Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Drop On Recall

It is so fun to see all the pieces of our training start to come together to create something that is on the way to becoming a real obedience ring exercise. Rundle has been working on all the pieces of a drop on recall since he was a wee pup and now we are starting to combine them.  Recalls, downs and wrapping around a pole are all things that Rundle has been practicing since we brought him home. We are now starting to combine these into one fun exercises.

Rundle started learning a stationary down as a tiny puppy and once that was solid, I started adding a bit of distance. Then we added a moving down while Rundle was walking beside me or following me. Now I am asking for a down when Rundle is moving at a trot or run beside me. Basically, I want him to be able drop quickly no matter what he is doing.

What does wrapping around a pole have to do with a drop on recall?  Well, nothing really, but at the same time a lot.  Rundle learned how to wrap a pole and come back to me when he was about 10 weeks old. This behaviour has a long history of reinforcement for him and he thinks it is very fun. I can now use this fun exercise to make an otherwise boring exercise much more exciting. When you think about it, the drop on recall can be a boring exercise. Sit and wait until called, then down on cue, then complete the recall. When drilled over and over this way, it can be very boring for the dog and the handler.  But, add in something fun, like a pole, and it's a whole new game!  I can send Rundle out to wrap the pole and then on his way back, I can ask him for a down.  So this way, I can practice all the elements of the DOR, with the exception of the "wait", without turning it into a boring, formal exercise. Fun for everyone and a great way for a dog to learn. 

Now that Rundle has a bit of speed, he sometimes takes more steps than I would like before he drops. When this happens, I don't make a big deal about it, I just reset him and make it easier by going in a step or two towards him, then reward when he is successful. I also don't drop him after every wrap - sometimes I ask for a front, sometimes just a recall. I do not want him patterned to think that he wraps the pole then he drops. I always want him to be thinking and wondering what I will ask him to do next. As he gets more confident with this, I will start adding more distance until we can get to a full ring length with successful drops.  So, for as much work as we have done, we still have much more to do.

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