+46 70-300 80 99 (weekdays 9 am - 6 pm GMT+2) info@retrievingforalloccasions.com

“Be a splitter not a lumper”. A pithy saying by Bob Bailey , so established in the world we might call the “clicker world” that we can say to one another “Oh my, I think I have become a lumper!” or “I don’t want to lump behavior that way”. And everyone will know what you mean.

To divide a skill such as the retrieve and work on the small parts separately, increases the chance of getting a strong finished behavior since all the separate parts will be strong. You could also phrase it like this: No chain is stronger than its weakest link. If the delivery is the part of the retrieve that isn’t quite working, we’ll break it out of the chain and train it separately.

The opposite of splitting is merging all the parts and doing everything at the same time, referred to as lumping. So, though my deliveries suck, I’ll train the whole retrieve over and over again. And, as you know, the dog is constantly learning – so in this way she learns to make bad deliveries. Thus:

“Be a splitter not a lumper”.

So, why am I suddenly writing about this, which to so many people is an obvious basic principle of clicker training? Well, because of course I am becoming lumper. 😉

Of course, there are different degrees of how bad this can be 😉 and a great many of you would probably say that it’s not so bad, but if I look at myself as a trainer over the years, I have become a careless. Of course, I can’t blame anyone but myself, but I’ll try to anyway, hahaha! (note! joke! Naturally, I’m not blaming anyone else!) But since I took up hunting training in earnest, I’ve found myself in so many circumstances where people are lumping like there’s no tomorrow. It’s like I’ve been infected. Don’t get me wrong now. I’m learning a ton in these contexts and wouldn’t want to be without them. But I’m also “un-learning” a little also when it comes to certain things and lumping is such a thing. I have to keep an eye on myself when it comes to this because I LIKE and BELIEVE in splitting behaviors into smaller parts. Training becomes so much more efficient! So, here’s a promise to myself: I will be better at always taking a second look at what I’m working on and check if I’m lumping.

I’m starting today. And a new little thought that I’m having is surfacing. I’ll begin to approach Quling’s “I feel pressured-behavior” with these eyes. I think I’ve been lumping when it comes to introducing “group training” to Quling. Last fall, Quling couldn’t even tolerate a friend watching or throwing dummies for him, without feeling pressured and either wanting to escape or go and hide. Several people with dogs was not even on the radar. We’ve now come as far as him handling a couple of people with dogs without problems. But from that, I’ve gone to entering group trainings with at least four people, while we’ve also been in a new environment with shots and throws, and maybe people using a loud voice with their dogs. Oops! Here
I raised criteria and merged all the difficulties at the same time, thinking that it would work. It didn’t. A plan of this kind perhaps would have been more reasonable:

  1. Be able to work with self-confidence, speed and joy together with a dog and a person in a new place.
  2. Be able to work with self-confidence, speed and joy together with two people and dogs in a new place.
  3. Be able to work with self-confidence, speed and joy together with two people and dogs, with distractions such as shot or game scent, in a familiar environment.
  4. Be able to work with self-confidence, speed and joy together with three people, with distractions, in a familiar place.
  5. Be able to work with self-confidence, speed and joy together with three people, with distractions, in a new place.
  6. Be able to work with self-confidence, speed and joy with more than three people but no more than seven, who are placed at somewhat of a distance, in a familiar place.
  7. Be able to work with self-confidence, speed and joy with a group of at least five teams, in group formation, in a familiar place.
  8. Be able to work with self-confidence, speed and joy with a group of at least five teams, with distractions, in a group formation, in a familiar place.
  9. B able to work with self-confidence, speed and joy with a group of at least five teams, with distractions, in a group formation, in a new place. Someone can get to raise their voice to a bush too. 😉

The last step contains all the parts that Quling can react badly too. But I’ve added one thing at a time.

Yes this is also a criteria plan – a plan for how I’ll slowly increase the challenges and the “requirements” (the criteria). But it helps me to think about Quling’s “pressured behavior” as something that should be treated as any training: It will be better training if I split and not lump. 🙂

PS: The beautiful photos are taken by Christina Sepulveda. DS



Retrieving for All Occasions - Foundations for Excellence in Gun Dog Training
Retrieving for All Occasions - Foundations for Excellence in Gun Dog Training

%d bloggers like this: