"Chase" My Newest to-be Hunting Buddy ~
Chase “Back” To Place at 18 weeks~
Chase has been doing a lot of play “fetch” marks and remote “sit” and now is starting the “back” to place command. My strong advice anyone starting to train their retriever for the first time is have a plan of building block skills that will help you (and your buddy) to achieve the kind of performance you are aiming.
Another tip, would be to separate what I think of training from what I think of shaping.
Training, to me, is when we establish a defined performance standard that will be rewarded or punished based upon that standard. Training is the refinement of performance, the hardwiring that makes your buddy reliable 100% of the time. For this I will be using an e-collar and extending the distance which compliance will occur. I wont get to this aspect of performance for a long time.
Shaping, is getting my pup to perform a behavior which he experiences as fun and over time getting that behavior close to the standard behavior. I do not use any form of punishment other than withholding praise and perhaps a non-emotional “No”.
Shaping is a precursor to training. It is essential that the pup learn how to do a standard behavior without any fear or worry. I want him to associate the performance as a type of play. I use a lot of food rewards and praise and loving to start a process to get him to do the behavior that we will later train on.
For food rewards I use little pieces of string cheese; the kind you might buy for your kid’s lunch. Whenever I am using a food reward I move from my pup getting it immediately upon doing the behavior we are working on, to holding it and making him try to get it from me while I am praising and petting, then providing the praise and petting without the food reward.
I try to never over do the session to the point that the pup might get tired of the drill or the reward. As they say, always stop with them wanting more!
To shape the “back” to place behavior I follow a few progressions. First, I walk the pup to a circle place mat and put the reward on the mat. When he eats it I say “sit” (a behavior he knows well) and when he sits I give him a second reward. I will do this a couple of times over a few days and pretty soon he is eating the first reward and sitting before commanded to sit. Lots of praise and petting is done to reinforce this behavior.
Next is to walk him toward the place mat and say “place” when he gets on it and sits I give him the reward but make him work to get it from my hand while I praise. After doing this just a few times I will transition to having him “sit” five yards from the place mat and letting him watch me put the reward on the mat. If he comes to the mat I pick him up with his hind end higher than his head and sit him back and re-command “sit”. Once he sits and I get the reward on the mat and step back I will say “Chase” and let him take the reward. I will then say “sit” and provide a second reward upon sitting on the mat. It took a few pick him up and put him back procedures before he realized that waiting for his name was the fastest way to get his reward. After a couple of days of doing this three or four times I began moving back the distance until I have him going from 20 yards.
The next step involved repeating the above process only this time with me standing in front of Chase and Chase’s back toward the place mat. Now the release command is changed to “back” with me stepping forward with a hand up.
The reward sequence was repeated.
The final step at this stage is to add the angle back. Angle back is conditioning the pup to turn back based on which arm the handler puts up with the back command. To achieve this I use a check cord. I allow the pup to figure out simply through trial and error. I exaggerate the back command with lightly tossing the cord out to the side as the cast arm is raised. IF the pup turns the wrong way I say “no” and use the check cord to stop (not to yank) the pup from going back to the place mat with the reward. After a few attempts Chase figured out that to be able to go get his reward, he needed to rotated to the side the arm and cord went up.
Now I will practice this behavior in a couple of different environments to reinforce it.
Next will come the 45 degree back where he will have three place mats behind him. All of the above are essential to Chase learning the back, angle back, and then the over command. At the same time as we begin these back drills I will introduce the pile retrieve and return to place. Our next blog will cover how Chase is picking up these behaviors.
Until I see you in the field, Be Safe, Be Good and BE LUCKY!