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    1. #1
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      Dear Obedience Folks

      I'm trying to figure out a method of getting a behavior from Rocket Dog and I'd like your suggestions. Let me explain first, the behavior and second, my difficulties.

      First: What are "line manners"? Line manners are a dance that the dog-handler team perform at the line before, during and after the birds are shot and thrown, (or alternatively, before the dog is sent on a blind retrieve.) So in some respects, this dance is not unlike many things that the obedience/rally people deal with.

      Dog and handler walk to the line from a holding blind. The handler sits the dog in the most advantageous position. (So, for example, if the middle bird will be the one that is most difficult, the handler will sit the dog facing that gun.) It is imperative that the dog sit quietly with his/her shoulders at the seam of the handler's jeans, his toes just behind the handler's toes.

      Once seated correctly, the handler will signal the judges and the guns/birds will be thrown in the sequence the judge asks for. The handler may not touch or speak to the dog during this process. As the guns go off, it is essential the dog see the bird, and follow it all the way to the ground. So, the first gun goes off... the dog will watch it (and get excited!)

      NOW: Here is the hard part. The dog must turn with the handler toward the next gun/fall. That's why that seated position is so essential. If the dog creeps forward, the handler loses the ability to turn the dog to the next gun/fall. Finally, when all the guns/falls have gone down, the judges will give you your release and you can send your dog. This seated position (at the side of the handler, not lunging forward) will also aid the dog in getting the next marked bird, and the next. This is because the handler will pivot to the next bird to be retrieved and remind the dog that this was a mark. The dog should lock on, and leave with the best opportunity to pick up the bird clean.

      Second: My problem with Rocket Dog. RD is what is called a "fire-breather" or a "high-roller". You can imagine without my saying anything further exactly what our problem is. She is so incredibly stimulated (to a froth) by ducks being thrown... she so desperately, with every molecule of her body, wants that bird NOW! she forges ahead. (She doesn't break, but if this got any worse, that's where it would lead.)

      How would YOU, as an obedience person, get her to sit in a relaxed manner, in the proper position while the birds go down?

      I am reading Control Unleashed and getting some helps from it. But (ironically) I need RD to pay attention to me, while NOT looking at me. She has to remain focused on the birds. I have been working on some of the CU methods around the house, with good effect. But I wonder if you would have other ideas or suggestions about this aspect of "line manners" from your field of study.

    2. #2
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      We do pivots for the directed retrieve similarly to how you describe, except that the dog is not looking at a fall - the gloves are positioned behind the dog/handler and you pivot to face the one the judge tells you to retrieve. Since the gloves are only 20-30 feet away and the dog can see all of them at once it is crucial that they stay in perfect heel position, not just because they can be scored for being out of position but because being out of position makes it that much easier for them to accidentally “lock on” to the wrong glove.

      The first thing you need to do is work on the behavior outside of the context of a retrieve of any sort. Pivots are an ideal thing to practice on rainy days as you can do them in the kitchen or living room. Reward perfect heel position and correct it if it’s not. The dog needs to learn how to move with you - it also helps if you practice your footwork so that you are both cueing the dog properly and not accidentally pushing them out of position. We practice by standing on a paper plate until we can pivot 360 degrees without stepping off the plate. Once you move to doing it a field situation, I would start with bumpers as they should be slightly less exciting to the dog. Work them on a leash, and do NOT release the dog until it has done the pivot correctly. You can use a length of cord slipped through a collar so that once you are pleased with the pivot, you don’t have to fuss with unleashing the dog - just let go of one end and send them. The reward is the retrieve and it is not allowed to occur until you have gotten the desired behavior from the dog.

      We do a lot of attention work, and I think that would help in this case as well. Teach the dog a cue to look at you (I use “watch me” but anything will do). We reward the watch by spitting food at the dog so they are rewarded from our face for looking at it. Once the dog is solid on that you can practice having them mark the fall and then look up at you for further direction. So the sequence would go - dog marks, looks at you, pivots, and then marks again. At first you would probably need to give the cues verbally but once the dog gets used to the sequence, they shouldn’t need reminders. You probably wouldn’t even need them to really stare at your face the way we like, but you do need them to be attentive enough to notice that you are changing position.

      I don’t know that you will ever get her to sit in a relaxed manner, but you can certainly enforce a stay. Stay means stay EXACTLY how I put you - do not creep forward. Keep her on a leash and if she creeps forward, then no retrieve (have someone else get it or tie her up and get it yourself). She needs to understand that the ONLY way she gets that bird is to stay in the proper position. Anytime she creeps forward and is then allowed to do the retrieve she has then been rewarded for it. It sounds like you are making allowances for her because you like her drive, but it’s those high-drive dogs that you really need to exert control over. We joke in class about the ones we need to motivate vs. the ones we need to control, LOL. Don’t worry - if she is as high drive as you say, you won’t lose any of that drive by enforcing self-control.

      Hope some of this is helpful at least.
      Annette

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    4. #3
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      Thanks Annette... In February (beginning of her real field work) she was absolutely nuts. By using denial (of first, getting out of the crate, then walking to the holding blind, then going to the line, etc.) and rigid obedience standards we made a lot of progress. (This was not on marks... this just involved blind retrieves.) She's gotten so that we can work on blinds... and showing real promise with her handling. (You can imagine that stopping on a whistle was not trivial!) We've really never been solid on marks. And I got just a little bit trusting and took her training without her bark collar. And she squeaked/whined/got JFN in her crate before going to line and we really hit the skids.

      Now I got religion. RD is doing hard time.

      We've worked on heel (pivot left) and here (pivot right) but it's been a while. I like the paper plate idea. We can refine the movement with that. Neat!

      In actual HT situations, the birds go down too fast for the dog to look anywhere but at the field. By the time one has hit the ground, the judges are calling for the next. (And you can't cue the dog or use your hand or pat your leg or snap your fingers or anything. You can pivot to the next mark, but that's it.) I need the dog to almost kinetically feel me pivot, without looking at me. Is there anything in Ob or Rally where the dog must move with you without looking at you?

      BTW: One thing we do is called Wagon Wheel. I don't know if you're familiar with it. I'm thinking I could incorporate your idea with that drill.

    5. #4
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      Quote Originally Posted by TuMicks View Post
      I need the dog to almost kinetically feel me pivot, without looking at me. Is there anything in Ob or Rally where the dog must move with you without looking at you?
      Not really for us, but they should be able to sense what you are doing without actually looking at you - it just might be harder for them to “get” that paying attention to you is what they need to do. For example, when we do pivots, our body cues are pretty subtle yet tell them exactly what we are doing. I’m not sure how much they are actually “seeing” it and how much is “feeling” it. The way the gloves are laid out, glove 1 is about 45 degrees back and to the right of us (if that makes sense - glove 2 would be directly behind and glove 3 45 degrees back and to the left. Sort of 1/3 a wagon wheel, LOL). Anyway, to cue glove one, we start to turn with our hips and shoulders first before moving our feet. As soon as my hips and shoulders start to shift, Chloe gets up and starts coming around to the correct position. For glove 2, we turn in the same direction, but start with our feet. For that one she doesn’t come around me at all - she moves with me. Glove 3 is a backwards pivot but works similarly to glove 1 where as soon as I start to move my hips and shoulders (but before my feet move) she stands up and starts backing up in place. Point is, I’m not sure how much of those cues are really visual as if anything she’s looking at my face when we start rather than my hips, LOL. Plenty of people train obedience dogs to heel, pivot, etc. without the heads up attention that we ask for so I’m sure if you can get the concept across to your girl that she needs to be taking cues from you she should be able to do it without really looking at you .... once she understands that, it’s a question of practicing the precision of the pivots so she ends up where you need her each time.

      Your wagon wheel sounds a lot like a drill we do to practice gloves which involves having 8 gloves out so we are standing in the middle of a box with 3 gloves on each side. It makes it harder for the dog because they can pretty much always see a glove in front of them yet they still need to practice pivoting to and only taking the glove we send them to. It’s a great way of teaching restraint. I only wish that I had known as much about teaching gloves when I had Scully (my first Lab) as she had a really hard time with glove 2 - she’d catch sight of glove 1 while coming around and I couldn’t get her off of that one! She earned her UD and 6 UDX legs before being retired, and would have had the UDX easily had it not been for the damn glove 2, LOL.

      Let me know how she does! I find the high-drive dogs much more fun to work with once you figure out how to communicate with them that they need to listen to you.

    6. #5
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      Thanks for the encouragement. I think you are describing that "kinetic" communication perfectly. We're not there yet with RD, but at some point, we should be able to have the four "compass points" set up with white bumpers and in between (but maybe 12 feet beyond) there are orange bumpers which are invisible to her. She'll be tempted to run to the white ones she can see, but will need to move with me and trust me that there is a bumper beyond the obvious one.

      I can do that with my older dog. We're just at 4 white bumpers with RD. And she's not really turning with me smoothly yet.. so it remains a work in progress. But YES, I never thought I would say this, but I love the high-drive dog more than my soft-as-silk older dog. She can do any drill I ask her... but it's not fun for her. You can tell she's beginning to pig everything. You can drill RD all day long and she is rewarding herself with every retrieve.

      We will heel-and-here in the kitchen tonight and use the square tiles to tell me if we're moving smoothly.

    7. #6
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      How old is your dog? She is fairly young, if I remember.

      One thing to keep in mind, is that it takes time to not only learn something new and have it stick, but to unlearn a habit. I would back up in your training and start smaller and slower. Start in the house with something that is not all that interesting and reward calm behavior and reward her for being settled enough to think. I would also keep sessions very short and calm so she is not getting revved up, and if she does get revved up, I'd stop working and let her calm down. When she calms down, bring the ball or whatever back out and try again. When she gets revved up like that and you continue to work, you are rewarding that behavior. If you let her choose to work by being calm and collected and if she truly loves to work, she'll figure it out. Again, time will help, and I'm not talking one week. You may also have to back up further. If by just seeing the ball, that might be where you have to start and get her accustomed, then work your way up to retrieving. It could take a year of going from living room with boring object back out into the field with a bird.

      With very high energy and high drive dogs, consistency in training is key. If you let her loose to get the bird after creeping once, twice, three times, it's going to stick. I would not necessarily punish her for creeping, I'd instead make it a game. She may also be a high stress dog as well, and punishment could potentially be adding to her frenzied state. If you throw a ball and she creeps, instead of getting after her, I'd just say, "Oh bummer! Too bad you can't have the ball!", then go and get it and put it away. You'll eventually have her asking to work/play (focus) and exhibiting the behavior you want in order to get her way. If you've mostly been using compulsion to make her do things instead of letting her figure it out on her own, this might take a bit for her to understand, but it will happen.

      Sometimes Linus would get really overwhelmed about the dumb bell/food situation and want the food instead of the dumb bell. If I say "get it" and he comes for food instead, I snatch the dumb bell and act like it's made of gold and say, "Too bad, you missed it! You also missed this cookie! Bummer!". That was when we were starting out and I was re-introducing him to the dumb bell after trying other ways that were stressing him out. I never have to ask twice now. It did not require getting in trouble, just not getting what he wanted.

      Then, there's teaching focus. Denise Fenzi has a great book called Dog Sports Skills, Book 1, Developing Engagement & Relationship. There is a whole chapter on teaching focus, including dogs with high drive. Good stuff.

      Like the paper plate deal, I used a duct-taped phone book and teach using shaping with a clicker. When the phone book comes out my dogs go crazy! They never really got it without the clicker, but when I added it, it took about a week. After a couple more weeks, Linus got it on the ground while heeling, and now he is a pivoting machine! I made it fun and he really loves it.

    8. #7
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      Yes. RD is pretty young, just shy of 18 months. There is a saying that you train a fast dog slow and a slow dog fast. With regard to line manners... there's not a lot of compulsion to use. We use denial of the retrieve which is THE MOST AWFUL thing you can do to RD. I have, on occasion waited her out, let her quiet... told her in a soft voice to heel (if she's ahead of my shoe-laces) and then tried to send her. It has worked somewhat. Training a fast dog slowly. And that only addresses the heel position, not pivoting. In a marking situation, she is only doing singles. So it's all about sit still... sit quietly... wait till I send you. (We are doing pivoting things in drills outside of the crazy-making, bird-infused, training situations.)

      I am beginning to understand (from watching you-tube videos and reading some Obedience books) the use of the clicker. I have never seen it applied to field work, I can't imagine how it could be. I keep studying this hoping I can find an analogous tool for my sport. I sort of envy the range of tools available to you in the ring.

    9. #8
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      Hmmm...well, you can use the clicker. If she is in the right position, click then treat. Pivoting. Watching you... Etc. All of those line manners things. What other tools do obedience people use that you can't? I don't use treats during field work because the bird is the reward. The pivot station (paper plate, phone book, whatever...) can be used by anyone. I sometimes use a PVC "box" for shaping, but that's something you can use as well in training (and it's another fun tool).

      Think of the retrieve as a chain and train each chain individually. When each chain is perfect, put it together. Does that make sense?

    10. #9
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      Working pivots and push/pulls is great...but you dont need her to fully pivot on the mat. In fact, she should leave her butt planted and only push/pull her head as you lean each way to show her the birds. You show her the key bird, then pull away slightly to get her to swing her head toward you, then lean into her a bit to get her to swing out toward abother bird. She doesn't need to move her butt...this will help her steadiness. Practicing this inside isn't enough. Set multiple bumper pIles in the field marked with white buckets. You can work on her looking where you want her to look, and pushing/pulling her head only when you want her too. Again, not a full pivot, just enough of you leaning to influence where she looks.

      And for creeping, Farmer shows a drill in his dvd that could be helpful. As the (easy) marks go down, step a few feet behind her. Ask her to heel before sending, if she doesnt, she gets a collar correction to get back Into heel. She needs to think about moving the opposite way (backwards) than what she wants to do (creep)

      I'm involved in both sports. Obedience is wonderful, however NO drivey lab will be as high working in the ring as they would be in the field. What works in the obedience doesn't always work in the field. The sports are two completely different pictures.

    11. #10
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      Quote Originally Posted by indybindy View Post
      Working pivots and push/pulls is great...but you dont need her to fully pivot on the mat. In fact, she should leave her butt planted and only push/pull her head as you lean each way to show her the birds. You show her the key bird, then pull away slightly to get her to swing her head toward you, then lean into her a bit to get her to swing out toward abother bird. She doesn't need to move her butt...this will help her steadiness. Practicing this inside isn't enough. Set multiple bumper pIles in the field marked with white buckets. You can work on her looking where you want her to look, and pushing/pulling her head only when you want her too. Again, not a full pivot, just enough of you leaning to influence where she looks.

      And for creeping, Farmer shows a drill in his dvd that could be helpful. As the (easy) marks go down, step a few feet behind her. Ask her to heel before sending, if she doesnt, she gets a collar correction to get back Into heel. She needs to think about moving the opposite way (backwards) than what she wants to do (creep)

      I'm involved in both sports. Obedience is wonderful, however NO drivey lab will be as high working in the ring as they would be in the field. What works in the obedience doesn't always work in the field. The sports are two completely different pictures.
      I agree, but have feared that my prejudices for the field work might cause me to be blind to advances in other disciplines. Particularly around the house, I have been told (by the pro I still train with) to maintain exquisitely high obedience standards.

      We were doing something like you describe (Farmer's step back method) and nicking with the collar. But it was actually making her more determined to GET THE BIRD NOW. It was hyping her up. The last day we trained (before most of the group traveled to another state for a HT and RD went to have her hysterectomy) we used a pinch collar. I think it put her mind back to her yard-work-basics days and it seemed to work.

      So I have an older dog that's an MH, but I never ran her. Now I'm retired and am a novice handler, and am learning to do what you've described... stepping back to open her up, or stepping forward to push her attention left. The dog is better at it than I am.

      I have a great deal to learn and just don't want to have tunnel vision.

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