Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Turning Blind Search into an Obedience Exercise

Ever since we started having practice at the new field, Kane has been having issues with the blind search. At the old practice field, we only had 2 blinds, and we always ran them the same way (there's our problem, I know!!!!).

Kane got used to the helper being in the blind that was closest to where all the people were. Now, the people hang out near blind 3, with the helper in blind 2, so when I send him, he runs around blind 1, hears my call and next command to "Revere!" starts going towards blind 2 and then he turns back towards blind 3 (where the people are.) This results in a down and we do it again. We've tried with the helper popping out of blind 2 and slapping with the stick, and when he hears/sees that - he goes full speed for blind 2. Then we do it again and he goes for blind 3. I asked Richard if he thought my dog was stupid (lol), and he said no, he's just "being stupid." Well, we can train past that!

Enter the "retraining the blind search" session. A few of my friends already do this from scratch with their dogs, and I think that is a great method. Their dogs learn to run blinds with rewards and positive motivation. The idea is to get the dog to run around an object (be it a tree, a blind (if you have one), a cone, a barrell, a garbage can....whatever ya got) that is indicated by the handler pointing and issuing the command. We are doing this at practice as well, but I wanted to reinforce it by training it at home (where I don't have access to a trained helper), so we're using positive marker training instead. Here's what I'm using to start with:

A tree.

A tug.

A ball (= reward)

A dog that wants to train. :-)

Kane likes the ball A LOT more than the tug, so my proposition to him for this exercise is " If you go around the
tree and bring me the tug, I will let you play with my ball." We started out just a few feet from the tree, we heeled to our starting point and I made him sit while I went around the tree and placed the tug where he couldn't see it.

Then I went back to him, pointed my arm like I do on the field and said "Revere!" The first time wasn't all that great. I could tell his brain was going "But where's the blind, mom?" I ended up grabbing his collar and running with him saying "Revere, revere, revere!" until he saw the tug. Then I quickly backed up, said "Kane, come!" and when he saw me and was running towards me I threw the ball behind me.

The second through eighth time were much better. I even increased our distance from the tree a little bit. We've been doing this pretty much every day in the past week.

At practice, I am using the "Kane, come!" command as he rounds the blind, and then I make him come to me before continuing on to the next blind. I use the remote collar if he does not listen to me. It went pretty well this past weekend, but I need to make sure he comes and sits in front of me before the next step. We stepped it up to 3 blinds at practice and only once did I have to put him in a down.

Kane's impression of NASCAR - rounding the blind at a 15 degree angle!

Eventually he will come to me, sit in front of me, and I'll give the heel command to turn towards the next blind and send him to that, call for him to come to me, sit in front, heel around and send again.

I think this is good for him. Whereas previously he has seen protection as a big game being played on his terms, he is now learning that he must do what I ask of him. It's noticeable also in how he carries the sleeve all the way back to the car and even doing a victory lap around the car with the sleeve. He has never done this before - choosing instead to drop the sleeve as soon as he gets to the car. Now I have to tell him Out! to get him to release the sleeve. It's almost as if now he feels like he did the work, and he earned carrying the sleeve - it's his price!

Oh and this week I got a nice bloody lip courtesy of my beloved dog. We did a recall from a walking down, and I placed the ball under my chin, intending to drop it as a reward for a correct front sit. Well, Kane decided himself that his front sit was pretty darn good, and he went for the ball....I'm sure to all the onlookers it looked like he was going for my throat....lol. Anyway, he bumped my teeth and created some internal and external holes in my chin. Nothing that needed stitches, but made for an interesting conversation.
:-) I can't whistle!!!


YD said...

Bloody lips? Oh Kane, bad boy hurt his mommy.
I couldn't begin to tell you how many times I got hurt by the girls. But I guess that's the price we have to pay for loving our dogs so much.

Mrs. JP said...

He didn't mean to hurt you of course but quite the show for everyone else. I love the victory lap - they do know when they've performed well and so their ego/pride puffs and here we go...That's great.
The pictures are so good. my fav is the one running. It sounds like you're training him well. He's not stupid...poor Kane :O)