12 24 05 559 W - + 98 - 77


When my group trains, we try to simulate competition conditions - holding blind, mat, etc.

First, I decide where I want the dog to be when he sits on the mat and how I want the dog oriented on the mat. In most set ups, there is an advantage to being on the right or left side of the mat (to one side or another of cover up close, a pile of logs, etc.).

Second, I look for markers up close to help me orient the dog. That is, I look for a couple of rocks, a couple of weeds, something that is noticeable no more than five feet from the mat. When I come to line, with my dog, it is those markers I am going to use to insure my dog is properly aligned. I am not going to look from the dog to the blind (or bird on a mark) and back again. Instead, I am looking at my close in land marks for orientation.

Third, I then look for the best path from holding blind to the mat. Where is the poison bird gunner? Where is the long gun? Where is the flyer? Do I want the dog to see them or not? On marks, I want my dog to focus on the long retired gun, not the flyer. So I will come out of the holding blind in the direction that affords my dog the best opportunity to see that gun and focus upon it.

Fourth, the tempo at which I leave the holding blind depends on the dog. With a high dog, I come to the line slow. With a lethargic dog, I would come to the line faster.

Fifth, as I come to the line, I am looking for my close in markers. If possible, I want my last three strides to be moving in a straight line to my markers, so that when the dog sits, I have little or no major adjustments in head and spine to make.

Sixth, yes, I do want head and spine aligned together. However, not at the cost of loss of concentration. I have a saying that I apply to life and competition - the perfect is the enemy of the good. Sometimes, when we insist on perfection, we lose good, and get bad. If you fuss too much on the line, you cause your dog to worry and tie the dog up in knots. You want your dog to be under control, but relaxed. Consequently, I will settle for less than perfect alignment, if I think the dog is focused in the direction I want and any change will cause the dog to lose its focus.

Seventh, if I need to make major alignments on the mat, I will tap my hand and move away from the dog to pull, and I will step forward with my outside leg to get push. For smaller adjustments, I put my hand down and motion my fingers in or out to get the dog’s head to move subtly in the direction I want. When the dog has it, I freeze my hand, and say "good." At that point, I either kick the dog off on a blind, or call for the birds on a set of marks.

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