Clicker Training a Bird Dog Retreive to Hand Part 2 Finishing Touches Now that you have a basic retrieve, you can add some of the finishing touches. Each behavior needs to be taught separately first, before being added to the chain. Add each behavior separately to the chain, then add various combinations of two. Remember to lower your other criteria first when you add each new behavior. Step 10 Add Hold Time Back in Add time to the hold but decrease the distance. The distance will be added back in once she is comfortable holding the bumper for one minute or more. Step 11 Practice a Stay When You Throw the Bumper Increase duration of stay in small increments, then add distance as before. For a good field retrieve, the dog should be looking at the bumper and the environment. Jessie’s default is to make eye contact since it is needed in the other dog sports we do. Ideally, release the dog when she is looking at the bumper to reinforce the desired behavior. Also add excitment intensity in small steps when you throw the bumper. This helps build self-control. Step 12 Practice Calling Dog off Bumper You need to be able to call your dog off the bumper at any time. Make a game of this by being unpredictable. But make sure to do more retreives than recalls in a training session to keep your dog motivated. When pairing a recall with a retrieve, the recall is strengthened using the ‘Premack Principle’ (see step 18B) assuming a retrieve is more desired by your dog. Step 13 If Your Dog Has a Slower Return, Add Speed to the Chain Jessie was taught ‘hurry’ in a different location first by using Classical Conditioning. CC pairs a cue with a behavior that is already happening. Remember Pavlov’s bell triggered the dogs to drool? Step 14 Have a Helper Throw the Bumper Getting the dog accustomed to a second person helping will make it easier for her in the field. it is one more distration she will have already seen. I asked for a shorter stay because of the new distraction. Start close. Add distance as before. The helper can also add distance from the center send line by moving further to the right or left. Start with familiar people. Note I am not asking for a fast return? That will be added back in later. Step 15 Shape the Bumper Delivery as You Want it I noticed Jessie tended to sit quite far away from me when she delivered the bumper if my hand was not there as a target. So I used Sue Ailsby’s ‘Shaping Front using Bullseye’ to get her in closer. First without the bumper, then with the bumper. Throw the treat in front of you and clikc as the dog is still moving towards you. Over time, as long as you click while the dog is still moving, the dog will stop closer and closer to you. After several training sessions, I have moved the lines closer and jessie offers a paw over the new line. Then paw over the second line. Step 16 Add the Side Delivery (if you want it) Next start training the retrieve in a new location FROM THE VERY BEGINNING! Pretend your dog does not know the behavior in the front yard, back yard, park, your hunting location etc. Nose touch, take, then hold. Hold while I am holding. Hold on own. Lift bumper. Pick bumper off ground. Bring to me a short retrieve etc. Short retrieve with no requirement to stay at start, hand-delivered bumper. Adding distance. Longer distance, more enthusiasm in throw, short stay-she goofed! Handler error. Too many criteria at once. Speedy return and enthusiasm in tail wag! After being successful at many different locations, your dog will relearn the behavior chain more quickly. This is when ‘generalization of behavior’ occurs. Step 17 Train Field Stays in sit, down and stand position I use the “Peck 300” Method to increase the number of paces I take. I start with a number I know my dog can succeed at, then increase in tow or three pace intervals. If the dog gets up in the middle of a stay, I go back to a much easier number of paces. and slowly build back up to where she failed. I then practice at that distance for awhile, then add in slightly longer distances. With practice, we can successfully work through that distance. Then I add speed to my departure. Step 18A Build Drive for the Retrieve Many experts advocate having you retrieve more bumpers than the dog. This add higher challenge to the dog’s self control and is a good way to prepare your dog for honoring another dog. Make it unpredictable when you let the dog do the retrieve. The next step would be to practice this with another dog, which adds another level of competition. Step 18B Build More Drive with Premack the Retrieve with a Higher Value Behavior Use a different object that your dog enjoys to alternate with the retrieve training. Jessie’s favorite is a piece of garden home with a knot tied in the end. Makes a great tug and throw toy. When you pair a highly desirable behavior (tug) with a lower interest behavior (retrieve), you increase the interest in the lower interest behavior. This is called the ‘Premack Principle’. Alternate them regularly and the retrieve becomes as exciting as the tug game. Step 19 Take the Retreive to Water Choose a shallow body of water with a gradual entry. Ideally the water will be warmed up. If it is too cold, it can be a deterrent to a first-time dog. This pond is about 35 feet in diameter and just deep enough that Jessie has to swim. Thrwo the bumper just to the water’s edge. Shake! Shake! Shake! Straight out of the car and raring to go was porbabaly not the best idea for a terrier. Throw it a little further each time as your dog is comfortable with it. It would have been more helpful here for Jessie if I had stopped here and did some land retrieves first to remind her of the behavior I wanted. (no shaking the bumper) Then we moved to the other side to try again. This side was less distracting because there were fewer plants. Try attaching a long light line to the bumper if your dog is an unreliable retriever. This is Jessie’s first ever swimming retrieve. And yes, she did eventually bring it to me, it just took a little time for some shaking and clearing the water from her nose. The long line allows you to move the bumper so it come alive and gets the dog interested in it again. Jessie comes racing from around the other side of the pond to complete her retrieve. Step 20 Phase out the Food Rewards By now the retrieve should be its own reward (as the birds will become once you start working with them). Other Criteria That Need to be Trained Increased distance, different surfaces: long grass, scrub, trees, different terrain: land, water, slopes, crossing from one terrain to another distractions: people, other dogs, live game, weather conditions: wind, rain, snow, slush, handler out of sight Again, start training FROM THE BEGINNING with each change of environment. Other Retrieve-related Training: *marking *blind retrieves *directional changes *honoring other dogs *retrieving a dead bird * retrieving a crippled bird * sound of the gun etc It is very useful to keep a running log of each training session. * what behavior you are working on *how many cued and uncued repetitions *success rates for cued reps *distance * duration * rewards used * challenges for your dog etc Have Fun with Your Bird Dog!