Make sure to read below this video for pointers and knowledge of what is going on in this training exercise.
Today was Ripple’s first day of working with having to actively search for the dummy rather than the straight up visual retrieve. I changed location from the backyard to the driveway and surrounding area. This video was taken about 3-5 minutes into the training session. I did several simple retrieves all down the driveway that she could see then held her in a Whoa for a few seconds tossing the dummy down to the same area. The delay in sending the dog often creates a nose work situation rather than solely a visual exercise. Now the hunting dog is hunting for the source via scent, which is what we want to promote in the search.
The exercise in this video was set up to force the dog to learn that she needs to expand her search area and in doing so she will be rewarded for her hard work by locating the retrieve dummy. We certainly hope that dog expands her search area without our help because otherwise the dog learns to depend on the handler. Creating learning environments of gradually increased difficulty for the dog will build its work ethic in both drive and focus, yet always getting rewarded with finding its desired source is a critical part of the exercise.
Ripple works this search beautifully and in classic fashion by first going to the area where I have been generally tossing the dummy on the handful of previous retrieves. Once she has thoroughly searched what she views as the primary search area, notice how she starts to go side to side more, and back up the driveway towards me. She has a couple of moments of stopping and thinking about— where it might, should she continue searching, and where hasn’t she looked yet. She then goes back and searches all areas she has already covered. We had a gentle up hill breeze on this warm day. The wind carried the scent of the dummy far enough that once she stretched just a little further from her original search area straight ahead of me you’ll see she caught wind of it and works the scent cone starting at time 1:54 on this video.
This was a long first search for a pup. She did very well and I could not have asked for all variables to have played out better for a quailty learning experience. It’s experiences like this that make the dog feel it was totally worth it to work that hard for that long and she figured it all out by herself!
Did you notice that I didn’t speak a word to the dog between giving the Whoa command and until she actually grabbed the dummy? This is important because handlers think they are helping by vocally encouraging the dog but they are only distracting the dog and breaking its focus in a task that they are on the fence about giving up on or not. If the dog does give up and completely stops searching I will try to assist without the dog feeling like I am doing its work for it.
Ways that I will assist are: walking a little closer towards the dummy, which will promote the dog to advance further away from its already searched area. Moving to one side or the other to get in front of the dummy. This will encourage the dog to work in front of you because that is where your young dog will always feel most confident and comfortable.
Additionally, if I have had several poor training set ups I’ll toss a dummy out there prior to bringing the dog out to the training area so when I toss a dummy out there while working with the dog it has a greater chance of locating a dummy and getting the satisfaction and motivation to try hard again based on its success.
Good job Ripple! This young dog hopefully will have her second season of many great retrieves to hand in the Northwoods pursuing the Ruffed Grouse!