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Brito – more shaped retrieve and beginning proofing

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I have introduced Brito to a few more retrieve concepts.

I’m now (gently!) pushing him away before starting the retrieve – this encourages Brito to move in a forward direction after he puts his mouth on the bar.  If you don’t do this step, many dogs will walk backwards after taking or giving up the dumbbell.  I discourage this early in the process.

This was not hard step for Brito because I have worked on both opposition reflex skills and also putting his mouth on the dumbbell when it is inconvenient (tilted, in my lap, etc).  Brito is used to the idea of working his way towards the bar when something is in his way; in this case, my hand/arm.

I’m also adding the idea of taking the weight of the dumbbell.  My hands leave the dumbbell for just a fraction of a second – and then back on before he is really aware of what happened.

We’re talking a fraction of a second – hands off and on so fast that he can’t possibly drop it.  This video was filmed a few days after this step, so by now  my hands are probably off for 1/2 a second – longer than where we started!  At this point I allow him to occasionally drop it. I do this on purpose so I can create some “learning opportunities”.  He needs to understand that if the dumbbell drops then there is no cookie and if he holds it then there is a cookie. I  work hard not to allow more than two failures in a row.

I also add some beginning proofing here.  I hold the reward cookie and the dumbbell at the same time. If he  goes for the cookie rather than my hand, he is wasting his time.  The first days I did this, he worked on that cookie hand for quite a while – now he takes a quick attempt at getting the cookie and then he goes to work.  He’s no dummy:).

Now I also make the bag of cookies accessible to him – but I don’t let him get a cookie.  If he were a stronger/larger dog, I’d use a stronger container.  Better to start this type of proofing now so it becomes a habit.  I never “clean up” toys or food out of my work spaces; instead I teach my dogs early on to ignore those things.

This might be a good time to note that I shape the dumbbell differently each time.  The dog chooses the route – start with their strengths and go from there.

Here’s a video of today’s steps of retrieve plus the proofing exercises:

About dfenzi

I'm a professional dog trainer who specializes in building relationship in dog handler teams who compete in dog sports. My personal passions are Competitive Obedience and no force (motivational) dog training. I travel throughout the world teaching seminars on topics related to Dog Obedience and Building Drives and Motivation. I own Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, a comprehensive online school for motivational training of performance sport dogs.

10 responses »

  1. I so admire your work. My question is how are you doing the clicking? Is it really a clicker? If so how are you operating it (with both hands moving Brito, handling the dumbbell and the treats) or is it a certain reproducible sound that you are making with your voice? Would love to do the same thing but am uncertain how to accomplish it.

  2. I’m finding your training with Brito very interesting. I have a little dog that I compete with (she’s a PugX).

    But, I have a question; why have you started with such a large dumbbell? It looks like it is too heavy and Brito isn’t holding it very well. How do you see this progressing? and will you get him a smaller dumbbell once he can retrieve the big one?

    Also, I can’t wait to see how you teach heelwork. I especially want to see how Brito is positioned in relation to your leg as this is what I find the hardest with my little dog.

    • I’m not sure what I’ll do about the dumbbell. My experience is they adapt to whatever you ask so I’m not too motivated to make it easy:).

      • That’s fair enough.
        When I taught my PugX I used a short piece of hose to teach the “hold” and then once that was good and she wasn’t mouthing or dropping it I transfered to a wooden dumbbell (this avoided letting her practice any bad habits on the dumbbell by teaching with the hose until I had the complete behaviour). So it was sort of opposite to what you are doing (ie, I started with something lighter then gave her the heavier dumbbell).

        With starting with the heavier item I would be worried that he will get in the habit of dropping it (especially since in the video it doesn’t look like he is holding it very firmly).

        It’s very interesting seeing a different method as my PugX is the first dog that I’ve trained.

      • i don’t see the point in using a dumbbell with a bar that is obviously too big for him that is also obviously too heavy for him. is this how you have taught your other dogs? it seems you would have to use a dumbbell with a bar as thiick as your arm for that to be the case.

  3. Thanks, it is so helpful to see the beginning proofing. Proofing in general is something I am struggling with.

    As for clicking with the tongue instead of a clicker, also very helpful. I have been in the habit of using “yes” as a marker when I lose or forget the clicker. I’ve started getting video of training, and am amazed at how much my tone of voice varies, with I am sure some confusion created for my dog. I will switch to a self-help click and hopefully manage to do that more consistently.

    • As an add-on to my earlier comment, I seem to be having either a reward issue or a proofing issue with my pointer’s retrieve right now. He retrieves pretty much any inanimate object for food rewards, and on the influence of this blog I’ve begun working in play as a reward as well. With birds, he’s just started over the last few times out to retrieve the first one or two birds, and after that to then to simply run out to a bird and sit (not point), rather than retrieve. He is in general fairly bird-crazy, so live birds are strong reinforcers for him. When out in the field, food does not seem to be an effective reward — today he refused hot dogs, for instance. As long as I can find the bird — and if he is sitting by the bird, I can — having to walk up to it is not a big deal to me, but as a training problem I am not sure what is happening. Force-fetching would be one answer, but I don’t want to go there. Stopping hunting would be a negative punishment (I think) for failing to retrieve. Alternatively, I could try proofing the retrieve more against distractions, viewing continuing to hunt as sort of the ultimate distraction.

      • If he’s birdy my guess is that you worked hard on the ‘control’ and ‘stay’ portions of the work and he thinks you don’t want him to fetch it. A couple of thoughts
        Fetch it yourself (with a flourish and a lot of excitement) with no reward to him. Then let him smell the hot dog that he wont be getting (though he may not care, based on what you said). and go on. Sometimes just ignoring it causes it to resolve.
        Assuming he fetches dead birds reliably at home, I can’t think of a logical reason why he’d happily find them in the field and then just stare at it? More dead birds at home:).
        Doesn’t sound like a distraction issue since he’s not distracted – he’s sitting with the bird.

  4. I worked with more dead birds at home, and next time out he was fine, except probably more playful (bouncy gait) on the retrieve than normal. Looking back, one thing I had previously been doing was taking the bird from him as soon as he got back to me, so it may be this was discouraging him, by taking away what to him was the most rewarding part of the retrieve? I’m planning on letting him keep the bird for a minute for the rest of the season, and then make more of a fuss over him than I had been doing. Thanks again for such a great resource here.


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