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Well, this COVID stuff has changed our hunt testing and field trialing plans BIG TIME! It has also changed the way that I train ... pre-COVID, I was training with a group (a really good group, I must admit) on both Saturday and Sunday, plus 1 - 2 days training alone; but now, I'm training alone 5 - 6 days a week. I have a couple launchers and a couple wingers, so I can get in "electronic marks," but it's not like having gunners in the field.

My current training adventure is getting the mutts to learn in-line triples with the middle gun retired. I consider it to be largely a "go where sent" training tool and not necessarily a set-up that I see very often at weekend trials ... although it does show up on occasion. Started out running the set-up as singles (long-short-middle); on Saturday I ran it as a very wide triple and they did okay on it; on Sunday I retired the long and middle "gunners" and they did pretty well on it (it's a significantly different test when retiring the long and the middle gunners, but I did it anyway). [I made a rookie mistake when I set up the long mark, but both dogs made up for my misgivings.] I'll work on the triple a couple times this week, as well as retiring a long gunner ... maybe short retireds again next week.

I rewound my Training Retrievers Alone DVD and picked up a couple things from it; and I've started Voight's other DVD, 25 Essential Retriever Training Drills for Handling. By the latter, although I've barely gotten started on it, I have already been reminded of a couple drills that I've simply ignored, namely the Two Tier Wagon Wheel Lining Drill and the Wagon Wheel Casting Drill. I must admit, I much prefer running marks, which probably explains why my dogs are typically better markers than blind-running dogs ....
So, that said, I'm working on handling drills to the extent I can stand them! Notably, both of my dogs absolutely love drills, so it's just me.

FTGoldens
 

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aka Shelby
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oh wow, I didn't realize you didn't like drills you always have great suggestions for me that include drills. I did a wagon wheel drill the other day where luckily I caught Shelly switching on her way back with the orange bumper to the white bumper. Well...the previous day she switched on a poison bird blind after running it beautifully. She came out of the water to the left behind the dike and onto of the bird...She doesn't get in much trouble for that because the trainer says she doesn't understand that how can she? But the drill I was not expecting that to happen so I used it as an opportunity to train about it. So drills are fun to me sometimes!
It sounds like the inline triple is coming along smoothly. We had an inline triple where the long first shot gun was a standout flyer then the middle retired then the go bird that retired after they hit a mound. I think that is how it was...it was rough for them to get that short gun second.

Today we revisited a set up from last week that few dogs could do last week. The long retired gun was a sore topic among the gallery and the pro some saying it was an unfair set up others thought it was fine. The long gun was hip pocket tight to the flyer but it kind of appeared that it landed on a swell behind the flyer gun instead of deep of the swell. So a lot of dogs hung up short on that swell. There was a pond inline of the bird as well. The gallery felt it was a contrary bird. It was a great set up for me to listen to what everyone had to say. Today the set up was completely different yet the triple was the same and there was a long single outside of the test added. The long gun through the middle kind of retired a bit while running it as a double on the outside first. Interesting how you can completely change a test like that! the dogs did way better this time around. My girl got into water cheating this time around where on the harder set up last week she did all her water work correctly! Go figure. Then we moved over and ran a tricky little blind that crossed the test and ran in front of the short gunner station from earlier. it was tricky cause you lost sight of them through the swells.

Other than I guess right now we've been working on punch birds and poison birds blinds. Water cheating and fine lines entering the water.
 

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We have a new field bred pup. We signed up for an obedience class that started a couple of weeks ago. Only three people were scheduled to show on the first night, but only two of us showed. The class tonight we were the only ones to show. So we get private lessons....such a deal. Our pup is progressing well and I working on marking and recalls for puppies in our back yard.

We hope to have him in with a field trainer later this summer, but have not confirmed the availability of the ones we like to use....
 

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Jamie
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I have completely changed how I thought I was going to train. Luckily in SD we don't have a shelter in place, and most of the guys are still training regularly. After proving that I can throw a bird, I've finally become part of the in crowd in our field trial club here. Took a while, but if you are persistent (and keep showing up) eventually they concede lol! I love training with these guys because they have Amateur and Open level dogs so I get to see what the end picture should look like. I don't know if Rio has that kind of potential, but I figure if I concentrate on field trial set ups now, I can always go back and do the hunt test stuff later.

I'm learning so much though from training with them. I get awesome critiques on my handling (ie slow way down) and some great tips that help progress Rio on marks. I get lots of advice (I'm by far the most inexperienced person there so I expect that), but when it comes to what I should run Rio on I really rely on the one person that I know has trained his own dog from start to just a couple points shy of an AFC himself. A lot of the others have pros do young dog stuff and I think most of their advice would be rushing Rio. Unlike them I'm in no hurry, I don't have FC or AFC goals, at this point, my goal is to run Rio at the 2021 golden national qual!

When we first started training with them a couple weeks ago, Rio was really flakey at the line, not super focused. So we took it slow and really worked on getting the focus there, especially with multiple gunners in the field. This last weekend they set up a tight triple that had the dogs running through a corn field (which was fairly rough). Rio come to the line, focused in on each mark, and had perfect lines to the bird (we ran singles). So now that we've got that, I have to start adding factors on singles and start easy doubles.

Blinds, I'm mainly still training by myself. If I have questions there I reach out to Tim Springer and we troubleshoot. When I first tried switching to cold blinds, I definitely rushed it. Plus doing the upland training when I did really screwed him up, so I had some things I needed to redo. Now, I'm really trying to make an effort of balancing cold blinds and drills. I'm revisiting some T and double T work in anticipation of completing swim-by as soon as the water is warm enough. I'm also keeping blinds and marks in very separate locations for the time being. Before I was trying to rush it thinking I could skip the lower level and move right up to seasoned. Now I think I likely won't test at all this year (unless I can find a fall derby).
 

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Current events have certainly changed what we are doing. We don’t do field trials, just hunt tests and we were hoping to wrap up my females MH title by now, she only needs two more passes. I have been training about 3-4 days a week. I have been putting a place board out with a white bucket or stake next to it to identify the location and we have been doing a lot of send back marks. I like this because I can get a lot of work in without having to reload wingers, and I’m the gunner in the field. This week it has been in-line marks with a few flat marks mixed in also. We’re doing a lot of singles to hopefully stay sharp. I get the wingers out sometimes to try to keep line manners from getting worse. Having the white bucket next to the place board enables us to run 150-200 yard marks then send her right back to the place board and run a new mark. After the marks we run a few blinds to keep sharp. Usually by then she is covered with mud so we do a few walk around marks on the pond to get the mud off. We mix in some lining drills in the field next to our house.
Master tests filled up fast before, I wonder how fast they will fill up when we get to run tests again.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
myluckypenny,
This is fantastic stuff! It's great to hear that you have made it into the "in" group! While DVDs are instructive, learning from mentors who have not only experience but have experience being successful has deep, long-term value.
It sounds like they have you on the right path.
Keep us posted on Rio's progress.
FTGoldens
 

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oh wow, I didn't realize you didn't like drills you always have great suggestions for me that include drills. I did a wagon wheel drill the other day where luckily I caught Shelly switching on her way back with the orange bumper to the white bumper. Well...the previous day she switched on a poison bird blind after running it beautifully. She came out of the water to the left behind the dike and onto of the bird...She doesn't get in much trouble for that because the trainer says she doesn't understand that how can she? But the drill I was not expecting that to happen so I used it as an opportunity to train about it. So drills are fun to me sometimes!
Yeah, I've learned a bunch of different drills from other folks and have even created a few of my own (like the "Z" water blind drill), but I have to MAKE myself do them.
I often turn to drills to fix a problem that one of my mutts is having ... of course, if I'd done the drills as part of my training routine, they probably wouldn't have had the problem in the first place!
Maybe after I've done this stuff for a few years, I'll learn ....

FTGoldens
 

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the party's crashing us
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So my dogs are definitely getting more training now that I'm homebound than they were previously, which is great!!
Brix is progressing on his Senior-level skills…he is doing really well, just has everything to learn. I don't worry about him too much!
I am back prepping Bally for quals. (My computer wants to autocorrect this to quails!). This is such a conundrum to me because I feel like he has a way better attitude and performs better when it's just myself and one training partner, but I think that's more a function of me not setting up things that are challenging enough. I've been attending weekly group training, with a very experienced crowd, who sets up very large test-like setups. We've gone probably half a dozen times. My issues is I feel I can't step up to the plate and run a big triple, and I'm forever running them as singles, and if a mark is too long Bally turns into an actor and magically can't seem to locate the long gun, or has a hard time being super confident about that. After making mistakes of correcting him too much in the past, I've not put any pressure on this. I also feel like in this group setting with the big setups, he doesn't run as hard, and he is also taking odd routes to birds that he clearly sees. That is not normal for him, he usually makes a beeline for marks. He will come out right at the bird and not put up a hunt but it's an odd, non-linear route to get there.
Today the first series was a very large open field but there was a channel piece of water along the back edge, the go bird was a short mark off to the right, the two memory birds were along the back edge of the channel both throwing in the same direction, so two down the shore basically. I hid the long left-hand bird, and threw the middle as the memory bird and short as the go bird. Bally took a bit of an odd route to the memory bird but went right to it once he got in the water so he knew where it was. My plan was to run the longest, left hand bird as a single after picking up this double. He WOULD NOT look at the gunner. Now, it was a gunner standing in shade, not the world's most obvious, but Bally looked all over and never would pick it out. I asked for movement and noise, still could not get him to look at it. I ended up just abandoning it and putting him up. In retrospect I should have walked up part way until he'd focus on it but I didn't think about it at the time. Meanwhile, EVERY other dog in training was able to do that mark in some form or another, so I know Bally is purposefully doing this. Its the same problem I bumped into with him in year's past. Sigh.
 

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the party's crashing us
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IKR???????
This is the first time recently he absolutely refused to look out at the long one. He's been doing really good up until now. I'm sorta tired of trying to figure out the why's, I just want to figure out how to train and deal with it.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
IKR???????
This is the first time recently he absolutely refused to look out at the long one. He's been doing really good up until now. I'm sorta tired of trying to figure out the why's, I just want to figure out how to train and deal with it.
Interesting stuff going on!
I don't know who is in the group that you're training with, but have you asked any of them as to what they think is going on? (I'd ask the most experienced and analytical trainer away from the whole group because you'd get chorus of unharmonious responses if asked in front of the whole gang.)
Since you've backed off the pressure, he may not really be trying.
FTGoldens
 

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The weekend training group is history for now, I really like our group, its a older group but with a former National judge and some have had FC-AFC. One of the guys had a Golden with over 90 AA points. But still the wife and me are out there 5-6 days a week with wingers and herself in the field, Our training grounds has 2 ponds and over 200 acres which is only 2 minutes from the house so I can illegally drive the 4 wheeler down the road. With our just turned three year old her issue was concentrating/focus on blinds past 200 yrds. We worked on that over the winter and seemed to get that straight. I have changed my selection philosophy with her. I used to train more secondary selection but in the few Q's we ran in the fall she would primary select, long retired select,middle bird select, flyer last, it was always different than I wanted.I never knew which bird she was going to get and it drove me nuts. (She always made it through the marks series though) I decided in training to go to more ideal selection (natural) and just let her get what she wanted and concentrate some on the short bird last. It was no reason to fight her in training if she was going to do something different in a trial. An example would be a inline triple the other day with the middle retired going left bird, middle (retired) then the right go bird (flyer). She wanted the short middle first so I let her have it, it has worked out well so far. We have a small (43 lbs) 6.5 month alpha female pocket rocket nutcase. OB went well and started into FF but when the water temps opened up the OB went out the window. She wouldnt come out of the water :) so back to OB. She is the toughest dog I have ever had to train. She takes pressure like no other dog I have been associated with even labs. A five doesn't even faze her on the collar and my 3 yr old jumps on a four. The heeling stick she looks at me and its like is that all you have? The good thing is she is a pinpoint marker and running the same AA setups as the 3 yr old but as singles and of course no cheaty water. I just find it neat she can run full blast 10 yards from the flyer station to the long bird over 300 yrds out at 6 months and step on the marks.These are with all bumpers as I dont do birds til after FF. So she runs first every day. IF we can get her under control she may be something special. She totally wears us out though! WOW! Take care and be safe!
 

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Jamie
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Met my field group to train yesterday, it was easily the best weather we've had yet this year. They are really doing a lot of work on check down marks with a stand out long gun. So interesting to watch these dogs run. The picture below is from google and is missing some hay bales that added another dimension. For the first half I was the thrower at the station marked #1 below. The picture shows how I ran it, the experienced dogs ran it backwards as a triple, with gun #2 retiring, and the line was back and to the left so that they had to get in the water on the go bird. These marks were super tight! The dogs really struggled but everyone got some great training in.

When it was my turn to run Rio, I moved the start line to the right to avoid having him cheat (he's currently in swimby). Then we ran it as singles in the order marked. He did everything so well and was on the correct side of the gunner each time. Absolutely zero issues running past the short gun (#2) to get the last mark (#3). The only thing he did that we need to work on is squaring the ditch, but considering where we are at I was thrilled. He has been marking on his singles just incredibly well, so now I need to start working on his memory by adding doubles! Especially when I'm training with this group as I can have a gunner help on the memory bird.

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Discussion Starter #15
myluckypenny,

That's a great set-up ... running it as a triple makes it really tough to do right.

It sounds like Rio is doing very well. So when are you going to start the doubles? It sounds like he's one that can be pushed a bit. We don't know a dog's weaknesses if the dog isn't challenged.

I hate failure, so It's sometimes difficult for me to do things that I don't think my dogs are capable of doing. Today was an example. A training buddy came out (we social distanced!); he has two AFC titled dogs. We shot flyers for each other's dogs. He then wanted to do a blind under the arc of the flyer with the bird crate still out and still occupied by a live duck; with the line about 175 yds from the crate. My mutts had never run a blind under the arc of a flyer, and to do it 175 yards from the line made it even more difficult ... I moved up about 25 yards and went for it. Frankly, they did okay ... both sucked into the flyer crate; one left the area of the crate with one cast, the other one didn't cast out so it got a medium nick*, which was sufficient. So yes, they "failed" the blind, but it's part of the learning process.
*As for the nick, I am reluctant to give any adverse stimuli in the vicinity of a gun station, but with the cast refusal, I felt it was necessary; plus, this particular dog is nearly immune to the effects of adverse stimuli, so I don't anticipate deleterious carry-over, but I'll be watching for it.

FTGoldens
 

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Jamie
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@FTGoldens, He's definitely ready for doubles now. I didn't want to move on to those until I got the picture I wanted for singles. He was pretty out of balance early this spring because we'd done so much yard work over the winter. So when we went to the line he was super unfocused/flakey. So the guy I train with really wanted that focus before moving on to doubles. He's been hyper zoned in now for the last two sessions though, so everyone agrees he's ready for the next step. He's been introduced to some easy doubles I've done with my wingers, but he's ready for the bigger picture now.
 

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I moved up about 25 yards and went for it. Frankly, they did okay ... both sucked into the flyer crate; one left the area of the crate with one cast, the other one didn't cast out so it got a medium nick*, which was sufficient. So yes, they "failed" the blind, but it's part of the learning process.
*As for the nick, I am reluctant to give any adverse stimuli in the vicinity of a gun station, but with the cast refusal, I felt it was necessary; plus, this particular dog is nearly immune to the effects of adverse stimuli, so I don't anticipate deleterious carry-over, but I'll be watching for it.
Agree with being very cautious about collar correction near guns stations. Often dogs go out on the land blind in Quals because they won't take a line close to a gun station. One exception to the rule would be returning to an old fall.

I was also taught by training mentors, and agree; No pressure when teaching poison bird blinds and only train on them about once a week until they understand the concept. It is a confusing concept for a young dog to ignore and run past a mark. Pressure and too much repetition can have a very negative effect on marking.
The "Golden Rule" of simplify, simplify, simplify is particularly important here. I would, and have, walked out and taken the poison bird from the dog, set it back on the ground and resent the dog for the blind. He didn't do a bad thing, just the wrong thing.
I also nearly always send the dog for the poison bird after completing the blind, it is good for memory and a reward for success on the blind. The exception to that rule would be if he repeatedly tried to get the poison bird or went to it on the return with the blind bird.
 

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Agree with being very cautious about collar correction near guns stations. Often dogs go out on the land blind in Quals because they won't take a line close to a gun station. One exception to the rule would be returning to an old fall.
I need to add, before you correct for going back to an old fall you must be certain of the dogs intent.
For instance the setup in post #14 ran as a triple. The dog picks up marks 1 & 2. You send for mark 3, it isn't retired but because of the terrain the dog may or may not lose sight of the gun in route.
It is a tight setup so the dog may go through the fall of mark 2.
If he cruises right through and on to mark 3, great.
If he slows up going through the fall area of mark 2 but doesn't hunt and continues on to mark 3, still great. The dog had to think and made a good decision.
If your dog has an issue with returning to old falls I think it should be dealt with on wider setups that are more black and white.
 

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Agree with both SRW and FT Goldens. I might add that I think we train our marks to tight at times and when a trial sets up a big wide open test dogs have issues. We need to train for both. I am guilty of training too many tight marks, yesterday we set a wide open very long right retired inline triple. I got a head swing out of her. She never head swings, back to singles for a few days. Also I think regarding returning to old falls( not talking about blinds)we dont teach enough as young dogs/pups running marks with multiple gunners in the field, through old falls, long bird first in between two stations and other different setups. I believe after a while it just comes natural to run by a gun station for the long bird if it has been run multiple times as a pup.. Just my opinion.
 

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We need to train for both.
Yep, it is a continual balancing act. Have to be prepared for anything and everything.
Most of us do far more multiple marks than we should. A training friend spoke with someone that worked with Lardy not long ago. He was told that, with marks, about 90% of what they worked on was head swinging. Lots of singles with multiple guns in the field.
 
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