Mouthing dummy, holding birds poorly... Help :(

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Mouthing dummy, holding birds poorly... Help :(

Postby Michael Kontou » Fri 10 Oct 2014 1:12 pm

Hello everybody,

This is my first post (after a fair bit of reading) on this forum so thank you in advance and excited to learn from some of the more experienced on here.

I am a bird hunter (duck and quail) and I have a 14 month old GSP that I have been training since I got her at 9 weeks. She is progressing quite well in obedience, she has a brilliant drive to hunt and loves retrieving.

Couple of little issues that I have struggled with, in particular, rolling a training dummy in her mouth on the retrieve and she tends to hold the dummy by the end on the run back to me. When retrieving birds this sometimes translates to holding a pigeon/duck by the head or by the tip of one of it's wings. She doesn't drop it (9/10 times she doesn't) but obviously the weight overcomes her limited grip on the object.

I am open for any advice or suggestions on how to resolve this so please ask me anything if I have missed some information! Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks,

Michael

PS: I realize I haven't mentioned how we have trained to get to this point, but I thought I wouldn't pre-empt any ones response. Of course, I can explain if required, thanks again.
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Re: Mouthing dummy, holding birds poorly... Help :(

Postby Diane McCann » Fri 10 Oct 2014 8:07 pm

Hi Michael,
In general, if your girl is holding the dummies and birds, not chewing or damaging them, then I wouldn't be too worried at all. GSP's tend to hold dummies like cigars and swing then by throw ropes, etc. Not sure why, must be in the genetics! But if she is not being hard mouthed them be thankful and do not put pressure on her.

If you do want to try and tidy her up then go back to placing the item in her mouth on a sit stay with her right in front of you. When she holds it still give the take command, take the item and food reward. Once she is holding still consistently start doing sit stays with her and move away, come back and take the item. Once she does this proceed to short recalls, then longer recalls. Next step put her on a sit stay and put the item a few feet from you, call her in to pick up the item on the way to you so that it is then a very short distance to sit and deliver. Increase the length that the item is from you. When everything is perfect here do a short retrieve, then a longer retrieve. Gradually increase distance and distractions. If she does the wrong thing go back a step or two.

Concentrate on getting back unharmed game delivered to hand rather than a perfectly held delivery.

Good luck
Diane
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Re: Mouthing dummy, holding birds poorly... Help :(

Postby Michael Kontou » Sat 11 Oct 2014 7:01 am

Thanks for your reply Diane. That is very reassuring advice as it is what we have gone back to doing. Using the command fetch to take the dummy from me then heeling or getting her to sit/stay then a recall with dummy.

The moment she mouths with it I am quick to reinforce the hold command with my hand under her bottom jaw. Been doing this a few times a day for 10-15mins and so far some improvement. We will persist.

Happy to hear any more comments or suggestions from others, thank you so far.
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Re: Mouthing dummy, holding birds poorly... Help :(

Postby josh wells » Sat 11 Oct 2014 9:46 am

G'day Michael,

I am by no means an experienced trainer but having had a gsp I found the same thing, what I found best was to have a dummy that "filled" the dogs mouth so to speak, (as in a three inch dummy instead of a two inch one). Just found it made the dog concentrate on picking it up and carrying it rather than playing with it. I also took the rope off the dummy for a while just to eliminate picking it up by it. Diane is far more qualified than me in this area so I would be taking in all the help she offers.

Cheers Josh
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Re: Mouthing dummy, holding birds poorly... Help :(

Postby Michael Kontou » Mon 13 Oct 2014 9:38 am

Whew, I think it is more relieving that I am not alone here!

Yes, Josh I think you are correct, I had another conversation with the breeder about this issue and she mentioned a larger heavier dummy may also help. And yes, the ropes from my dummies are long gone... the first time she picked it up from the rope was when I removed them!

So we have been working on just 'fetching' from my hand having her chase and reach for it and out of 10 attempts I only really had to correct her once (this morning) and reinforce the 'hold' with my hand under her jaw. We did 5 attempts with a rubber dummy and 5 with a canvas (she seems to mouth the canvas more... perhaps because it is softer than the rubber??).

So definitely an improvement, we will keep going and move to short retrieves, then start the process again with some dead pigeons. Thanks for those who replied :)

Michael
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Re: Mouthing dummy, holding birds poorly... Help :(

Postby Michael Kontou » Fri 17 Oct 2014 8:16 am

We had made a fair bit of progress at home just fetching from my hand. First short retrieve at the park and she just wants to pick it up by the end. Oh man! Patience... wooosaaaa.

Do I just have to live with this or is there some strategy known to someone?
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Re: Mouthing dummy, holding birds poorly... Help :(

Postby Sally Haynes » Fri 17 Oct 2014 9:17 am

Hi Michael

I have shaped a formal retrieve for both my Dalmatian (who hated retrieving anything) and for my Springer (who retrieves me a single tissue out of the box when asked). The former took about 6 months and the latter took about 6 minutes but I used the same technique for both (I use a variant of the Shirley Chong method which you can google). At home I work on anything BUT a dummy so I generalise the retrieve to lots of different items….wood, leather, metal, pen, pencil, obedience dumbbell etc etc. This means they can make all the mistakes away from the thing you want them to retrieve properly. However, you need to break down all the criteria of the retrieve if you are having a problem - and one of them is to pick up the retrieve item in the middle. So once the dog is working really well in the house on all those items (and I normally relax in a chair whilst training this) I pick one and offer it to the dog from my hand slightly askew so they are tempted to pick it up by the end - if they do, I don't make a big deal of it except to say "Gotcha! Try again". If they are well accustomed to shaping they will happily take this as an opportunity to try something different. I progressively make it harder and harder….to the point where I can put an obedience dumbbell on it's end on the ground and they will twist their heads to purposely pick it up in the middle. At no stage do I help or guide - I want them to make mistakes, think and work out how to get it right for themselves. At the end of the day it should be a really fun exercise.

Sounds like you are just progressing too fast and your dog is reverting to comfortable habits once on the oval. I would do what you were training in the house on the oval and several other environments before taking it any further. Once you get that solid it is a piece of cake to apply the same approach to game provided you are consistent with your approach.

Happy training!

Sally.
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Re: Mouthing dummy, holding birds poorly... Help :(

Postby Michael Kontou » Fri 17 Oct 2014 9:58 am

Thanks Sally for your helpful advice. I had one of those 'the hell with everything moments' after this morning as we had put a lot of work in the last 2 weeks to stop her from rolling the dummy around in her mouth. But we will take some more little steps as you have suggested and allow her to make a mistake so I can correct her.

Thanks again, Michael
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Re: Mouthing dummy, holding birds poorly... Help :(

Postby Sally Haynes » Fri 17 Oct 2014 10:23 am

Yes, we all have those moments!

The important thing to keep in your head is that she is not doing this to pi$$ you off (even though that's the effect!) She's doing it because she doesn't understand the concept. Some things we try to teach seem so logical and obvious to us but dogs don't do logic particularly well! Look at her behaviour as simply feedback to your technique. I teach a lot of basic behaviours in some of my classes and the handler error in terms of timing, reward or not is astounding. As soon as you fix the handler the dog gets it really quickly lol.

Make sure you take a relaxed frame of mind into the training session too. Take the pressure off yourself as well as the dog.
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Re: Mouthing dummy, holding birds poorly... Help :(

Postby Michael Kontou » Fri 17 Oct 2014 10:56 am

Sally Haynes wrote:Make sure you take a relaxed frame of mind into the training session too. Take the pressure off yourself as well as the dog.


Great advice, thank you again!
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Re: Mouthing dummy, holding birds poorly... Help :(

Postby josh wells » Fri 17 Oct 2014 3:28 pm

Michael,

The other thing you can try is a piece of timber turned into the shape of a dumbbell so that the dog can only pick it up in the middle, I had one made so the ends were large enough that the dog couldn't possibly carry it this way, it had to be picked up by the narrow piece in the middle.

Cheers Josh
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Re: Mouthing dummy, holding birds poorly... Help :(

Postby Michael Kontou » Fri 17 Oct 2014 4:23 pm

josh wells wrote:Michael,

The other thing you can try is a piece of timber turned into the shape of a dumbbell so that the dog can only pick it up in the middle, I had one made so the ends were large enough that the dog couldn't possibly carry it this way, it had to be picked up by the narrow piece in the middle.

Cheers Josh


Yes I made one up but the actual 'dumbbell' part is narrow enough that she can pick it up from that. I will make another one on the weekend but make the ends blocks which are too large for her to do grip. I just ordered some 3" x 12" rubber and canvas bumpers too today.

Thanks, Michael
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Re: Mouthing dummy, holding birds poorly... Help :(

Postby Wendy Michalk » Fri 17 Oct 2014 11:32 pm

Hi Micheal,
I have had this problem with 3 of my 5 GSP's I found a clicker trainer helped me to translate to the dog what I wanted. Most obedience clubs have someone who clicker trains .Yes there will be those who say you can't click from a distance but once my dogs understood that the movement was the thing you were trying to stop the rest fell into place. I also truce the birds up with a rubber band head under wing etc for quite a while until the dog understands & I start to relax about the whole thing but it does take time lots of time. I then follow Diane's basic method (With clicker & then translate to "good" ) & I agree with Dianne 100% don't panic about dummies if she doesn't damage game be patient & relax a little. Worth a try.
cheers
Wendy
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Re: Mouthing dummy, holding birds poorly... Help :(

Postby Diane McCann » Sun 19 Oct 2014 6:47 pm

We had made a fair bit of progress at home just fetching from my hand. First short retrieve at the park and she just wants to pick it up by the end. Oh man! Patience... wooosaaaa.


As Sally pointed out, you have moved too fast. You made good progress retrieving from hand at home yet when you went to the park you did short retrieves
Diane
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Re: Mouthing dummy, holding birds poorly... Help :(

Postby Michael Kontou » Mon 20 Oct 2014 9:36 am

Diane McCann wrote:
We had made a fair bit of progress at home just fetching from my hand. First short retrieve at the park and she just wants to pick it up by the end. Oh man! Patience... wooosaaaa.


As Sally pointed out, you have moved too fast. You made good progress retrieving from hand at home yet when you went to the park you did short retrieves


Sorry, we did do some retrieves from hand for a few days then a couple of short retrieves. Either way, I recognize that we moved a little quickly and we have gone back to some work on the 'table' with fetching with a modified timber dumbbell.

The advice from Sally was great, previously I hadn't allowed Heidi (my girl) to make a mistake in reaching for the dumbbell. Now that we have gone back to some table work, a couple of times she has reached to grab the dumbbell poorly (i.e. from the ends) and I have corrected her. These few corrections have helped, she is working it out. But I will move slower to transition through each of the steps this time making sure that she is 100% before we move on!
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