Water retrieves

Doc and Mia wait to be sent out for a bumper.

Doc and Mia wait to be sent out for a bumper.

With my little pond now full of water, it was a good opportunity to take the guys out for a little refresher training on water retrieves. Both the dogs and I were a little rusty on the obedience part of it, but it’s still early and there’s a whole summer ahead of us.

Mia returns with a bumper.

Mia returns with a bumper.

I took them out two at a time: Doc and Mia, Sophie and Elvis, and finally Dakota by herself. Since the Labs no longer hunt, for them it was just retrieving for fun with no training involved.

 

Doc returns with a bumper.

Doc returns with a bumper.

Mia takes the easy way out as she and Doc retrieve.

Mia takes the easy way out as she and Doc retrieve.

Retrieving is not everything as Mia and Doc go on point with my pigeons.

Retrieving is not everything as Mia and Doc go on point with my pigeons.

Sophie retrieves a bumper.

Sophie retrieves a bumper.

Elvis swims out for a bumper.

Elvis swims out for a bumper.

Elvis crawls up the bank with a bumper. Other than the pond's inlet and outlet, I left the banks of the pond vertical.

Elvis crawls up the bank with a bumper. Other than the pond’s inlet and outlet, I left the banks of the pond vertical.

At the ate of 10, Dakota can still catch serious air.

At the ate of 10, Dakota can still catch serious air.

As usual, Dakota enters the water headfirst.

As usual, Dakota enters the water headfirst.

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Bumper piles

Diagram of Doc and Mia's retriever drills, after training I let them race each other to retrieve the 2 middle bumpers

Diagram of Doc and Mia’s retriever drills, after training I let them race each other to retrieve the 2 middle bumpers

After letting everyone run in the pasture for awhile, I worked with Doc and Mia on their retrieving and both showed a marked improvement over last week’s session. Both kept decent lines to the bumpers and back.

Doc gallops back with a bumper from the first pile I set for them.

Doc gallops back with a bumper from the first pile I set for them.

Mia trots back with a bumper from the first pile that I set for them.

Mia trots back with a bumper from the first pile that I set for them.

I placed a pile of bumpers about 200 feet out and then alternated Doc and Mia with retrieves until the bumpers were gone.

Mia returns from the second pile of bumpers. She prefers the large green bumper to smaller orange ones I have.

Mia returns from the second pile of bumpers. She prefers the large green bumper to smaller orange ones I have.

Doc runs back with a bumper from the second pile.

Doc runs back with a bumper from the second pile.

I then set another pile of bumpers in the opposite direction: again about 200 feet out, and repeated the drill.

 

Doc took Mia's favorite bumper and leaves her in the dust with a little friendly retrieving competition.

Doc took Mia’s favorite bumper and leaves her in the distance during a little friendly retrieving competition.

Then for fun, I set a couple of bumpers about 150 feet out and sent both Doc and Mia out at the same time so that they raced each other to the bumpers. This generates a little competition, which is good to do from time to time to put a little spark in their training.

Angles

 

The arrows denote Doc and Mia's retrieves, 1-23-15.

The arrows denote Doc and Mia’s retrieves, 1-23-15.

On Friday I continued Doc and Mia’s retriever work with longer retrieves and angles. My goal with the longer retrieves was to get them out of the habit of retrieving bumpers only within throwing distance, so I took advantage of the moderate breeze to draw them further out.

 

Mia finds the bumper about 300 feet out.

Mia finds the bumper about 300 feet out.

In the diagram, bumper “1” was placed at about 250 feet, and both Doc and Mia did very well taking a straight line to it, aided by the wind. I placed bumper “2” about 300 feet out and again both did well taking a line to it.

Doc makes a 300 foot retrieve.

Doc makes a 300 foot retrieve.

Knowing that they use the fence as a reference point, I set four bumpers at an angle to the fence line. In addition to their using the fence line as a reference point, they have also developed a specific pattern for running and hunting in the pasture and I wanted to break that up as well. I placed the bumpers in grass about 150 feet from our starting point, a big step up from the line-of-sight retrieving they’ve been doing.

Mia had trouble taking a line on bumper #4.

Mia had trouble taking a line on bumper #4.

I alternated dogs, giving Mia bumpers “3” and “5”, and Doc bumpers “4” and “6”. I always cast them to the downwind side of the mark so that if they miss it, they can work back up the scent cone.

Doc took a good line on bumper #5

Doc took a good line on bumper #5

With bumper number 3, Mia insisted on taking a straight line to the opposite fence rather than the angle to bumper 3. After recalling and restarting her several times, she took a good line and retrieved it nicely.

Doc did very well with bumper 4, taking a good line and when he overran the bumper, worked back to it, finishing with a nice retrieve.

Mia had trouble taking a line on her last bumper but made a nice retrieve.

Mia had trouble taking a line on her last bumper but made a nice retrieve.

Mia had trouble with bumper #5 and I recalled her half a dozen times before she held a line all the way to the bumper. The trouble was that after running about halfway to the bumper, she’d turn into the wind and return to where the previous bumpers had been placed. I think some of the problem was the urge to hunt into the wind, plus I was sending her in a direction contrary to how they normally hunt. But after a few times of being recalled, reset, and sent out again, she got the idea, held her line and made a nice retrieve.

Doc with his last retrieve, which caused him a lot of trouble.

Doc with his last retrieve, which caused him a lot of trouble.

Doc had a lot of trouble with bumper #6 and I think that his problems were the same as Mia’s only more so. He couldn’t grasp the idea of hunting downwind and in the direction I was sending him; eventually I tossed  a couple of snowballs in the direction of the bumper to give him something to focus on. He finally held a line all the way to the bumper, worked his way back upwind to it, and returned in triumph.

Casting in the snow

Our Sunday plans changed, and the cold front that brought snow also froze the muddy ground, so after letting the dogs run the pasture for a bit, I worked with Mia and Doc on casting. I wanted to focus their training on taking a line putting some distance in their retrieves.

I began with tossing each of them a couple of bumpers just to get their mind on retrieving, then set 3 bumpers with wings attached. For this exercise, I made it a point to let them see me drop the bumpers, and dropped them in plain sight.

I did 2 iterations with each dog, placing the second set of bumpers between where the first set had been placed. By taking this approach, it will gradually increase their distance and allow them to move on to blind retrieves.