Sunday, June 15, 2008

Water Series, Shore-handling Toolkit

Summary. At Cheltenham, with Eric throwing and videotaping:
  • Series A, B, C. Water series (both dogs)
  • Series D. Continued work on toolkit Tools #8 and #9 (Laddie)
Series A, B, C. As on previous days, we set up in three separate locations, and each location, each dog had two retrieves. Today's set-ups were structured differently for Lumi, who ran first at each location, than for Laddie, who ran second.

LUMI

For Lumi's set-ups today, I used the following structure:
  • Lumi watches as gunshot is fired and white dummy is thrown on relatively challenging land/water mark
  • I send Lumi in a different direction to retrieve a blind
  • I send Lumi to retrieve the mark thrown earlier
For Series A and B, Eric threw the mark, while for Series C, I went out to throw the mark myself while Eric videotaped.

For Series A and B, the blinds were orange dummies set at relatively short distances with no water crossings nor other significant factors. Neither was marked, but both were in front of a prominent tree.

For Series C, the mark (a white dummy) was on land beyond a channel crossing, while the line to the blind (a duck) was thru a ditch containing plants, floating branches, and additional underwater debris, the kind of water crossing Lumi is fearful of. For the blind, Lumi did a nice job of entering the water and completing the crossing to the bird with no need for additional prompting after the initial Back cue, and showed courage in persevering after feeling herself attacked by a branch that moved when she stepped on it in the water. After picking up the bird, Lumi climbed to the top of the embankment with the clear intent of running around the end of the ditch to complete the retrieve, but responded well when I cued her to return back thru the ditch.

On the mark for Series C, Lumi required only one cue to complete the retrieve correctly, a whistle-sit-cast (WSC) into the water when I thought she was beginning to cheat around the channel on the send out. As she was sitting, I realized that she may have been intending to enter the water anyway, but in any case, she responded well to my cue to do so. She then remained clear of the land on both sides of the channel the rest of the way out and all the way back in without additional cueing.

Here's a video of Lumi's Series C:

video

LADDIE

Laddie had several LWL retrieves today's three series. The retrieves included singles and doubles, and white dummies thrown by Eric as well as poorman marks thrown by me, sometimes a dummy, sometimes a duck.

Series C, for example, was a poorman double with Eric videotaping:
  • #1 (thrown first, retrieved last): Dummy thrown across wide channel into grass tall enough to hide the dummy
  • #2 (thrown second, retrieved first): Duck thrown across a ditch
In contrast to Lumi, on #2, Laddie had no difficulty entering the ditch that Lumi finds scary, and performed a nice retrieve of the duck. He then seemed game to run #1, but was apparently confused by presense of the water and unsure which side the dummy had been thrown onto. First, I tried calling him back to heel and sending him again. When he again appeared confused, I blew a WS and cast him into the water. I was pleased with his good-looking response to the WSC, especially considering his age and inexperience with shore handling.

Here's a video of Laddie's Series C, showing his progress on LWL retrieves. Unfortunately, the camera angle prevents seeing Laddie on the WSC, but his head is just visible above the crest as he sits and then takes the cast:

video

Series D. Today Laddie completed four more repetitions of swimming from one lining pole to the other across the area we're using as a swim-by pond at Cheltenham. As on previous days, we alternated back and forth right to left and left to right, two reps in each direction.

Today Laddie showed improved understanding of the left lining pole as the destination for his right to left reps, and continued to respond on his left to right reps to prompts to divert away from me and toward the right lining pole. His execution of the actual tools we were working on, Over-LTW-W and Over-WTL-W, remained excellent.

13 comments:

Aiko said...

Hello, Lindsay. I have a 9 month old Golden Retriever male and am totally new on field training. I have a lot to learn to teach my puppy but was wondering what whistle do you use in the test series. I just bought a Lucky Dog Roy Gonia special whistle. Thank you. 1st time dog owner/trainer, Aiko Yonamine

Lindsay, with Lumi & Laddie said...

Hi, Aiko. I've never used comments on a blog before. I was looking for a reply link but I can't find one, so I guess this is how I should reply to you.

I looked at your cool blog on Finn. You must have put a lot of work into it. Finn's a cutie!

I should tell you I'm not a fan of the Volhard training methods, quite the contrary.

I think your choice of whistle was perfect. Many of the field trainers I know use the same one you purchased, as do I. I believe the company makes an orange model and a clear one. They're supposed to sound different, but I can't hear the difference. I wear two clear whistles on a double laniard, so that if one ever fails in the middle of an event, I'll still have the other one. I also own an orange one, but I use the two clear ones because I don't happen to like the color orange very much.

If you would prefer to write via email, my email address is lindsay.ridgeway@mac.com.

How did you find our blog?

Aiko said...

Hello, Lindsay. Thank you for your reply. I found your blog thru Google using CGC-TDI test field trial as my search words. Your blog came up and it was just what I was looking for. I was able to view some of your field tests videos in YouTube as well. We are scheduled to take the CGC-TDI Cert Test in one month. I realize we have some work to do in terms of teaching Finn to come back to the handler with his prize. If you check out the video in my blog, you will find out what I need to work on. Initially, I picked up the Volhard Motivational Method because I wanted to approach training by understanding my dog's drives and body language. I don't agree with the "yank & crank" method to get the desired behavior used by some of the old-school trainers we've encountered during our first formal obedience phase. From a lack of knowledge and experience, I soon learned that I was stiffling my puppy's drives using this method. Then I met Mike & Karen Elliott of Sunnyside Goldens who use reward based training or Marker training. I've been using this method to train my Golden since and it has been fantastic. Finn is highly motivated and responds quite well and we use the tug and other toys as a reward in addition to food and play. He is learning scent discrimination and tracking as part of our games we play. Currently, my goal is to learn about field training and to make sure I teach Finn to come back with a prize in his mouth. We got a late start in swimming but he didn't hesitate to jump in on the first try. Needless to say, I have work to do if we are to pass the field tests in the nearest future. Thanks so much for posting in your blog! I will definitely be referring to it as we progress.

Aiko said...

I almost forgot, as far as field training gear, what items would you suggest for the beginner like me. I got a 30-foot Mendota check cord, 2 Lucky Dog training white dummies and the orange whistle at Dogs AField. (I have ordered two competition clear whistles and double lanyard.) Finn will be on the long line until we can assure that he will come back with the item. Your suggestions are much welcomed! Thank you again! Cheers!

Lindsay, with Lumi & Laddie said...

A: I found your blog thru Google using CGC-TDI test field trial as my search words. Your blog came up and it was just what I was looking for.

L: Cool. Thanks for the explanation.

A: I was able to view some of your field tests videos in YouTube as well.

L: To clarify my use of the word "test" on this blog: For performance dogs, a test is usually an event with judges. When I called my blog "test series", I was using the word a different way, to mean a series of criteria levels I wanted my dogs to work thru. The two kinds of AKC field events are "Hunt Tests" (pass fail, no head-to-head competition among the dogs) and "Field Trials".

A: We are scheduled to take the CGC-TDI Cert Test in one month. I realize we have some work to do in terms of teaching Finn to come back to the handler with his prize. If you check out the video in my blog, you will find out what I need to work on.

L: I had several thoughts on your nicely made video. The main one was that I'd like to see Finn showing higher motivation in several situations. That means that either you need to choose things he likes to do more, or you need to make the things he is doing more rewarding.

I saw that Finn didn't come back with the dummy when you threw it in the water. So much was going on for Finn -- learning to swim, chasing "prey", retrieving. I suggest that you focus on retrieving as a separate task.

The starting point is recall. Retrieving aside, I suggest you pour a great deal of energy into Finn's recall, thoroughly distractiong proofing it and building up distances to the range you'll need for your competitive goals.

This is not a good format for discussing how to train Finn to retrieve -- that's a large topic -- but I'd make the point that you do not want to rely on his instincts (though they are probably good), you want to explicitly train the retrieve. It is important that you do that BEFORE asking him for retrieves that he isn't ready for, otherwise he will learn bad habits and you'll be digging a hole.

A: Initially, I picked up the Volhard Motivational Method because I wanted to approach training by understanding my dog's drives and body language. I don't agree with the "yank & crank" method to get the desired behavior used by some of the old-school trainers we've encountered during our first formal obedience phase. From a lack of knowledge and experience, I soon learned that I was stiffling my puppy's drives using this method. Then I met Mike & Karen Elliott of Sunnyside Goldens who use reward based training or Marker training. I've been using this method to train my Golden since and it has been fantastic.

L: I like the sound of the direction you've gone.

A: Finn is highly motivated and responds quite well and we use the tug and other toys as a reward in addition to food and play.

L: I'm glad you're using tug, toys, and play in addition to food. I'd like to emphasize one other point: For a field retriever, the most rewarding thing you can give him will eventually be the opportunity to retrieve. In other words, he will be rewarded not by things you are giving him, but by the very act of retrieving. In addition, other things he may choose to do on his own, such as keep-away, can become highly rewarding. It's important to understand the concept of self-reinforcing behavior so that you can incorporate that understanding into your training decisions. This is more true for field training than for many other sports.

A: He is learning scent discrimination and tracking as part of our games we play.

L: Goldens have exceptional noses.

A: Currently, my goal is to learn about field training and to make sure I teach Finn to come back with a prize in his mouth. We got a late start in swimming but he didn't hesitate to jump in on the first try.

L: It looks like he'll be a good waterdog. With practice, he'll learn to swim with his paws under the water. It looks like you're keeping it fun. Good!

A: Needless to say, I have work to do if we are to pass the field tests in the nearest future.

L: I'm not sure what you mean by "field tests". Do you mean AKC Hunt Tests?

A: Thanks so much for posting in your blog! I will definitely be referring to it as we progress.

L: Cool. I hope you'll let me know how Finn is doing as time goes by.

Lindsay, with Lumi & Laddie said...

A: I almost forgot, as far as field training gear, what items would you suggest for the beginner like me. I got a 30-foot Mendota check cord, 2 Lucky Dog training white dummies and the orange whistle at Dogs AField. (I have ordered two competition clear whistles and double lanyard.) Finn will be on the long line until we can assure that he will come back with the item.

L: My trunk is full of gear. It depends on your objectives. A clicker is a great marker for your early 2Q training. If you want to train for competition, you'll want Finn to learn that gunfire predicts good things, for which you'll need a starters pistol and ammo. If you want to run Finn in Hunt Tests, you'll want a duck call. I've gotten good use out of a 100' line, which I had made for me. I have many dummies, including white rubber and B&W canvas. All but the orange have throwing ropes attached, and most also have streamers. If you plan to train handling and blinds, you'll want lining poles and orange rubber dummies. Because we train for Field Trials, I have a couple of retired gun racks that I dress up in white coveralls and use as stand-ins for throwers when I use a single thrower for a multiple-mark series, and also for distraction-proofing on blinds. After water work, I dry my dogs with a chamois in the field, and when I get them home, I dry them more thoroughly with a blow dryer. I could mention other things that it would be valuable for a beginner to have -- clipwing pigeons, Bumper Boy remote launchers -- but that would really be jumping in with both feet.

I think the most important things for Finn right now are as follows:

* Recall, recall, recall.
* Build a high quality retrieve from the ground up.
* Work on "give" constantly. Never pry anything out of Finn's mouth, always reward him for delivering something and letting go (however long it takes), and whenever possible, give it back to him immediately. Let him learn that when he gives you something, he gets a treat AND he gets it back again. If it's something you can throw for him, better still.
* Don't ask Finn to do things that he's not ready for. He can learn bad habits so quickly. For example, if he's not coming back from 20 yards, enthusiastically and without the need for a long line, work on that. When he's doing that, you can gradually add distance. In some sports, it might do little harm to try the dog out on something he's not ready for, but that's not the case with field work. If he finds a particular behavior to be self-reinforcing that you consider to be undesirable -- for example, keep away -- and he gets to do it a few times, it can be extremely difficult to untrain.
* I would start training a whistle sit immediately. If you don't plan to compete past JH, you may not need that.
* Keep it fun. Among other things, that means short sessions, perhaps 1-3 retrieves and then a break.
* Train Finn when he's hungry.
* Start searching for a group to train with. It may take months to find one. Finn is not ready to train with a group yet, but if you stick with it, he will be in at some point. Finding a group may be a challenge, but it is absolutely necessary if you want to get involved in competition.

Aiko said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aiko said...

Lindsay, I just want to thank you for your suggestions. I've been taking them to heed and Finn is retrieving with so much joy. I will have to videotape it sometime to show you what I mean! I put him on a heel position, sit, stay/wait, "mark", give him praise for waiting and looking at me for direction. Then I say "Take" and off he goes to bring the bumper back! He drops the bumpers on my hand! He also is learning that "Here" means come back to me. I praise him for holding the object "good hold". He does this in the house with delight. He is 10 months old now! WE take are CGC test tomorrow morning at 9:15AM! Cheers! ~Aiko

Lindsay, with Lumi & Laddie said...

I inadvertently deleted Aiko's comment. Sorry. Here's what she had written:

------

Lindsay, thank you so much!

Your suggestion on the opportunity in retrieving really as a reward works! He joyfully brings back the bumpers and things to me! He loves to bring items to me and drops them on my hand when I say "here". He knows that the bumpers are a "big treat" and I put him on a heel position, sit, mark it and I have him watch me for the cue "Take". And he comes back when I say "here". Cheers! ~Aiko

------

Lindsay replies:

Finn's a good boy, and you seem to be doing a nice job with him.

I suggest that you work with him to deliver as follows. He holds the article gently until you have a good grasp on it. Then you say "out" or "give", and he opens his mouth and pulls his head away. That way, he won't drop the bird on the ground if you're not ready to take it.

Like other trainers I've seen, I don't usually have to use a verbal cue, I can just grasp the bird and pull slightly, and both of my dogs will open their mouths. But I've trained them not to open their mouths just because they THINK I'm going to take the bird, because that can lead to dropped birds. (I'm saying "bird", of course that applies to dummies/bumpers, too.)

Eventually, you'll want Finn to deliver from a sitting position after coming to heel. It's often difficult for dogs to learn to sit while holding an article, so I'd advise patience. :0)

Like other trainers I've talked to, I trained my dogs to hold my finger as the first "article" they learned to sit with. That way I could monitor how tight the grasp was, and train them that "hold" means I want the dog to take a distinctly tighter grip.

Best of luck to you and Finn!

--Lindsay

Lindsay, with Lumi & Laddie said...

A: I will have to videotape it sometime to show you what I mean!

L: That would be great. You do a nice joy on your videos.

A: I put him on a heel position, sit, stay/wait, "mark", give him praise for waiting and looking at me for direction.

L: I'd suggest that you do not encourage him to look at you. You want him looking at the thrower, and then when the mark is thrown, looking in the direction of the fall until you send him. It can be difficult to untrain his looking at you, so I suggest that start sending him quickly for awhile, before he gets a chance to look at you, and then slowly let him sit a little longer before you send him. Eventually, you'll want to use a random but typically long wait before the release, so he can't anticipate it, but it's more important now that he keep his focus on that mark.

A: Then I say "Take" and off he goes to bring the bumper back!

L: It's a joy to work with a motivated dog, congratulations! In American field sports, most trainers release the dog to run to the mark by quietly saying the dog's name, in your case, "Finn". (For blinds, you say "Back", but for marks, you say the dog's name.) Remember that it's not a cue or command, it's just a release, so it's not necessary to say it loudly as you sometimes hear trainers do. The dog is already on a hairtrigger to go, you're just letting him go. Don't move your body or hand as you see me doing, especially in my earlier videos. Just stand still and release the dog with your voice. Quiet handling is good.

I'm surprised that Finn is "steady" at such a young age, that is, that he waits to be released before taking off. That's good.

A: He drops the bumpers on my hand! He also is learning that "Here" means come back to me.

L: I addressed the delivery in my previous comment. I'm glad he's learning "Here". I guess you mean you used to use a different recall word. Anyway, again, remember that recall is probably the single most important skill, you can't train anything else without that.

A: I praise him for holding the object "good hold"

L: I tend to take a theoretical view of dog training, so I hope you won't mind my mentioning a theoretical point about praise.

A "reinforcer" is any outcome that causes the preceding behavior to increase. In that sense, praise can indeed be a reinforcer. But praise is what's called a secondary or conditioned reinforcer, also known as a bridge. The dog isn't working for praise, he's working for what he's learned praise predicts, treats or petting, toys or play, something that required no learning to act as a primary reinforcer.

For that reason, praise used alone will eventually become ineffective as a reinforcer. You might think of praise as a statement from you that something good might follow, and make that true as often as necessary to keep praise working.

A: He does this in the house with delight. He is 10 months old now! WE take are CGC test tomorrow morning at 9:15AM! Cheers!

L: Best of luck on the CGC, Aiko and Finn!

Aiko said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aiko said...

Hi, Lindsay. I deleted my other comment.

Okay, I will teach Finn to hold the object while in sit. This will be interesting but I think he will probably do this just fine. He has a very high aptitude for learning and I can tell when he wags his tail when "he gets it". Is it too much to teach him the swing finish and sit while holding the object? Finn knows now understands that giving the object is a good thing (he waits to retrieve more). I reinforce with another retrieve.

Finn passed his CGC-TDI Test with flying colors. Since he is only 10 months, he certified for the CGC portion. After August 28th though, we will retest for the official CGC-TDI. Yipee!

In the meantime, we will resume with our Rally-O.

BTW, I meant AKC Hunt Test. It's all Greek to me, but I am learning. I didn't mention that we are members of the Golden Retriever Club of Columbus. This Thursday, the GRCCO is having an intro on the GRCA Working Certificate test and it will be holding a WC/X this fall (10/19). I am not sure if we will be ready by October for this may be a lot to do for Finn but I am working on it.

I am training him on the whistle sit. Suggestions on how to do it is much welcomed.

Thanks always, Lindsay. Do you have any new videos to share on YouTube?

Cheers!
Aiko Yonamine

Lindsay, with Lumi & Laddie said...

A: I will teach Finn to hold the object while in sit. . . I think he will probably do this just fine.

L: Good. Please let me know how it goes.

A: Is it too much to teach him the swing finish and sit while holding the object?

L: No, it's not too much at all. That's exactly what you want. But in addition, you want Finn to understand that the cue "hold" means to increase pressure on the article. Later in his training, such as when he is coming out of water and wants to shake off, or when he is distracted something, you'll want to be able to say "hold" so he can learn what to do in those situations. That's why the hold is a separate training job that generally precedes the complete delivery you described. But yes, by all means, train the complete delivery as well.

A: Finn passed his CGC-TDI Test with flying colors.

L: Congratulations! Good job, Finn!

A: This Thursday, the GRCCO is having an intro on the GRCA Working Certificate test and it will be holding a WC/X this fall (10/19). I am not sure if we will be ready by October for this may be a lot to do for Finn but I am working on it.

L: I think it's important that the dog not learn anything you don't want him to learn in the test. For example, he should not learn that you won't walk out to him if he starts to eat the bird, even though of course you'll be disqualified if you do. It's important that he have prior experience training with flyers, and also that he have prior experience training with a group. Both of those will raise Finn's excitement level (and yours) sky high, and in general you can't just jump from private training to an event.

A: I am training him on the whistle sit. Suggestions on how to do it is much welcomed.

L: You seem to have pretty good instincts, so let me know what's happening and maybe I'll suggest some course corrections. Here are some thoughts in the meantime.

The WS is one of the most crucial skills for a handling dog, but is not needed for either the WC/WCX nor for the Junior-level tests, so you have plenty of time to work on it.

One of my favorite ways to practice the WS is to take my dogs on off-lead hikes and blow a WS every five minutes or so. As soon as they're sitting, I blow a recall whistle and give them treats when they come running to me. Over time, I've increased the criteria, making the distances and circumstances increasingly difficult for them to respond to the sit, such as they're playing with each other or sniffing something. They've both improved significantly as a result of that game.

A: Do you have any new videos to share on YouTube?

L: None lately on YouTube, but I've added an index of my blog entries that contain videos along the right margin. You may find some you haven't seen there.

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