Wanted to share a little bit of what I've been doing with Madoc, my 12 week old. We've been doing a lot of obedience training in the house and outside - come, sit, stay and some little games of "fetch". He's doing well, but obviously at his young age still gets distracted sometimes and decides not to come at times. We're still working on the "come" every time that he's called and use a check cord to enforce when we're outside. He's definitely making improvements, is about 99% potty trained, and is just becoming a "better" puppy day by day.
What I wanted to share is how impressed we are with our little guy's performance in "Hide and Seek". We have a couple of canvas dummies with quail wings zip tied to them. We started out small with some very short retrieves, 5 to 10 feet, and then upped the distance as he immediately showed great interest in going and getting the dummy (and occasionally bringing it back). Still lots of work to do to get him to retrieve to hand every time, we will be using the check cord to continually enforce that behavior. Our command to retrieve is "Go get it".
So the last couple of days, we've been taking him outside and restraining him while either my wife or I take the dummy, trail it along the ground, and hide it in some brush. When the hiding is over whoever hides it returns to the pup, and releases him telling him to "Go Hunt!" That little dude finds the dummy every time! It's not in any ridiculously heavy cover, but is definitely out of sight, and it is SO fun to watch him using his nose to track down the source of the scent. He loves this "game", and we are very pleased with his enthusiasm!
Last night, I tried something new that I thought would be more difficult for him. Instead of trailing the dummy on the ground, I just carried it through the air and stuck it in the crook of a tree branch about two feet off the ground. It did prove challenging for him, and it took him a little while running around to find it, but we were thrilled when he finally located the dummy and retrieved it for us.
So - what are your thoughts on what I'm doing? It seems like he is very much enjoying the "game" and is getting better and better at more quickly locating the dummy. I do have a concern - when he is eventually hunting in the field he will be commanded to "go hunt" (search for live game). Currently, I'm using that command for him to seek out the scent of the dummy - which has dead bird wings. Am I messing up using that command for him to go find something that is dead? I want him to associate "go hunt" with the searching aspect of his training, which is what he's doing when he's using his nose to go find the "bird". Should I be using his retrieve command of "go get it", instead? Would love some feedback/thoughts/etc.