It's all going over her head
Introductory gun dog classes: Week 3

A dog sitting looking forward

This is the third in a short series of articles about taking an introductory gun dog class run by The Friendly Dog Club over summer 2018. To see how we did from the start of the course, click here.

By Andy Clayton

The run up to week 3 was, thankfully, less eventful than week 2. Amber had the all clear from the vet so I could do away with the balloon shaped foot covering and concentrate on the tasks in hand.

We’d been continuing to practice our whistle training during the week and I’ve been pleased by how Amber is responding to it. She’s not sure if it’s a “come here” peep or a “stop and look” peep but at least she’s looking at me to see what all the fuss is about. I’ve been meaning to ask Gemma (our trainer on the course) whether the kind of peep makes a difference. I’ve been doing 3 short peeps for “come here” and a single, longer peep for “stop and look at me”. Hopefully this isn’t a million miles away from what I should be doing.

We’ve also been having a go at the memory test. If you remember from last week I made a bit of a hash of this in the lesson, but working on it in the garden has been much more successful, as you can see in the following video:

A recap of the first two weeks
In the lesson this week we had a go at some of the things that we’ve been introduced to over the first two weeks. It’s only when you go through them all that you realise just how much we’ve done! We had a go at whistle to stop during heel work, bolting rabbit, sit with distractions (see video below and picture at the top of the page), recall with whistle and stop on send away with whistle.

Directional place boards
You may recall from week 1 that as Amber had taken to sitting on the place boards straight away, Gemma got me to try sending her left and right between two of them. This activity was extended to the whole class this week and we were paired up to have a go. Amber and I joined forces with Penny who is gorgeous blue roan cocker spaniel and reminds me very much of my own blue roan who had been left at home with her mum (no doubt painting each other’s nails and watching re-runs of Friends on Netflix).

Amber was great at the directions, she seems to follow my hand signals well. I’d say she’s better at hand signals than voice instructions. Penny, who’s also a very clever cocker, took to the directions quickly too and it was a pleasure to see all of the dogs on the course making such great progress.

Reverse retrieve
This week we were introduced to the reverse retrieve. Here we had to throw our fetch item over our dog’s head to land behind them, blow our whistle to get their attention and then send them away to collect the fetch article and return it to us.

This is another example of getting the dog to ignore what’s going on around them (throw the fetch item), getting their attention while they stay where they are (blow the whistle) and wait for a clear directional instruction before moving (send away to retrieve).

Amber keeps her beady eyes on me pretty much all of the time when we’re training so that she doesn’t miss any opportunity that may come along to relieve me of my stash of sausages, so the first part of this exercise (throw the item over her head) went well. She was already looking at me but I blew my whistle anyway. I don’t know if that was the right thing to do-perhaps I should only blow it if she’s not looking? (I must remember to check that at the next class.)

We’ve been working on sending our dog’s away from us in our normal term time training at The Dog Hut in Barton-on-Sea so this, combined with the memory work from last week’s gun dog class, meant that when I issued my fetch command, Amber grasped straight away that I then wanted her to return the item that had landed behind her.

For send away, Gemma suggested using a hand gesture of holding your hand palm out facing away from you and high up in a forward motion towards your dog. I made up my own gesture years ago for “send away” that involves me putting both hands behind my back and taking a step forward. This works, however Gemma’s suggested gesture makes a great deal of sense to me when you think about working out in the field. If a dog is some distance away from you then they need to be able to see your hand movement. One that involves me putting mine behind my back is hardly ideal if I ever found myself in this situation, so I’m going to gradually introduce this alternative gesture into my training in the future.

Final thoughts
The weeks are racing by! I can’t believe that we’re half way through the course now. We’ve covered a huge amount in these first three lessons and I can’t wait to find out what we learn next week.

Training is huge fun, both for you and your dog. If you fancy taking a class with your furball, be sure to check out the many different types of classes that are run by The Friendly Dog Club. You can find out all about them across the pages of this web site. Training in person is always preferable, however if you’re not close to the club in Hampshire, England then you can always download the club’s training apps. More details here.

That’s it for this week. I look forward to updating you on our antics after the next class.

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