedience, force fetch, transition skills. I think Bally has been successful esp. in running blinds because I keep drills really simple. Basically I like 5 handed casting (for dogs who are running cold blinds and taking angle backs...not to teach angle backs), pyramid for lining drills, and a good old single-T. Some more advanced ones I like are cast-off drill and KRD. KEEP IT SIMPLE. You basically need the dog to really know about five skills, the rest is being consistent as a handler and showing the dog pictures over and over again and helping him be right until he can generalize it to new situations. Teaching too many drills or trying to perfect them with inexperienced dogs can just really grind them down, your time may be better spent elsewhere.
Oh!! And Bill Drill. But that's for marking :) And not found in any book! haha

I will say, when running blinds I've learned...keep your cold blinds BIG, SIMPLE and BLACK & WHITE in training. Only repeat if the dog absolutely falls on his face if there is a specific feature of the blind he could not recognize and did not accomplish (i.e. down the shore, keyhole, etc). Do not repeat if the dog just hacks at a simple blind with no obvious technical aspect. Teach precision and technical aspects in a drill setting. Drills setting means white blind poles, short distance, visible white bumpers, etc. Get your corrections on DRILLS where everybody understands where the dog is going. Use drills as not only your teaching time for technical skills (by this I mean keyholes, points, shorelines, entries, blinds in close relation to marks, etc) but if you see things slipping on your cold blinds, go back to a drill setting and dish out corrections there. There will be big carryover when you run a cold blind the next day (indirect pressure!!). Too many corrections on cold blinds are going to give you a phobic dog with a crappy attitude. Put the two together (cold blinds + techical skills) in training when you can repeat the factor on several different cold blinds, when you can make all the factors work together (wind, shoreline, suction, etc), when you can teach in a theme, but remember to keep most of your blinds big, simple, motivational, and no repeats.
 

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And just the clarify, I DO progress through the Lardy flowchart during transition, every skill, I don't skip around or skip steps. I even add somethings. But once the dog is handling OR when you're in that phase of transition and you're looking for something to mix it up a bit, I keep it simple and don't do a lot of different drills, as outlined above.
I also forgot I do like walking baseball it's a good one, useful, easy, and the dogs love it!
 

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I agree with what K9-Design says...especially to "focus on basic obedience"! This where you begin and where you will end...focusing on obedience needs to be part of all dogs training, for life!

Has your dog been 'Forced Fetched'? This fundamental, if done correctly lays the groundwork for most all field work.

Good Luck
 

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Jamie
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Discussion Starter #5
And just the clarify, I DO progress through the Lardy flowchart during transition, every skill, I don't skip around or skip steps. I even add somethings. But once the dog is handling OR when you're in that phase of transition and you're looking for something to mix it up a bit, I keep it simple and don't do a lot of different drills, as outlined above.
I also forgot I do like walking baseball it's a good one, useful, easy, and the dogs love it!
Thanks Anney! This is really helpful, especially the drill vs field and corrections. I noticed some really loopy sits in training on Saturday, so I will take that to the drill field and isolate that. Appreciate the reply!
 

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Jamie
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Discussion Starter #6
I agree with what K9-Design says...especially to "focus on basic obedience"! This where you begin and where you will end...focusing on obedience needs to be part of all dogs training, for life!

Has your dog been 'Forced Fetched'? This fundamental, if done correctly lays the groundwork for most all field work.

Good Luck
Oh gosh yes, his obedience is super. He's in the transition phase and way past force fetch. I love teaching obedience so that is one area that my dogs are usually pretty solid. I'm entering this dog in an upland test in two weeks even though he's only ten months old because his obedience allows for it.
 

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I use drills to build up to running cold blinds, then I do not use drills except for tuneup drills.

Much of my transition drills are in the winter in Alaska, either indoor feeding sessions or on snow-packed dirt roads.
I teach specific concepts separately that will be needed for blind work:
whistle sit, push/pull lining, casting rotations,lining to new unknown destinations,
literal casting, lining over barriers
change direction after whistle stop.

To teach and maintain whistle sit, many whistle sits at a variety of distances
on every morning's daily dog walk.

To teach push/pull lining , food bowl lining every morning and evening during feeding sessions.
To teach correct casting rotation, food bowl casting during feeding sessions.

To teach lining to new, unknown destinations, I teach using the ladder drill: on snowmachine trails.

To teach literal casting from new locations to new destinations, I teach using walking baseball.

To teach lining over barriers and to condition pup recall for poor initial line and "try again", the no-no barrier drill:

To teach that every time pup hears the whistle, he must change directions, I teach using the split casting drill.

After pup understands sitting to the whistle, casting rotation, push/pull, literal casting, lining thru barriers, lining to new unknown destinations, and change direction after each whistle stop, we quickly and easily transition to cold blinds after snow melts in the spring.

One standard I have is that pup must change directions after each whistle stop on cold blinds.
I don't care if he overcasts...he must change directions. If he does not and dig-backs or scallops,
I make a big deal about that mistake... Whistle stop, verbal NO! and then give the same literal cast
after insisting pup sits with canine-to-human eye contact.... GOOD! the instant pup takes a cast in the correct direction.
That is my correction instead of an e-collar correction...works for me with a biddable dog and they
rarely give a cast refusal in terms of scallop or digback because they soon understand the game
is to change direction after hearing a whistle stop.
 

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Here is a drill a friend set up recently. Hope it is clear enough, posting photos here is a pain.
For casting discipline/precision. Near a small pond set out two blinds as shown. First it needs to be taught, use white bumpers in low cover or place a marker on the blinds. Place several bumpers on each blind. The distance can be fairly short when teaching then increased according to your dogs progress.
Start at the teaching line and send the dog to blind 1. Next send to blind 2 across the pond. Water entry should be square, not cheaty at first.
Next move back to the line and send for blind 1. Should be easy the dog knows there are bumpers there.
Line the dog up for blind 1 again and send. This time stop him at the teaching line and cast him to blind 2. Again, it should be simple, he was already there. Repeat a couple times sometimes sending to blind 1 after stopping and sometimes blind 2.
Do the drill again the next day but this time eliminate the teaching line part. Depending on the dog you may still want to mark blind 2, don't rush it. Keep it fun but also challenge your pup.
Increase the distance and or complexity over time. remove markers, make the water entry more cheaty, require a down the shore swim.
When the dog masters all that replace blind one with a thrown mark. Send for the mark, stop and cast to blind 2.
You may have to simplify and mark the blind again at first. When the dog takes the cast and gets the blind let him pick up the mark. This step is basically a poison bird drill and you must be very careful with pressure. The dog will want the mark, that isn't a bad thing. He just needs to be taught to pick up the blind first. Simplify, don't get in a hurry and be extremely cautious about pressure with poison bird marks.
When your dog masters all that you can add another big challenge. Shoot a flier for the mark.

870680

We made it to the water blind in the Open last weekend. I needed a cast into water and wind for the last 15 yards of a 250 yard blind, could not get it. Got the bird but not the water so we were out.
More time on drills like this and we might have made the 4th series. Not enough warm days for water work.
 

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Here is a great drill
Distances can be whatever you need for your dog.
Start in a field of low cover with a bird boy at about 50 yards. Place blinds at about 100 yards. Wind at the handlers back.
For a young or inexperienced dog, teach the drill first by using white bumpers and or markers on the blinds.
The drill can be run many different ways.
BB throws left mark; you can send the dog under the arc to the left blind or behind the gun to the right blind.
After the blind the left mark can be picked up or leave it as a memory bird, throw the right mark and pick it or the other blind up.
Usually at the end of the drill we have the thrower place a blind right in front of him.
The distances can be extended for experienced dogs.
Two throwers or a thrower and a sick man about 5-10 yards apart can be added along with another blind strait up the middle. Running between two guns is another factor for a dog.
If your dog has trouble with any aspect of the drill Simplify, try to keep it fun. Running under the arc of a mark in route to a blind without hesitation is a big step for a young dog.
870702
 

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That looks like one of my favorites : KRD
Except in KRD you have one gun and multiple blinds, but very similar -- easy and effective
 

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Jamie
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Discussion Starter #12
I will say, when running blinds I've learned...keep your cold blinds BIG, SIMPLE and BLACK & WHITE in training. Only repeat if the dog absolutely falls on his face if there is a specific feature of the blind he could not recognize and did not accomplish (i.e. down the shore, keyhole, etc). Do not repeat if the dog just hacks at a simple blind with no obvious technical aspect. Teach precision and technical aspects in a drill setting. Drills setting means white blind poles, short distance, visible white bumpers, etc. Get your corrections on DRILLS where everybody understands where the dog is going. Use drills as not only your teaching time for technical skills (by this I mean keyholes, points, shorelines, entries, blinds in close relation to marks, etc) but if you see things slipping on your cold blinds, go back to a drill setting and dish out corrections there. There will be big carryover when you run a cold blind the next day (indirect pressure!!). Too many corrections on cold blinds are going to give you a phobic dog with a crappy attitude. Put the two together (cold blinds + techical skills) in training when you can repeat the factor on several different cold blinds, when you can make all the factors work together (wind, shoreline, suction, etc), when you can teach in a theme, but remember to keep most of your blinds big, simple, motivational, and no repeats.
This is just gold. I struggled yesterday with some cold blinds and realized we were in over our heads (we got there but it was too ugly and I used pressure when I shouldn't have), so I'm devising my plan of action to go to the drill field. I need to print this out the bolded section and leave it in my vehicle for the next couple months when working on developing cold blinds. Luckily I have a very forgiving dog with a good attitude or I'd be in trouble. I tried throwing way too much at him yesterday, so we are going to simplify! I have taken the no repeats to heart, I'm surprised at how many people in my hunt test club repeat blinds and marks.

On another note, I've also come to have your same distaste for wingers. Recently I've been doing a lot of stand-alones and training with field trialers where only people are throwing the birds/bumpers, which resulted in super efficient training. Well last weekend I trained with some hunt testers and the amount of time you waste setting up wingers, reloading, etc is ridiculous, but they insisted on using them even though we had enough people to be throwers. It really annoyed me because when my dog needed help on a super long mark there was no one out there to help him. It was definitely a lesson learned!
 

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OMG Jamie welcome to the club! We can train together any time!!
Electronics on a long mark....sin of all sins
Keep at it girl...
 
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