Last time on Rachael’s Journey I gave an account of Rachael’s first twenty clicker sessions.
Over the last four days I have managed to fit ten more clicker training sessions in with Rachael.
I am happy to report that we are making great progress now.
Here is my training log for last ten sessions.
Day 24: Mar 14th
Today I am looking for three things.
- A really great central pick-up (I click many of these without waiting for a hold)
- A four second walking hold (she follows the treat in my hand)
- A brief sit without dropping the dummy
When she does a very poor pick up (by one end) I am ignoring her, she drops quite quickly and picks up again.[wp_ad_camp_1]Whenever I get three nice central pick-ups in a row, I work on a walking ‘hold’ for the next one.
I am getting four seconds without any trouble each time.
About half of her pickups were good central ones, and maybe ten percent were quite poor
I asked for two sits this session. She dropped the dummy both times.
I will spend the whole of the next session focusing on a central pick up.
Lots of nice central pick ups this session, I ended by walking around the kitchen with her at heel, still holding the dummy, about a five second hold. I managed to get a couple of ‘sits’ holding the dummy but Rachael immediately began chomping vigourously. So I have decided to keep her ‘on the move and abandon my sitting delivery.
This means I cannot teach the delivery in quite the same way that I intended. Normally I have the dog sit and hold the dummy whilst I shape the delivery. A gundog does not need to sit to deliver, this is just a technique I use because it introduces some ‘calm’ into the delivery and helps get a nice presentation with no fumbling.
But I don’t want Rachael to sit with the dummy if it makes her chomp.
So I will now need to introduce a ‘hand touch’ where Rachael pushes her mouth onto my hand, and then convert that into a delivery. I can do this ‘on the move’ if necessary to begin with.
Day 25: Mar 15th
This morning’s session was all about practising a ‘walking hold’, and getting more space between me and Rachael so she had to make more effort to bring the dummy towards me. Each time I threw her treat well away from the dummy I followed her, so that we were both at one end of the room with the dummy at the other, then as she ran for the dummy I got even further away from her if I could.
Sometimes I clicked as she approached me, other times I walked up and down and she fell into place beside me. Rachael is a real natural at heelwork and that has been an advantage at this point.
We finished the session with some ‘hand touches’. I taught Rachael to ‘target’ my hand some months ago, so it is simply a question of refreshing her memory. She quickly began pushing her nose onto the palm of my hand to get a click and treat.
For this session I focused totally on the hand touch. Rachael was great and did a perfect 15 out of 15 nice nose bumps onto the palm of my hand, which I presented at varying angles.
- Rachael will hold on to the dummy without chomping if I hold out a treat and keep my hand moving so she moves after me
- Rachael will also hold on to the dummy if she comes towards me with it and I walk away, she simply falls into the heel position next to me
- Rachael will bump my hand with her nose when she is not holding the dummy.
Now I need to put these together
Day 26: Mar 16th
My plan today is to see if I can link the hand touch and pick-up, so that Rachael is deliberately touching my hand with the dummy in her mouth.
No problems with this at all, Rachael is quite happy to bump my hand with the dummy in her mouth and only dropped it once in the entire session.
The last session went so well that I decided to move on to ‘taking hold’ of the dummy before clicking, instead of letting it fall to the floor. Once again, a great session with a dozen or so successful attempts. Each time now, when she bumps my hand with the dummy I grasp the dummy, click, throw the treat one way, and the dummy the other.
This is huge progress, and what I actually have now is a ‘baby’ retrieve complete with delivery to hand.
We now need to work on a very deliberate delivery, where Rachael really takes responsibility for getting the dummy into my hand, even when I place my hand in different positions. And then we can take the ‘show on the road’ and start working outdoors. I am so pleased with her, and really looking forward to moving on.
Several nice returns to hand, then a few messy ones with Rachael ‘parading about’ a bit or fiddling with and dropping the dummy. No rewards for those. To get her back on track I put the dummy away and did a few hand touches, then tried again. Got three nice hand bumps with the dummy and stopped on a good note. The next session I will precede with some hand bumps without the dummy.
I am also thinking about swapping the food reward for another retrieve. At the moment I click, treat, then throw another retrieve. Because the retrieve has such high value for Rachael, I think that click & throw might work even better. I couldn’t do this until I got a delivery to hand, but it is an option for us now.
Day 27: Mar 17th
In this session I started with a few hand bumps without the dummy, then switched to the retrieve itself as a reward for returning the dummy. As soon as Rachael delivered to hand, I immediately threw the dummy out again click/throw, click/throw. The result was excellent. Much more focus, no fiddling around with the dummy, just fast and furious retrieves, targeting my hand at the end of each one.
I am so pleased with this result, but I should probably add this note of caution. Rachael is a passionate retriever, she is as obsessive about retrieving as any pure working strain Labrador I have trained. Switching from food to the retrieve as a reward would not work for any dog that did not place such a high value on the retrieve object itself.
A very short session (just me demonstrating to the other half), half a dozen fast retrieve with a clean delivery.
I roped my son in for this session, to get a photo of Rachael delivering the dummy for this article.
What is next?
My next objective is to transfer this whole project to the big outdoors. There is plenty of potential for things to go awry as there will be more distractions and opportunities for variations in Rachael’s behaviour, so I will be starting off very cautiously. I will let you know how we get on.
If you are interested in finding out more about the clicker retrieve, check out my Clicker Gundog articles
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