The 2-Minute dog trainer, retrieves

Bud and I spent 4 hours yesterday morning in the parking lot of a local Tractor Supply store, talking to people about dog training and handing out our brochures.

Things started out slowly. Then, in an effort to get Hazard into the warm sun, I set her sherpa bag on the table and let Hazard curl up with her face to the crowd.

From that moment on we were mobbed by people and kids. Note to self — if you want to draw attention put a dog in a box where people can see her. <g>

We took 3 dogs and all of them had a great time.  Hazard got all sorts of petting and attention. She came out of her sherpa bag for kids and, as soon as they were done with her, whirled around and darted back into her safe zone.

Dash, my 9-year-old aussie, slept for the first hour on the back seat of the Tahoe. Then, when he heard a pack of kids, he hopped out and made the rounds. His next few hours were filled with schmoozing and butt scratches, occasionally returning to the comfy interior of the truck. Dash had some bad experiences with kids in the past, so I’m pleased to see that he’s finally feeling more confident around them. Perhaps it was the knowledge that he could always retreat to the truck that enabled him to be so brave and outgoing.

Kory, Bud’s BC youngster, spent much of his time lying quietly in a crate in the back of the truck. Bud got him out often for some walks and retrieval work, and Kory got his share of attention from the kids.

When we’re working with a young dog I always keep a mental post-it-note of “what is most important for him to learn today.” This is part of the 2-minute dog trainer philosophy, by the way, that each interaction with a dog is a learning experience for that dog as well as for us.

Kory’s most important lesson yesterday, and his biggest success, was to stay in the crate with us nearby and to refrain from tearing up his bedding.

He also got to work on retrieving with Bud though I must say, proudly, that Dash is the retrieving king in our house.

When my first competition dog, Banner (now nearly 14 years old) was beginning her obedience career I was learning about positive reinforcement training methods. She learned to heel using Dawn Jecs “choose to heel” methods, eating treats and working without a choke or prong collar.

My training path separated from the AKC obedience club with which I was training and Banner earned her CD without much assistance or support from our instructors. I was determined to find another way than the one I’d seen at our weekly training sessions.

I taught my old girl, Banner, to retrieve 13 years ago using Sue Sternberg’s Inducive Retrieve method. A friend gave me a little brochure containing Sue’s typed instructions and her hand-drawn illustrations. Sue has since created a new brochure which is much fancier than the original photocopied version, with pictures instead of drawings, available at http://www.greatdogproductions.com/ppp/images/InduciveRetrieve.jpg

During the time I was training Banner to retrieve my club’s training followed one of two paths — the ear pinch or the collar twist. In our open class our instructor began dumbell work with “hold, hold, hold,” fingers clamped over the dog’s mouth.

Having taken ownership of my dog’s training in novice class I felt comfortable taking a separate path in open as well. I read Sue’s brochure and began training in little 5-minute increments at home.

In class, while everyone else was learning how to force the dumbell into their dog’s mouth, Banner and I went into a corner where we worked on the inducive retrieve.

At the end of 8 weeks my classmates were able to have their dog sitting in heel position holding the dumbell, mostly. Banner, on the other hand, could fetch the dumbell and return to front, holding the dumbell, giving it to me.

It was shocking to my instructors. Their response was the same tired response we hear today when we train with rewards instead of punishment, “what do you do if she refuses to pick up the dumbell?”

My response was, “she’s never refused to pick it up!   Why would she?  She is constantly rewarded for returning the dumbell to me, so the toughest part of the exercise is staying by me while the dumbell is tossed.”

At a monthly meeting the club asked for a demonstration of the method and I decided to make it a real test of inducive over forced retrieve. If their real question had to do with my response to a refusal, I needed to demonstrate that a refusal wasn’t likely, and that a refusal was a result of confusion, not willful disobedience, and should be met with encouragement, not force.

At the outdoor picnic meeting I turned a very excited Banner (I was, afterall, holding her dumbell!) away from the group and had a friend hide her dumbell near a member’s feet, under a table. I turned Banner back toward the crowd and told her “take it!”

Banner ran away from me and searched for the dumbell. She didn’t stop for petting, attention, or food. She searched and searched, occasionally looking back to make sure I was still waiting for her. I kept smiling and encouraging her.

After about 90 seconds of searching she dived onto her dumbell and ran as fast as she could back to me. It was the first time I got that thrill of having a demo dog do exactly what was expected. <g>  My first “I told you so” moment.

Jaws dropped. I hadn’t repeated the command, hadn’t restarted my dog, had just given her encouragement and continued smiling at her. Her drive to find the dumbell was created by the rewards I’d been giving her for bringing it back to me.

Bud and Kory have been working on a play retrieve so yesterday, in the tractor supply parking lot, I encouraged Bud to go to the inducive foundation work.

Within 30 minutes Kory was not only chasing the dumbell, but picking it up and returning to Bud with it. I doubt if Bud will ever want an obedience retrieve, he just wants a fetch for agility training, so there was no real need for the front-and-give dumbell work.

But I’m thinking that, with the foundation training being put in place, an obedience retrieve isn’t far off for this youngster, if either of us are so inclined.

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