By Andy Clayton
The second week of our return to the gun dog field was a refresher for both me and Amber. Some of the tasks this week we have included in our training since taking our first gun dog course with Gemma last summer, however there were some things that we hadn't done since last year, so I was interested to see how Amber (and me!) would cope.
Before we got on to these tasks, we began by walking to heel and blowing our whistle to stop our pup; or more accurately get our dog's attention. This is something that, on the face of it, Amber does well, however I'm not convinced yet that she'll stop when she hears the whistle and isn't walking right by my side. Gemma demonstrated with one of her dogs, Spook, how he will stop on a sixpence when she blows her whistle, whatever distractions may be on offer and whatever distance he may be from her at the time. It's impressive to watch and such a useful skill to have in so many situations.
We then had another go at stop on recall. The same as last week - calling our dog to us and stopping them when they got about half way. Amber did well with this, despite being somewhat distracted by an interesting sniff in the grass. Helpfully, this was around about the place where I wanted her to put the brakes on. 😉
Stop on send away
We also tried a stop on send away. Rachel (one of the trainers helping Gemma on the course) walked down the field and called each dog in turn. Our job was to stop our dog (by blowing the whistle) before they got to her. Most dogs ran straight to Rachel and showed no sign of stopping. Amber sort of looked at me and then wandered part of the way off before stopping and looking at me again. To the casual observer it would appear that Amber is highly trained and doing exactly what I want her to. The facts tell a different story! Rachel is well known to the other dogs on the course whereas Amber doesn't know her all that well. Last week Rachel said hello to Amber and made a fuss of her, but this week we hadn't seen Rachel for a pre-course cuddle so the truth of the matter is that Amber doesn't think "Oooo, look, it's Rachel" as she barely knows her. The other dogs know her well and so that's much more likely the reason why they went up to her to say Hi and Amber just sort of looked at me blankley in a kind of "you have the treats so I'm staying near you" kind of way.
At least that's how I see it.
We all need to look at our stop on send away. For me it falls under the heading of "getting Amber to look at me when I blow the whistle wherever she may be at that point". If this is during a send away or not makes no difference.
It's just a step to the right...
Then it was on to a couple of tasks we had worked on last year. First of all we had to put our dog in a sit, facing us then take a few steps away. We then threw a retrieve article over our dog's head and then sent them away to fetch it. We also tried a similar task that involves throwing a retrieve item to the left and right and then sending our dog out to bring one of them back. I was so pleased with Amber as she remembered what to do. She's very focussed on me, which helps a great deal. These are great exercises to train your dog to wait for a command and not just assume that they know what's coming next (something my other dog - a blue roan english cocker - is prone to do).
Here's a video of Amber working on the second of the two retrieve tasks. The camera is quite low down so it's a little difficult to see me throwing the retrieve items out, but hopefully you'll get the general idea of what we were doing!
Finallty this week we did a hidden recall. Rachel held on to our dog and we had to walk around the corner out of site. We then had to blow our whistle and call them back to us, one at a time. It was so funny to watch the enthusiam of every dog to run back to their owner. A wonderful way to finish the lesson.
Gun Dog Training
It's worth finishing by mentioning that the Friendly Dog Club will soon be offering regular gun dog sessions taken by Gemma, who's been running this summer class. Look out for details on this web site! As with all forms of dog training, you really can't beat being in the same room (or field) as someone as who knows exactly what to do and can train you and your dog how to do things properly.
We offer training courses for every level of dog from puppy right up to advanced level. We're Kennel Club listed.
Agility classes for dogs from 10 months. Competitive, or just enjoyment and healthy exercise.
Gun dog classes for any age or breed. From beginners to more advanced dogs.