Lately both Elsa and I have been working on our dogs’ eagerness. You probably recognize how easily a dog one day (seemingly suddenly) is far too eager to get to a certain task. In the worst case it will become completely blocked and because of this doesn’t hear what we really say but rather “knows itself” (although it does the wrong thing). Or it makes a sound. That deadly sin. Whining. It’s so unbelievably easy to get your dog just a fraction too eager and then there’s that whining. Many will agree that whining is extremely hard to eliminate, but we claim it can usually be done. At least if you haven’t let your dog practice it for too long and too often!
Elsa’s Diesel has always been silent during hunts. Well almost always. Because there is the case of water. Diesel finds it extremely difficult to watch other dogs do water work. Elsa has tried working on it by massaging Diesel and conditioning a word for calmness, by going away from the water if she whines and staying farther away from the water. It has improved things but not all the way. Now she has finally found the key to help Diesel and to get some other feelings into her when she is by water. It has also given her something else to focus on no matter how interesting the water in front of her is. When doing water work Elsa puts out a close blind containing some treats or a ball behind Diesel before the work begins. When the other dog gets its mark and enters the water, Diesel can start hunting the area. Over time Elsa lengthens the time Diesel has to sit calmly and quietly at her side before she gets her treat. My Tassla has just turned one and we’ve been training a lot of obedience during the winter. The gundog training has more or less been on hold for now. The last month we’ve been picking it up again and in this short time Tassla has become really excited about hunting. She’s starting to show she has another gear (presumably more than one but she already has a lovely force to her) and she finds the hunt SUPER FUN. And what inevitably followed? That’s right, whining.
The noises come at the beginning of the training session when she’s very excited and realizes we’re going to be gundog training. My method for handling this has so far been to NEVER let her work while she makes sounds. That would be showing her the green light and saying “as reward for being noisy you get to do the fun stuff you crave”. Instead I sit down and take a break. After a while she calms down and I prefer for her to voluntarily lie down but sitting relatively calmly is okay as well. As long as she’s silent. Only after this will the training begin. This is my short-term solution. For the long term I’ve restarted my coffee training from last fall and take my backpack outside and sit down for a cup of coffee while Tassla gets to lie beside me and enjoy the spring greenery. 😉 The backpack is a BIG signal for Tassla that means TRAINING which means SUPER FUN. So I’m trying to offset her eagerness. When I do this I always let her blow off some steam by running around freely for a while and relieving herself or she gets to walk around for a good while first. I think it would be mean to try and train such a young dog to be relaxed if she hasn’t had the chance to burn off some energy first.
Another way of training a dog to contain its eagerness is what Elsa has been doing lately. It’s about Diesel really listening to what Elsa is saying. Both Diesel and Tassla are quick thinkers and are pretty quick to believe they know what it is they’re supposed to do. They can take off on their own! But they’re not always right – believe it or not… 😉 And we want them to always listen to us, not just sometimes. An example of this type of training is that Elsa needs to be able to send Diesel on several blind retrieves when she’s just seen a mark fall in the other direction. After a while Diesel figured out that first you get the blind, then you get to go after the mark – meaning that the second blind went askew, being pulled toward the mark. The solution is quite simply to never let her succeed when she herself has figured out what she thinks she should do, instead really teaching her that it pays off to just listen to Elsa. And not getting stuck on a pattern, of course – like blind first, then mark – but to vary it so sometimes you go blind, blind, mark, sometimes blind, heel, blind and let another dog fetch the mark and so on.
How do you work on your dog’s (over-)eagerness for certain things?