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Thread: Very Good Approach to "Creeping"

  1. #1
    Senior Member road kill's Avatar
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    Default Very Good Approach to "Creeping"

    A very good friend sent me this!

    Thanks Janie!!!!

    I hope it helps someone.






    Force or Correction?
    Reconditioning the dog's mind


    written by Butch Goodwin
    of

    Northern Flight Retrievers

    I introduced you to my friend and fellow retriever trainer, Pete Eromenok, in the April/May 2010 issue of The Retriever Journal in an article entitled, "Defusing Bird-Possessive Aggression." While I was talking to Pete about his work - he works with all breeds of dogs displaying various kinds of aggression - he answered a phone call and spent considerable time explaining to one of his clients about the differences between correcting a dog's responses and reconditioning a dog's mind to perform correctly. Later, in a conversation with a successful long-time field trialer - who had never given much thought to the differences between force and correction so that the problem being corrected was less likely to show up again in a field trial - Pete suggested this topic would be a good one for a column.

    Over the years, I have almost always heard dog. trainers use the words "force" and "correction" interchangeably. From what I overheard from Pete's conversation, his rather simple explanation of the differences and how reconditioning is accomplished interested me to the point that I sat down with Pete again to have him explain "reconditioning" so that I could pass it along.

    "It doesn't matter if you use the terms 'force' and 'correction' interchangeably until you try to explain how to recondition a dog back to running tests or trials after the dog has developed behaviors that prevent it from advancing," Pete said. "For example, we know there are dogs that have not received the benefits of a program rooted in force that do a very reliable job at tests. But there are talented dogs playing the dog games that will not be able to succeed unless a systematic regimen of force has reconditioned them to be reliable performers; eradicating certain behaviors brought on by excitement.



    I asked Pete to use the example of steadying a breaking or creeping dog to explain what he was telling me - since everyone has or has had a dog that was difficult to steady.

    "Breaking or creeping is a common behavior exhibited by excitable, high-drive dogs. The key word here is excitable. The goal is not to stop the dog from breaking, but to recondition the dog to embed a behavior to be sitting in the heel position," said Pete. "It's not don't break the sit, but the mind-set must be changed to I must be next to my handler's side in order to be released to make the retrieve.

    There is a huge difference in the state of mind between the two behaviors. We must make it the dog's responsibility to be at our side. Remember, force increases a behavior and a correction diminishes it.

    "So the question in peoples' minds might be, 'Why can't we just correct for sit or heel if we are trying to eradicate breaking or creeping? After all, we are trying to stop the dog from breaking or creeping when prey objects are presented.' This is where the problem lies: There are some dogs that this correction simply won't transfer to tests or trials very well. Once excitability destabilizes a dog, corrections can elevate the dog's excitement and drive and possibly bring on other unstable behaviors, such as whining. This makes it difficult to make the dog understand his own responsibilities.

    "A common complaint is: He sometimes creeps or breaks at trials or tests, but he doesn't do it in training. Well, because the dog doesn't receive any corrections at trials or tests, the dog learns quite quickly that corrections cannot be administered at a test, so each time a dog breaks or creeps in a trial or test, this behavior is actually being reinforced. You may be able to stop him from breaking at a test by giving him a verbal correction, but you have not taught him that it is his responsibility to remain at your side until released. In a dog's mind this is a huge difference."

    To explain what Pete means by the "dog's responsibility," let me use an example most trainers are quite familiar with: force-fetch. Most trainers of hunting breeds agree that force-fetch is the basic way to proof behaviors dealing with picking up, carrying, and not chewing on birds or bumpers. The force-fetch process later expands into a more complex set of retrieving drills. Proofing refers to the commands given to a dog that are obeyed in most contexts, and also to the dog responding properly, on its own, in those same contexts, without the handler speaking a word. This is what is meant by the "dog's responsibility."

    Signals are far more meaningful to a dog than words. Dogs are by nature silent communicators. If an action is a dog's responsibility, then often there is no need to give a command for that action. An example might be that when a dog is released for a bird, he runs out, fetches the bird, comes back, returns to heel, sits, drops the bird when the handler touches it, and remains sitting until the handler turns to leave the line ... all of this without the handler uttering a word. These behaviors have been linked together through the step-by-step training process. The dog actually learns to behave this way when certain cues or actions, conscious or unconscious, are exhibited by the handler.


    Pete demonstrates the "reverse heel' with the e-collar and prong collar. A bumper out front helps to keep the dog's eyes straight ahead.

    "We have conditioned or trained each of these behaviors in the context in which it's applied applied," Pete said. "There is a simple formula for dog training: Timing plus Motivation plus Consistency equals Trained Response. The better the timing of the motivation, the injection ... of the correct motivation for [a specific] circumstance, and a high standard of consistency will determine the level of a trained response. Low levels of force consistently applied over a period of time will produce a dog that seeks to comply with a specific cue. When under the spell of extreme excitability, the conditioned response now overrides.

    "Up to this point, I haven't mentioned focus, which is one of the main ingredients of the rehabilitation process. The dog must focus on the
    bird being thrown as well as maintaining a peripheral focus on the handler's movements and cues. After all, if it's the dog's responsibility to be next to the handler, the dog learns that he must also keep an eye on the handler. So, how do we take a dog conditioned to breaking at tests and recondition him to seek the heel position and maintain a quiet steady sitting position? It may sound difficult, but it is really quite easy. The problems that often arise are usually because the handler must also recondition himself to respond in a different manner than he has in the past. The dog's part is simple: All he has to do is respond to what the handler is doing. The handler has to retrain his own motor skills to respond correctly to what the dog is doing."

    Later on, the reverse heel can be done with only the e-collar,


    Pete decided that it might be best to show me while at the same time describing the basics of the steadying process. He starts by teaching a reverse heel on the leash (using a prong collar might help the dog understand moving backward). This begins by taking a small step backward while using the "heel" command. Your objective is to make the dog move straight back without turning his front end or back end, in or out. A rope around the dog's waist might help to control his back end, if necessary. You can flip a bumper out a few feet to the front, and the dog's focus on the bumper will likely help to keep him moving straight back. Pete suggests working on this drill until you can move the dog straight back for a considerable distance - say, 10 feet or so.

    When the heeling backward is relatively solid, introduce low-level, continuous stimulation. Move backward, as you hold the button down and command, "Heel." Discontinue the stimulation immediately when the dog gets to the heel position. Do not try to move the entire 10 feet at one time; use your leash to guide him in short increments. As the dog begins to move backward with you, cease the stimulation.

    Continue this drill until you can take five or six steps backward and the dog moves straight back with your not having to use the verbal command. You are now starting to teach the dog to seek the heel position even when he is not paying particular attention to you. The goal is to make him pay attention to your silent cues and your movements. He should start seeking the heel position on his own - without verbal commands from you. You should eventually only have to use the low stimulation immediately when the dog does not move with you. Also, it is a good idea to watch for opportunities when he is distracted and not paying attention so you can further reinforce with the low stimulation. Remember: The level of stimulation must be low enough that the dog can think through the process, but not so low that the excitement of a bird can override the "heel" response.

    Remember also, up to this point we are teaching this in the yard, so we're not ready for any serious marks yet. However, a good plan is to have a helper introduce flipped bumpers, guns, duck calls, and maybe even shackled birds into the equation to distract the dog so you can reinforce with low stimulation. Before going to the field, your goal should be to throw a happy bumper and move backward while the bumper is still in the air and without uttering any command. The dog should move backward with you, paying attention to you while he is in drive- mode and excitable.

    Stan b & Elvis

  2. #2
    Senior Member road kill's Avatar
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    Part II


    When the dog is reliably moving with you under all circumstances in the yard, it is time to start over again out in the field. Repeat the entire process in the field, starting with hand-thrown bumpers until he is giving you the response that you expect. When this is solid, you can move on to simple single marks and then multiple marks and eventually multiple marks with a flyer being shot from the line. If the dog creeps up on you anytime during the process, then you must condition yourself, at the same time, to step backward using continuous stimulation and hold the button down until the dog is in place. If at times he is unable to maintain focus during a mark, use a slip cord through the prong collar and snap it backward without talking.

    "Next, go to your club fun trial or a group training session to imitate a trial and repeat the exact same procedure," Pete said. "And remember - do not say a word. You may find that you might even occasionally have to leave the line and review the earlier steps if the dog is not keeping his eye on you.

    "I need to mention again that this and is fairly easy for the dog to learn, but it is important that you [the handler] must also recondition your thinking. It can take quite a while before a handler can successfully get out of his or her rut that has been grooved upon their mind. It will take the handler longer to learn the timing and physical responses than it does the dog! The handler's responses must become second nature. You must always be ready to respond to the dog's actions or intents, and if you can find someone who uses this method, it will help to have them critique you through the entire process. This doesn't mean you will always get the perfect 'heel' when training or at a trial, but it is considerably easier to gain control and have the dog understand his responsibilities. Remember, if you speak or give commands, then you just took the responsibility off of the dog. If you are extremely consistent with this, he will respond at a test or trial. There should be little need to speak to him at a test anyway. If you get nervous and start to repeat, 'Heel, heel, heel,' old conditioning responses could resurface and your training will likely end up falling apart."



    If you find yourself in a rut and getting the same unreliable results from doing the same old thing, give this method a try. It's gentle, it's quiet, and it can be done in a public place because no one but you and your dog will likely ever know what you are doing .•

    The End
    Thanks to Mr Butch Goodwin of Northern Flight Retrievers"
    Stan b & Elvis

  3. #3

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    Stan,

    Do you know which issue of Retriever Journal this was in?

    thanks,
    Ray K

    SHR Princess Lillian Vl
    SHR Deke of Sunnyburke SH
    HRCH UH Ray's Cotton Pickin' Jake MH, 500 Pt Club, 02-11
    SHR Callie May JH, 98-09
    SR Gus "The Wonder Dog" JH, 91-01

  4. #4
    Senior Member Lonnie Spann's Avatar
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    Not to hijack your thread but follow this link, it works!

    http://www.retrievertraining.net/for...light=creeping

    Lonnie Spann
    DISCLAIMER: The above post is the opinionated and biased view of your's truly, Lonnie Spann, and is in no way intended to reflect the opinions or views of the unfortunate individuals named below who just happen to be doomed with guilt by association.

    Member of CAHRC and North AL HRC. I train with AND AM FRIENDS WITH: Fishduck, Laidback, Splash_Em, RF2, Drake2014, Claimsadj, Hooked on Quackers, RookieTrainer and Roseberry.

    HRCH Spann's Quacker Jack "Jack" 500 Pt. Club (New & IMPROVED jacket).

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    Senior Member Karen Klotthor's Avatar
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    I used this method to stop my dog from breaking on honor. As working dog I did not need it but she would break on honor. Worked great and got her thru her last few Master test for her MH title.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lonnie Spann View Post
    Not to hijack your thread but follow this link, it works!

    http://www.retrievertraining.net/for...light=creeping

    Lonnie Spann
    This thread is to the point, too many other items on the other. You down at the grand aren't you
    GRHRCH Huntington's Aged T Perfection MH...Colby (FC AFC Roux MH x GMPR Tyra MH)
    HRCH Huntington's All That Melody...Jazz (GRHRCH Boomer x Callie) Momma's Girl
    Huntington's Cool Customer... Chilly (Lefty QAA x Black SH)

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    Senior Member Jennifer Henion's Avatar
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    Great article! Thanks for sharing, Stan!

    Karen, I'm curious if your situation was like mine. My dog would creep 5' or 6' on honor and even broke on honor, but would not come close to this when she was the working dog.

    Here's what I finally figured out:

    When we are the working pair at the line, we line up like most do. She knows she must be at heel or re-heel herself from a slight creep before being sent. As said before, she knows it's her responsibility to take steps to be sent.

    While honoring, I was acting completely differently. I was standing sideways, whispering to her and generally letting her know we were not the working pair. In her mind, we were out of context, she had no responsibility to follow the normal steps to be steady before the reward. Once I guessed that may be the problem, I started standing as if we were the working pair during honor, even cued her with a soft "sit, mark". It was like a miracle. No more 4-6' creeps and no breaks. We practiced a lot in training with a friend and his dog for her to honor.

    Then the ultimate test - she was double staked in a senior and a master in one day. She went through two series of senior, getting 6 birds, then went through first 4 birds of the Master. The honor position was set between the dog and the marks. I was sweating bullets, but she did great. Crept two inches and reheeled herself. I was amazed.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Todd Caswell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer Henion View Post
    Great article! Thanks for sharing, Stan!

    Karen, I'm curious if your situation was like mine. My dog would creep 5' or 6' on honor and even broke on honor, but would not come close to this when she was the working dog.

    Here's what I finally figured out:

    When we are the working pair at the line, we line up like most do. She knows she must be at heel or re-heel herself from a slight creep before being sent. As said before, she knows it's her responsibility to take steps to be sent.

    While honoring, I was acting completely differently. I was standing sideways, whispering to her and generally letting her know we were not the working pair. In her mind, we were out of context, she had no responsibility to follow the normal steps to be steady before the reward. Once I guessed that may be the problem, I started standing as if we were the working pair during honor, even cued her with a soft "sit, mark". It was like a miracle. No more 4-6' creeps and no breaks. We practiced a lot in training with a friend and his dog for her to honor.

    Then the ultimate test - she was double staked in a senior and a master in one day. She went through two series of senior, getting 6 birds, then went through first 4 birds of the Master. The honor position was set between the dog and the marks. I was sweating bullets, but she did great. Crept two inches and reheeled herself. I was amazed.
    Glad it's working for you but just remember you can only fool them so many times

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    I took basically a whole year and didn't run my dog rowdy while I worked on this. I never saw this article but talked with Pete on the phone and he explained how this works. I think I checked our progress a couple times by entering master tests and picked the dog up both times for not following through with his end of the bargain. We eventually got it and I ran 4 Q's last fall and only had him come off the mat one setup. It isint some miracle cure but it made a major difference. Along with this I put a steady tab on his collar--some days we heeled backwards when the marks were going off and some days I held a steady tab and made him completely still. This method tends to create movement in my dog so it worked much better when we started working the steady tab along with it.

    It was nice to run and see the dog that was a chronic creeper stay with me on th May for a few trials. I will say this though--your dogs marking will drop while you work on this new way to run--they tend not to mark well when their moving backwards. I got away from practicing it over the winter and ran an AM this fall and the beast was back. Guess what we've done a lot of lately? The keys are silence from you and making the dog always conscious of where you are. It takes some time but really can go a long eat to keeping em honest.

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    Senior Member BJGatley's Avatar
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    I would like to add:
    As I have said earlier in posts, I have a tab on the dog when training and the point is training; I make a religious point in training to make my stand to the dog in understanding me and not what is out there for them. Understand me and you will get the reward. This continues on every training session without second thought to me and to the dog. I have made it a habit to me and the dog knows.

    Once you start something….don’t stop…

    My two cents worth over the years.

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