My students often wonder how much and when to train. I usually share my super tip: training on your walks! Occasionally, I’ll do short training sessions indoors, train with friends for a few hours, attend a seminar or join a hunt for a full day. Although we work on the hunt, there will also be training and I pay close attention to what the dog does and gets reinforced for. Most of the every day training, however, we do on our walks. The reason for this is partly that I am a little dog training obsessed and can’t let go 🤣🙈 , but above all I think it’s beneficial to train a little, get a short break while we walk on, and then stop and train some more in a new environment.
On the walks I vary what we’re working on – I try to have 2-3 different behaviors that I work with in parallel, so the dog doesn’t get stuck in just doing one thing but really pays attention to my signals. The behaviors naturally vary depending on the dog and his skill level, but also depending on our shape for the day (both mine and dog’s 😊 ) and what the dog needs to work on. Before going on the walk, I try to think through what I need to train on and make a quick plan – otherwise we might fall into the trap of only working on what we’re already good at, because that’s fun and always goes well 🤣 (which of course is sometimes needed to build self-confidence).
What I almost always reward on every walk is heeling, keeping track of me and not running out of sight, recalls and the stop whistle. With a puppy, of course, there will be more rewards, while adult dogs that have a higher skill level will work a little more for their rewards. The rewards also vary. I almost always have kibble and a tennis ball with me, but the reward can also be to run on, to get to look for something, to get to go swimming, or to do a behavior that the dog thinks is fun, for example jump up on a stone or a marked retrieve.
Now you’re going to get to join Keen and myself on a regular walk. 😊 On this walk, my goal was to do some repetitions of holding an area with a marked retrieve as distraction, far right or left signals, a blind retrieve to a place he had been to earlier (two months ago) and some marking training with me at a distance. In other words, a little bit of everything.
We always begin with heeling as we leave our property – making sure to get training in on that every day. When he has heeled well for a while, he gets a cue to run as he wants for a while. We go on and after a while I threw some treats on the ground without him noticing it and then I blew my recall whistle. I put him right outside the area where I threw the treats, backed away from him and blew my hunt whistle. Without any distractions, he responded nicely to the hunt whistle. For the next time, I threw more treats on the ground in the same place without him seeing it, put him back just outside the area and threw a marked retrieve to the left of me. When I blew the hunt whistle this time, he looked like a question mark. 🤣 I moved a little closer to him and then it worked. Before we moved on our walk, we did three or four more repetitions, varying between him seeing me throwing the treats and increasing / decreasing the distance between us.
While Keen ran around and did doggy things, I threw a dummy in an area where he’s seen me place a dummy last time we trained there. He then got to heel while we walked away about 100 yards and over a stone wall to place a dummy. When we returned, I first sent him to the dummy he didn’t know about. Then I casted him there again, blew a stop whistle and directed him to the right to retrieve the one he’d joined me in placing there.
When he’d retrieved that one, we walked on and after a while I blew a stop whistle and threw a marked retrieve next to me. When he’d been steady for a while, I sent him to retrieve it. He was a bit interested in switching between the dummies that lay on a stone block a short distance from us, so we did five or six repetitions of rewarding quickly taking the first one and bringing it to me.
The last part of the walk, I took the chance to reward sitting at the stop whistle – at a bit of distance he might just stand and I would like him to sit instead because I think he’s steadier in his sit.
In total we were out for about half an hour before we got tired of the cold weather and returned indoors – satisfied with good training on exactly what I wanted to work on. After the training I make mental notes on how it went and what we need to work on. Here are my thoughts on this training session:
- worked on every part I had decided on
- good distance and speed on the right signal
- good reaction to stop and recall
- holding an area with distractions is improving (slowly)
- good steadiness
- good marking ability
- nice speed and focus on the blind retrieve
Keep working on:
- he remained in a stand at the stop whistle at a distance when he expected something to happen after the stop
- he stopped on the first recall whistle, which he usually doesn’t, he usually comes straight away, but I guess the first part of the whistle sounded like a stop. Better that he stops and then comes, then not coming at all any way.
- holding an area with a marked retrieve as distraction was difficult
- after the signal to go right, he ran around the stone wall on the way back, instead of running over it, which I had thought that he would.
- taking the first dummy is something we need to keep working on, but we’re making progress.
- we also need to keep an eye on his position when heeling – this constant project;)
- several marked retrieves to the same place without knowing that there was anything there was difficult
- we need to keep working on focus in the hand’s direction when he does not “know” that there is something out there
- right hand signal out from an area where we’ve previously worked on holding an area was challenging
All walks are of course not always this active. Sometimes we’ll just walk and I might reward a couple of recalls, but I do train something on most walks.
I hope that you feel eager to go out and do some training on your next walk!