Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Graduate Novice Retrieving Game

I've been trying to figure out ways to help Ziggy understand the game that is the dumbbell retrieve in obedience.

I started by trying to clicker train the dumbbell retrieve.  I succeed in getting a dog who loved to pick up hte dumbbell, but one who also promptly spit it out as I approached, anticipating the treat that always follows the click.

Since I now had a "hold" problem, I tried teaching him to take the dumbbell, then hold it.  He looks at me as if he's long-suffering, and drops the dumbbell as soon as I step away.

Next I tried a "restrained recall" retrieve.  I'd get Ziggy all revved up, hold his collar, throw the dumbell, and release him with the retrieve command (I use "take it") while he was still eager.  This helped get him running after the dumbbell and bringing it to the front position.  Then promptly dropping it.  Hmmm...  Noticing a pattern?

Then, last night, I was reading an article in a back issue of "Front & Finish" magazine.  The author was talking about the benefits of the non-regular AKC obedience classes.  She talked about how many of the non-regular classes build skills for a nice progression through the levels of obedience.

One of her examples stood out to me.  She mentioned how the Graduate Novice recall-with-the-dumbbell exercise taught dogs the useful skill of holding the dumbbell, not just chasing it and bringing it back.

Tonight I was doing a bit of training with Ziggy and that comment came to mind.  I decided to work on that exercise:  sit the dog, tell the dog to take the dumbbell, leave the dog, walk away, call the dog to front, take dumbbell from dog.

The game part came in when Maggie got wind that we were training.  She happened to be on the "training" side of the baby gates, and demanded to be part of things.  So I used her experience and keen attitude to my advantage.  Here's what I did:

  • I took both dogs and put them in a sit next to each other.  
  • I had Maggie take the dumbbell and hold it.
  • I left the dogs and walked down the hall.
  • I recalled both dogs to me.
  • Ziggy (the non-dumbbell holding dog) got to me first, so I threw a treat and sent him through my legs.
  • I closed my legs back together, and had Maggie do a proper front.
  • I took the dumbbell from Maggie.
  • I put both dogs in a sit, but this time gave the dumbbell to Ziggy.
  • I left both dogs and recalled them.
  • Again, the non-dumbbell dog (Maggie this time) got to me first, so I sent her front through my legs to get a treat.
  • I closed my legs back together and had Ziggy do a proper front with the dumbbell.
And guess what?  Ziggy held the dumbbell the whole time, and didn't drop it when he came to front.  His position at front was ugly, but he held the dumbbell!

I repeated a few times.  Both dogs thought the game was great.  Maggie was barking (which is how she expresses her joy) and Ziggy was even wagging his tail!

I just might have to work on this game a little more.  Recalls got quicker, Z is holding the dumbbell, and the old lady Maggie gets some low-impact work.  And, if the AKC ever makes Graduate Novice a Brace event, I'll be set ;)

Here's the setup:
Both dogs sitting 
One dog (Ziggy this time) holding the dumbbell
Both dogs awaiting the recall command (look at Maggie's eager expression!)

1 comment:

  1. Thats a great game. I am having difficulty with getting an extended hold, but we are trying.


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