We have come to the last challenge! It has been great to follow your training!
If you have a spaniel or a retriever, you probably can’t devote too much time at working on the dog showing steadiness in the sit, and for quite some time. The retriever mostly sits around (haha, just joking, but there is a lot of sitting around waiting (and heeling)) in the retriever work, and a great many people find this very challenging. A spaniel should also be able to hold a sit regardless of the distractions. Not least, of course, after flushing, where the dog should just flush the game and then sit still. At a spaniel field trial, the dog may just have been hunting really intensely and then something happens that makes everyone stop and wait, and the dog has to just sit around and watch for ten minutes. Very challenging!
So, I try to make steadiness a natural part of everyday life and training. and always include sitting and waiting. In different places and with varying duration.
I proof the steadiness with games where the dog must actively ignore the distraction and just sit there to get its reward. But you also need to teach your dog to hold the sit when absolutely nothing is happening, so that the behavior doesn’t just occur in the face of a lot of distractions. But watching a video where a dog simply sits around waiting for five minutes isn’t that much fun, so you’ll get to see the exercise with lots of distractions.
Quling will get to demonstrate a few games that I taught him as a puppy. But I always like going back to basics, so we do repeat some of these exercises every now and then. Actually, all the exercises I’m showing here are for teaching the stop at the flush. But my retriever friends / colleagues / students tend to love to do them too, since they need to have dogs that sit very steadily whatever happens. It might make sense to let a retriever be on the loose, but learn to stop at the throw as Quling shows in the video. Then you can move on to working on it when the dog is sitting.
When 25 pheasants or so flushes, first just a few and then a few more and then even more, it is a cue for Tassla to hold her sit. The behavior of sitting as a great many birds take off has been so heavily reinforced – and I also think she finds watching them exciting – that I actually think it’s easier for her to hold her sit when there a lot of birds than if just the one bird flushes. 😉
We managed to get it on film once, although Tassla first went after the birds and I had to shout to interrupt her. She then went on to do the right thing and sat still despite very erratic, low flying birds that also landed within sight on the other side of the pasture. I chose to reward that. However, I then had to focus the training on her not running that first bit before stopping. But that is for a completely different blog post. 🙂
We’ve now covered “7 things to work on when the weather is bad”. Within the next few days there will be a small bonus for those of you who have joined us during the challenge. Keep an eye on the blog. 🙂
AND if you feel inspired to go train, then you HAVE to upload a video or photo of your training in the comments section. 🙂