The RetrieverTraining.Net Forums The Retriever Academy
Total Retriever Training with Mike Lardy
Hawkeye Media Gunners Up Tritronics Outdoor Media
Page 1 of 10 123 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 93

Thread: Thoughts on the Controversy of the Happy Bumper

  1. #1
    Senior Member RetrieversONLINE's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Lindsay, Ontario
    Posts
    666

    Default Thoughts on the Controversy of the Happy Bumper

    I was inspired to write an article for a future Retrievers ONLINE issue by a recent thread. Here I take the gist of the article, modify it, and offer it as food for thought to RTF because of the earlier inspiration-thanks!

    Elsewhere there is a post called “Accidental Heeling Drill Discovered”. I think it was meant to be called Heeling Drill Accidentally Discovered. Actually, the drill was not a new discovery except for the OP. The idea of doing heeling exercises while in the face of the imminent marks with throwers is not new but certainly valuable. It is seldom practiced in groups where it would be most effective. However, that thread drifted off into a discussion of fun and happy bumpers, their pros and cons. While some didn’t like them, others used them for attitude adjustment.

    My take on “happy” or “fun” bumpers has changed over the years. Way back in the dark ages (40 years ago), I was known to throw a happy bumper for fun for the dog to be happy. By “happy or fun bumper, I mean a free for all, go break and get ‘em bumper thrown by the trainer. It is signalled as such with an excited hey-hey or hup-hup or whatever you want to say that is excited.

    Over time I noticed that my dogs really didn’t need these for a good attitude. Good attitudes come from how you train-how you correct and how you praise. If I needed a Happy bumper, it usually meant my training was sour-better to fix that than patch that.

    I also noticed that most people gave their dogs a happy bumper when they themselves were happy. The dog did well, came back wagging their tails and the trainer threw a happy bumper because they were so pleased that their dog had done well. The trainer thought they needed to let their dog know they were happy and make them happy. HAH!! The dog was ALREADY happy!!!

    Then, I observed how wild and reckless dogs were on happy bumpers and I wondered about the tremendous strain and torque on ligaments, tendons and muscles. Especially, when the dog was not totally warmed up!!! One evening, two days before a National Amateur, one of my top dogs(a 200 point FTCH AFTCH FC AFC dog) ruptured a cruciate on a happy bumper. He had done well and I was happy and I threw a happy bumper and said to myself, we’re ready for this National!! That was 1988. I never threw another happy bumper for over 20 years and my dog’s attitude never suffered.

    About three years ago, as I watched the Hillmann DVD’s I noted all his “happy” bumpers. The difference though is they were NOT meant to make the dog happy. They were to make the dog excited and to get the dog into a real “prey drive” mode. The idea was to balance excitement and obedience. But first you needed the excitement. Train a dog in that mode and they are ready to learn and be good students. This had nothing to do with improving attitude after a “bad” session. It wasn’t to make the handler happy. It wasn’t to reward the dog. It was in some ways fun for the dog but the purpose was not to allow the dog to have fun. The purpose was to get the dog revved up and excited so that they were in a good frame of mind to tackle the next steps. When better to require obedience than when the dog is hyper excited. Isn’t that when we have most of the obedience problems at a field trial? This kind of “happy’ bumper made sense to me. I labelled it an excitement bumper not a happy or fun bumper.

    So my next problem was how to make it safe for the dogs’ body? I learned that if I threw it in 6-12” cover of grass and threw an orange bumper at distances of 40-50 yards there was none of that wild twisting and turning. The dog raced to the area but seldom had that sliding screeching twisting white bumper on the lawn stress on his body. Bonus: He learned to use his eyes in conjunction with his nose. I signalled an exciting break with a hup-hup. The dogs got very excited. If I said “sit” first, the standard was ZERO movement and no break. While I haven’t discussed this aspect of excitement bumpers with Bill, it jives with the rest of his philosophy re eyes, nose and excitement.
    So for all the RTFers who use happy bumpers, primarily for fun and happy, think about this. What are you rewarding besides yourself? -something that happened in the dogs mind 2 minutes ago? Why do you need to improve attitude? Perhaps the other parts of your training session need improvement.

    To all those that don’t use happy bumpers, perhaps you are missing out on a valuable tool.

    PS. My older dogs do not get excitement bumpers for a reward or attitude. The bird and my good dog is their reward and their training is geared to good attitudes.

    Cheers
    Last edited by RetrieversONLINE; 10-14-2012 at 02:45 PM. Reason: wrong word--excitement changed to obedience
    Dennis

  2. #2
    Senior Member Rainmaker's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    NW WI
    Posts
    3,608

    Default

    Nicely written and wonderful explanation, thank you, Dennis.
    Kim Pfister, Rainmaker Labs

  3. #3
    Senior Member shawninthesticks's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    north east mo
    Posts
    1,831

    Default

    This guy should be a professional writer of something,

    Nice post Dennis!
    Last edited by shawninthesticks; 10-14-2012 at 02:45 PM.
    Shawn White

    HR Big Creek Retrievers Independence Day JH QAA "Indy "

  4. #4
    Senior Member mitty's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Salt Lake City
    Posts
    2,272

    Default

    What do you call it when the dog is mostly sitting on the truck for days, and you take him out at the hotel parking lot and throw bumpers for exercise? Are these happy bumpers?

    Mostly I've done the above, and the Hillman style fun bumpers. Maybe the latter should be dubbed something like learning bumpers.

    If you throw the fun bumpers in water, it seems the potential for injuries would be reduced as well.
    Renee P

  5. #5
    Senior Member Sharon Potter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Wisconsin Rapids, WI
    Posts
    2,791

    Default

    Years ago, a good friend of mine who is also a well respected veterinarian specializing in orthopedic surgery told me that happy bumpers were the number one cause of the TPLO repairs he does. I haven't used them since. And I'm glad to read Dennis's thoughts as well, since I have the utmost respect for him. Thanks for sharing those thoughts.
    Sharon Potter

    www.redbranchkennels.net

    Chesapeake Bay Retrievers...too many to list.

    Team Huntsmith

  6. #6
    Senior Member RetrieversONLINE's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Lindsay, Ontario
    Posts
    666

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by mitty View Post
    What do you call it when the dog is mostly sitting on the truck for days, and you take him out at the hotel parking lot and throw bumpers for exercise? Are these happy bumpers?

    Mostly I've done the above, and the Hillman style fun bumpers. Maybe the latter should be dubbed something like learning bumpers.

    If you throw the fun bumpers in water, it seems the potential for injuries would be reduced as well.
    When your dog has been sitting on the truck for days why would you throw breaker birds? Throwing a bumper buy hand on a lawn to a "cold" muscle dog just out of a truck would be a terrible thing to do physically. Warm them up properly for starters.

    Hillman's bumpers are not learning bumpers as I explained-they are excitement bumpers. I explained how I feel I can safely throw an excitement bumper.

    Water entries are not a freebie for safety. The dog I referenced that ruptured a cruciate had the bumper thrown in the water. The nature of the shore and thus the type of entry is critical
    Dennis

  7. #7
    Senior Member DarrinGreene's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Souf Joisy
    Posts
    2,782

    Default

    Dennis, as you know, for a lot of these dogs a quick retrieve is the best reward for any desired behavior we're trying to re-enforce. It sure is for the puppy I'm training now and besides, hot dogs were getting expensive LOL. I know I'm preaching to the choir there but some additional things to chew on also.

    I also took to the use of verbal markers this time around and the results have been astounding. I say "OK" as a marker (like a clicker) to release the dog from the command she's performing and "Good" to tell her to keep doing what she's doing. So for duration in a sit position once she knows what the command is, it's sit, good, good, good, OK! and then she gets her reward, a short retrieve.

    I have been using a this strategy all the way through. We are in collar conditioning for sit and we're learning to hold at the same time.

    So I get her to hold with a couple of bumps on the chin but when she does it for a few seconds, I give the good good good marker and then the OK marker, take the bumper and toss it. Since I've conditioned those verbal sounds into her communication, she knows she's doing the right thing and that she's released for the reward when I say OK. She's learning FAST and has a great attitude about the whole thing so far.

    I've done the same with collar conditioning. When I get that repetition where the dog "beats" the pressure, I also mark the behavior and reward with a quick retrieve.

    In this way we are combining negative re-enforcement and positive re-enforcement of the appropriate behavior, and for some of the more driven dogs we are also using some negative punishment as well.

    I may be koo koo like Cocoa Puffs but to me the more quadrants of the operant conditioning model I can put into play the better we are going to learn and grow.

    It's really just a combination of your two recent posts, "simplifying dog learning" and this one.

    The only word of caution and the reason I have shied away from any happy or excitement type bumpers is that they re-enforce whatever pup was doing at the time they were thrown. I always make sure I get some desired behavior before I throw one and it still brings the drive up like we want.

    I'll tease her up with a bumper but I always give a sit command before I mark and throw. Her butt will only be down a second in that case and I'm very animated, but I feel it rewards a desired behavior and it's safer than having her spin to take off and hurt herself. We get something other than just drive out of it what way too.
    Last edited by DarrinGreene; 10-14-2012 at 03:20 PM.
    Darrin Greene

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Fall City, WA
    Posts
    4,622

    Default

    What about happy bumpers as part of "funning up" retrieving just coming off of FF and walking fetch? Seems some level of excitment/higher energy praise after the formalized drilling can set a good attitude quickly.

  9. #9
    Senior Member mitty's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Salt Lake City
    Posts
    2,272

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by RetrieversONLINE View Post
    When your dog has been sitting on the truck for days why would you throw breaker birds? Throwing a bumper buy hand on a lawn to a "cold" muscle dog just out of a truck would be a terrible thing to do physically. Warm them up properly for starters.

    Hillman's bumpers are not learning bumpers as I explained-they are excitement bumpers. I explained how I feel I can safely throw an excitement bumper.

    Water entries are not a freebie for safety. The dog I referenced that ruptured a cruciate had the bumper thrown in the water. The nature of the shore and thus the type of entry is critical
    How do you warm your dogs up at events? Or at crowded motels? I haven't figured it out yet.

    Often there is no open space nearby.

    The dog always gets a little walk but it doesn't seem like it could be enough.
    Renee P

  10. #10
    Senior Member RetrieversONLINE's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Lindsay, Ontario
    Posts
    666

    Default

    Renee

    I believe you get Retrievers ONLINE? See my detailed explanation in the Spring issue. You can do it anywhere.
    Dennis

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •