A basic skill for blind retrieves – look straight ahead
As you probably have noticed by now we often base our training on small parts – we break everything that we want to teach the dog down to small parts. We teach the dog these parts the best way we know (we want the dog to think by herself as much as possible in the learning process), and then we put the parts together into larger and larger segments, and eventually the dog has learned the final behavior. Blind retrieves consists of many different parts. The dog should be able to:
- Sit quietly by my side
- Look straight ahead to where I point
- Sit by my side even though I point (not run when the dog sees my hand sign)
- Run straight ahead where I point (but only) on my cue
- Continue to run until I blow my stop whistle or run straight to the object
Now I want to describe a really fun exercise for those of you that like shaping. This is how you can teach your dog to have her eyes almost locked straight ahead. (That is what we want the dog to do when we point straight ahead – the dog should look in the direction we point and then run in the same direction on cue). The dog needs to know reversed luring to be able to do this exercise:
- Ask the dog to sit in front of you and use reversed luring.
- Do reversed luring with large gestures.
- You should then start to move so that you first stand next to the dog and finally behind the dog.
- Click if the dog continues to look straight ahead even though you disappear more and more from the dog’s field of vision. The dog should not follow you with her eyes.
- When you stand behind the dog, you can start throwing tidbits over her head so they fall down right in front of her nose. Click after you have thrown the tidbit, so that the dog will hear the click when the tidbit falls down in front of dog’s eyes. This is also an exercise where you can train on your timing.
- Now you can start training with a distraction. You can for example move your arms so that your clothes begin to rustle and so on. The dog should still have her eyes directed straight ahead.
- When your dog can sit and stare straight ahead, you should start to stand next to the dog and lean forward, as if you were going to cast the dog.
- Next step is to place your pointing hand next to the dog’s head (in the beginning not to close to the dog but then closer and closer) and click if the dog looks straight ahead.
When you work with this exercise don’t forget to take a break and let the dog do something else such as playing a little, otherwise it might be difficult for the dog to concentrate on the exercise.
If the dog should “forget herself” during the training and turn her head towards you, just start doing reversed luring again. Sometimes it is very difficult for the dog to continue to look straight ahead when you are not visible anymore – in other words when you stand behind the dog. The dog often likes to follow you with her eyes instead of looking straight ahead even though you have started with reversed luring. If the dog turns her head towards you, or if it seems to be hard for her to look straight ahead, you can use a small target that the dog can look at. It might be a plastic bottle for example. But first you have to teach the dog to look at the target and then move it a few yards away.
NOW it’s time to add all the other fun exercises, which you have taught your dog parallel to this exercise, all with a focus on casting: run straight ahead to a bowl, a target, or a dummy for example. (The latter one only if the dog knows how to deliver to hand.)
If you want to know more about this you can read the chapter “Blind Retrieves” in the book “Retrieving for All Occasions”. Have fun while shaping your dog!