Training on your walks: stop whistle

We’ve just found a translator to help us a bit with the blog,  so here’s a blog post that brings back summer memories!

Oh, how I love these long, bright early summer evenings, when you´re able to walk your dog almost in the middle of the night.

Tonight, since Sweden were playing football in the European Championship, almost no one was outside. On our walk we met one single living creature. When I was walking past a clearing in the woods, I saw in the corner of my eye something out of the ordinary; two big, hairy ears stood up like telescopes in the shrubs. It was an elk. 20 meters away from me and Totte. I leashed my doggy in a hurry, all the while with an eye on those wagging ears, and making some haste away through the forest.

I actually couldn´t help but turning around a few times, just to see if we were being followed. We weren´t.

Too bad I didn´t have a camera with me. 

Totte waiting for his reward

So. The theme for tonight’s walk was otherwise the stop whistle. I have been too sloppy and practiced the stop whistle in way too difficult environments, and, therefore failed way too many times. That is not good learning. So, for a while now, I have been training the stop whistle in more easy environments, with less distractions, such as when Totte is very close to me and I know he has a lot of focus on me, or in environments that do not have difficult distractions. For Totte, difficult distractions are to scent game or when there is a lot going on, for example when many dogs are running around.

Today I moved out my training to a more difficult environment. The forest. We were for certain alone, not counting the elk, but I had a feeling there were more elks moving in the area, since Totte caught interesting scent after interesting scent.

I blew ten stop whistles (one blast in the whistle) in a half hour and they ALL WORKED! The most difficult ones were when he was running away from me, at full speed. But even then he stopped, although the braking distance was a bit too long. He is supposed to jam on the brakes and slam his butt to the ground when he hears the signal. However, he slowed down and made a little turn towards me before sitting down. I still rewarded massively, this is really difficult for him and we will raise criteria carefully. The main goal is full stop at stop signal and/or when birds take flight but we´re not at that point, yet. Just as long as I make sure the majority of the responds to the signals aren´t carried out that way, there is no danger rewarding it.

I also took the opportunity and made two marked retrieves, one memory retrieve and one blind retrieve. I was pleased with Toots results because, as with the stop whistle, I have had to go back in my training regarding retrieving to hand. I´ve been training in easier environments to get it really good, and then moved to more difficult environments. Tonight he picked it, straight away, then instantly turned and returned with it. Just the way I want it!

As usual we did some heeling too and when we got inside the door, I finished off with a spontaneous game of steadiness by throwing a handful of treats on the floor in front of Totte. His body jerked once, but then he sat down quite still, and while I took of my jacket and the leash he sat like a statue. At that point he was released with an “ok then, go ahead”.

Training during the daily walk rules!

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