First sport behaviours – retrieve

Our daily training sessions are still very simple, touching on different skills that Falka will need in the future. Today, we did a little bit of a shaped retrieve. This, along with heelwork, which I will talk about later, are the only “sporty” behaviours that we have started. With retrieve, we will break off in a few weeks time when she starts teething, so I thought it would save us time to build the basics now. We have struggled with retrieves with Yarpen, so I am hoping this time I will get it right….

I split the retrieve into two parts. One is the running towards the object and coming back with it, the other one is actually holding the object in her mouth. The running/coming back part is included in our play time. It seems to be much easier than the latter bit… Also, I want her to develop a bit more and let her learn how to use her body before we start polishing it for speed and precision.

With the formal hold, we start with a toy of course (as it’s still all fun and games!). I started by initially rewarding her for just looking at the toy I held in my hand, then touching it with her muzzle and now we are at the stage where I ask her to put it in her mouth. We had several sessions of it already. This is the hardest bit I believe. From my own experience and talking with friends it appears that the moment when they are asked to hold something (even if they would carry it around at other times on their own volition!) is somehow not all that pleasant. But, with baby steps, we are progressing…

The video shows two sessions, split apart by a very short play (not on camera). Watching it is a great learning tool for me. For one, my timing is still off. I try to use a clicker and a verbal marker in turns, but somehow my verbal marker is usually a split second too late. Secondly, I am a bit clumsy in delivering the reward. I am trying to put it on the toy (or thereabouts), but it doesn’t work that smoothly yet. Thirdly, I should NOT entice her with the toy. This is not the play part where she chases the toy, here I want her to make a conscious and deliberate move to grab it in her mouth. I need to keep my hand more steady, perhaps I should hold my wrist on my leg so that I’m not tempted to chase her with it (which is what should NOT be done). Finally, I should have NOT kept my other hand in the position I did in the second half of the video. This is our hand target position!
But overall, I am very happy with how she worked. Especially that this was our first session outdoors!

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