So.. thought I would share what Luna has been up to lately hunt training wise, if only to give some insight to my friend on the other side of the pond :-).
Luna has begun Force Fetch. Basically this is a means of teaching her to retrieve and bring “bird” to hand, so that it no longer is a game, but is a command itself. And with it being a command the basis behind it is, there is a consequence if you do not do it when asked. The main reason I (or rather dan) am doing this method, is to create a reliable retrieve. This will come into play in hunt tests in the near future as well as into the actual hunting field, when I am done doing hunt tests with her. Knowing my dog like I do, I believe this is the only method for getting her to retrieve reliably to hand, with a rather direct down and back pattern. She can be quite a stubborn and independent (thanks grandma lexi!) little red bird dog. I have watched the newer clicker method for teaching the retrieve, but having done some clicker with Luna before, I don’t think she would take to that method as well, she gets frustrated too easily, and you can easily click at the wrong time and build bad habits.
Anyway, moving on, a brief run down. Basically pressure (in the form of some sort of pain, either a toe or ear pinch) is applied which causes the dog to snap at the dowel and thus taking it into their mouth on their own accord. They eventually learn that they can choose to turn off the pain by taking the dowel. Once the dowel is taken though, it must be held until the “give” command is given. Over time the difficulty in position is increased as well as the distractions towards the give command. For example, at first the dowel is held in front of her face, within easy reach, but eventually will be laid on the table and she must reach for it herself. As far as the holding goes, initially they simply hold it, then you add distractions of tapping the dowel, reaching for it, walking her as she holds it, calling her to come and “whoa”, stepping away. All the while she must hold that dowel until I reach for it AND say “give.” Make sense? It actually is a really simple concept, but can take upwards of 2 weeks for them to fully “get it”.. then you must transfer things to the ground as well. But done correctly this is one of the few ways to get a reliable retrieve to hand.
She had her second session today, and she did very well. She is coming along quite fast. I will get to the photos.. pardon the quality, they were taken on a phone.
Holding the dowel.. which then will/can be replaced by any object, and taken with a light mouth and held until commanded to release. pretty cool I think. Dan’s lab mango will “fetch up” most anything, medicine, papers, a horse, granted he is a retriever.
Now here is the cool part.. for her second time on the table.. here she is sitting next to him, wearing his hat, while growling (another dog nearby was barking at something) and holding the dowel all at the same time. That’s some pretty darn good control to hold onto that dowel despite all the distractions… pardon his “mean face” I think he was growling with her..
And that’s that.. any questions? I must admit I am pretty darn proud of my little bird dog. Show judges may not think she’s all that all the time, but you can’t deny a good hunting dog in the makings past a point.