The first thing I’ve been doing with Bramble is sharpening up on his recall and introducing the whistle. For general walking we tend to call his name, with various pre-fixes like ‘c’mon’ or ‘this way’, but this can mean ‘come straight to me immediately’ or ‘come in my general direction’ so these commands aren’t really strong enough for use in the field. I introduced the whistle a couple of years ago when we were doing a bit of training so he understands that the whistle means to come to me, but I need his recall to be sharper than that.
To introduce the whistle I called him back to me, making it clear that I wanted him to return directly to me, and when he was coming I blew the whistle – three short pips – and gave him a treat when he got to me. Continuing in this way meant that he associated coming back with the whistle, and the whistle with the treat so after a few recalls I can just use the whistle and he will come back. This has led to a strong recall and with repetition, reward and enforcement he turns on the spot and comes straight back to me. Quite pleased with that to be honest, he has never had the strongest recall. :-)
Another important training aid is the dummy, which is used to train dogs to retrieve. Dummies are usually made of canvas, and stuffed with something so you can have harder and softer dummies. The smaller dummies are about the size of a Soreen malt loaf. ;-) I use the dummy because Bramble knows that that means training, so he brings it back to me and doesn’t just run off and drop it like he does with a tennis ball! Initially I was just working on simple sighted retrieves but he was so good at them that I started making it a bit trickier, making him sit in one place and then wandering about and dropping the dummy in the long grass so he has to work a bit harder to find it. This isn’t strictly a true blind retrieve as he still knows pretty much where it is but he still has to work and be directed. Blind retrieves will come in time when we’ve worked on some getting him to look for direction from me as to where the dummy is, and to hunt it out from that. After this we can start introducing some more dummies and really stir things up a bit!
Until next time,