Posts Tagged ‘obedience’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYour questions, my answers, such as they are:

Q: What is the best method to convince your children to not undo your dog’s training? Every bit of progress seems to be undone, for instance, by the kid’s uncontrollable urge to play tug of war with the dog, etc.

A: Train your kids too. Get them to help in your training and it might have more relevance to them. They’ll have to deal with their misdeeds.

Q: Is it easier for a dog to understand two commands “sit” and “stay” or is it easier to teach a single command for sit and stay by just saying sit or in spaniel circles hup?

A: I like to keep it simple. A dog should obey the command until released or given another command. When he “sits,” he sits, until told to do something else.

Q: Scott, I live in the big city and own a young GSP. What do you think is the best way for me to keep my dog in shape for hunting? Not only physically but also her bird finding skills?

A: Running alongside your bike (attached via a rig like the “Springer”) would be good for physical conditioning. Even a small backyard can be used for fundamental bird contact, especially combined with a long drive once a week to a spot where you can let your dog stretch out and find birds in a more natural setting.

Q: Is it OK to “rough house” with my dog while playing with him or does that hurt his discipline?

A: I do it occasionally, but not as often as I used to. I’m becoming a believer in “pecking order,” and that requires discipline on the human’s part as well as the dog’s. A dog that learns he can “play fight” with you is one step away from jockeying for the position of top dog.

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You want me to HOLD it, too?

Buddy: "Hold it!"

Once Buddy is solid on retrieving and holding a bird or bumper, it will be a matter of extending that hold indefinitely. Again, this is critical in almost every hunt test or field trial situation but more importantly in the field. Wing-clipped birds are highly motivated to scoot away given the chance, when a dog puts it down before the handler has his hands on it.

So, how have Buddy and I worked through this? Well, we are making progress. And as I said in an earlier post, it’s often more a test of my will than Buddy’s.

I have to resist giving the release command too soon, trying to pre-empt Buddy from a dropped bird. If he beats me, I give it back without repeating the retrieve command.

He’s to the point where when he drops early, a stink-eye look from me is enough to clue him into picking up again. I move away to encourage the pickup and a completed retrieve.

When Buddy is holding well, it’s my job to help by minimizing distractions or confusion. Confusion comes in many forms: leaning forward, premature praise (even reaching into the pocket I hide treats in), reaching for the bird, extending a hand, even if to praise with a stroke.

Instead, I’m using gestures to encourage holding, and distract Buddy from releasing until he hears that command. I will back up slowly, so he never knows when the retrieve is actually completed. I stand up straight, show empty hands (no treats, keep your mouth closed on the bird). I’ll wave one hand high to keep his head up (encourages holding). The other hand is ready below Buddy’s mouth for a surprise “thanks” when he least expects it.

I know professional dog trainers have other techniques, from toe pinch to e-collar “stimulation,” but I’m inclined to distance a bird in the mouth from any pain, emotional or physical

To this point, the jury’s still out. We’re getting closer by the day and that’s pretty good for us.

How about you? Especially when it’s time to “just add water,” and get a dog to hold once he’s emerged from a pond. Any suggestions?

Hey, some great shorthair-Lab tag team work at this excerpt from my show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSQ5OyCCjW4

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Buddy, before training got serious

Even this little guy could use a "cushion" in his retrieves

One of the many challenges in teaching Buddy to retrieve is holding the bird until told to release. I use “thanks” for the release command, just a quirk, but it works. I also use “get it” rather than “fetch” just because. So sue me.

Anyway, getting back to the task at hand (or paw): Buddy is reliably steady to wing-flush-shot-fall. He’ll even bring virtually everything almost all the way back to me most of the time. Birds are a bit of a challenge because they’re odd-shaped and still alive and kicking, literally. But he’s just … about … there. Mostly. I hope.

To get us across the finish line, I’m adding a buffer, or cushion, literally, at the end of each retrieve.

Many trainers suggest running away from the dog as he returns with the bird, sparking the “chase” instinct. I see it as extending the “buffer” between handler and dog indefinitely. It works but eventually you’ll have to quit as field trial and hunt test judges will mark you down once they stop laughing.

I’ve added my own twist on this strategy and it’s a helpful transitory step: I’ll run away, but let Buddy gradually catch up. As he gains ground, I reverse field, quickly close on him and grab the bird while giving the release command. The cushion has disappeared immediately, surprised Buddy, and he doesn’t have time to drop the bird prematurely.

Or, I’ll face him, slowly backing up (stretching the cushion) so he is encouraged to continue his approach (much like running away), but with a “soft” stop. I watch him carefully and if I see any hint of premature release, I’ll back up faster.

The real epiphany for me, though was using the whoa table in a new way. Most of our introductory lessons take place here. Buddy knows when he’s on the table, we’re all business. Sending him on a retrieve from the table, he knows to return to the table.

When he comes back, I’ve moved a couple feet away from the table and he’s forced to stop short of me. And, he can’t put the bird down because he’s at the edge of the table and it would fall further than he’s willing to reach to pick up again. Yet another “cushion.”

Once he’s stopped and holding, we’re on to a longer hold. This is more a test of my will than Buddy’s, and I’ll talk about that soon.

Hey, here’s an excerpt from one of my shows – watch these shorthairs! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ha0C-Z-okU

Meanwhile, has anybody else had similar “unorthodox” revelations? I’m especially interested in water retrieves as we’re training for a NAVNDA Utility test and it’s a big and complex part of that challenge.

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