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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWK6GZ-Xr0k