Saturday, October 2, 2010
Becca and the Dumb Bell Retrieve (by Donna Arcaro)
With my limited experience with teaching the dumb bell retrieve, it seems to me to be a very foreign "thing" to sighthounds in general. I seem to recall someone (I think it was Gail Burnham) who said obedience training is really "interspecies communication" which very aptly describes dumb bell retrieving training.
When Becca was a young pup, I started working with her to "play retrieve" and to hold a small, toy dumb bell. By putting the dumb bell right at her lips with a little pressure against her mouth, then telling her to "take it" she immediately received a treat. She learned if she started reaching for the dumb bell, she was able to get the treat even faster. In the yard, I'd throw a toy, tell her to "take it" and then "Becca, here", again rewarding her with verbal praise and treats if she brought the toy back to me or even in the near vicinity. I repeated these exercises a couple of times in a row and only a very few times a week.
So when Becca and I started our Open class about 8 weeks ago, it was an easy transition to a real dumb bell. Again by using TONS of praise and rewards, the dumbbell retrieve became a fun exercise. I always stopped leaving her wanting more. After she was doing well with reaching for the dumb bell, she was taught to hold it--when the dumb bell was in her mouth, I placed my hand gently around her jaws with the "hold", command, gradually only having to put my hand under her lower jaw to get her to hold it, and then just using a verbal command for this result. Ever so gradually I lowered the height of the dumb bell for her to reach for so it was closer to the ground until one end of it was actually touching the ground while I held the opposite end. Eventually I was putting it further out in front of her, on the ground asking her to take it, and then throwing it out a little further for her to pick up. During these latter steps, she was taught to pick up the dumb bell and turn to walk toward me. I used a LOT of verbal encouragement through all of the above, along with treats. To keep her excited we also played with a toy after each training session.
It's been a lot of fun watching her progress with this exercise. I really believe she has the potential to become a "dumb bell" junkie as sometimes she actually pounces on the dumb bell and races back to me for a treat. To be continued--