We’re talking a lot about getting the right attitude for every behavior we teach the dog. It’s especially interesting in obedience, since there are so many different kinds of behaviors that needs different attitudes. When we’re talking about “attitude”, we’re really talking about the state the dog is in during training. It’s about focus, level of arousal and feelings – a general state of mind. Getting the correct attitude before we start and then making sure it stays that way during the session will make sure that we get more correct responses and that we associate the right feeling to the behavior. This is especially important during the initial learning, and if we’re experiencing problems. Later on, the dog will hopefully do some of the work him self, adjusting for example his level of arousal depending on the task.
When training the retrieve, I want the dog to be highly aroused and ready to move. Since I want the dog to grip fast and hold tight, I’m glad to associate the feelings we get from tugging to the behavior that I want with the dumbbell. I would not start a retrieve session unless my dog was highly aroused and was tugging well. (There is of course the odd exception to this rule, with dogs that get over aroused by dumbbells, where you might want to go for a calmer attitude.)
- Tugging and/or chasing games to get arousal up
- Tugging before and between repetitions to get the dog thinking about gripping and holding.
- Frequent tugging between repetitions if I reward with food
- Short session
If my dog has that same attitude when I’m working on precise movements for distance control or when I’m working on a nose freeze on the article that smells like me, I’m very likely to get a lot of mistakes. This will lead to that I either reward things that I don’t really like, or a dog that gets frustrated from lack of reinforcement. For this, I want a much calmer dog with more concentration.
Example distant control
- Start with play to get the dog awake and aroused, but more focus on self control in play
- Start session with some reversed luring and/or pushing and pulling on the dogs feet in stand to get the dog focusing on keeping feet still
- Go back to reversed luring and/or pushing and pulling on feet if the dog is making too many mistakes
- Reward in position
- Take frequent breaks where the dog gets to play so that he can keep focused and also move around a bit between repetitions
This is really hard to explain in writing, so please ask any questions you might have in the comments section.