Obtaining a dependable redeployment to his hide is my goal.
At the time, I am writing this Chase, my newest best hunting partner, is almost 8 months old. I must admit I had, as I suspect most retriever puppy trainers do, unrealistic expectations on how he would benefit from my tutorship.
My confidence as a retriever trainer is largely unearned. Every dog is different and well breed labs can almost train themselves. To be honest, I think an amateur trainer such as myself can easily hinder a lab as much as help. Although I had read or reread several books and mapped out a weekly progression which by now should’ve had Chase in contention for Grand National Champion, he is still pretty sloppy and not yet dependable on anything other than marked retrieves under 60 yards, coming to his name, sitting and the “blind” command.
He is doing pile retrieve work out to 150 yards and takes “over” and “back” commands at about an 80% reliability if am giving the commands within 20 yards of him. Yes, I know, we have a lot to work to still do.
One command all my dogs have learned easily and is a both useful and impressive in the field is the “blind” command.
To be standing in the field talking to your buddies when someone says, “Birds”, and be able to yell blind and your lab runs hard and dives in his blind before even your buddies can get their back side planted is a site to be hold.
The process of training is pretty simple. I initially use a food (cheese stick bits). Sitting the dog away from the blind I let him watch me put a reward in the blind. I release the dog with “Blind” and motion toward the blind. He will go for the reward. After he enters, eats the treat and turns to leave I physically stop him and repeat “Blind” and giving him another treat. The second is held in my hand and I make him work on getting it out of my hand. Second step is to eliminate the first step. Chase enthusiastically enters the blind to find the reward absent. He turns and looks for me to provided him the “second” reward. I make him wait a little longer each time offering him verbal praise until the treat is provided.
Next is moving to an intermittent reward schedule. Remember, an intermittent reinforcement schedule is even more powerful in cementing a behavior than constant reinforcement. Basically, Las Vegas was built upon this theory.
The intermittent schedule is lengthening every third event is rewarded, to every fifth, to every 9th to only verbal praise being given as the reward.
The whole process takes about a week.
In the end, I have a hunting retriever that I don’t have to wrestle with when the critical moment comes when the birds arrive. Dependable redeployment to his hide when ordered is the achievement.
Till I see you in the field, be safe, be good, and BE SAFE!
Chase and the "Blind" Command