Tuesday, January 20, 2009

26 C Teach Your Dog Directional Instructions for Retrieves

3. Directional Instructions

Because we can't possibly teach our dog the name of everything they need to retrieve for us, it is useful to train them to move away from you and turn in a specific direction. Verbal cues or hand signals can be used.

The following description was provided by Sue Ailsby, who also provides us with the excellent Training Levels program in blog post 15 and taken from a Yahoo discussion list with her permission. Note that Sue combines the direction with the behavior, similar to the man's approach in the toy naming video in Blog 26B.

"First I need a send-away 'Go', then 'Left Go' and 'Right Go'. Once the dog is in the correct location, I can cue 'Get It' (her retrieval cue) for something obvious, or 'Down Get It' for something low down or just under the couch, for instance, or 'Sit Get It' for something at nose height, when the dog would more normally be searching for an object on the floor, or 'Paws Up Get It' if I want her to stand up to get something off a table.

Of course once the dog has the directions, you can do any combination- Go, Left Go, Paws Up, Right Get It.

"How did you teach the 'Left Go' and 'Right Go' commands?"

I started with Stitch sitting in front of me, facing me. I put a treat in each hand, and held my hands on either side of her head, about a foot away from her. Since the behaviour comes before the cue when teaching, I moved my left hand and when she turned her head to look at it, I gave her the treat from that hand. I repeated that three or four times, then moved my right hand and rewarded her for turning to look
at it.

The next day, I started again, but this time, I moved my left hand very slightly and, as she turned her head to look at it, I said "Right" (HER right, since she was facing me). The same with "Left" for my right hand.

When she was very good at that, I stopped moving my hand before giving the cue.

Then I gradually stopped using 'Left' and 'Right' as cues, and began using them as adverbs. Instead of holding a treat in my hand, I presented her with open palms, and then said "Left, Touch" or "Right, Touch" and had her turn to target the appropriate hand instead of merely grabbing the treat from it.

Then I put her in a 'Down' facing me and put my feet out on either side of her, and began cueing "Left, Slap" and "Right, Slap" so she would hit the appropriate foot with her paw.

Then I put retrieve articles to her left and right and began cueing "Left, Take It" and "Right, Take It".

Now I'm working on her turning left and right when facing away from me. Of course I use Left and Right when I'm ABOUT to turn (not WHEN I'm turning - I want her to anticipate what comes next from my voice cue, not just follow along from a body or chair cue) and reward when her head turns in the correct direction.

I'm also asking her to sit in front of me facing the same direction I'm facing. I cue "Left, Go" and toss a treat to our left when she gets up and starts in that direction.

It's a very cool "trick" - yesterday we wowed everybody at the dog park. I threw a ball and she ran out to get it but couldn't find it. I hollered "LEFT", and she whipped her head to her left, walked five feet in that direction, scooped up the ball and brought it back."

Thanks Sue!