Aug 17, 2012, 1:02 AM EDT
By Jerry Sather
In teaching dogs to make multiple retrieves we’re not really teaching them to count, but in another way … we are. Just as in teaching a child the concept of two, you don’t move on to it until the student has a firm grasp of one. Same goes for teaching dogs to mark the locations of multiple birds down in the field.
To teach doubles and triples, we use individual marks to build up to the multiple retrieves. Remember from previous blogs, a primary goal of the overall training program is to produce contest dogs and field companions who move and act with confidence especially on marked retrieves. That goes for multiple marks as well as single marks.
You’ll know when it’s time to move from one to two when you see your dog slamming those singles. It locks in on them from the line and sprints wide open to the bird and sprints wide open back, begging for another retrieve. And not just once, but for a period of days or even weeks without fail. Make sure your dog grasps “one” before you move to “two.”
When the time is right, the way to train “two” is by teaching “one plus one.” Here’s how.
Have two, relatively easy, marked retrieves set up in your training area. Predetermine which bird is going to be the go bird, and which is going to be the memory bird. You want to train the dog (in most situations) to retrieve the last bird down first. That’s the “go bird.” In a double, the “memory bird” is the first mark thrown which will be retrieved second.
Bring your dog to the line and sit him or her, just as you’ve done thousands of times for a single mark. In fact, that’s what this is. Call for the memory bird to be thrown as a single and send the dog to retrieve it. Even if the dog performs the retrieve perfectly, do it again. And again. If all three of these retrieves are performed wide open, then move to two.
Put the dog at heel. Have the memory bird thrown as before. Then, have the go bird thrower give a lot of commotion with a duck call, by shouting “rooster, rooster, rooster” or whatever, the firing a shot as the bird is thrown. This hullabaloo should lock the dog on that bird. Make the dog stay steady, but not wait too long, and send on its name. The dog should pick up this bird with enthusiasm.
When it returns, put the dog at heel and take the bird. Now realign the dog’s head and spine directed toward the memory bird. When it’s lined up, enthusiastically send the dog on its name again. If the dog picks up the bird and returns well, do the double a couple more times so it sinks in. If not, then move back to each half of the double as a single until the dog is doing them individually perfectly. Then try putting them together again.
It really is teaching one plus one, isn’t it?
In the next couple of blogs we’ll look at teaching multiple marks beyond one plus one, and remedial training of singles to avoid and break bad habits which all dogs are likely to drift into at various stages of training. For now, go out and run some more singles!
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