Background: I live in the boonies with no training group within 4 hours drive, so I train alone with hubby as bird boy. Have trained my dog up through almost swim-by using the Lardy sequence. Dog has been duck hunting several times. Dog can do doubles up to 300 yds in tough cover and water with fairly tight angles.
SO, I signed us up for our first Derby. Result: OUT IN THE FIRST SERIES
Why? Never trained for the spectacle of the Live Flier Station! Not talking about a live bird flying up, getting shot and getting retrieved - we did lots of that in training. I'm talking about this:
1st gun station is way off in the distance with one white jacket who sits down after throw and is kind of obscured in the terrain. 2nd station is the closer to us live flier with 3 very visible guys in white jackets with two shotguns and a big yellow crate of live birds. Dog watched both birds go down, was sent for the flier. Got distracted by the great stuff at the station on way to bird. Got bird and came back in. Received her on the memory bird side and lined her up. WOULD NOT STOP STARING AT THE FLIER STATION. Finally sent her for the memory and she went straight back to the cool guys with the guns and birds.
Lesson 1: Train with a giant live flier station in the field and practice sending dog past it for the long memory bird.
Lesson 2: Handling: if you have a two sided dog:
Have dog on side that memory bird on on. Line dog straight at the memory bird and stare it down for as long as possible after bird is thrown to ingrain it in memory. Then swing to watch flier go down.
What I did: had dog on the flier go bird side lined up to look between both stations. Once the 3 guys in white jackets started moving, she stopped looking at the memory bird and quickly lost interest in it all together. When she came back from go bird, she had no reference for lining to memory bird on my left side, because she had been on my right side lined for the middle of field.
ALL IN ALL: So glad we didi it! I never would have learned those things on my own and would have wasted time waiting to run til we were "Ready". Reality is we wouldn't have ever been "ready" because you don't know what you don't know til you find out.
Judges were AWESOME!! They offered for us to re-run the memory bird and have the gunner "help"! They were also very genuinely sympathetic to me. Not that I was looking for that, but it was nice!
Other handlers were great, too. They showed me how to do it and talked to me about how to train for it next time. GREAT EXPERIENCE that I could not have gotten without sticking my neck out and giving it a try.