IMG_4485Within both the gun dog society and clicker training there are a lot of special terms that can be difficult to understand. Therefore we’ve gathered the most common ones here, as well as a few that we find useful to know. Let us know if you’re missing something and we’ll add that as well!

Blind retrieve: A retrieve where the dog doesn’t know where the object is located and only you know in which direction to send the dog. You need to be able to send the dog straight, left, right, and back. We differentiate between blind retrieves, “seen” or memory retrieves. A memory retrieve means the dog has seen where the object is located, but time has passed before she is allowed to retrieve it.

Building value: Generously rewarding the dog for a particular behavior makes it more enjoyable for the dog to perform. The behavior, in simple terms, becomes valuable to the dog.

Capturing a behavior: When the dog spontaneously offers a behavior we want, we take the opportunity to reward it. Sitting is an example of a behavior that is usually extremely easy to capture.

Casting: Refers to the act of sending the dog on a retrieve and then re-directing her at a distance.

Classical conditioning: A theory of learning related to emotions, reflexes and involuntary responses – behaviors the dog is unable to control herself. The dog learns to connect a reflex with a stimulus. Also called respondent or Pavlovian conditioning.

Clickerwise: When the dog has learned that the click means, ”you’re right” and then offers the same behavior that she just received the click for, and that a lack of click means, “try again or change something”.

Clicking: When we write the word “click” we always mean click (or mark the correct behavior in some other way) and reward the dog.

Cold game: Game that is cold when it’s retrieved, in other words not recently shot. Sometimes it has also been frozen and defrosted for the trial or training.

Conditioning: Means the same thing as learning (see Learning).

Contaminated ground: Ground where one or more people and possibly dogs have previously walked and consequently spread a lot of scents.

Criterion: What the dog needs to do in order to get her reward.

Dummy: A cloth bag filled with plastic pellets or sawdust used for training purposes and sometimes during competition to replicate game. Dummies are easier to handle and store than game. They come in a variety of sizes, ranging from 0.05 lbs up to several pounds. The most common weights we use are 0.5, 1, and 1.3 lbs.

External reward: A reward the dog has seen you place somewhere and that she is allowed to run and take when you release her with the cue “go ahead”.

Fluency: The behavior is almost automatic and occurs without the dog thinking about it. A fluent behavior also has a very short latency (see Latency) and is performed with speed and precision every time. Fluency can be measured as the number of repetitions of a behavior a dog can perform in a certain time period, such as a minute.

Flushing: When a dog flushes, she hunts the game and drives it from its cover. This can be a bird or other animal, such as a rabbit. When the dog has flushed the game, she stops on the spot to avoid the risk of being hit by a possible shot. Then the dog retrieves the shot game on cue. This only applies to spaniels (as well as pointers, setters and other HPR dogs, but in that case flushing is an undesirable behavior).

Foundation skills: One part of a skill set. The various foundation skills are then combined into complete skill sets. Køste and Egtvedt (2008) compare the foundation skills with letters that are combined into words (sub goals) and sentences (completed skill sets).

Generalizing or distraction training: We teach the dog to perform the behavior in various environments and in spite of distractions such as toys, people, gunfire, or other dogs.

Hand targeting: The dog puts her nose against the palm of your hand. In other words, your hand is the target.

Holding an area: A small area where the dog hunts for an object or game.

Latency: The time it takes from when the dog has finished her reward until she offers the behavior again.

Learning: Experiences that influence a behavior and thereby changes it. Divided into classical and operant learning (also see Classic conditioning and Operant conditioning).

Warm game: Game that is shot and retrieved during a field trial, a shoot (in Britain), or a hunt (in the US).

Marked retrieve: Both you and the dog know where the object is because you have seen it fall. The most common are single marked retrieves, but in more advanced stakes there are also double and triple marks. A double mark consists of two falling marks before you cast the dog. The dog must retrieve one, bring it back, and then the other one. She shouldn’t try to take both of them at the same time or swap from the first one to the second – she has to bring the first object to you first.

Negative punishment: Something the dog wants disappears, which decreases the likelihood a certain behavior will be repeated. For example, we pick up the mark if the dog runs in.

Negative reinforcement: Something unpleasant disappears, which means the likelihood of a certain behavior being repeated increases. An example is a force fetch, where the handler pinches the dog’s ear until she takes the retrieve article. When the dog takes the object, the pain disappears.

Official trial: Results from official field trials are recorded in the official dog register, most often with the Kennel Club.

Operant conditioning: All the behaviors a dog can choose to perform or not. Always followed by a consequence that might be pleasant or unpleasant for the dog.

Positive punishment: Something unpleasant is added which decreases the likelihood a certain behavior will be repeated. For example, the dog pulls on the leash, the handler jerks on the leash and the dog stops pulling.

Positive reinforcement: Something pleasant is added which increases the likelihood a certain behavior will be repeated. For example, the dog sits and we give her a treat or start playing with her.

Proofing: We teach the dog to do more than what is necessary, such as training with more challenging distractions than what are likely to occur during field trials. It makes behaviors easier to perform regardless of what else is happening in the surroundings.

Punishment: Something that decreases the likelihood of a certain behavior.

Quartering: A term used to describe the pattern a spaniel runs when hunting with her handler.

Reinforcement: Something that increases the likelihood of a certain behavior.

Reinforcing: The dog is rewarded for a particular behavior, which leads to a desire to repeat the behavior. If we intend to reward a behavior, it’s important the dog really perceives it as a reward. Otherwise we haven’t reinforced the behavior.

Release cue: Refers to the signal that allows the dog to leave her position to continue working with us. We cue “free” when the dog should come out of her crate or when she may get up from a sitting position.

Reliable behavior: We say a behavior is reliable when the dog is correct more than 95 percent of the time.

Reverse luring: The dog controls herself and abstains from something she really wants in order to receive her reward. Often we show the dog a treat in our open palm when she behaves correctly and then close the hand if she tries to take the treat.

Running a line: A specific term relating to walked-up shooting where a dog runs up the line of guns until she hits shot scent, blood scent, or is halted with a stop whistle and instructed to hunt.

Run in: The dog tries to go for a retrieve without you giving her a cue.

Shaping: Gradually building the behavior we want by rewarding the dog for every step in the right direction.

Shaping-wise: Means almost the same as clicker-wise (see Clicker-wise). The dog has learned the rules of the game and is always trying a little more without giving up so that we can gradually shape new behaviors.

Stimulus control: The dog offers the desired behavior on cue. If you cue “sit”, the dog sits and does nothing else, such as lying down. The cue can be a word, a whistle, a hand gesture, or something else in the environment. The cue is anything the dog observes that she has learnt to associate with performing a certain behavior.

Strategic reward placement: We place rewards in a well thought out manner that either reinforces the position the dog is in, facilitates the start of the next repetition, or makes the dog anticipate going in a particular direction.

Sweeping up: A retriever specific work where the dog freely hunts in an area where neither you nor the dog knows where the object is. In some countries this is part of the field trial for retrievers, whereas in others it’s something that is done by dogs not under judging any more, or just after a hunt to make sure all game is found.

Target: Quite simply whatever the dog should touch with some part of her body, such as a paw, nose, or butt.

Unofficial trials: The results from unofficial trials are not reported to an official register and are not visible anywhere else besides the organizer’s records.


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