|Placeholder Method for Training Manner of Retrieve|
|This method works well because it breaks the retrieving process down into parts that build upon eachother. This makes it much easier for your dog to understand what you want him to do. You are not overwhelming him by expecting him to learn the entire task all at once. Do not rush through the steps. Before moving onto the next step, make sure he not only completely understands the step you were just working on, but is happy and excited to be performing it. It never hurts to back up a step or two in order to refresh your dog's memory.|
|You will need at least two placeholders (e.g. training platforms). These may be boards approximately 2x2 feet in size, or you can spray paint placeholders of the same size in the grass (they make special spray paint for this). You can also purchase placeholders, such as Dokken Training Platforms, which are really nice. It does not matter what the placeholders are made of, just be sure they are identical, are not slippery, will lie flat on the ground, and are big enough for your dog to sit or stand on. (You can also use them for training hand signals, blind retrieves, steadiness, remote sit/stay/kennel, and diversion training.)|
|This training uses Operant Conditioning in which you "mark" the behavior you desire at the exact moment it occurs. To mark a desired behavior, you can use your voice, a clicker or the tone feature of your e-collar. For a voice mark, the word Nice! or Yes! are used most commonly. Nice! is often recommended, because it is not a word often used. A clicker works well because it is a totally unique sound. The tone on your e-collar will work, but you won't be able to use it in a Test and you may want to use the Tone for recall instead. Use whichever method of marking works best for you.|
|First Step - Recall|
- Place your dog on a placeholder and teach him to sit or stand on it, and "wait" there, by rewarding with food (treat) and praise. Whether you have your dog sit or stand depends upon how you want him to deliver game to you. When you treat, stand either facing the dog, or have the dog to your side, depending upon how you want the dog to deliver game to you.
- You want your dog to be excited to be on the placeholder, which is why treats work so well for this training method - particularly for young dogs. He should be going quickly to the placeholder, sitting or standing on it, and eagerly looking at you for a treat, before you proceed to the next step.
- Command your dog to "wait," walk to the next placeholder, and call him to it. Where you stand at the second placeholder is important. Stand beside it if you want him to finish delivery on your side. Stand behind it if you want him to finish delivery to your front. When he arrives at the second placeholder, he should automatically sit or stand on it, eagerly waiting for his treat. Treat and praise.
- If he leaves the first placeholder before being called, calmly return to the first placeholder, put him back into proper position, treat, praise, command to "wait." Watch for an indication he is about to leave the first placeholder as you walk away. As soon as he begins to move off the placeholder, give him a quick, sharp, "Aahck!" He will stop in his tracks. Calmly return to the first placeholder, put him back into proper position, treat, praise, command to "wait."
- Repeat until your dog eagerly stays on the first placeholder and waits to be called to the second placeholder, before proceeding to the next step.
|Next Step - Eye Contact|
- Place your dog on a placeholder in proper position and wait for him to make eye contact with you. Watch for the slightest glance in your direction. Mark the behavior with a quick "nice" or a click, and treat him.
- Be sure to mark and treat every time he looks at you, even if it's just a quick glance, as you are helping him understand what you want.
- If needed, encourage eye contact by holding the treat in front of your forehead.
- Repeat until your dog is making eye contact with you whenever he is on the placeholder.
- Call your dog from one placeholder to the other, marking eye contact with a quick "nice" or a click, and rewarding with a treat.
- Repeat until your dog eagerly comes to the next placeholder, sits or stands to your front or side, and makes direct eye contact.
|Last Step - Delivery|
- Place your dog on a placeholder in proper position.
- Place the object to be retrieved into your dog's mouth. A small, soft retrieving dummy or paint roller works well. Just be sure it is something your dog is totally comfortable with having in his mouth. In the beginning, do not use game. That will come later. If your dog is being retrieve trained, you can simultaneously command "fetch," but do *not* use any force (such as an ear pinch) to have him take the object from you. Otherwise, open his mouth and put the object in it.
- Command "wait" and walk to the next placeholder. Stand in position beside or behind the placeholder. Call your dog to the next placeholder. Watch for eye contact and mark it with "nice" or a click. Take the object from your dog while simultaneously giving the release command (such as "give" or "out"). Treat and praise!
- Repeat this last step using a variety of objects and eventually use game. Start with small, dead birds, like quail and chukar, then move up to larger, live birds like ducks and hen pheasants. Do not use live rooster pheasants for retrieve training a young dog as they may spur the dog, which can really set your training back. Also, be certain to use game that is fresh and not bloody, or you may promote chewing on birds. It is best to dispatch game you are going to use for retrieve training.
- As your dog becomes more proficient at properly retrieving game to you on the placeholder, continue to mark eye contact with "nice" or a click, but gradually decrease the use of treats, replacing them with lavish praise.