Balancing Blind Momentum

  Over the last several years, the concept of balance in training has always been a focal point. However, pinning it down and actually accomplishing it has become more of a challenge because every dog is different. My last pup seems to have taken forever to "lock" on a line for running blinds. Just "kicking him off" didn't seem to make any progress. Wagon wheels were effective for "wagon wheels", but the carryover was minimal.  Other lining drills were mastered rather quickly, but in the process of working through this, his "leaving" desire was not all that great. Added to that, he seemed a little too laid back about "getting there".

Success and rewards are powerful. Gunny was a little slow to mature and the type of dog that demonstrated more of a need to know "What's in this for me?" To a certain extent, I have often thought this was the residual impact of being a singleton pup.  Recently, the light has gone on.........he is a different dog. 

First of all, I figured the "leaving" part would improve once his motivation kicked in. Secondly, "getting there" would come around when it meant something more special and fun. So the training approach was to focus on those two issues.

What set this in motion was finding a freshly mowed field that was perfect for the introduction of my 3 Ghilly "faux shrub" lining drill. It was angled across a mowed pattern with a strong wind factor. This was to be a variation of what are called gradient blinds (a theme). 

Gunny ran 9 blinds...three from each station.  Each running station was on a line angling away from the 3 Ghilly's (faux shrubs" with bumper piles). Mostly, this was a lining drill to work on Gunny's "look lock". He caught on to the routine rather quickly and had fun with it. I knew we were on the right track.
A long range plan was clarified after running this drill.  I would use specific drills with targets (not white "stuff") to enhance his "looking out". The goal was to enhance his desire and create more balance in his "leaving" and "getting there".
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            "station 1"
         "station 2"
          "station 3"
        "Ghilly Shrub"
        "full setup"

The long range plan was to zero in on the training concept of "doing what the dog needs". A variety of "attractants" were to be used to "draw" his focus. Eventually, the phases would lead to natural attractants......real terrain. At the time, the exact steps were not fully realized.  However, it was fun thinking about "what each would be".

This lining drill was very different, but the basic theme was similar. The idea was to "pull" Gunny away from the line with excitement. Using a long barrier "out there" with narrow slots between full body mallards and geese did the job. Gunny had to "shoot through them" toward
a destination...and he did.


                          "lining drill"
                           (with slots)
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         "decoy barrier"
         "up close"

The setup photo was taken from a small rise beyond. The pile was invisible from the line. It was initially "identified" by throwing a bumper to it from the first line. It wasn't long before he was literally flying between decoys (like they weren't there). The decoys were exciting and the drill was fun.

The next set of drills involved using a "camo" jump as a target "out there" that became an intermediate part of an entire path.  It formed a kind of a suction to look straight ahead. He needed to establish "looking straight ahead" as an expectation (habit). For some reason, a jump has always been an invigorating addition to training (for all my dogs).  Gunny was no exception....for him, the jump was immediately cool.

                                                                              (left click to enlarge thumbnails)

     "jump components"
          "straight on"
      "1st step - here"
      " 2nd step - here"
     (opposite direction)
(first short retrieve)
         (with a target)
          "the return"

The first eight pictures show Gunny's older sister, Daisy, reviewing the process. The following set of photos show Gunny (the pup) learning how to work through the "No-No" concept. He was a quick study.

   (Gunny's correction)
  "Gunny's leaving"
    (after teaching)
     "diggn' the pile"
       (getting there)

Once the idea of "dealing with a barrier" was imprinted, distance was added to the equation. The "distance" drill was simplified by using a previous pattern blind. This sequence of photos reveals the use of stickmen to form an additional "slot" beyond the "camo" jump. When taught via increments, the difficulty of the drill is reduced because of previous "No-No" concept training plus using a familiar path. "Leaving" and "getting there" were what we were working on. Gunny flew through these early sessions with a great deal of excitement and poise (because it was a clear picture and fun).  The mental image "of a line" and the routine of "going" was being solidified.  His high desire in "getting there" was developing quickly.

      "identify the pile"

        "up the slot"
     "adding distance"
       "front of jump"
        "beyond jump"
     "more distance"
       "full 164 yards"
       "Gunny's Up!"

The next step in the "progression of visuals" was to introduce more natural slots and barriers.  The addition of varying "pictures" with related themes was designed to get Gunny focusing on straight ahead destinations. His "leaving" desire improved tremendously because there was more confidence in "getting there" (he wanted to). He now had a vision with motivation which fed "the fire". The idea of white buckets and/or stakes was rejected as too much of a counter-productive crutch.   

Themes will continue to be an ongoing process in setting up cold blinds. Transition is going well and more complex "stuff" is down the road.

In this last session (completed yesterday), he ran a set of three cold blinds. His willingness to accurately respond to whistles (en route...when necessary) indicated a strong desire to know which direction would assist him in "getting there".  Looking closely at the cold blinds, one can actually "picture" the slots and barriers forming a path to each blind. Gunny is "taking better pictures" and "looking out" because what he sees has been enhanced by previous, positive experiences. 

The aggressive pounce on the cold blinds at the finish clearly displayed the joy of "Aha, there you are!" It is similar to the previous photo of Gunny "diggin' the pile" when first introduced to the "camo" jump drill.

It all makes more sense to him. Lately, he has turned into my favorite type of dog. The one that always says, "OK, that was easy. What's next?"                                                    
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                          "blind one"   
              "blind two"
      "blind three"

August will include finishing off the Definitive Casting drills and an introduction to the "No-No" mound.  Gunny likes "leaving" and "getting there".

To start with in September, it will be "real teal" on the Mississippi. 
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                      "No No" Mound
          "No No" Mound
   "2nd longer drill"
update September 2011: Gunny now has his HRC Seasoned and
                    AKC Senior titles. Depending on how his hips hold up HRC
                                 Finished will be his next venture in hunt tests.

                       updated 01/27/14