24th February 10:21
Ear Corrections To Enhance The Bond Between Trainer And Dog (teething)
Here's the twisting and pinching part:
What is Force Fetching All About?
author; all rights reserved.
Force fetching refers to a training program whereby the dog is
taught that he has no choice about going out and picking up
something that you tell him to. Because of the many negative
connotations (and inherent imprecision) of the term "force
fetch," I generally prefer the term "conditioned retrieve."
The need to impose a conditioned retrieve unrelated to the
dog's desire to retrieve. While you can condition a dog with
no retrieving instinct whatsoever to retrieve, this training
process is really all about teaching the dog to perform the
retrieve under control. We all know of enthusiastic retrievers
who bounce out to get the thrown object ... and then play tag
with it. Or drop it at your feet. Or race past you on the way
back. Or, go out to pick it up and then refuse because it's
not his favorite toy. Or you want him to pick up something
that is already laying on the ground and he's not interested
because the thrill of the "flight and chase" was not there. Or
perhaps you're asking him to pick up something that he'd
really rather not put in his mouth. What do you do about these
situations? Teaching the conditioned retrieve is one way to
deal with these problems.
Remember, the "traditional" part of the conditioned retrieve,
ear pinching, is perhaps one third of the overall training
program that allows a dog to reach this point of reliable
non-refusal. The technique we use here is avoidance. In order
to successfully, with the least amount of stress, use this
technique, the means of escape must be taught first. In
teaching something via avoidance, the dog learns that a
specific behavior controls the stimulus he wishes to escape.
That behavior is taught first so that it is a comfortable and
well understood behavior by the time we bring pressure to
"Force fetching" was originally developed in the 19th century
by Pointer folks, who were dealing with dogs with little to no
retrieving instinct but who wanted to expand the utility of
their dogs in the field. The process (which actually started
with the toe hitch) has been refined in successive decades.
Its application to retrievers is not because the dogs refuse
to retrieve but the handler needs to gain control over the dog
to meet the demands of a day of hunting or the requirements of
a hunt test or field trial. The dog must be thoroughly trained
to accept directions for a blind retrieve, which differs
significantly from a marked fall in which the dog knows that
there is a bird to retrieve. In the blind, the dog has only
your say-so that there is in fact something to retrieve.
In my personal opinion, one of the best overviews of the
conditioned retrieve can be found in James Spencer's Training
Retrievers for the Field and Marshes. I follow his outline
rather closely. Another excellent and more recent resource is
the Tritronics Retrieving Manual Retriever Training by Jim and
Phyllis Dobbs and Alice Woodyard, which despite its
association with the Tritronics electronic collars has many
excellent descriptions of training techniques that do not use
the collar, including an overview of what they also term the
"conditioned retrieve." (This is not a promotion or
condemnation of electronic collars; merely a note that the
Retriever Training book is useful for the person without an
electronic collar as well.)
There are, however, many variations on this theme and it's
hard to say if any are better or worse than others. Certainly
there are individuals who misapply these methods, as there are
individuals who will abuse any technique. Much of the success
in conditioning a retrieve is very dependent on the trainer's
timing and access to experienced help. In other words, do not
try to do this with your dogs unless you have someone\0
experienced in this technique to help you out in person.
There is a groundswell of interest in "non forced" techniques
for the conditioned retrieve. I cannot say as to how well any
of these work, as I have not used any of these techniques as
the sole means of finishing a conditioned retrieve on any of
my dogs. I have, however, had a good deal of success applying
some of these techniques to puppies before teething and in
beginning phases. I do encourage you to go out and investigate
these methods if you are interested, but do note that my
personal opinion is that at some time, corrections are
required to teach the dog he has no option but to do what he's
asked. This is a whole philosphical area of dog training that
I am not prepared to get into in this article. I do not say
that my methods are the only way, I encourage you to read and
investigate more if you wish. I am simply attempting to answer
questions about a specific methodology and hopefully to
dispell some of the mythology surrounding it.
The below described program is intended for the dog who is at
least 6, preferably 9 months old. You want to be past the
irritating and distracting teething stage so that your dog is
not sidetracked in the process.
Anyhow, the first part of a conditioned retrieve is teaching
him to HOLD. There really are two separate concepts going on
in retrieving an object. One is GOING OUT AND PICKING IT UP.
The other concept is KEEPING IT IN THE MOUTH.
So, teach your dog to hold first. This is actually taught
quite conventionally. You need to start with a dog that will
sit and walk nicely alongside first. The dog does not have to
know hoiw to heel, but it helps. The dog should be easily
controllable by you. The dog should be well past the new teeth
stage (I'd say past 9 months of age in Labradors, though many
people will begin forcing at 6 months).
Know how to pry your dog's mouth open. Put your hand on the
muzzle, with your thumb on one side and the rest of your
fingers on the other, with the pinkie finger closest to the
eyes. Push the dog's lips in forcing his mouth to open. You
can train your dog to be responsive to this: pop a treat in
his mouth when you do this, and he will learn not to fight too
much when you handle his muzzle. If you need to, use your
other hand to pull his lower jaw down a little, then pop in
the treat. You can easily train him to open his mouth with
your hand on the muzzle this way.
I like to use a plain obedience type wooden dumbbell. You can
use a 1" by 1' dowel of wood as well, but I recommend that you
use something that is easy to scoop off the floor at some
point. Most people recommend that you not use any toys or
bumpers or anything that you will be sorry to see him hate
later. Though I must point out that I use the obedience
dumbbell and do not see resentment to the dumbbell later. But
bumpers can be awkward to handle particularly when first
picking off the floor, so I would not use them in training.
Put a leash and collar on him and you are ready to go.
First exercise: With your dog sitting and under control, open
up his mouth, say HOLD and pop the dumbbell in, hold his mouth
closed for one second, praise him, say GIVE and pop the
dumbbell out. You are not going to let him fail at this stage.
You are going to do this smoothly and quickly enough that he
doesn't have a chance to do much of anything, but that the
praise does register. You will do this 5-10 times then quit.
(Most of your force fetching sessions will be less than 5
minutes long.) Ideally do this twice a day, morning and night,
but definitely do this daily. Do it just before you feed him.
Gradually lengthen the amount of time you hold his mouth shut.
Remember, you are not giving him a chance to do anything but
hold it, because you are actively holding his mouth shut right
now. If he manages to spit it out (it can seem that you need a
third or fourth hand in this process), just say NO quietly and
pop it back in. If he spits it out a lot despite your efforts,
you need to either shorten things up so he doesn't have a
chance to do this, or recruit someone to help you.
Here's the important part. DO NOT STINT ON PRAISE. Tell him
what a good boy (or girl) he is. Do not let up. Even if he's
fighting you, praise him. Stop the praise the moment the
dumbbell is out of his mouth. You are not doing this right
unless your significant other and/or neighbors think you are
stark raving nuts.
A word on fighting you. One of the objectives in this training
exercise is control. If he's fighting you, this is what the
collar and leash are for. If he flops down, pull him back up
into a sitting position. Keep him sitting. If he moves his
head away from you, move it back. If he tosses his head
around, hold his muzzle or collar to keep his head still.
Visualize exactly how you want him positioned throughout this
exercise and then keep him to that. Don't let him stand, don't
let him flop on his back, don't let him buck his head around,
or back up, or do anything but sit in front of you.
When you have him at the point he will hold the dumbbell
without fussing as you hold his mouth shut over it, the next
step is to let go for a second. If he spits it out, say NO and
put it back it. You should be able to hold your hand under his
chin and anticipate an attempt to spit it out. Prevent it with
a gentle thump under his mouth and a repeated HOLD. Your goal
is to have him sit and hold that dumbbell quietly. Don't be
upset if he spits it out, and he will, just replace it. You're
teaching him that he does not have an option here.
How long will this phase last? It depends on the dog. I've
taken everywhere from a week to a month at this stage. The
longer the better, patience and consistency really pay off in
this exercise. Puppies who were introduced to the concept when
quite young move through this stage very quickly.
There are two things that really help in this phase. The first
is to sit down and VISUALIZE what you want your dog to do,
ideally. Get that mental picture of your dog quietly and
without fuss holding that dumbbell in his mouth. This is
important, because it is amazing what many people will let the
dog do so long as he has the dumbbell in his mouth. They will
let him roll around, scream, toss his hed (roll the
dumbbell), because they are so focused on keeping it in his
mouth he gets away with everything else. Don't do that. Not
only does he have to keep it in his mouth, but he has to be
under control as well.
OK, next step is literally that. Once you know he will hold
that dumbbell as long as you want, sitting quietly in front of
you, it's time to have him hold it while walking with you.
Just take a few steps, if he spits it out, stop walking, pick
it up, put it back in and say NO, HOLD. This may take a bit
more coordination to do while you're moving around, that's OK.
Just be ready for it. Eventually, you should be able to walk
around with him, call him to you, have him near other dogs,
all while holding that dumbbell. Take a walk around your
favorite park while he's holding it. Have him sit and wait
while you serve his food while holding it.
This is just a matter of the technique called proofing. Diane
Bauman has one of the best outlines of this process in her
book Beyond Basic Obedience. It goes something like this:
1.Teach a behavior without distractions 2.Add in simple
distractions 3.When you teach the next step of the
behavior, go back to no
distractions as in step 1.
So teach the hold in a quiet area without other dogs or people
around. Once he is holding the dumbbell quietly sitting in
front of you, then start doing the same thing in different
areas. Move from your kitchen to the backyard, to the front
yard, to the local park. When you ask him to walk at the same
time he is holding, return to the quiet kitchen until he is
walking easily with no other distractions, then do it in your
backyard, front yard, local park, with people, dogs, etc. If
your dog seems to have too much trouble at one stage, back up
and spend some more time in the last stage he did well in.
Each dog will adapt to new changes at different paces.
Further proofing: start using other objects: a bumper, rolled
up socks, a stick, your car keys, an aluminum can, anything
that is safe for him to hold. Also start teaching him to hang
onto the item: tie a piece of string around the dumbbell and
gently pull on it. If he drops it, say NO and put it back in,
just as you have been all along. You should get to the point
where you can pull him along behind you with the string. Don't
do anything excessive like see if you can pick him off the
floor and still have him hang on, that's not necessary. This
exercise also especially helps "rollers", dogs who toss their
heads around and mouth the dumbbell.
Different dogs have different limits. I've made it sound like
he will spit it out at every opportunity, every time something
changes. He may or may not. Some dogs will do fine until you
ask them to move and then finally spit it out. Some dogs may
never spit it out again after first doing it when you first
put in in his mouth. Some dogs may go through stages where
they don't spit and then try to. I've had all kinds.
THE FORCE FETCH
Alright! Now you are (finally) ready to force fetch your dog.
I repeat, you want to have an experienced person help you out,
someone who has already force fetched her own dogs whether for
obedience or field. This step in the training entails what is
termed avoidance behavior. In a nutshell, the dog is taught
how to "turn off" a negative stimulus. He is carefully taught
that he has complete control over it. This is a very effective
way of teaching, but does require a more astute sense of
timing than some other training methods and is very difficult
for some people to do, for a variety of reasons. However, if
the dog properly knows HOLD at this point, it's easily done
with a minimum of fuss.
Return to your quiet starting place, with the dog on a collar
and leash in front of you, sitting quietly. Instead of opening
his mouth as you have been for the HOLD, put your hand through
the dog's collar (to hold him steady) and with your thumb and
forefinger pinch the tip of his ears and say TAKE IT (or
FETCH, or whatever you want) Watch his mouth closely -- the
moment he opens his mouth, pop that dumbbell in, let go of his
ear but not the collar, and PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE. Do this
three or four times per session.
When he is opening his mouth in anticipation of the dumbbell,
the next step is to hold the dumbbell just past his lips. This
next step is for him to move his head forward that inch (or
half inch) necessary to get the dumbbell. At this point, he
has a pretty good notion that getting that darned thing into
his mouth is the way to turn off the ear pinch. Most dogs will
lean forward and get it. That's his second milestone! Praise,
praise, praise and repeat three or four times this session.
Remember, I said these sessions were no more than 5 minutes or
so each. That's still true.
Gradually extend the distance so he has to reach further to
get it. Now here is where a few subtleties come into play.
It's not enough for him to merely reach out and grab it. You
want him to commit to getting it. You want him to be intent on
getting it. If he sort of limply reaches over and gets it,
that's not what you want. If you pinch him but have to drag
him toward the dumbbell, that's not what you want either.
We're back to the visualization. What do you want him to do?
You want him to, if necessary, bust through just about
anything to get that dumbbell. So hold on to that collar until
you feel him pulling out of it to get that. That's his
committment. You want to say TAKE IT and have him just about
explode out to get the dumbbell. As you get further along in
this, you will release him when he's made a good committment
-- this will help shape a speedy response nicely. I think you
can see why it helps to have an experienced person around when
you are doing this! It can be difficult to keep all these
things in mind when you are actually sitting there with a dog
in your hands.
About the ear pinch: You must keep the pressure up until the
instant he has the dumbbell securely in his mouth. Many people
have problems getting the pinch right, either they do not
pinch enough, or they have a very stoic dog in which case case
a collar may be needed to help make the pinch more effective.
Also some dogs are screamers, and if they find that they can
stop the pinching by screaming, they've learned the avoidance
technique just fine -- but not with the behavior you had in
mind! Don't let your dog scream. Use your hand to hold his
muzzle closed and tell him to quit moaning. Some dogs will
collapse into a heap. Don't let them do that, that's why your
hand is in the collar. Hold them up and get them back into a
sitting position. What your dog is doing is trying to find
other ways of avoiding the ear pinch. You need to be firm and
consistent and demonstrate that getting the dumbbell is the
only means of avoidance.
Remember to keep him under control. When he gets that dumbbell
in his mouth, pull him gently around back to you and sit him
back down. You may in fact want to sit him at your side in the
heel position (whether or not he actually knows the heel
position), hold the dumbbell in front of him, command him to
take it and then pull him back to a front or finish position
as you wish. The pattern will do him good later.
The next major milestone is putting the dumbbell on the ground
for him to pick up. For many dogs this can be a big deal and
may be difficult. Set the dumbbell on the ground just in front
of them, with your hand on the dumbbell. He may not reach for
it, he may refuse -- keep up the ear pressure until he finally
picks it up. If he really doesn't seem to understand this,
then break this down into an intermediate step where you hold
the dumbbell, but about 1/2 way between the ground and his
mouth. Once he's picked the dumbbell off the ground, that's a
major milestone and you are just about home free.
As before slowly place the dumbbell further away on the ground
in front of him. Make sure he is pulling out of your hold on
the collar before you let him pick the dumbbell up. If he
drops the dumbbell from this point on, you will get control of
him (put him in a sit with a firm hold on his collar) and
pinch him back to the dumbbell -- he can pick it up now so
there is no need for you to put it in his mouth any more. HE
is the one responsible for getting it.
When he is reliably picking up the dumbbell a few feet from
you, then you can stop using the pinch at the beginning of the
exercise. You will instead reserve it for when he drops the
dumbbell or refuses to pick it up, etc. So for example, you
might go out, place the dumbbell 6 feet away, put the long
lead on him, tell him to take it. Let's say he hesitates and
doesn't go out. Then you pinch, force him to commit, send him
to the dumbbell. Let's say he goes and gets it, but starts
playing with it. Pull him in, and if he hasn't already dropped
the dumbbell, take it out of his mouth, put it back where it
was, and pinch him to it.
There is one last problem you need to watch for. Many dogs,
especially retrievers, will start pouncing on the dumbbell
once they are able to run out a few steps to it before picking
it up. So transition to this point with a long cotton lead
about 20-30 feet long. With this you can spin him round the
moment he scoops up the dumbbell, teaching him that he cannot
play with it. If your dog drops the dumbbell, use the lead to
pull him back to you (do not let him try to pick it up), and
pinch him back to it. the basic rule of thumb is that if he
drops it, he will be pinched back to it regardless.
Thoughts to Consider
Force fetching is never completely done, per se (as with any
exercise taught to a dog). You may need to do a refresher
course when it's something new to pick up, or if it's
something disgusting (like a very dead bird) to pick up. He
may also start to get lazy, you need to keep an eye on him.
You may also realize you omitted some step in training him
that shows up later so you will have to go back and fix it.
But you should also take care to make sure he doesn't forget
any of these hard-earned lessons! Make him carry things for
you. He can carry his own ball out to the park. He can carry
his own utility articles to the ring. He can help you carry a
light bag of groceries into the house. He can help you carry
firewood. They will just love this, and it's a good way to
keep the talents honed. Use it!