Fixing the Vulture

If you read Zumi's trial report of her first experience in the Open obedience class, her biggest issue was over excitement and anticipation with the retrieves.  She was like a little red border collie as she hunkered way down, just twitching to be sent.

I recently spayed her and with the restrictions, it was a great time to work on just being still!
I divided up the issue into 2 goals.

1. Maintaining a straight posture as I cue the wait and go to toss the dumbbell.
2. Offer eye contact after watching the dumbbell fall in order to be released.

Good Posture
The first goal of sitting straight I tackled first.  Zumi doesn't have the issue with me tossing cookies so I went straight to the dumbbell.  Just holding it out and rewarding Zumi if her front paw didn't move forward, always her first move before she really hunkers down.  I would immediately take the db back to my body if the paw moved and re-cue her to sit.

Essentially this just became a version of doggy zen with me moving my arm back and forth in a tossing motion.  I'm not sure how much Zumi knew it was posture I was working on and not eye contact, but I got a 2 for 1 deal.

Eye Contact Before Sending
These last few days as Zumi has been allowed to do more activity, I've moved on to actually requiring eye contact before being sent to retrieve.

My first sessions were very short retrieves where I didn't throw, but gently set out the db on the ground.  This setup was fairly easy for Zumi as it was reminiscent of our work with remote rewards.  Zumi knows that she always needs to give eye contact before getting a reward at a distance.

It did become slightly harder once Zumi knew she was being sent to the db though.  Typically when I work with rewards at a distance, I am the one to go and actually get the reward vs sending the dog to it.  I find this works better for the obsessive tollers for me to have 100% of their brain in training vs some of it on the reward itself.  So once Zumi was being sent to the db on the ground it became a little problem to work through.  But the small distance and lack of throwing was still very doable.

I have recently started throwing the db short distances for Zumi.  This is where getting eye contact has been very difficult.  Zumi's hunt training, although limited, I need her to keep looking straight at her marks until sent or given another cue to turn away.  She will be able to learn the difference in context, but it is not an easy task for her!

I don't require my other dogs to give me eye contact before released after watching a thrown mark, but with Zumi I feel this is crucial to helping her anticipation issues when over excited!

Here was today's session with Zumi and her dumbbell.  Notice I warm up a little bit with posture work, but also let that slide while focusing on the eye contact department!  I'm a little greedy and throw too far here :(

The quick version:


The full session for those who care:

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Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.- Roger Caras

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