When going through my notes I found some interesting ones from a seminar I attended several years ago and thought I would share it with you.
We’ve had our second gathering of the foundation class for Spaniels with Catharina Fahlberg. Remind me to never ever plan to have classes outside in the middle of winter again… Oh dear, it’s really taxing to try and train and think for hours in the cold weather we’re having right now. So much energy to simply keep warm – you actually feel like you’re a bit on the stupid side…
But besides the cold, we naturally had a very nice day where we got lots of work done. This time I had brought Totte who was happy to be working in all the exercises.
Last time our focus was on the different whistles (cues) and hunting. This time we focused on the stop signal and steadiness, before moving on to deliveries, blind retrieves and the skill of holding an area.
(If you want to see videos or photos of the different parts of the gun dog work, click here.) We also did an exercise in order to really figure out which rewards our dogs like. We got to try rewarding the dogs using only our voices for 30 seconds, then rewarding them by patting them and then through play.
We then analyzed the results. What does my dog enjoy? A great many trainers truly believe that their dogs like the reward they are using – when in fact it’s the trainer that likes the reward the most. Something worth considering!
Since this is a foundation class, we get a lot of great input regarding clever foundation exercises. You can never have too many of those. As Elsa wrote in the blog a while back: As soon as you run in to problems, go back to basics.
I really liked the foundation exercise for the blind retrieve that Catta showed us. We used small cones that we put treats on top of and let the dog go there to get the treat.
The dog only had to move a foot or so from the beginning, but we gradually increased the distance. Since Totte and I had trained for the Swedish obedience exercise ”the square” (a send out), he had some experience with running straight away from me. I could advance in the exercise quite quickly and soon reached about 30 yards. He ran at good speed in both directions after I had made sure to reward him well for the return as well. It was great fun!
It’s common to work on the blind retrieve using food bowls first, but Catta suggests using props that are a bit higher up, making the dog think ”nose up” instead of down. She doesn’t want to risk the dog losing itself in hunting instead; she wants the dog to run on straight ahead until she blows the stop whistle or until the dog hits a dummy. Good thinking!
We then got a bit more of a challenge, mixing two dummies into the game: one as a distraction and one to get on a blind/memory retrieve. The trainer first dropped the first dummy and then took the dog and walked away on a straight line from that dummy. Then the trainer stopped, threw the second dummy ahead (away from the first one) and then turned towards the first dummy, took a few steps towards it and as the dog focused ahead, it was sent on the blind/memory retrieve. Are you following me?
After all of this and yet more, we were all quite tired. It was great fun to see how much the different teams had advanced since the last time we met and now we all just need to keep working. ”I have a lot to think about and work on”, as Lisbeth said, just before we all left. Just the way one should feel after a seminar, in other words!