As Force-Fetch training continues with Sadie, I feel compelled to detail the tools that I used, what worked, what didn’t, and what I would do differently knowing what I know now. This is just my thoughts on the overall process, not what I am recommending – perhaps there is someone out there who would make a recommendation. I actually have written this 3 times, but my internet connection was a little hooky – so I lost it twice.
ANYWAYS, here is what I used, in some resemblance of the order which I used them:
· Tennis ball – started as play, never really FF with Tennis ball, but I thought I would list it here anyways, as it provide a release from FF Training.
Freeze-dried Pheasant wings (6) from Cabela’s (www.cabelas.com/product/Pheasant-Wings/716636.uts
) – I purchased these shortly after we got Sadie as a puppy to keep her on some feathers and bird smell (maybe encourage some pointing…) I was never able to notice any points on these, so I question their use. They did work (somewhat) when banded to a dummy (see below), and Sadie did show interest in some “Hide-and-Seek” games indoors.
· Frozen Quail – Acquired this during training, and would probably save more of these. Easy to hold (small), so they fit in the mouth, and plenty “birdy”. The problem with the “1” that I had was that I started too early with it, and used it in the rain, so it was a freezer-burned nightmare by the time we moved to a frozen pheasant.
· Dummies (above) with rubber-banded Pheasant Wing(s) on them.
3” X 12” Plastic Knobby “Lucky-Dog” Dummy (www.gundogsupply.com/0003half.html
) – These held-up much better than the canvas – especially early in her “Hold” Training. These also helped to solve some problems with holding of the dummies (cigar holds, etc).
· Home-made force-break dummy – I made this myself out of a 12” piece of threaded exterior conduit that I purchased from Menards. I additionally purchased two “T”-fittings, and wrapped it with twine (originally purchased for a toe-hitch).
· Fresh Pheasant Wing – I believe this worked better than the Freeze-dried, but that may just be because Sadie was further in her training.
· Canvas Dummies (above) with fresh Pheasant Wings strapped using Nylon Zip-ties – Definitely held-up better than the rubber bands, but this may also be because of the freeze-dried wings.
· Frozen Pheasant (Hen) – Now wrapping up the “training” part of “force fetch”, things went pretty smoothly.
What didn’t work:
From a process standpoint, I goofed on the “Plan” for training. I was working to hold until released, and used the release word as “Fetch”. This confused things when we started FF training, and I had to back-track during play to re-train “GO!” instead of “FETCH!”. This also led to problems when I incorporated the canvas dummies into “Play” time, leading to puncturing, and tearing of the canvas dummies. It was unfortunate, but later in the process I wish I had dummies that would fly straight, and far – especially in windy conditions.
From a tool standpoint, the canvas dummies too early in the process did not work well. I have been on various websites since, and reading reviews, and there is always someone dissatisfied with the canvas dummies for exactly the reason why I feel they didn’t work with Sadie – punctured, torn, ripped-up….
The rubber-banded wings on the canvas dummy did not work either. Sadie would tear the wing out of the rubber band, and leave the dummy. As I already stated, I believe the freeze-dried wings did not work as well as the fresh wings. Sadie did show interest in the freeze-dried wings, but her excitement was MUCH higher with the fresh wings.
Again, the Frozen quail got wet, and, quite frankly, disgusting over usage, but again, I think this is more a factor of where I was using it in the process, than the tool itself.
As far as the TriTronics book went, I think it could have been better if it mapped the process out with expected timing, and “trouble-shooting”, or “behaviors you should be aware of in your dog”. Understanding what may be occurring when a dog “Blinks”, or “Shys” during specific times of training, and how it relates to the amount of pressure would be helpful, as would a more focused reference on Force-Fetch training. As a specific example, I feel I ran into set-backs that I would make bigger hurdles by applying more pressure. I do believe this led to some “blinking” with Sadie (she would jump toward the dummy, but then sit down, turn around and drop her head). By understanding this behavior, I would have known to remove pressure, increase encouragement, reduce distances, etc… This is information I found online after struggling (and probably making it worse) for a while.
I was pleasantly surprised with the home-made force-break “pipe”. This was cheap, and easy to make (assemble) and use, and Sadie progressed nicely having some various things to “Hold”, and “Fetch”.
The 3” Plastic dummies were probably one of my best investments. They were rugged, and withstood many fetches. The only issue I had was that a valve popped out of one when I threw it, and I lost the valve. I read some reviews online about this issue, and where they could be found, they were effectively glued back in place. Probably the best thing about the plastic dummies was that I filled them with water – more intended to condition Sadie to holding something larger, and heavier in her mouth (similar to using a small log). This made the weight pretty substantial (I am guessing around 5 lbs), and she progressed – reluctantly – by carrying it around the neighborhood during “Hold” training. After doing so, she would scoop up the canvas dummies very willingly. The weighted plastic dummies also had the surprising, unintended consequence of training her to pick up items from the middle (eliminating “cigar” type holds). I could see just how uncomfortable it was for her to carry by an end (with the obvious leverage on her mouth), and, of course, I would make her hold it until she inevitably dropped it (or I tapped it out of her mouth), and then force her to “fetch” again (where she would pick it up closer to the middle).
What I would do differently when I train FF again:
I am going to put this in a sequential, bulleted list. This is not intended to replace any reputable reference out there, but rather just, knowing what I know, what I personally would do differently (on Sadie – which will never happen again…) if I were to do it again.
· Plan ahead better – make play, play, and training, training (to a point…) , and understand the impact of commands during play and how they will be affected during training.
· Start with the home-made Force-break “Pipe” after initial “Hold” training
· Progress to Plastic dummies after Force-break “Pipe”
· Use less pressure, for longer durations to allow dog to “figure it out”.
· Use more patience, and just as much persistence.
So, that is it! My synopsis of the FF process, and tools (with a focus on the tools) for Sadie!