The Transition to Poison Bird Blinds  

                                   "Down the Shore" & "Decheating" Progression

                                            (thoughts & efforts from "somewhere" in the middle of a journey) 

                                                                              initial phase
          After swim-by, there are several drills and set-ups that my pups work as the journey progresses. The
          pictures represent a small segment of the many training sessions done during transition. They build
          on preceding lessons and acquired skills. The emphasis is on effective teaching by doing what a pup
          needs "in the moment". A sequential program requires responsive teamwork. 
  Right after swim-by, the next step is to do channel and parallel swims. Each reinforce the new standard for "more water" (or stay in the water). A pup needs to become "comfortable" with this concept. At first, the parallel/channel swims are nothing more than an extension of swim-by. These are "enriched" in different waters. 

Since the pup is familiar with getting in and out of the water at the "over" pile position in swim-by, this comfortable "target" is used for the pup's first, simple "decheating". This seamless approach provides  more depth in preparation for the complexity of "tuneup" drills. The goal is to use eventually use "tuneups" regularly to maintain skills. 

During these months of work, marking is kept straight forward. That is to say, non-cheating marks are
the norm. In addition, each pup is gradually and extensively introduced to place boards (from a young age). They learn to cast to them and run remote marks from them. They are very at ease on them.

2010 update: In the past, my dogs have been released from the line remotely by using their name. This year all the dogs will be taught something new. The release will be from the "tone" given off from my Tritronics Pro-100 e-collar. This was an idea learned from a "solo" training thread on the RTF. Thanks, Julie H.  This will eliminate two issues 1) no more shouting their names and/or 2) having them look back at me for the release.

update: The e-collar tone "process" has been scrapped and "release" at the line has been changed to using two-way radios. There was a steep learning curve. "The voice" at the line is a "stranger".
  In addition, my two-way radios let out a loud beep when the talk button is released. To avoid this from distracting the dog, the "stop talking" button must be held down until the dog is well away from the line. In addition, rechargeable lithium batteries were required to not loose power as fast in colder weather. All too often setup issues occurred because of radio problems. Diligence in maintaining battery reliability has been a pain in the "donkey".
                                                              "remote radio line"

                                                      second phase (de-cheating)

Right after swim-by, the next step is to do channel and parallel swims. Each reinforce the new standard for more water (or stay in the water). At first, the parallel/channel swims are nothing more than an extension of swim-by. Since each pup is familiar with getting in and out of the water at the over pile position in swim-by, the corner is used for the first, simple decheating introduction.
During this time frame non-cheating water marks are the norm. In addition, each pup has been gradually and extensively introduced to place boards. They learn to cast to them (or the line) and run remote marks off them (land and water).

Their very first real "down the shore" set of singles is done remotely on the Stoughton FT grounds (southwest pond).
                       note: This photo was taken May 26, 2005 and Kooly was "pup of the day" 
(left click on thumbnail)
                                                              "1st down the shore"

Singles are thrown from the shore and the pup is remotely released from the line. The first single is not terribly cheaty, but in most cases the pup needs to be cast to stay on line. With the trainer/handler in the bird boy position, it becomes a very simple exercise to cast back (more water) and over (on line). This approach is clear to a pup because that's exactly how he was kept in the water on swim-by during the initial walk overs. The mark is returned to hand in the field and the pup is cast back to the line. Generally, the return to the line is not an issue. A visible target plus the established routine of
returning to the line keeps their focus.

There are two facts to keep in mind 1) handling to correct a line is an acceptable practice (not to the mark, but to the line of a mark) and 2) the pup has just recently learned the more water expectation (swim-by, parallel swims and corner decheating).

The handler (in the field) can effectively counter shoreline suction by using back (more water). Through repetition on the more difficult second and third down the shore singles, four pups over the years got the picture very quickly. This was indicated by how they actually did better on each successive mark even though the angles/distance became more difficult.

If the trainer were at the line and wanted an over (because the dog wanted to beach), what difference is there in the message if the handler is in the field and gives a back? In either situation, the message is the same......more water. When teaching from the much closer stand alone position, control and the message is more personal.

Distance impacts control and responsiveness. Less distance (in the field) provides a handler with more influence over the pup's decision making process. Physically blocking and asking for a back is much more effective than asking for an over from afar. The handler in the field can easily move closer to the water and make two casts (back and then over). At this stage in the dog's skill level, the lessons are congruent with swim-by's message.....more water.

When a trainer/handler eventually moves to the line for a more normal presentation, this earlier, remote line expectation provides a seamless transition.

The only other issue one might need to come to grips with is concern about too much focus on the gunner. A well trained dog in balance will know where the trainer is. Therefore, doing only stand alones with a young dog could be a problem. To avoid this, very wide, short marks establish the proper expectation {don't look back at the gunner). There are some that give a visual arm cast to send or release the dog. I don't do this because I believe it promotes looking back. Of course, the really young dog is not going to be handled. Yet, isn't the young dog expected to be helped by the gunner (on occasion)? Therefore, I don't find that teaching needs to have a singular focus of only being possible from the line. 
      note: There will be an essay about what enhances marking skills in terms of "the look back".

To return to the topic....distance is a familiar parallel. Three handed casting is a much easier skill to teach when the pup and handler are "up close and personal".  Most pups become quite comfortable with "help" from a skilled gunner. They often can "make or break" the effectiveness of marking drills. Later when cold blinds enter the picture and distance is stretched, a handler will "hot foot it" after a pup so as to have less distance between them for the next cast. Better control and greater responsiveness makes for more effective teaching. Using the "distance factor" and consistent  cues provides a training advantage when teaching a new concept like "down the shore". 

On a side note, over a period of several years, the acquisition of "technical waters" (by permission or membership) were a great enhancement to training.  Each new pup reaps the benefits. |

(left click on thumbnails & use "Full Screen" in "Tools" for best viewing)

      "parallel swim"
       "left decheat"
      "right decheat"
        "1st tuneup"
     "water casting"
     "longer tuneup"
       1st "down the
       shore" (singles))
* see above
                                                               "decheating" progression
        After introducing the concept of maintaining a line in water ("handling" in the field), cheating
          singles are begun. Up until now water marking sessions have been designed to avoid cheating.
          With the use of "tuneup" drills, the technique of going straight to "cheaty" piles has been taught
          via the concept of "more water".  Basically, the pup is allowed to just "begin a cheat".....then
          whistle sat and cast back into the water to the correct line. More water is good. Sit and cast
          standards have long ago been established and attrition is the norm. 

          This is not an e-collar driven is teaching. Once the concept is understood then cast
          refusals due to poor choices can be enforced. An extreme response to the "get into the water"
          mentality is obvious when the line to a mark passes by a small corner of a pond and a dog
          intentionally goes off line to get his feet wet. 
          With the "1st long cheating single", a mark is thrown by a winger to a position where cheating will
          not occur. The "2nd long cheater" is designed to present a stark contrast to the 1st. The skills taught
          lining drills have provided a mental picture of what is expected on these marks.....again using
          attrition. Repetition in many different areas is necessary as demonstrated by the longer and more
          challenging "contrast" marks (next four pictures). Eventually, multiple entries and exits become
          challenges which strengthen the skill. During this phase, regular "tuneup" drills continue to
          maintain the skill of angle entries and exits.  In addition, each pup starts to transfer the "straight"
          concept to terrain and cover changes. Doing this in increments allows for a seamless transition in
           maintaining straighter lines on marks (water and land). Flare and suction (and drift) are factors a
           dog must learn to deal with. 

           A critical aspect to this training is teaching a pup how to deal with the "dynamics of pressure". 
           This skill allows a pup to respond in a positive manner by making correct modifications in its
           action.....the taught right choices".

           The concept of "straight" requires the "two-way street" of responsiveness. Consistent successes in
           making proper responses (to pressure) becomes a powerful reinforcement of the teacher/student
           relationship. How teaching occurs at each level influences the next. A pup is more likely to thrive
           if the teacher is predictable, persistent and fair.

           Here is the example of earlier drill work which was effective because of recognizing the
           importance of using the "distance factor", measured control, balanced responsiveness and
           communication. Teaching should be enjoyable for both the dog and handler.

                                    update: there was advise which suggested stopping the dog sooner on the
                                                 "right and left cheat" photos 
 (left click on thumbnails & use "Full Screen" in "Tools" for best viewing)
  1st cheating single"
       "2nd cheater"
        "Right Cheat"
        "Right Cheat"
        (from mound)
         "Left Cheat"
        "Left Cheat"
        (from mound)
   "complex cheater"
       "tune-up drill"
      "zig" side heel
       "tune-up drill"
      "zag" side heel
      "up hill angles"
      (identified pile)
      "down angles"
      "larger up hill"
          (pile drill)
     "Down the Road"
   "Down the Levee"

        (right to left) 
      "up the cover"

           (in lines)
   "Down the Levee"
        (left to right)

   "4 down the shore"
    (levee with water)
    "Down the Shore"

         Next are two transition drills - Evan's Four Phase Drills & Definitive Casting Drills (diversion skills)

    "Four Phase Drill"
    (establish the pile)
         "FPD - A"
    (behind the gun)
         "FPD - B"
      (past old fall)
            "FPD C"
      (under the arc)
       "FPD D"
  (through old fall)
  "Definitive Casting"
       "DC middle"
   "DC (near finish)"
  "Definitive Casting"
    "parallel swim"
   (goose diversion)
  "Definitive Casting"
    (water variation)
  Definitive Casting
   #6 - poison flyer
 blind (shot en route)

                                                           poison bird blinds and anti-flaring drills


         "Poison Bird"
        "Poison Bird"
      "Poison Bird"
     "Poison Bird"
(under the arc blind)
  "field trial blind"
        "No No Mound"
       "No No Mound"
   "2nd longer drill"
                       updated 01/31/15