Bookings taken at any time for the summer training groups.
Training groups for puppies/beginners and novice/open will be held once a fortnight on Mondays and Saturdays as follows:
Mondays; Puppy/beginner 3.00pm
Novice/open 5.30pm starting date April 23rd
Saturdays; Puppy/beginner 11.00am
Novice/open 1.30pm starting date April 28th
To book a place in one or more groups please contact me via this website or email email@example.com or telephone 01938 556107 when more detailed information can be given or I can discuss your training requirements with you.
Summer training dates are as follows:
Mondays (3.0 & 4.30) Saturdays (11.0 & 1.30)
7.5 * (please note no class on 12th)
After almost a week of rain, rain and more rain we were extremely lucky to have a dry day today - all day! The beach area used only 5 days ago was well and truly submerged under 2 metres of water so the river was not a good place to train today. The bonus however was that in the fields, several extra ponds of varying width, length and depth had appeared which we were able to utilise concerning the main theme of the day.
The 'go back' command is arguably the most important command for a working gundog because it, or its equivalent word(s), is the one which sends a dog further away from us in a straight line. Because gundogs also have to move away from us in a straight line for a marked bird some dogs have difficulty in understanding, or accepting, the command in circumstances whereby they haven't seen something flying through the air first whether this is a dummy, toy or pheasant etc. Sometimes dogs have even more difficulty understanding if handlers mix up commands or use a combination of commands which haven't been taught.
Many years ago when I first began to think about the differences for the dog between being sent to retrieve a marked bird and being sent to find a bird they had not seen I decided that the only way to differentiate was to have 2 different commands and this also required 2 precise definitions in my mind before these could be taught to the dog. When I first began learning about gundogs and their training everyone I encountered sent their dogs to retrieve anything and everything with a wave of the right arm vaguely in front of them and often with a click of the finger and thumb. I soon discovered there were many flaws in this:
- dogs were given no help in terms of direction other than somewhere in front of the handler and often they went to the side or behind the handler too
- dogs frequently went only a short distance, and often the wrong way, before having to be stopped on the whistle and re-directed
- in cold or wet weather clicking finger and thumb was not easy and could never be accomplished with gloves on
- inadvertent movement of the arm by a handler frequently triggered a dog to run in, (which in turn caused the handler to run in also to follow the fashion of getting after the dog and rugby tackling it or inflicting some kind of pain to the dog if the dog committed such a sin) when all the handler was doing was getting a handkerchief out of her pocket!
- if 2 birds were down, one which the dog had seen but a more important one which the dog had not seen, invariably the dog would be locked onto the one it had seen and frequently much shouting and whistling would ensue from the handler whilst trying to get the dog onto the important pricked bird first.
None of the above was, in my opinion, helpful to the dog in terms of teaching what isrequired. All it taught the dog on occasions was what it should not do and it perhaps taught the handler what not to do either such as do not get your handkerchief out! Having one command to retrieve a mark and the 'go back', coupled with precise hand signals, for everything else to send the dog further away from the handler makes life easier for the dog and enables a dog to obey because it understands what is required. Implicit in this is that the dog also begins to understand what is not required although the teaching of what not to do is never the primary focus. (For precise definitions see TTWC chapters 5 & 10)
For a 'mark' the command used (usually the dog's name) is a retrieving command. For everything else, such as when 'go back' is used, the commands are instructions for a journey to somewhere. There may be many aspects to the journey i.e. several commands en route, and none of these mean 'find the bird and bring it back' because they all mean 'this is the route you should follow until you get to the right place'. The next command, after arrival at the right place (hunting command), is the retrieving command of 'find the bird and bring it back' .
When dogs first begin marked retrieves and also begin to be taught about the 'go back' some dogs have difficulty and I realised that because they were going away from the handler starting at the handler's side, it took a long time for the dogs to sort out the difference. The only place a marked retrieve can be done is from the handler's side therefore I decided that the best place to begin teaching the 'go back' was from a distance out in front of the handler. When out in front of the handler the dog has to turn round in order to go further away and it is this turning round - which the dog has to decide on and do for itself, in that the handler cannot turn the dog round - which speeds the learning for the dog about going further away. Once the dog understands the main principle - that of going further away, 'go backs' from the handler's side are much easier for the dog to grasp and the dog also, by default almost, begins understanding the difference between going away on a mark (one command) and going away on a journey (a different command). This, of course, depends on the weakest link (the handler) getting it right and never using anything attached to the 'go back' command on a mark or anything attached to the 'retrieve a mark' command on a 'go back'! (specifically, handler errors are: using the dog's name coupled with the 'go back', handler stepping forward or using a directional hand/arm signal on a mark, handler using 'go back' on a mark, handler saying "mark'"on a 'mark', handler thinking 'it's 2 marks therefore I treat it in the same way as though it's one mark and use the 'retrieve a mark' command'). There are other things handlers do and say also but these are the main ones which stop the dog learning precisely the difference.
Getting back to training today ("about time", you may be saying!) we did 'go backs'! I always believe that having a theme for a training session is the best learning time for a dog rather than mixing up too many concepts all in the same session but I also believe that theme should be used with as many different circumstances as possible during the session. We concentrated on 'go backs' from a distance and the distance between the handler and dog changed according to the experience of the dogs. Having established a basic 'go back' through a gateway with the dummy thrown behind the dog a short distance, the dogs did the exercise 2 or 3 times and each time the handler moved further away, leaving the dog close to the dummy and some dogs had an unmarked dummy in the same place too, thus helping the dog trust the handler (and the command).
The same exercise was then taken further afield, to change the circumstances, using small and larger pools, other gateways and a fallen tree. So although the basic 'go back' exercise was used all day, with different dogs and different levels of ability, it was the circumstances which developed the dogs understanding of what to do because to go further away they had to turn round but were then faced with going through a gateway, crossing over water, going to a hedge, jumping a tree etc. all of which they had to do on their own, at a distance from the handler, in order to find the dummy.
I think everyone saw the growth of all dogs by the end of each session with the dogs working at greater distances from the handler, quite happily and above all the dogs without exception had learnt for themselves that when they hear the words 'go back' they turn round first then go further away negotiating anything en route on the straight line. They also learnt to trust the handler because even if the dogs did not see the dummy and didn't hear anyone say 'mark' , if they obeyed the 'go back' command they always found a dummy!
Brilliant work from everyone today so I hope you're all pleased with what the dogs showed you they could learn!
Next groups Bank holiday Monday 7th May (3.00pm and 4.30pm) all welcome, including anyone who wants an extra session!
Use of 'get over' command. This is command used to say to a dog 'negotiate and get to the other side of whatever obstacle is in front of you'. Obstacles will vary but one command fits all and whether it's a fence, hedge, stream, lake, track doesn't really matter and nor does it matter how the dog negotiates it. There is no point in having different commands for whether the dog has to swim, jump, or crawl to get to the other side of something
- that decision is for the dog to make at the time. The handler's job however is to show the dog a variety of different obstacles, so the dog begins to understand the nature of what may seem impenetrable barriers, and also the different means by which it can cross them.
To begin the handlers and dogs went together over a fallen tree, then the dogs went over on command with the handler hanging back until the dog had crossed, before stepping over too. This was further developed in terms of giving the dog a 'sit' command after the dog obeyed the 'get over' and developed even further to a toy being thrown once the dog was sitting.
We then looked at some more heelwork in a walk-up formation with handlers halting, and putting dogs on a sit when a toy was thrown. This was a little too exciting so we went back a little and reinforced the desired behaviour of 'when I say sit, you sit, no matter what's going on around you' by reminding the dogs about 'leave it'. The pups 'remembered' after a little practice and then we repeated the walk-up situation so the dogs understood that 'sometimes we're walking but when I say "sit" and "leave it" that's what you must do. Later the 'leave it' command should not be necessary as it is the sit command which must be obeyed, once given, under all circumstances. Throwing toys and later dummies are simply changes of circumstances to help dogs understand that 'sit' means 'sit'! This will later apply in a shooting situation when toys and dummies will be replaced with gunshot and birds.
To finish we went back to the fallen trees and repeated the first exercises on the 'get over' command.
A beautiful spring evening for some water work so we ventured down onto the shingle beach area to begin some experience for the dogs of running water. Although the 'running' part appeared quite rapid it was fairly shallow too so there was no danger of any dogs being swept away or hit by obstacles in the water. Some dogs find running water a bit scary at first particularly if they have only known water in a lake or pond. We all know it's just water but to a dog the properties are so different they need careful introductions to it. The only thing running water has in common with still water is its wetness! Its sound, feel, smell, taste and sight are totally different and those are the things we need to consider from the dog's view point.
We started with a mark upstream, sending the dog quickly so the dummy had not swept past them before the dog managed to retrieve it. All the dogs coped well with this and it was interesting to see which dogs struggled with the current trying to swim upstream after retrieving and which took the sensible option of going to the nearest bank. To help the dogs understand the sense of not swimming against the current handlers should move down stream so that the dogs, on looking where their handler was, would go towards the bank instead of trying to get back upstream to the point at which they started. We then tested the dog's on the 'get over' command by throwing a stone into the river first, sending the dog on a 'get over' command and throwing the dummy into the water after the dog had obeyed the command. All the dogs managed this well too which was a useful exercise in seeing whether the dogs were beginning to understand the 'get over'.
Next to the river was an area of still water and this was used for the dog who has not yet mastered the art of swimming. It is very important to let dogs find out about swimming in their own time and not try to make dogs swim by constantly throwing things into water so deep that the item is impossible to retrieve without swimming. Tonight the shallow water was used to get the dog running through the shallow water so she experienced all the splashing and by throwing the dummy further each time, but never into really deep water, she managed to retrieve from water which was well over the top of her legs. Fortunately she loves retrieving and this is a huge bonus in dogs who take a little longer to get their legs off the bottom! Swimming is running through water and hopefully it is the retrieving urge which finally allows slower swimmers to finally realise that they can do it!
I had a huge task on my hands a few years ago with Gemma who would retrieve, she was very obedient, but swim? Oh dear me, no way! I tried everything I could think of doing: in desperation I even lifted her and put her into some fairly deep water where she sat down with water lapping round her chin looking at me in such a way as to say 'OK I'll drown if you really want me to!). Gemma eventually learnt but it took many months of constant exposure to water of all shapes and sizes before the day came when I realised she had taken her feet off the bottom! We never looked back after that but she was almost 18 months and we'd been trying since she was 3 or 4 months old. I used to enter Gemma in puppy working tests and because Gemma has always been a perfectionist (If I don't think I can do it all from start to finish I'd better not even try) she would frequently score three 20's and a 'nil points' on the water test. The first puppy test we entered after her successfully swimming in training she won with four 20's! So, never giver up trying if your dog appears to be a reluctant water baby!
I digress - again!
Next we used the shallow pool area and threw several dummies into it before walking all the dogs back quite a distance and sending them one at a time for a dummy. These types of exercises are useful to help a dog to remember where birds have fallen and it's important to increase the amount of time gradually so dogs have to remember for longer. Also, it's important not to try and stop the dog or try to redirect if the dog goes the wrong way. You need to increase the distance whereby the dog will go back further and further, on one command, on the correct line. If a dog forgets; then bringing the dog back, walking forward a few steps (i.e. simplifying) and starting again is the best method of showing the dog what to do and also for helping the dog remember for a bit longer. If a dog going on the wrong line or hunting somewhere inappropriate is helped by handling when it is in the wrong place then the handler fails to deal with the initial problem of not going where told and this problem will continue and probably get worse. Starting again at a slightly shorter distance teaches the dog to go where he or she is told to go and then that behaviour is reinforced by the praise and also by the dog finding the dummy. Remember you reinforce to keep a behaviour, so if you give the attention to the dog (by handling when it's in the wrong place) then that is the behaviour you would be reinforcing - going in the wrong direction!
As a slight variation on that theme, and to dry the dogs off a bit, we then left dummies on the shingle beach and walked on a slightly curved path and up a bank so that we were then in a direct line with the beach area and the dummies although we hadn't walked on that line. We then sent the dogs from that area. Very mixed fortunes on this and most dogs (except Bodger who was a star*) had to be taken forward several times before that 'oh yes, I remember' moment came. This leads me, and hopefully you too, to say practice the 'go backs' by moving away on different lines but keep the distances, between from where you send the dog and the location of the dummy, short. This helps dogs reorientate themselves as well as increasing their memory of game location and their trust in you in terms of the direction you send them. Some dogs are saying to handlers 'I know better than you and I'm going to hunt over here!' A few things to think about are: don't let the dog go too far off line hoping that somehow the dog will eventually get to the right place, don't let dogs hunt inappropriate areas and don't give the 'hie lost' command until the dog is near the fall area and the wind direction is right.
Some good work by the dogs tonight which means some good work by the handlers too, so well done everyone!
My apologies but I forgot to enter the information from the previous groups on March 26th! In getting ready to go to Guernsey it slipped my mind and now I can't remember what we did - if anyone cares to write it up (those whose remembering faculties are sharper than mine) I'll copy it onto the website.
Today the puppies started by negotiating the metal gate which has room only for the handler to get through first and then call the dog into the heel position whilst the handler holds the gate open. Most managed without too much trouble but some handlers allowed the dog to move before the command was given. I know it's sometimes difficult just to go back to the dog and start again but that is exactly what a handler should do, however many times it takes and if that exercise takes the whole of your available time to do a bit of training, then so be it! There are numerous safety considerations to think about and that's why these exercises are vital for a pup's education so get it right now and it will remain with the dog for life as long as you don't ever let the dog think it can make the decision to move before it hears the magic command. This is also leading up to being able to leave all the dogs sitting one side of the gate before calling them individually whilst the other dogs remain in the sit position. We then did some individual heelwork walking past some toys lying on the ground and giving a 'hold' command when nearing other toys. Mixed fortunes all round except all the pups appear to understand the 'leave it' command now but need a little more practise concerning 'hold' so that needs some work! We went on to test whether the pups are beginning to understand how to get into the heel position when the handler stands in different positions in relation to the dogs. Handlers appear to want to give up sometimes all too quickly instead of being patient. You need to help the dog but not pull the dog into position by dragging them or by man-handling the dog into place. If you continue to do these things dogs will never learn how to do it for themselves so you must stand your ground, don't give up but help the dog how to do it by praise when the dog is working towards what you want and a growl and perhaps a small tug on the lead if the dog is just standing, sitting or doing anything which takes them away from the desired position. These exercises together with recalls will enable the dog to understand the difference also between the 'heel' position and the recall position but only if handlers stop interchanging the two commands. I know why handlers interchange the words; it's because they believe that having the dog come to them from a distance is a big enough miracle without worrying too much about whether the dog comes to the front or comes into the heel position. That, however is not good thinking (well the miracle part, probably is) because the dog doesn't understand your thinking of 'that's a miracle that the dog has listened and has left whatever it was doing and come to me' all the dog can relate to is that if 'heel' is be on my left side so we're both facing in the same direction that is the only thing the dog should ever have been taught. We can see similarities in the 2 positions but the dog can only learn one definition for each sound the word makes. If you also teach a dog consistently that 'come' means come towards me and be facing me but then begin interchanging the commands haphazardly then some dogs will actually stop responding to one or both commands as they no longer make sense. Some dogs at this stage may start responding but do so very slowly or on a roundabout route and other dogs may make off in the opposite direction and disappear from sight.
We began with some steadiness training with the dogs sitting on the brow of the flood defence bank. Quite a lot of dogs today so the line was quite lengthy! The handlers left the dogs sitting and threw toys/balls over the dog's heads. I was really please that all the dogs, off lead, were steady and apart from one or two wanting to come towards the handler we didn't have any dogs run-in after the toys - brilliant!
We then placed a ball/toy on the ground between the dog and the handler and one at a time the dogs were recalled and given the 'hold' or 'hie lost' command prior to reaching the toy so that the item was picked up by the dog en route before being presented in the front of the handler. Most managed the exercise well but some practise is needed for some so the dog understands but also listens. We are at the stage where dogs have to respond not only to one command which they obey until they have completed it but to be given the experience of understanding 'you obey that command until I give you another one and then you have to stop obeying the first command and obey the 2nd one. (Later, and the 3rd, and the 4th etc)' Some dogs pick this concept up quicker than others but all usually understand if you give them some practise on 2 commands usually a recall is a good way to start adding something else because that will also help other things later when directions are added.
We then moved to the river and continued work done previously on the 'go back' and 'get over' commands sometimes sending the dog from the handler's side and sometimes handling the dog from a distance when the dog is facing the handler. Progress on these exercises has really come on well and I hope you are all pleased with the dogs in this respect. All the dogs understand turning at heel after watching a dummy being thrown by the handler and today there was the added excitement of the dummy splashing into water and they still turned at heel when given the command. Heel work on walking away was a little disappointing BUT the major aspect of turning away after seeing the dummy land in water, was achieved and achieved well, so congratulations to all the handlers!
Everyone did the exercises 4 times: first with a dummy on a rope (so that I could retrieve it if the dogs ran-in and did not turn. 2nd when I threw the dummy and 3rd the handler threw the dummy. Finally with the handler throwing the dummy, turning, leaving the dog on the bank, walking away a suitable distance and then handling the dog from a distance. We called it a day at that point as most were wet due to the downpour - I don't think the dogs minded at all (we like swimming!) but the handlers looked in need of their cups of tea!
I am so pleased with you all and I look forward to the following weeks of some summer training (we still may get wet) and for these great dogs to continue showing you 'if you teach us we can do it!'
We started the session doing some heel work with numerous toys scattered around on the ground. Handlers had to walk round giving the 'leave it' command when approaching and passing some toys and giving a 'hold' command when approaching other toys. The training concerned not only heel work but 'explaining' the difference between the 2 commands to the puppies i.e. 'If I say 'leave it' you must not touch the item' but 'if I say 'hold', you pick the item up'. On items picked up by the puppy on command, lots of praise was given followed by either walking a few steps, putting the puppy on a sit and then taking the item or backing off with a recall command before taking the item. One item was also placed in a plastic box to encourage the puppy to reach inside the box in order to pick up an item 9this aspect will be developed further later). I was very pleased with the progress made on all these aspects and to see how the pups were beginning to understand and comply with the 2 commands.
Next we taught the puppy to turn swiftly at heel after a ball was thrown forwards by the handler. This demonstrated a different aspect to the puppies in that the 'leave it' command and the subsequent 'heel' command had to be obeyed even though the exciting part, of a moving tennis ball, was what the pup really wanted to do! Having taught the lesson on the lead we progressed to doing this off lead. This was the first occasion the pups had attempted a few steps of heel work off lead and although I realise the handlers were convinced it would be too much for the pups I think they were all surprised that the pups did it! I wasn't surprised! The pups did it because the major 'danger' points (ball being thrown, turning at heel on command) were all aspects the puppies had been taught, and learnt, to do. They had never learnt that a toy being thrown was available to be chased consequently on or off the lead were insignificant aspects to them even though off the lead was hugely significant to the handlers.
We continued to develop this further in several ways in terms of a 'sit' before the ball was thrown; no 'sit' command but throwing the ball and then turning; dropping the ball, walking towards it with the dog then kicking the ball before turning. The puppies were wonderful! The handlers were pretty good too! We finished the session by putting all the bits together in a final exercise of walking to the brow of the hill with the pup off lead. Throwing the ball down the hill, turning on the spot with the dog and leaving the dog there whilst the handler walked away. At this point the pups were nearer to the ball than they were to the handler so it was important for the handler to maintain contact with the dog by repeating 'sit' commands with the hand signal to convey to the pup that, although at a distance they still controlled everything. After a few 'sit' commands at a distance, the handlers walked forward, past the sitting dogs and retrieved the ball themselves before returning to the dog's heel position. WOW! Brilliant work everybody and those dogs are showing you how much they have learnt. They also showed that they are understanding that if they have been told 'sit' or 'heel' then that is what they will do no matter what!
All we did today was continue with 'heel', 'sit', 'come' and 'leave it' in terms of commands but, perhaps more importantly, we changed the circumstances to show the pups that those commands have to be obeyed even though other things may change around them. It is this changing of circumstances which generalises the behaviour and is vital to the understanding of the dog. Without these changes, all the dog learns is to obey a command only when everything else remains the same. That is why you must take these commands out with the dog to different places. You don't have to do different things but just do the same things in as many different places as you can find. I am so pleased with you all!
Today was one of those days when things were not going well, right from the start! It happens sometimes with all dogs on certain days or at different times and the lesson to be learnt for us all is that sometimes we have to abandon our plans and do something else or even stop all together if we're working alone with our dog!
My plan for the afternoon was to develop the 'go back' command and test the understanding of the command by placing a dummy - visible but not thrown - and to gain some distance to encourage the dog to continue obeying the 'go back' command i.e. keep running away from the handler, after being given the command, until told to do something else - in this case to start hunting for the dummy, find it, pick it up and return directly to the handler.
It was apparent that trying to develop this exercise was not going to work because of a variety of basic problems. I had to abandon my plans and we therefore spent the afternoon trying to deal with the underlying issues which continue, for most dogs, to prevent work on many retrieving tasks. To have continued with my plan would have been detrimental because it would have allowed the dogs to continue with undesirable behaviour and thus cement the behaviour even more. Remember that practise makes permanent so if dogs are allowed to practise (continue) a behaviour which is unwanted by the handler, then that behaviour becomes so ingrained in the dog that it is difficult to change the behaviour into one which is more acceptable to the handler.
The basic training issues which still need to be addressed are the 'heel' position, the 'sit' the 'hold' and the recall. It is these aspects which come unstuck when the dogs are presented with a retrieving task. For this, they are at a distance from the handler and the handler should be able to trust the dog to behave appropriately in terms of consistently obeying the basic commands which they have been taught, and have learnt.
Handlers must insist that dogs adopt the correct heel position. To practise this it's important that you do not do all the work for the dog but make the dog work and use its brain to solve the problem of how to get from the incorrect place into the correct place. You must 'stand your ground'! If you keep doing little 'walk abouts' or all the other small but very significant (to the dog) gestures, the dog will never be able to solve the problem. If you continue to use any body language other than looking where you want the dog to be, then the dog will continue to accept all the body language as its command rather than learn what he has to do when he 'hears' our verbal language.
So take your time, be patient, don't get cross but do not accept anything which is not the correct position. Even if it takes 30 minutes or more and you don't do anything else you just have to wait and help but don't just do nothing. Your task is to teach the dog where the heel position is and the dog will only learn if you are proactive and accept nothing but the defined position.
The sit position i.e. put your bottom on the ground, is also a little haphazard at times so more practise needed by positioning first, immediately you say the word and no more waiting around for the dog to decide when. This is an occasion where you must not be patient, in fact you must act as though your life depends on immediate action!
Recall. A few weeks ago everyone was making a huge fuss of the dog on a recall. The idea was to do this every time so that previous reluctance for the dog to return to the handler was gradually replaced with 'wow, it's brilliant coming back to my handler because she's really pleased with me and we have this huge cuddle' and 'he's never ever cross with me now when I come back; in fact smiles all the time and seems really pleased to see me'! What happened folks? As soon as the dog has something in its mouth the handlers revert to previous bad habits of scowling at the dog, grabbing the dummy, speaking in a gruff voice using a 'don't you dare do anything wrong' accusatory finger.
I know I gave you all a hard time today! The dogs all gave you a hard time too! They won't talk to you about it they can only show you by their behaviour. I can talk to you about it and will continue to point out, when necessary, where and when you are being unhelpful to the dogs.
Homework: The basics as above and 'hold' command. Practise the 'hold' with as many different items as possible please, and combine with some recalls remembering to make a big fuss of the dog first and don't touch the item in the dog's mouth until you have praised and praised and praised! Sit command to be positioned at heel and practised with a 'quick sit'. If you are having problems, talk to me, tell me what's happening and then I can try and help. If you don't tell me, I presume you have it sorted! Learn the difference between the things which have to be rigid and consistent and the things where you can laugh, enjoy the dog's company and enable the dog to enjoy yours.
Above all - Keep smiling and remember what fun dog training is!
Today we started where we left off last session by revisiting the fallen trees to see whether, after some practise at home, the pups were beginning to understand the 'get over' command when walking on the lead with the handler. Then the 'get over' command was given without the handler stepping over the tree too and finally we looked at adding a new part to the exercise which was to give the dog a 'sit' command when the puppy was the other side of the tree from the handler. This is the way to build up exercises when a small addition is made to an exercise already learnt by the dog and this particular aspect of sitting on command when at a distance from the handler - albeit a very small distance - will be added to later until eventually the dog will sit on command at a much greater distance. Just because a dog knows what to do and when to do it at heel doesn't mean that he or she can do this in other circumstances, unless they are taught.
We then had some practice on recalls before returning to the trees, putting the dog over the tree, then on a sit, before recalling back to the handler when the pup had to return over the tree to reach the handler. Remember that even though you have given a 'get over' command to the dog when going away from you the 'get over' command should never be used when the dog is returning to you - if necessary the recall command only must be used. I say 'if necessary' with reference to the future when you may have sent the dog to retrieve and the journey necessitates a 'get over' command due to an obstacle en route to the bird/dummy. Once the item has been picked it is the dog's job to get back to you with it as quickly as possible and a recall command shouldn't be needed unless the dog appears to have lost you or has decided on a sight-seeing trip rather than coming directly back. Perhaps I should also explain here why the 'get over' should only be used on the outward journey. Later dogs may be required to negotiate more than one obstacle. They may, for example, have to cross a stream , go further back and then cross a fence. If you teach the dog now, that 'get over' can mean going away and coming back it will probably result in a dog crossing the stream, going further back and then, when it hears the next 'get over' command doubling back and recrossing the stream again instead of looking ahead for the next obstacte - the fence. So now is the time to start teaching the lesson - 'get over' means an obstacle ahead of the dog and further away from the handler.
We did a small amout of heelwork next, giving the dog a toy to carry whilst walking along and then immediately stepping backwards saying 'come' and encouraging the dog by making lots of fuss of the dog before taking the item with a 'dead' command. The important thing to remember is praise the dog first and make sure the dog is happy to be with you, then take the item. Keep that joy of being in front of you after a recall command, and that is what the dog will remember for life.
We finished the session by sitting the dogs, handler moving to the side or in front of the dog and then giving a 'heel' command and helping the dog think for itself about how to get into the correct position. The idea here is not to drag the dog into position but encourage the dog with praise if it makes any move towards the correct place and a growl/ slight jerk on the lead if the dog goes the wrong way or does nothing. Have patience but insist without getting cross. Some of these manoevers are complicated for a dog to work out and your job is to encourage the dog to use its brain on the problem you have set.
Practise is needed on 'hold' commands. Try to vary the items you give the dog to hold or if the dog brings you something - anything, make sure you say 'hold' as the dog approaches and make a huge fuss of the dog for coming to you with a gift. Take it from the dog and praise again before either keeping the item or giving it back to the dog. Remember that a dog is never in the wrong for having something in its mouth! You must praise the dog every time he has something in his mouth. If he has something you would rather he had not found he is still to be praised and never punished in any way.
Today we concentrated on the 'go back' command, starting on the bank where we finished off last session. Handlers walked towards the bank with the dog, stopped and gave the dog a 'sit' command before throwing a dummy down the bank. Handlers then did an about turn with the dog, left the dog at that point and walked away a distance dependent on how far had been achieved. After 2 or 3 reminder commands of 'sit' with a hand signal, then the 'go back' command was given for the dog to disappear over the bank and (hopefully) return with the dummy. Everyone did this very well so I was extremely pleased everyone had been doing their homework!
Next we varied the exercise as all the dogs now knew what was expected! The exercise was set up in the same way except this time the handler gave the dog a recall command after the reminder 'sit' commands. Some dogs a little puzzled by this because by this time they thought they knew what should have happened, but the obedience was excellent! When the dog returned to the handler the handler sent the dog from their side - the heel position - to retrieve the dummy. Remember that the arm and hand fully outstretched should be pointing at the direction of the dummy. Don't be tempted to send the dog until you're sure the dog is looking in the correct direction along the length of your arm and never move your arm or hand until the dog has gone on the 'go back' command. All the dogs did this well which is what I usually expect. The most difficult bit is where the dog is facing you and that's why I usually start on this aspect of the 'go back' first. Once the dog has grasped that, then going from your side is much easier for them.Finally we negotiated the muddy bank and went onto the shingle beach where there was a narrow passage of rushing water over to a small shingle island. We set up the same exercise where the handler and dog walked towards the water and a dummy was thrown over the water onto the shingle island. Handler and dog then did an about turn and the dog was left whilst the handler walked a suitable distance away. After several reminder commands to sit, the dog was then sent on a 'go back' to cross the water and retive the dummy. All the dogs succeeded and the one dog who hadn't yet mastered swimming, also made some progress in crossing the water with her brave handler venturing out into the stormy waters with her. Well done Pippa for making it back on your own! Oh, and well done Susan for managing to stay upright - although a few people had their cameras ready in case you didn't!
Unfortunately the water brought out some problems with the 'hold' command in that some dogs didn't! If nothing else during the next 2 weeks handlers, please teach your dogs that 'hold' means 'hold' no matter what! I don't mind how you do it but wet toys/dummies must be held by the dog in the same way as any other item so take the dog into the bath with you holding rubber ducks; outside with a bucket of water apple bobbing for plastic bottles - anything you can think of to show the dog that wet is fun but the serious bit of holding applies! I'm trying to think of penalties for handlers at the moment should any fail to get this message across to dogs in 2 weeks - I think I'll keep my ideas on this as a surprise for the time being but it may well involve water!
My apologies for omitting these notes earlier - I remember doing them but obviously forgot to save and publish it! My fault so my punishment is to do it again urghhh - but a good lesson in dog training!
Heelwork and 'leave it' commands and today we showed the pups that 'leave it' applies not only to toys etc. thrown or put on the ground, but applies also to dogs and handlers walking past them, perhaps stopping near them and handlers talking to each other. We also introduced the concept of another handler picking up 'their' toy. Of course nothing actually belongs to a puppy (or any aged dog) but from a dog's point of view if something is in front of them they own it! So today we began to show the pups that the handler or any other human can take possession of something even though the something is lying on the ground close to the dogs paws. The 'leave it' command can be used, not just in dog training sessions, but at any time when you need to convey to a dog that something belongs to you and not them. This has uses in the home situation but particular relevance too to a shooting situation where birds on the ground that have already been retrieved, belong to you and not to the dog, even though the dog has been allowed to retrieve it prior to handing it over.
We introduced a new command today of 'get over'. The definition of this command to the dog is 'negotiate and get to the other side of any obstacle in front of you'. I know many people have several commands for this action, having a different command word for whatever the obstacle happens to be, so people will use a command when the dog is required to jump, another for when the dog is required to swim and yet another for when the dog has to push its way through something. I understand why people do this but for me it is over-complicating matters for the dog and, perhaps much crucially, it does not take account of how any obstacle should be negotiated unless you the handler, has already investigated the obstacle prior to sending the dog. This may be possible in a training situation but it isn't possible in a working situation and this is why I believe that one size fits all! How the dog negotiates the obstacle really needs to be left to the dog eventually so I believe it's much better to have one command but then show the dog as many situations as you can find in terms of obstacles to be encountered and negotiated. I think gundog working tests may have a lot to answer for in relation to people developing numerous commands in this respect as all too often one hears comments from judges such as 'the dog must go across the water and come back the same way' or 'the dog must jump the fence' etc. when the actual geographical situation shows the dog quite clearly (if not judges) that to run round water one way or the other is quicker or to walk under a fence is much better for conserving energy than jumping over it. Dogs, it would appear, are much more sensible than humans when it comes to working out the best way to do some things and although not advocating that dogs should always be allowed to work everything out for themselves, this is one situation where I believe that as long as the dog understands the requirement of getting to the other side, then whether the dog crawls, jumps, pushes, runs or swims to achieve that, doesn't matter provided the dog does this as quickly as the situation warrants and doesn't take all day to decide. To get to the stage of trusting a dog to make the correct decision however does require that a handler shows a dog about jumping, crawling under, pushing through and swimming!
Practice today was in showing the dogs that an obstacle (in this case a fallen tree) is nothing to worry about and although with young pups jumping should be kept to low levels, it is a good time to introduce the command and use it in conjunction with heelwork sessions whenever a suitable safe obstacle can be found or constructed. After showing the pups what was required we tested this slightly by approaching the obstacle, giving the 'get over' command and seeing if the dog would negotiate the obstacle without the handler going over too until after the dog had gone over. This should all be done on lead at present.
Keep up the good work folks and the pups will repay you a thousand-fold!
The heelwork today was practised in a walk-up formation to simulate a walked up shoot. The emphasis has to be for the handlers to keep in line with one another (to save being shot!) and that in turn means that the handlers must keep the dogs in the correct heel position at all times. Heelwork in this way should show handlers if their dogs have been deciding the pace of heelwork! Practising on your own means that you should vary the pace at times but also be aware of what the dog is telling you - if dogs are out in front then handlers should do very slow heelwork, if dogs lag behind then handlers should speed up i.e. you do the opposite of what the dog is saying he prefers! We also practised some steadiness with dummies being thrown and some swift about turns. Some handlers were not as speedy on the turns as necessary so more ballet practise for some in perfecting the pirouette on the spot!
Next we left all the dogs in line on the brow of the hill whilst the handlers walked all the way down the front of the line and returned at the back of the line to put themselves back into the dog's heel position. On the whole the dogs were good but for those who did move then handlers need to get back to the dog more quickly, pop the lead on and replace the dog where it should have been before leaving the dog again. Most of the dogs who moved, were not helped by their handler unfortunately due to handlers not giving reminder commands to the dog. If you give reminder commands, followed by praise, it keeps you in touch with the dog but it also says to the dog that you own all the space between you and there is therefore nothing for the dog to worry about. Dogs need to relax in these situations and know, eventually, that if they've been told to sit, then nothing else is required of them until and unless you give another command. All the time you remind your dog, reinforces the dog's understanding and helps them to trust you, helps them to stay alert but also relaxed and is more likely to bring about the outcome you want which is for the dog to remain in position whilst other things are going on around but they have no part in. Handlers who give the most reminder commands are likely to have the most stable dogs in these circumstances and it's much better to remind every half second than to risk the dog getting up. As the dog gets used to this, then the number of commands can be reduced because by that time you'll have a dog who is more trusting, will relax more and will be secure in the knowledge that if he's required to do something you'll tell him. Conversely, if he doesn't hear a command which is different from the command indicating what he is already doing, then he does nothing but continue what he's doing and you'll continue to praise him!
Finally we looked (for the first time for some and checked on for others) at the 'go back' command. The definition for the dog is: 'go away from me (the handler) in a straight line'. The more experienced dogs practised this in a gateway first and then we moved to a bank where the dogs had to turn and go away from the handler to retrieve the mark thrown by the handler prior to turning on the spot with the dog. When practising it's important at the beginning to put the dummy fairly close to the dog and increase the distance then between the handler and the dog first. Then you can begin to increase the distance between the dummy and the dog but at that stage you'll probably have to leave the dog and go out and place/throw the dummy. For those who needed a bit of help on this we walked out with the dog a short distance, gave the dog a 'sit' command and then the handler walked in front and placed a dummy/toy on the ground before returning to the dog, doing an about turn and the handler then leaving the dog to walk a short distance away. Several things to remember at this stage: 1. Take your time and don't rush. 2. Put your lead away as soon as you take it off the dog. 3. Use the correct hand both for the reminder 'sit' commands and for the 'go back' hand signal. This hand and arm should reflect where a dummy/bird/toy is in relation to where the dog is. If you don't get it right then the dog wont trust you he'll think you're pretty useless in finding game and as he's probably - definitely, much better at it then he'll go self-employed very quickly so keep him as an employee who can place his trust in the boss who definitely knows what's what!
Today was the first session of the 6 week course and it was lovely to welcome some new faces, meet some new dogs and wonderful also to see some 'old' (previously known) dogs and their handlers. So a big thank you to you all for coming and I look forward to working with everyone and trying to solve some of the difficulties your dogs are experiencing.
Dogs are so expressive in terms of showing where they have some problems in understanding certain things. Dogs never lie and that is what, for me, is one of the things which make them such marvellous animals with whom to work. Everything about their actions - and sometimes non-actions - speaks much louder than words and leaves no doubt about what they're feeling and thinking. I relied a great deal today on setting you all some simple tasks and let the dogs tell me where they needed some input.
You all, without exception, worked well today and from my view point, it was a first session which went better than many first sessions. Of course your view point may be different! It is always difficult being in your position where you're having to listen to me and then try to teach the dog. Being pupil and teacher at the same time is not easy and I have every sympathy with you but I can't make it easier for you, so you'll just have to cope!
I think you all know what you need to do in the next couple of weeks and that is to sharpen up on the basic commands of 'heel', 'sit' and 'come' - or whatever your words for these actions are. These words, if taught consistently, always bring about the desired response immediately. 'Sharpening up' means that first of all you have to be clear what position the dog must adopt in response to your magic word. The word must always sound the same and must never be used in any other tone of voice. (Some of you use the command word as a punishment in that it is spoken in a harsh voice) A harsh voice is a punishment and if you need to use a tone of voice or a word as a punishment then this must never be a command word - I'm sure you can think up some words for yourself, but if in doubt 'NO' is a reasonable substitute and you can say this word in as harsh a voice as you wish!
So check meanings of all the 3 words and then never deviate from expecting the dog to be in that position whenever you say the word. You may have to help the dog in the beginning but it's vital that you do not simply allow the dog to be in front or to the side when you've said 'heel' or that you stand and watch the dog decide when to sit after you have given a 'sit' command. For this reason the 'sit' should always be positioned at the moment because although all the dogs know that 'sit' means 'place bum, on ground' they appear not to have grasped the 'when' bit! The when, should be immediately - in case there is any doubt in handler's minds! To avoid repeating the command whilst you wait for the dog to decide when it's convenient for him to sit, position the dog quickly but not roughly and he will then learn that you're not prepared to wait. If you have something to do in these few seconds it's also less likely that you will repeat the 'sit' command.
For the young puppies, heelwork with lots of changes in direction without warning (and without waiting for the pup to recognise you want to move somewhere else), some halts where you position the pup in a sit and some steadiness training using the 'leave it' command when you throw a toy. This is all they need at the moment but the more often you can do 5 minutes with them, the better. Vary the places you do the 5 minutes training too. Find as many different places as you can to show the puppy that what you are teaching them applies wherever you are and whatever is going on around them. This is called 'generalising' a behaviour and in gundog terms often referred to as making a dog 'bomb-proof' in that environmental situations cease to bother them; they've seen it all before and they are secure and confident in doing their 'sit' and walking to heel and everything else they will learn. You can try an occasional 'sit & walk round' and on separate occasions away from the more formal heelwork sessions practice 'hold/dead' commands with a soft toy.
For the older dogs the situation is slightly different because many have learnt some things correctly and some things incorrectly from the handler's view point and from their own view-point they have learnt many things for themselves which have not been part of the main curriculum as set out by their handler. In general, the things learnt for themselves, if afforded the opportunity, rarely fit in with a handler's wishes and therefore become 'problems'. Dogs don't set out to create problems for handlers they simply think for themselves and decide on a solution. Once decided they rarely deviate from the answer they've devised unless someone or something intervenes to point out that there is a better solution! Intervention should take the form of training however not punishment.
We need to replace, for some dogs, the joy of working with you and being with you and re-teach basic commands in a consistent manner. Handlers need to forget the past, live for now like the dogs and rediscover the pleasure of having a companion dog by your side. It doesn't take much to get a dog's tail wagging!
Bookings now being taken for a 6 week course starting January 30th.
There will be two courses on the same day: a.m. puppies and beginner dogs; p.m. novice and open dogs.
The courses will run for 6 sessions a fortnight apart i.e. January 30th, February 13th and 27th, March 12th and 26th, April 9th.
Applicants may come to one or both courses (with a different dog) and if signing up for 2 courses, a light lunch will be included.
11.00 a.m. - 12.30 (approx.) Puppies and beginner dogs where basic obedience will be taught including heelwork on/off lead, 'sit' command, recalls, steadiness, holding and releasing a dummy.
1.00 p.m. - 2.30 (approx.) Novice and Open dogs; revision of basics, retrieving to include marks, blinds, whistle work, directional commands and water work (river conditions permitting)
Cost £5.00 per dog/per session to be paid each week .
If you would like to apply to attend one, or both, courses please contact me directly firstname.lastname@example.org or use the 'Contact Me' form on this site.
Text book for course:
'Training the Working Retriever'
Training Group Information -Winter 2010 -2011
It seems such a long time since the last training class but lovely to see everyone again and what a lovely surprise for me when, it appears, everyone knew it was my birthday today! Not sure who was responsible for the information escaping (have my suspicions about my friend Mary, but as yet the facts are unproven!!!) Anyway, my sincere thanks to all for the lovely cakes which everyone enjoyed - as we had 3 cakes, we all had to have a bit of each (only to avoid upsetting anyone, obviously!) and also thank you so much for my cards and presents. I don't think I've had so many cards since I was about 12 years old!
We started with 3 of our new pups having their first lesson with Mary. 10 minutes training a puppy and bending up and down so many times to keep mine in a sit position is enough to finish anyone off - the handler anyway, as the pups could probably have gone on testing us for a lot longer. As with all things regarding training a dog however a short time, showing the dog what you want and then putting the dog away on its own to 'think' is much more beneficial than labouring away for hours. With a young puppy it takes many short sessions before anyone can say 'my puppy knows' whatever the aspect is that one is teaching. It is the repetitions and showing the dog the rule about certain things which enables a dog to learn and understand coupled with the handler's strict adherence to the simple rule applying to each aspect. This facet is apparent - or should be - in training all dogs, no matter what their age and when I began our session with my Monday class many aspects concerning the rules on basic commands are still missing and they are missing not due to the dogs not understanding, not due to difficult dogs but simply because handlers are breaking the rules almost every time they give a command or do anything with their dogs.
The rules on basics (Heel, Sit, Hold/Dead and recall) are very simple and each command can only mean one thing. For example if the rule about where a dog should be when given the command of 'heel' is taught to the dog in the beginning (i.e. Be on my left hand side, about 6 inches away from my left leg with your right shoulder parallel with my left leg) then that is the only position a handler should accept. In the space of 6 paces most handlers change the rule 6 times in that they allow, and therefore accept, that the dog can be somewhere other than in that precise position. Your dogs therefore cannot be said to know the rule because you are in fact telling them there is no rule or the rule to the dog is 'you can be anywhere within 1 or 2 yards of the area I call 'heel' and you can do it when you like, or not do it if you don't want to'.
I want all of you to stick to the rules and if you don't know the rule which applies to each of those basic commands, please swat it up and learn it off by heart. I'll write them all out for you if you need it but the rule must be learnt by you then, and only then, will you be able to teach the rule to your dog.
These basic rules should, by now, be second nature to you and your dogs so you have a week to learn them otherwise this sweet-natured instructor may act out of character and give you a hard time! :D))
Learning the rules is your first task and you can be certain that I will check next week.
Second task is to apply the rules in the following. Walk forward with your dog on lead in the heel position. Halt, with your dog still in the heel position and command your dog to sit. Throw a toy a short distance in front whilst at the same time saying 'mark' (Not 'Leave it') About turn on the spot, giving your dog a 'heel' command first then tell your dog to sit. Walk away from the toy, about turn and command your dog to sit.
If, at any point your dog is not in the heel position, either walking or when you stop, do not move to put yourself into the dog's heel position. Stand your ground and make the dog get into the heel position in relation to you (the rule).
Second task is to push forward with the 'hold' command. No more excuses 'my dog won't hold it for long, my dog doesn't like that toy, my dog drops it' etc. etc. If you decide 'my dog is going to hold this item', then that is what should happen. Watch your dog and be ready to do something if your dog looks like it will drop the item. I don't want to see any more items dropped by a dog! It doesn't take much time but it does take some effort on the part of the handler so you must be pro-active on this and not let the dog take the decisions as to whether they hold something or when they will drop it. Gundogs must not drop anything! Build up the length of time the dog will hold something and build up the distance you are from the dog making sure the dog continues to hold. Also vary the items for the dog to hold. If you decide to do 3 holds then use 2 or 3 different items. That is what will keep the dog's interest but also stick to the rules then your dog will also know the rules and will also know there is no vagueness on the rule. There is one rule for each aspect of training and for each command so please start to show your dogs that you are intelligent beings and know what the rule is.
If you don't know the rules please ask me before next week. (They are on page 2 of 'Taking Control' and on page 74 of 'Training the Working Retriever' I have both books which I let people borrow if you need them) Good luck.
More practice on the following: steadiness by reinforcing the 'sit' command by ensuring the dog continues to sit when you, the handler, does something else. The something else will be a sit and walk round your dog, dropping toys on the ground, standing in front of the dog and throwing a toy over the dog's head, picking toys up yourself, sitting when you stand in front of another handler & dog. Find as many opportunities as you can, to teach your dog that the circumstances will change and will encompass many distractions, but the only thing the dog is required to do is to continue to sit, following the command, until you give another command. The problem for most dogs is that their handler does not give sufficient reminder commands. Remember the more reminder commands you give, the longer the dog will continue to obey the command provided that the reminder is also followed by a 'good boy/girl'.
Continue the 'hold' command both when the dog is sitting in front of you and when walking beside you in the heel position. You must learn to read your own dog! Learn the signs for when your dog is about to drop the item and do something to prevent the item being dropped. It is too late to do something once the dog drops the item. Most people are teaching the dog very little about 'you must hold that item until I get hold of it and give the 'dead' command'. Instead they are teaching the dog - because the dog does it so frequently, 'you hold the item until you get fed up with holding it, then you can put it down and I will pick it up'! So read your dog! If you know the dog will only walk 3 paces then start at 3 paces continually giving the 'hold, good boy' take the item, praise and then try to increase the number of paces gradually. If you increase one pace every day you could do half a mile in a few weeks. OK, half a mile may not be necessary but if you want the dog to learn what you want you must be pro-active and not react only when the dog has dropped something. Gundogs must not drop anything they have in their mouth so use opportunities around the house to increase the length of time your dog will hold something and increase the amount of objects the dog will hold. Remember to praise. You should be praising the dog non-stop whilst he has something in his mouth.
The hold can also be practiced combined with a reverse heelwork recall. Do not touch the item when doing a recall with the dog when he's holding something. Put your hands on the dog and praise with your hands and with your voice, make the dog feel very special and appreciated for having something in its mouth.
December 6th November 29th
Brief notes: Heel work with recall by saying 'come' and moving backwards for a few steps then lots of praise for the dog, regain control by saying 'sit' then walk round the dog back into the heel position. 'Holds' whilst walking to heel.
The 'quick sit'. When doing some heel work, put all the lead into your left hand, then give a 'sit' command: at the same time, use a hand signal by turning at the waist only i.e. your feet should still be pointing ahead and also throw the lead backwards onto the ground. You must not stop, so continue to walk forwards but be aware of your dog and what he's doing. If the dog hesitates encourage that by praising and then repeat the 'sit' command. If the dog does nothing you must growl and then repeat the 'sit' command and that sequence should be continuously repeated until the dog complies with the command. Too many handlers do nothing appropriate if the dog ignors the command, or they stop or they go back to the dog! None of these things is appropriate to this situation which requires the dog to sit when told and to sit even though you are continuing to walk. This is the first time the dog has had to sit whilst on the move and whils the handler keeps moving. Previously in similar circumstances the handler has stiopped, then given the dog the 'sit' command but also remained with the dog. The quick sit is different and the dog will only learn about this if the handler actually does the bits that are different! One of the important aspects for developing the 'quick' sit is that one is beginning the process of introducing what is called the 'stop' whistle i.e. getting the dog to sit or stop when on the move at a distancve from the handler
I'm very sorry for the delay in putting Mondays' information onto the website - I'm getting worse but will try to get better in future weeks!
Today we started with heelwork in a walk-up formation. The important aspects about this are to keep in line and to walk slowly. A walk-up in this way is to simulate a line of guns and dogs walking through roots or other cover crop, pushing the birds forward at a slow pace so that the birds which get up and fly can be shot by the guns in line, to be retrieved by a dog in the line. The slow walking is to ensure that all the birds are pushed forward and to ensure only a few get up at a time - fast pace could result in a hundred birds getting up! Keeping in line will leave no gaps in the line and will ensure no-one gets shot! We are working up to having this kind of formation with all dogs off lead so it's important that dogs are kept strictly in the heel position and that handlers walk to the pace of the line and not to the pace their dogs set!
With this in mind we then tried a few paces of heelwork individually with the dog off lead - with fairly mixed results, but this is something which everyone needs to work on and if you can manage 6 paces of accurate heelwork, that is sufficient at present. We can build up gradually.
Next we practised the recall on lead - homework from last week - and went on to doing a short recall in the jumping ally, off lead. When practising this at home try and find somewhere which will cut out as many possible areas where things could go wrong. A narrow passage way or somewhere with one side being a wall, fence etc. is ideal. Don't extend the distance until the dog responds immediately to the recall command and shows understanding. It is the praise which will ensure your dog comes to you and many handlers are not giving sufficient praise or the praise is not given as enthusiastically and warmly to ensure the dog wants to be with you. If you get that joy of being with you sufficiently embedded into the dog's mind it will be there for life and you wont have any problems getting the dog to return to you in all circumstances. So at the moment you need to reinforce the steadiness aspects by giving differing numbers of reminder commands when at a distance from the dog then, when you have given the 'come' command, praise the dog when he gets up, look in front of you down on the ground (where you want the dog to end up!) and be ready to get down on the ground when the dog gets to you and give OTT praise, cuddles and strokes to the dog. You need to convey to the dog that it is the best thing he's ever done and that you are very, very happy about it! Then you should stand up and calmly give the dog a 'sit' command, insist if necessary but stay calm and in control of yourselves. Take your time and don't move until the dog is sitting calmly then repeat the sit command and walk round the dog (to the right) and put yourself back into the heel position. (See 'Training The Working Retriever' pages 100-105) if you need more explanation of all this.)
Next we revisited an exercise practised a few weeks ago - calling the dog into the heel position. Handlers must get the definitions of these 2 positions for the dog clearly in their own minds and stop confusing the dog! A recall command means to the dog 'Face me (the handler)' a 'heel' command means to the dog 'face in the same direction as me'. Please stop saying 'come here' and please stop saying 'come along' when you should be saying 'heel'. You're confusing your dogs!
We finished with walking round and doing a meet and greet exercise adding a new part today when the visiting handler, keeping their own dog on a sit, stepped forward to stroke the stationary dog. Points to remember on this is first of all - keep control of your own dog! Next, you must remind the dog you are about to stroke to 'sit' then stroke the dog gently on the chest. This means between the front legs. It does not mean on the face, on the head or under the chin. When you finish stroking you must again remind the dog to 'sit' before stepping back to your own dog and praising.
Sorry for delay - I need a few more hours in each day!
This week we added a few new bits of training. The heelwork and sits are coming on very well although some of you are still a bit slow putting your dog in a sit when you stop and continue to say 'sit' and then do nothing other than wait until your dog chooses to sit - or in some cases chooses not to sit! Please can we get this right for next week?
The new bits: starting with the basic exercise of a sit and walk round we began to teach the dog the meaning of 'come' or whatever recall word you are going to use. When facing the dog it's important to keep the dog in a sit at a distance from you therefore it's important to remind the dog continuously with a verbal 'sit' and a hand signal. It's also vital to vary how many reminder commands you give to keep the dog alert and waiting to do something else when another, different command is given. Say 'come' once when the dog is looking at you, be ready to give a slight jerk on the lead if the dog doesn't respond immediately, but then praise the dog and make sure you relax the lead to enable the dog to come to you by himself. On arrival you must praise the dog both verbally and with your hands so the dog experiences the joy of coming to you and this is often better achieved if you kneel down or kneel on one leg but keep your back straight. It is this final bit which will ensure the dog remembers the joy for life! Once you have praised stand up and give the dog a 'sit' command, being ready to place the dog into position. Take your time over this part and calm the situation down - not by getting cross but by being quietly persistent. Once the dog is sitting, remind the dog to sit and then walk to the right of the dog, round the back and put yourself back into the correct heel position.
As separate exercises keep practising the 'hold' and 'give' commands and then combine a 'hold' with a recall on lead in the same way as practised for the recall without a 'hold'. When the combined 'hold' with a recall is practised the vital part is again to give as much praise as you can when the dog gets to you. Do not put your hands onto the hold item. The praise has to be given in exactly the same way as for the recall so forget the dog has something in its mouth and just praise verbally and with your hands - on the dog, not the item. Then stand up, give the dog a 'sit' command, praise for obeying, scratch the dog's chest or do some gentle face massage then, take hold of the item and say 'dead'. If the dog is slightly reluctant to open its mouth, you must not pull the item and you must be careful not to be cross or growl at the dog. Simply place your thumb on the lower teeth and gently apply pressure downwards until the mouth opens and the item is released, then praise excessively. As in all commands you must not say 'dead' more than once. Say 'dead' exert some pressure on the lower teeth and then you must wait. You must also praise a great deal when the item is released and forget that the dog didn't release the item immediately. That doesn't matter, what matters is the time the dog does release the item.
These static exercises separately and joined must be practised but in addition you can try giving the dog an item to hold whilst you do some heelwork so the dog trots along in the correct heel position holding something. Many dogs love doing this and feel proud to be carrying something for you but don't overdo this. There is a danger for us all in giving dogs things to do which they like all the time. Yes we want the dog to enjoy working with us but if your dog has not understood all the aspects of 'hold' and 'dead' and will only do these things when walking, then use that aspect as a reward after they have sat in front of you and held something. The opposite is also true of course so if you have a dog who knows the hold etc. when sitting in front of you, practise the walking at heel with an item first and use the sit in front with an item afterward as a reward.
The other aspect some of you can consider at this stage - for dogs who have grasped the principle of 'hold'and 'give' with a toy, is to begin substituting different items occasionally - this can be a different toy, an old sock or glove, anything which is soft and long enough for both the dog to hold it and you to have sufficient hanging out at the side, to take hold of it before giving the 'dead' command. This aspect is important otherwise some dogs begin to think that 'hold' and 'dead' only apply to the particular item you have practised with up to that point. That aspect was important in the beginning but we now need to generalise the behaviour and teach the dog that the commands apply no matter what ....
and in this case it's no matter what the item is. This can also be practised around the house on a variety of items (make sure they're safe both for and from the dog) and doesn't have to be taken into 'a training session'. Don't use dummies for any of these exercises as we need to get the behaviour and responses to commands right before we introduce an important tool of our trade first.
I should like to start off by saying a big 'well done' to all my group this morning. I know I gave you all a hard time last week - I don't apologise for this, because I felt you were all wasting opportunities to teach your dogs what they were required to do. However 100% -well 99% - improvement this week and I was so pleased with you all!
Will update further tomorrow but just wanted to say how well you had all done - make the most of it, I don't say this often! :-D))
Oh, thanks too for the newspapers and thank you Judith for the chockie bickies!
What we did today and why we did it!
Started with heelwork in a less formal style than previously practised in that everyone was mingling freely through everyone else but with the additional distractions also of toys being placed on the ground. For the dogs: all they had to do was walk to heel on the lead, sit when told and ignore the toys or ignore other handlers and dogs. They were therefore doing nothing different in terms of commands, than they have done before but what we doing this morning was to explain to the dogs, in the only way possible i.e. let them experience it, that wherever they are, whatever you do and whatever is happening around them if told to 'heel' or 'sit' then that is what they must do. We were therefore giving the dogs experience of quite a lot of different circumstances and situations whereby the commands apply. Handlers may well believe for example that if a dog understands once that he must sit when you stand talking to another handler, who also has a dog, then that's sufficient for the dog to learn the lesson. Well with a few dogs it may be, but most dogs because they are very literal and live in the now, need more experience before a handler could feel confident that that particular lesson has been learnt because at best dogs will learn only 'Oh OK I must sit and not talk to that particular dog when my handler is talking to that particular handler'. To generalise the behaviour we need to show the dog that it's every person and every dog in order for the dog to learn that when told to 'sit' that is what they must do no matter what .........
We also used toys to help this understanding and bring in also the 'leave it' command and again it is the experience of doing these exercises with different objects and in different places and in different circumstances which will teach the dog the lesson you want him to learn otherwise all you will enable the dog to learn is 'I must not touch the furry pheasant'. Most of these exercises are very easy to set up on your own - you don't have to drive for miles finding a suitable training area you can do it in the garden, in the kitchen, anywhere with anyone helping you if necessary and it need only take a minute or two. Teach the lesson, praise the dog, stop the lesson and try it again later but change a few things such as place or object or person.
Next we started on a few static exercises and reinforce the lesson 'if told to sit, that's all you have to do'. These exercises add experience for the dog and allow the dog to begin to understand that the handler will not always be standing still beside the dog whilst the dog continues to sit. The basic foundation exercise is the 'sit and walk round' and from now on, for a time, every exercise will begin with this base and practise is necessary over the next week so that the dogs are rock solid in terms of not moving a muscle whilst handlers walk round the dog. Keep the dogs guessing as to how the exercises will develop so sometimes you should walk round the dog remaining then in the heel position, sometimes walking 2 steps in front and (keeping your back to the dog) calling dog into the heel position and sometimes walking in front and turning side-on to the dog and calling him into the heel position. Again all these exercises can be done anywhere and you don't need to spend hours at it. Plan what you're going to do, do it and keep at it until you get success, then don't do it again at that time. Never stop in the middle of something which is still going wrong.You must always stop at a point where your dog has achieved what you wanted and if you'd set aside 10 minutes to 'train' and your dog achieves what you want in 3 minutes just be delighted with your dog and yourself - give lots and lots of praise to the dog, tell yourself what a wonderful dog trainer you are and don't be tempted to fill the time in with more
Fortunately, today we were able to divide into 2 groups now Mary is back from foreign parts - all the better to see you all!
Quick re-cap, so I thought, on heel position, positioning on the sit and more experience of the 'leave it' command, before moving onto things new. I was disappointed that some handlers are still pulling dogs into a sit by using the lead instead of positioning the dog and many dogs are continuing to be pulled around on tight leads as though they're on wheels. They have 4 paws - one in each corner and are well able to use these so please treat them like intelligent beings instead of treating them as though they are incapable of thinking or doing anything for themselves! OK lecture over!!!!!
We were not able to move on at all today but I hope that things will improve by next week. Homework is to teach the dogs where the heel position is and if the dog moves out of the correct position, the handler must do something about it. If the handler has stopped and then the dog moves, handlers must stand their ground and make the dog get back into the correct position. You don't have to wait to practise this so tell the dog to sit, move slightly then help the dog understand he or she must get themselves into your heel position. It's not the handler's responsibility to move themselves into the dog's desired position for their handler.
I would like to see all the dogs sitting much more quickly, in the correct place. If handlers give the dog several seconds to respond to a command then the dog will use all the time given and then take a bit more too so eventually you get a dog who won't sit, or will sit but "I'll do it later" or won't sit until it hears the third or fourth command or until it hears the handler getting cross.
Positioning the dog serves several purposes (1) the right hand holding the lead has to drop down to the dog's chest to rock backwards. Consequently you cannot have a tight lead or pull the dog into a sit by using the lead. (2) The dog learns not only what to do but when to do it and it is this aspect in particular that is missing mostly in the group. (3) It really helps to improve the waist line of the handlers!!
If everyone positions the dog every time for a week of short training sessions, all these dogs will be sitting sooooooooooooooooooooooooo fast I won't be able to see it happen next class as it will all be a blur - I hope!
October 18th (session two)
Today (large class of 15), we continued and furthered the work begun last week concerning heelwork, sit and the 'leave it' command. Exercises were designed to further the understanding for the dog that 'sit means sit, no matter what ...............'. This means to the dog that, if told to 'sit' then that is what the dog must do no matter what you do, no matter what other people do, no matter what other dogs do and no matter where you are or where the dog is. i.e. 'no matter what .......'
A dog can only understand this fact if the handler increases the dog's experience of all the circumstances where the 'sit' rule applies, is consistent in making sure the dog obeys the first (and only) 'sit' command and also insists that the dog continues to obey. As with all other training, the handler can help the dog understand rules better if, in addition to consistency, the praise is given continuously all the time the dog continues to obey. In that way the dog can learn to relax whilst sitting and won't constantly be anxious about what might happen next because the dog learns that nothing will happen unless, and until, the handler gives the dog another command which means the dog has to obey that command instead.
This is all part of teaching what we call 'steadiness'.
This is not about gundog training per se it is about training for the life the dog leads as part of a human/dog pack and to take its proper place not only in our own homes within our immediate family but in the community too.
No new commands were used yesterday but we started to develop the circumstances in which the commands the dog was learning would apply. It is no good a handler thinking the dog will automatically know that 'sit' applies wherever you are and whatever may be happening because dogs put more emphasis onto circumstances than humans are able to appreciate at times. This is very obvious when dogs 'go training' if this is in the same place with the same people and the same routines. The dogs appear brilliant at this type of training class, perhaps in a village hall, because they learn to perform in that place. They know the routine rather than know that behaviour is expected everywhere.
Teaching one behaviour/command is a process which has many stages and the initial teaching of the behaviour is only the first of numerous stages which need to be provided for and experienced by the dog. The first stage teaches the dog what to do when the command is given (in this case, put his bottom on the ground) positioning the dog teaches the dog what to do but also when to do it. Taking the sit behaviour out and about teaches the dog in which circumstances he has to obey and teaches the dog many 'no matter what's.....' In psychological terms this process is called 'generalising' or proofing the behaviour. The Americans call it 'taking the behaviour on the road'. The more you take the behaviour out and about the better the dog's understanding will be - this is the real meaning of training!
As a reminder. the exercises we did yesterday:
1. Weaving in and out of posts with a swift about turn. (Heelwork)
2. Above repeated in a different area, different posts. (Heelwork)
3. Working in a group formation - 2 groups but weaving in and out of other people and dogs (Heelwork, sit for stationary dogs, and using 'leave it' command)
4. Above repeated but dog from one group walked round dogs and people in the other group.
5. (3) Above repeated with walking dog and handler stopping at every dog and handler in the group handlers talking to each other dogs NOT talking to each other! (controlled socialising)
6. Large group and further use of the 'leave it' command with toys being thrown.
7. Above repeated with leads on the ground so the dogs were on leads but the handlers were not! This exercise should have been seen as a major success by all handlers! I certainly was proud of you all! Above all however it should have shown everyone that you cannot teach a dog to control itself by desperately clinging tensely onto a lead. A final note on this is 'please don't try this at home'. Most of the dogs are not ready to do this yet other than in very controlled circumstances. If you try this at home it will probably not work and you will undo many aspects which you are trying to build up, not demolish.
Homework is to take your heelwork and sits 'out on the road' to as many places as you can. Don't make it too exciting at the beginning but let your dog sit and watch/listen to children, road-works, see prams, shopping trolleys etc. take them to walk in different places such as a car park, a wood, wet or muddy path - anything, anywhere so that you change the circumstances and show the dog that the 'heel' command and the 'sit' command means the same wherever you are, whatever other people are doing, whatever strange noises are heard - i.e. 'no matter what ........' This must all be on the lead and if your dog hesitates or shows uncertainty your task is to plough on regardless, in a very matter of fact way, Do not stop, keep walking, past the uncertainty and don't stop until the dog is walking by your side again. If you stop in these circumstances - such as today when some dogs appeared worried about the posts - all you would indicate to the dog is 'yes you're right to be worried, I'm worried too'! You need to indicate to the dog that you are not worried by that ferocious looking shopping trolley in front of you (or anything else the dog has never experienced before) and therefore the dog is not to worry either as you will defend it and yourself if the shopping trolley lunges out and tries to kills you both.
October 11th (session one)
Lead work and the 'Heel' command:
The 'Heel' position for the dog should be approximately 6 inches away from the handler's left leg with the dog's right leg parallel with the handler's left leg. This gives the dog the opportunity to see a great deal more than if closer to the handler as its head and shoulders are slightly in front of the handler's leg. Many young dogs like to push up close to the handler when sitting still when the handler is standing, others like to put their paw on top of the handler's shoe. I don't worry about these things provided the correct position is maintained regarding the shoulder position of the dog in relation to the handler when walking. Most dogs don't push up close to the handler later and I feel it is a reassurance for the dog in the beginning to feel their handler beside them. It also allows the dog to switch off, knowing they will feel a slight movement by the handler if the handler is about to walk away which alerts the dog to listen in case the 'heel' command is also given, in which case the dog will walk with the handler. Some dogs also bite the lead when first learning about walking to heel. Again, I feel this is best ignored in the beginning - mainly because any punishment to 'stop biting the lead' may be interpreted by the dog as 'stop walking in the heel position'. Most dogs stop biting the lead as they gain confidence, if not or the problem begins to get worse, then I'll show you how to stop the behaviour.
If you are trying to teach a dog where the heel position is and what the word means, then you must be pro-active in your teaching. You must therefore remember to say the word 'Heel' just before you set off! All dogs can pull, lunge, be too far out to the side, go too slowly so they're behind the handler and dozens of other things other than walk in the correct position. They can only continue to do this if the handler allows it or does nothing to prevent an inappropriate position. You must not allow the dog to be anywhere other than the correct place and that means correcting it when the dog is an inch or two out of position and not wait until the dog is the entire length of the lead out of position.
Corrections with the lead should never be done upwards or backwards. Sideways is the best because firstly it is easier for the handler and secondly it brings the dog into the correct position without inflicting pain on the throat. The whole point is to teach the dog where to be in relation to the handler and the lead is jerked sharply to do this which startles the dog. The lead should not be used to inflict pain on the dog (which it does if it's pulled up or back) otherwise the sensible dog will very quickly realise who it is who is making his throat hurt. Once the dog realises this, his whole aim will be to get further away from the person hurting him, thus making the situation worse!
A sharp jerk, followed immediately by the lead going loose and a 'good boy' will bring about the desired result very quickly. All the time the dog is in the correct position praise should be almost continuous stopping only when you need to apply a correction with the lead. The correction should be immediate, the lead should then become loose again and you can continue to praise.
Whatever the action of the dog a response is required from the handler - if the dog's action is incorrect the handler should correct it, if the dog's action is correct the handler should praise it!
When teaching a dog the meaning of the 'sit' command, the first essential task for the handler is to say the word 'sit'. This sounds so obvious you probably think it's not worth my mentioning it BUT you'd be surprised at how many people forget! The word must only be said once. The second task for the handler is to position the dog into a sit by using their hands and never, ever, use the lead to pull the dog to a halt and then use the lead to pull the dog upwards and back into a sit position. This means the handler has to work and not be lazy! It's not that difficult to do but many handlers continue either using the lead inappropriately or saying the word 'sit' and then standing waiting for the dog to do it or repeating the word 'sit' numerous times in a louder and louder voice on each repetition.
The sequence should be say 'sit' as you lower your right hand which is holding the loop of the lead (this immediately takes away any danger of the pressure from a tight lead off the dog's throat). Take your left hand off the lead and as you lower your right hand start bending down.
The right hand then goes onto the chest of the dog - between the front legs (no higher) and the left hand goes onto the base of the tail. Pressure should be applied with the right hand only in a rocking backwards movement with the left hand used as a guide only. Both hands work together to position the sit
(Photographs from 'Training the Working Retriever')
Once the dog has been positioned it's important to praise, but in a calm, quiet voice. Then you should stand up straight, put yourself back into the correct heel position in relation to the dog and expect the dog to remain in position whilst you continue to praise. Many dogs will get up again immediately - you should see this as an excellent opportunity to give them another lesson on what 'sit' means! You need to position the dog again and follow the same steps, precisely. You may have to do this several times with some dogs and you should not attempt to walk with the dog again until the dog has remained in position for a few seconds with you standing up straight!
This same procedure should be used for several weeks.
The things to remember are: make sure you give the command but only say it once, position the dog, stand up straight and praise. If the dog gets up you must position again immediately and use the same procedure. Don't get cross! All you are trying to do is teach the dog what to do when you say the 'sit' word but you are also teaching the dog, by quick positioning, when he is to do it (now, immediately).
'Leave it' command
The 'leave it' command is the only exception to the rule about giving verbal commands in a normal voice. The reason for this is that it is a command which is a verbal punishment. It is not a verbal punishment for doing something but is a punishment for thinking of doing something and it is therefore a preventative rather than a consequence.
As soon as something or someone or some dog or anything comes within a dog's personal space (approximately 6 feet) or alerts their attention beyond their personal space then the dog is aware, interested and wants to become involved in some way with the object, person or dog. A toy may trigger the thought of 'I want that and I'm going to have it'; a person may trigger the thought 'I'm going to say "hello", jump on them and generally get them to acknowledge me'; another dog could trigger the thought of 'let's play'. When with you the dog needs to begin to understand that you are the one who controls your joint personal space. Although the dogs space is 6 feet, a human's personal space is usually no less than approximately 2 feet. For this reason many humans do not consider the 6 feet aspect and consequently try and control things much too late (within 2 feet). To control the thought processes of the dog humans must control the 6 feet away aspects - the time the dog has the thoughts - otherwise the command cannot be a preventive command because the dog will have already acted on the thoughts and become involved, grabbed the toy, jumped up on someone, lunged at another dog etc.
Two things which handlers must get right when beginning this teaching are:
(1) say 'leave it' in a harsh, rough voice, the louder the better!
(2) give the command when the object, person or dog is 6 feet away.
If handlers get these two bits right, the dog understands very quickly and it usually takes very few repetitions.
The third aspect which handlers must get right and which will speed the dog's learning is getting the praise in at the correct time, which is immediately after the 'leave it' command has been given. So the sequence has to be 'leave it' 'good boy' with no space in between but with a total change of voice from harsh to warm in a split second.
The mistake handlers make frequently is that once they get the timing and voice correct on when and how to give the 'leave it' command, that they wait too long before giving the praise. I think handlers wait to see if it works and it's only when they are convinced the dog will remain in a sit, that handlers then give the praise. This is the incorrect way to teach. You need to remember that it is the dog's thought that you are punishing and the harsh 'leave it' is solely to startle the dog and divert its attention from the object, dog or person about which it was having thoughts and focus its attention on the handler instead. If you wait and don't fill that space, even if it's only a second or two, then the dog will return to its thoughts and you will have wasted the opportunity to teach because when the dog returns to its thought the object, person or dog may well be closer and the dog will then act on its thoughts and have, grab, jump up, lunge and generally get involved with what it wanted to get involved with in the first place! In that case saying 'leave it' again is a total waste of time and certainly wont teach the dog what you wanted the dog to learn, so you should give appropriate commands 'heel' and 'sit', get the dog under your control, take a deep breath, calm down and start all over again (but a bit better).
The praise given at the right time, particularly if you stretch it out over a few seconds in a calm voice, means the dog will concentrate on you and you can keep the praise going until the 'danger' has passed by or gone off in another direction.
We use a variety of exercises to show dogs the meaning of the command but also as a means to show the dog that the command means 'don't even think about it' no matter what the circumstances, no matter where you are and no matter what the 'it' type of attraction is.
There will be more about this later but meanwhile think about it! Get your part word perfect, your timing perfect and the dog will learn his part quick as a flash!