Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Land and Water Retrieves

Stadler's Nursery

SERIES A. Land singles (Lumi, then Laddie)

Returning to the area where Laddie went OOC yesterday, I had Austin throw two ducks as singles at 50 and 40 yards. Lumi ran both singles first, then Laddie. The line to both marks was filled with potential distractions, including high cover, puddles, a diagonal road crossing, and a fallen tree that the 50-yard mark was thrown behind.

Lumi was a little slow picking up the bird that was thrown behind a fallen tree, but Austin remembered to walk toward her when I blew CIW, and as soon as she saw him coming, she picked the bird up and ran back to me with it. She had no such delay on her second retrieve.

Laddie's retrieves were both superb. As he came running toward me, I crouched down and extended my arms toward him as a sign of playfulness and welcome — not a professional-looking job of handling, but perhaps appropriate to build reinforcement history for such great returns for Laddie.

The temptation will be to stretch the distances of marks in the coming days to Field Trial distances, but I hope I am able to resist that temptation. Now, I think, is the time in Laddie's career to experience one great retrieve after another and to feel great about every one of them, and not worry about resuming the kinds of challenges that Laddie can handle on the outrun, but may lead to problems, possibly even going OOC, on the returns.

SERIES B. Water singles (Lumi and Laddie alternating)

Because I'm not yet sure what the best way is to improve both dogs' pick-ups and water re-entries, I asked Austin to handle the dogs while I threw short water marks for each dog in turn. First each of the dogs retrieved a duck, then each retrieved a chukar. As each dog arrived at the fall, I immediately began to walk toward the dog, saying gently but firmly, "Back in the water, get back in the water," and using a shooing motion with my hands and arms.

This is a far cry from the kind of behavior shaping I've devoted so much effort to with both of my dogs over the years, but I see no way to clicker-train this particular behavior.

It's possible both dogs will learn the desired behavior, that it will become habitual, and that they will begin to exhibit it before I as the thrower say or do anything. But it's also possible it won't work at all. One way it might fail is that the dogs might begin to depend on my verbal and visual stimuli to cue the desired response. Another is that the dogs might begin to respond as desired when I'm the thrower, but might not generalize it for other throwers.

If it doesn't work, I'll have to try something else. Hopefully it won't do any harm for the dogs to practice getting immediately back in the water, whether they learn it as an uncued behavior as needed for an event, or not.

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