Saturday, October 20, 2012


No matter what her dna is made up of, at heart, Indigo is a retriever.

She gets this fire in her eyes when she's fetching something. It's so much fun to see.
So fun that, even though I dislike the idea of killing stuff very much, I took her to a hunting retriever trainer yesterday for a lesson. He has a very large property with beautiful ponds, fields and wetlands to use. It was a long drive but was worth it.
He asked me to bring something that she liked to fetch so I brought her frisbee.

I threw it out into the field a few times and she did chase and retrieve it.
Then he brought out a plastic bumper and wanted me to throw it. Indi only had eyes for her frisbee. At home we do switch toys here and there, it's not like the frisbee is all she ever plays with! It was cute, my husband brought the frisbee back to the car and Indi followed him all the way there and back. And here I thought she loved me....turns out she only wants me for the things I throw for her.
Once it was out of sight she decided the bumper was her only option for fun.
The trainer asked if she liked water. It was a colder day than we've had so far this fall and I didn't know if she would get in the water but I threw the bumper in to the small pond. She plowed in.
After observing her for a little while the trainer brought out his starter pistol. We walked well away from him out into the field and threw the bumper, he shot. Indi didn't even seem to notice. We kept throwing, and he kept coming a little closer, shooting after each throw. She never flinched. 
I think we'll go back for more lessons but in the mean time I bought a book on positive gun dog training techniques and our very own bumper.
I probably am not going to go buy my own shot gun and Elmer Fudd hat but I wouldn't say no if our friend wanted to take her (and me) hunting one day.

I found this blog that I like very much.
I was surprised to read a technique for teaching a solid hold that involves playing tug with the bumper. Indi approves of that advice. She is getting better and better at delivering the toy right to my hand instead of dropping it. We have used tug to improve that ourselves so it was nice to know that a real retriever dude uses it with a bumper. I really don't know that much about hunting but I have been told by a few old fashioned hunter peeps that tugging with your dog is FORBIDDEN.
This morning we worked on an exercise from that blog. The walking recall. I put Indi on a long line and took her for a walk. I brought small pieces of chicken and her kibble mixed up. I let her go to the end of the line, in front or behind me, she stayed in front. I called her to come every once in a while. The method suggests mostly calling when you're pretty sure she will come but mixing it up by calling when they may not respond right away as well. I did get a few chances to call her with a squirrel as distraction. She actually only hesitated on the first squirrel. If she didn't turn to come right away I gently reeled her back to me. I think she has a very good recall already but I need to remember to keep practicing it and using the long line was a good way to work with distractions which we havn't done much of. The trainer from 2q says that he rewards every recall in practice. I did give her a jackpot of extra treats for the squirrel recalls.

This duck dummy was Amber's favorite, and now Indi loves it too. I don't know why they like it so much, it's hard and heavy and you can't thrash it around like you can a softer toy but she just goes crazy when I get it out.

A Sunday morning update: Indi was very nervous about something this morning. I took the dogs on a walk around the neighborhood before work and she kept looking over her shoulder, had her tail tucked low and then when we got back to the house and got her breakfast ready she wasn't super excited about it right away but kept going to the back door to look outside. I couldn't tell what she was worried about. I didn't hear anything or see anything obvious. Very strange.


Dogert said...

I know some people think that tugging encourages bouts for dominance and others don't like tugging because it can destroy the game animal that they are retrieving. However, others know that if tugging on a cue you can teach them to discriminate between bird and toy! And tugging is SO fun for most dogs. I wish Balfour liked tug... Anyways, I'm loving that hunters are finally starting to turn to positive reinforcement. About time!

UrbanBodi said...

Must be the "Chessie" shining through. Great shots! Let us know which training book you purchased and what you think of it.

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

I just love how much fun you are having with her. I am learning all about tugging with Maddie. Trying to see if it can be used as a reward in the future. So popular with agility folks. I just love using food though.

Thanks for all your comments. Obviously, I've been too busy to make the rounds, but wanted to answer your questions. Hopefully Maddie's chest won't be too deep. I hope it is more like a racing greyhound than the show dogs. Greyhounds are finished growing at 59 weeks so I would imagine your dog would be about the same. I think the chest thing is one of the last things to fill out, but we shall see. And lastly, I Maddie is friendly with people, but often too busy. I honestly want them to just be background noise to her and not a big source of reinforcement so I let her say hi if she wants to, but mostly just don't want her to be afraid of them. If anything she is way more into dogs, which I am working on.

Claire Krigbaum said...

I am afraid Indi is going to be one of those dogs who goes to visit the jump setters! She is also into dogs, like Maddie. I am not sure if I should let her play with them still here and there or not at all any more.
I love reading about Maddie's adventures!