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Thread: Getting dog to focus on marks

  1. #1
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    Default Getting dog to focus on marks

    I have an 8 month old puppy. I wouldn't say he's totally "finished" with force fetch, but he's far enough along that he will pretty reliably retrieve on command.

    He's just recently started getting marks thrown by a bird boy versus just hand thrown bumpers from me at the line. His tendency has been to want to run to the bird boy. Tonight I took him out with the plan of working on that issue. I've worked up to about 50 yards of me leaving him in a sit and throwing marks myself, so I was my own bird boy tonight. I took him to a mowed field with no cover.

    I threw long flat angled backs. First time, he ran to me. I threw another bumper but I didn't think that was teaching him anything about not running to me first.

    So next time, he ran to me and I told him "no, fetch" and he ran over to pick up the bumper.

    After that he stopped running to me, but he would look at me while he was running towards the bumper until he passed me. Better, but still not what I want.

    So I threw three bumpers in a row towards the same spot before I released him. That seemed to help focus him, but he would still glance over at me once or twice while running.

    So a vast improvement, we went from him running directly to me, to him staring at me while he ran, to him just giving a glance at me. Am I on the right track? Tomorrow I should be able to have someone else throw for me.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Mary Lynn Metras's Avatar
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    Not sure what stage your at training your pup. If you just finished yard work and now are working in the field everything is different to them. They are looking all around at first. Get a gunner who can give a hey hey. Start to cue your pup with "mark" or "watch" when duck thrown. Birds help instead of bumpers. Good luck
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mary Lynn Metras View Post
    Not sure what stage your at training your pup. If you just finished yard work and now are working in the field everything is different to them. They are looking all around at first. Get a gunner who can give a hey hey. Start to cue your pup with "mark" or "watch" when duck thrown. Birds help instead of bumpers. Good luck
    I agree. Use birds. Preferably shackled live birds. If you put crack on the ground, they will no longer care about you!

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    Yes you are on the right track. You need to start doing marks with birdboys, have them throw a mark and when you release your dog have birdboy continue to throw bumpers until dog passes him on way to bumper.Do walking singles on short grass for a few days then move to cover. It's normal for your dog to look around,when you start doing multiple marks it's common for a dog to look at other gunners after they pick up go bird. That's good he's letting you know he remembers there is other birds out there. You need to do marks with birdboys at least 90% of the time.

  5. #5
    Senior Member BonMallari's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Golden6824 View Post
    I have an 8 month old puppy. I wouldn't say he's totally "finished" with force fetch, but he's far enough along that he will pretty reliably retrieve on command.

    He's just recently started getting marks thrown by a bird boy versus just hand thrown bumpers from me at the line. His tendency has been to want to run to the bird boy. Tonight I took him out with the plan of working on that issue. I've worked up to about 50 yards of me leaving him in a sit and throwing marks myself, so I was my own bird boy tonight. I took him to a mowed field with no cover.

    I threw long flat angled backs. First time, he ran to me. I threw another bumper but I didn't think that was teaching him anything about not running to me first.

    So next time, he ran to me and I told him "no, fetch" and he ran over to pick up the bumper.

    After that he stopped running to me, but he would look at me while he was running towards the bumper until he passed me. Better, but still not what I want.

    So I threw three bumpers in a row towards the same spot before I released him. That seemed to help focus him, but he would still glance over at me once or twice while running.

    So a vast improvement, we went from him running directly to me, to him staring at me while he ran, to him just giving a glance at me. Am I on the right track? Tomorrow I should be able to have someone else throw for me.
    I purposely highlighted two of your statements to get you to consider this


    1. by throwing a FLAT angled back, you actually are getting the dog to do the opposite of what you want, a young dog would be better off seeing a high lazy arc at 90 degrees..a flat angled throw to a young dog almost looks like its behind you, so the dog will run at the gunner


    2. conventional thinking is that by throwing multiple marks at the same location gives the dog the illusion that there is more than one REWARD at that location...think one retrieve ONE reward...sometimes, some trainers will have their bird boy throw a second bird while a young pup is en route just to get a young dog to dig a little harder toward the target,but make sure you can throw the bird almost on top of the first mark or the dog may get confused when they reach the destination and see two rewards
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  6. #6

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    I would avoid saying anything that could be construed as negative while acting as a gunner. You want the the dog to have a positive relationship with those individuals because at some point they may be called upon to run tight by a gunner and the last thing you want is them flaring them so stop telling your dog no. I agree with the folks the goal should be to change the dogs focus to the object on the ground by enticing them. This is easier to do when you have someone else in the field throwing while you work and cue dog at the line. I think at this point it would be wise to continue doing marks on short grass that the dog can see throughout the entirety of the retrieve.

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    Senior Member Evan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BonMallari View Post
    I purposely highlighted two of your statements to get you to consider this


    1. by throwing a FLAT angled back, you actually are getting the dog to do the opposite of what you want, a young dog would be better off seeing a high lazy arc at 90 degrees..a flat angled throw to a young dog almost looks like its behind you, so the dog will run at the gunner


    2. conventional thinking is that by throwing multiple marks at the same location gives the dog the illusion that there is more than one REWARD at that location...think one retrieve ONE reward...sometimes, some trainers will have their bird boy throw a second bird while a young pup is en route just to get a young dog to dig a little harder toward the target,but make sure you can throw the bird almost on top of the first mark or the dog may get confused when they reach the destination and see two rewards
    Excellent insight.

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    Senior Member Scott Adams's Avatar
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    Use a baseball diamond and throw short enough marks that the dog can see it the whole way out. Gradually lengthen distance to mark.
    When the focus is good at a distance, go to light cover. Shorten up again. Use birds with white tape on the legs so the dog finds it easily and gets rewarded for keeping its eyes on the prize.
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    Senior Member KwickLabs's Avatar
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    My pups regularly see a great deal of stand alone singles. In addition, basic puppy training tends to emphasize responsiveness. That includes paying attention to the handler. This approach tends to create an expectation for the pup to look back at you (as the gunner/bird boy) on marks. He is doing what is was trained to be - responsive.

    With stand alone singles......his responsiveness has created a counter-productive behavior. Therefore, the pup must be taught a new expectation...."stare down a mark" and don't look back at the gunner (you or a real one).

    This is easier to teach if the release is verbal and more difficult if the distance to look back at the gunner is small.

    Therefore, start by throwing a few marks from the line and teach the pup the "watch" command. When he is looking intently at marks move away (from the line) and begin the stand alone presentations.

    Throw so that a head swing back to you is large (more difficult)i. If they look back at you, simple say "no' and repeat "watch" and throw a second mark to the same fall. If the pup "stares that down", reward him with a "good watch" praise and verbally send him. Use long, wide, slightly angled in throws to begin with and never release when he is looking at you. The expectation can be reinforced with a real gunner in the field and you at the line.

    Basically, it is necessary to teach him to look only at the mark......not hope that he will. Being patient and consistent close up will soon lead to this new expectation working at a distance. Teach him what you want him to do.

    Of course, you can't use an arm motion in the field as the release "signal".
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    Senior Member polmaise's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Golden6824 View Post
    I have an 8 month old puppy. I wouldn't say he's totally "finished" with force fetch, but he's far enough along that he will pretty reliably retrieve on command.

    He's just recently started getting marks thrown by a bird boy versus just hand thrown bumpers from me at the line. His tendency has been to want to run to the bird boy. Tonight I took him out with the plan of working on that issue. I've worked up to about 50 yards of me leaving him in a sit and throwing marks myself, so I was my own bird boy tonight. I took him to a mowed field with no cover.

    I threw long flat angled backs. First time, he ran to me. I threw another bumper but I didn't think that was teaching him anything about not running to me first.

    So next time, he ran to me and I told him "no, fetch" and he ran over to pick up the bumper.

    After that he stopped running to me, but he would look at me while he was running towards the bumper until he passed me. Better, but still not what I want.

    So I threw three bumpers in a row towards the same spot before I released him. That seemed to help focus him, but he would still glance over at me once or twice while running.

    So a vast improvement, we went from him running directly to me, to him staring at me while he ran, to him just giving a glance at me. Am I on the right track? Tomorrow I should be able to have someone else throw for me.
    A video would help?
    Into the lions den of American Retriever training. The great Kwicklabs last post is confusing for me ! (I respect you deeply). from what is posted I would encourage the dog to ''Run in'' ! ..with no command. then, wait the dog out for a release command (verbal) with no movement of body.I would also not send the dog unless it was looking at the 'mark'...if this took twenty minutes then so be it!...It's lock on like radar I would be looking for ,irrespective of how many bird boys or 'hey' hey's, to distract the dog from the target?...unless I'm totally missing the ''point'' ?...I do know something ,If I send the dog and it is lined up on the target with spine and head and eyes on a mark and the dog has seen that mark,there is no requirement for me to indicate what is required other than a verbal release command.If that Exocet missile is not locked on and not hitting the target then someone or some thing in the 'wiring' is not right,so I'll track back to make it a hit.
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