We attended the greatest training day on Saturday at Farpoint Retrievers, (Storm and Thunder’s trainer). Members of the Michigan Flyways Retriever Club were invited to come out for a training day, and boy did we train. This was the set-up for the first series which could be modified for dogs at any level. (This drawing is not exactly to scale. I did it from memory based on how I remember the pond/test looking from where we were sitting. It is not an exact replica, but will at least give an idea.)
I hope the diagram is not too confusing, but I wanted to mark everything that was going on and to show what a handler may see as he/she steps up to the line at a test. The blue “X’s” are the marks and the blue line shows the path the dogs should take to them. Mark “A” was a shot flyer and went down first. Mark “B” was a hand thrown duck and went down second. The orange dot just in front of the line (“C”) was thrown as a triple for the Master level dogs and a diversion for the Senior level dogs and not used for the Junior level dogs (more on Mark “C” later). I marked the direction of the throws with orange arrows. I have shown the three blinds which were set up and marked the direction the dog was supposed to take with black dashed lines. The blind to the bottom right was for Senior level dogs. The other two were for the more advanced dogs.
Thunder Retrieving The Diversion Bird
When ever there is a training day, you will have dogs who are at many different levels. When you bring your dog to the line you decide what parts of the test you will run based on where you are in your training. On the diagram above, the Junior dogs ran the two marks (“A” and “B”) as single marks and they were sent from the edge of the pond. Depending on the dog, the handler might want the longer one first and the shorter one second. Or they might just run one of the marks selecting either the longer or the shorter. Some of the Junior dogs wanted to get out and run the bank back after retrieving the shorter Mark “B”. You don’t want that to happen so some of the other people at the training day helped out by stationing themselves along the bank to encourage the dog to stay in the water. Most Junior dogs don’t know handling so did not run any blinds.
Good Boy Thunder
The Master level dogs ran the two marks (“A” and “B”) but also they got a third mark “C” (which I marked as an orange dot right in front of the line). This kind of mark is known as a “wiper mark”. A wiper mark functions to basically wipe out that long mark in the dog’s mind, (and also with it being so close in front of the dog it can also cause them to break). The handler is free to send the dog to pick up marks in any order, and normally you would send the dog to pick up that close bird first since it would be difficult to get a dog to run past a bird right there out in front of them. Once they have picked up that bird which is right in line with Mark “A” (the shot flyer), the dog may think “OK I got the birds in this line”. They may lose the position of, or forget, that long bird. Boy did that “wiper” bird do its job. Most of the Master level dogs had to be handled to Mark “A”. The Master level blinds also gave the Master level dogs some problems because they were right next to the marks they had just picked up. One of the blinds required the dog to swim along side of the bank but not get out. The other one was a long swim past Mark “B”. This was definitely “Big Dog” training.
Storm Returning With Mark "A"
Thunder and Storm and the Senior level dogs got a double, (Mark “A” and Mark “B”) and on their way back from picking up the last bird “C” was thrown as a diversion bird, (again indicated as an orange dot right in front of the “line”). A “diversion” bird is thrown right in front of the dog to test whether the dog will stay on task and bring the bird it is retrieving back to its handler. The dog should not drop the bird it is holding to pick up the diversion bird. Once the dog has delivered the bird it is holding to its handler, it is then sent to retrieve the diversion.
Storm Sent To Retrieve The Diversion Bird
Again, this was “Big Dog” training for Thunder and Storm. It was a lot of swimming for Thunder after just coming off his 6 week lay-off. He didn’t seem to have any trouble with the long swims and he was nice and steady. He did however, have a bit of trouble with the water double. He went straight out to Mark “B” and came straight back (no bank running), but lost sight of the shot flyer (Mark “A”). He had to be handled back to it. Most of the Senior level dogs had trouble with this mark. (Actually, most of the dogs at all levels had trouble with that mark.) His handling to that mark was very nice however. After he picked up both marks and the diversion bird, he was sent to the Senior Blind (bottom right corner on the diagram). This kind of blind is tough for Thunder because it is an angle in. An angle in means the dog must enter the water on an angle to the side of the bank rather than perpendicular, (or straight on). Thunder did it, but he still needs to train this to make him comfortable with this type of entry angle. All and all for his first big training, he did very well. We feel fairly confident with his water blinds now, and we will try to throw him some water doubles this week before his test next weekend. The water doubles we trained on Saturday were very difficult water doubles, but it won’t hurt to train those a bit more.
Thunder Returning With Mark "B"
Storm was nice and steady at the line, but she also had trouble with that water double. She did fine on Mark “B”, but also lost sight of that long mark (“A”). She too had to be handled to that mark. Because she is a little more advanced with her blind work, she ran the Master/Advanced Senior Test Blind, (to the left in the diagram). She was a bit confused because she was being handled by her owner rather than the trainer and her owner was using slightly different commands for sending her. It took a bit, but she got that blind. She was good about staying in the water and coming back in the water. There will be a bit of a transition for her due to the change in handler, but the trainer made some suggestions which seemed to work better for the second series we ran later in the day. Storm will have more blind work and water doubles this week and hopefully she will be on the same page with her handler by the time the tests roll around this weekend.
Storm Has Mark "B"
One of the things that made this training session so great was that there were three judges also attending and training their dogs. You can learn a lot when you train with judges, such as why the dogs are doing this or that and how the wind or the shape of the bank of the pond affects the dog’s performance. These little factors are something we are just starting to learn and are something we need to pay more attention to when setting up our own training. Storm was one of the last dogs to run this series, but we weren’t finished yet. We moved to the other side of the pond and ran a second series. The second series will be the topic of another post.
A huge thank you to Darrin and Kim and Farpoint Retrievers. Not only did they take their Saturday to put on this training, they put up great training scenarios, and arranged to have bird throwers and birds for the training day. So often training days use bumpers and no birds and you have to find people to throw them so you have to wait while you change out throwers. This really was set up like a test and a huge benefit to us one week before a test.
And on a sad note…
Today we say goodbye to Thunder’s Grandfather:
BIS BISS CH ** Can MBISS CH** Irish’s Royal Prince of Tides
After we got Thunder, we were lucky enough to get to know Joshua. He was a great Chessie with a long, long list of accomplishments, but more importantly, he was a nice dog. I know for those who loved him, 14 years was just not long enough and we send condolences. Joshua, I will miss petting your head. To read more on Joshua, click here.