As the gravel grey clouds dissolved and a soft ray of sunshine fell upon Rockstead Farm I felt our training session was going to be a dry and constructive one!
We started the evening with a marked retrieve using the fence as a natural line to encourage the dogs to keep straight. I sent Ivy out and she seemed hesitate even though she had marked the dummy. I used the 'back' command to encourage her to continue and pick the dummy which she delivered back to hand nicely. I then did the same exercise again but this time a blind retrieve in the same area. Ivy went out slowly and stopped looking back for guidance/reassurance. I used the 'back' command and then the whistle to ask her to hunt which helped her to find the dummy and deliver back to hand. After a couple more marked retrieves through cover and across the field our final challenge of the evening was a marked split retrieve. One dummy thrown to the right hand corner of the field and the second to the left hand corner of the field. I decided to send Ivy out to the left hand corner of the field which was the last dummy thrown. Again she was slow and hesitate to go out but once I gave her the back command several times she continued to the area of the dummy and delivered back to hand. When I sent her out for the 2nd retrieve I decided to push her far right so she ran alongside the edge of the cover and headed for the correct area. Once I gave the hunt whistle she found the dummy and retrieved to hand nicely. As the evening progressed I observed a distinct lack of drive or desire with Ivy. I'm not sure why and I don't have the experience to offer a reason for this behaviour but I do realize a dog's drive is vulnerable and can be easily damaged so it is important to nurture and protect her desire to retrieve. I will put the dummies away for a few days and try again at the weekend. Lessons learnt and reflection:
- Ivy went out in a straight line but on several retrieves she didn’t return in a straight line. She found the easy route to return rather than returning through cover in a straight line. Does it matter if Ivy picks her own retrieving path, particularly on the return? I believe it could cost points if a dog fails to hold a straight line in a working test. There are also safety issues which could arise if the dog chooses their own route. Out trainer made a useful suggestion that in the early days, particularly with a young dog it's important to walk the route (with your dog) to where you want your dog to go out in a straight line, place the dummy down and walk your dog back in a straight line so the dog knows this is the route it needs to take. If I allow Ivy to choose her return route it may become a learned behaviour which could lead to further problems down the line.
- On several occasions Ivy showed a lack of confidence in going out on a straight marked and blind retrieve. 50 yards after being sent out she stopped, turned and looked at me for guidance/reassurance. Instead of using the ‘back’ command to encourage her to continue a suggestion was made to call her back in and send her out again. I need to make sure my physical and verbal commands are consistent, keep the task simple and set her up to succeed.