Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Formal Retrieve Training Step 5: Pile Work

After you have done your "hold" training, (with both a stationary "hold" while the dog is in a sit, and a walking "hold"--where the dog is reliably holding an object in her mouth while walking, running, jumping and climbing,) after you have done your focused "fetch" training in a confined space, (many gun dog trainers use a table, similar to a grooming table--I simply use the tailgate of my truck) and your have completed walking fetch, it is time to start your pile work.

Let the dog watch as you toss bumpers to a tight area. 

I use a stake with ribbons as a target that the dog can see across field at first
Pile work starts out with leading the dog to a very close proximity to where you will toss a number of bumpers out for repeated retrieves. 

If need be, I will start out with dog on leash and treat it just like walking fetch, holding the dog back a little with the leash and saying "fetch" or the "back" command.

Shortly thereafter, the dog should be understanding that she is expected to run to the "pile" and return with another bumper.  It is very important to point the dog to the pile.  Be aware of your own body language, and be very confident and enthusiastic about the pile.  Going to the pile should be something the dog understands as fun when you are teaching it.

Lily returns a happy dog.  As she comes in with the bumper, I step back, away from her which helps her maintain her momentum to come in.  I want her to come past me as I step back, then I want her to circle and come forward with me as we line up for another send to the pile.

Stepping back and getting the dog to line up with handler.
Each time Lily returns from the pile of bumpers, I move back a few feet (10 - 20 feet) so that I stretch her line to the pile out a little bit longer.

Our next step (on another day) will be to plant the pile of bumpers before we even get her off the truck, then walk out and have her run to the pile without observing the pile planted.  Once she is reliably running to a pile 125 yards away or longer, it will be time to teach the remote stop on a whistle out in the field.  Then we will begin to introduce casting off to the side.

Remember, do not get ahead of yourself.  A well constructed house has a very solid foundation.  Take each step slowly, carefully and with enthusiastic leadership. 


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