Sunday, January 5, 2014

Momentum and Cookie-Toss Retrieves

My new email signature for the month:  "If you train a young dog for momentum, precision will arrive. If you train for precision, demanding perfection, momentum will depart." - Rex Carr

Momentum is a term thrown about more often in retriever training than obedience training, but it certainly applies to obedience. To me, Rex's quote is all about training for the big picture by building in the speed first. I have always worked for a flashier performance with my dogs vs. a robotic one. Don't get me wrong; I want precision. But I also know if I work on precision too much before instilling the speed I desire, it is harder to get the speed later.

In obedience, we are judged on the speed our dog returns or comes to us: a brisk trot or gallop is required. Anything less should be penalized in some way. While a brisk trot is acceptable according to the regulations, I still strive for a gallop whenever as I can.

Earlier this week while training Sonic, I realized she is rarely slower than a brisk trot as she returns but she wasn't consistently galloping on her returns on her retrieves or on her jumping for the Open jumps. Given the sometimes scary speed with which she returns from a field retrieve–harder driving than any previous dog I've trained–I know she is capable of more speed. I just haven't explained that component well enough to her.

With that in mind, I've been working cookie-toss retrieves with both the dumbbell and gloves: as she picks up the object, I might run away from her, or command her to come, then throw a cookie through my legs when she is almost to me. As she goes through my legs, I race to the other end of the area, turn around and repeat. Sometimes she has already picked the object back up (she drops it to get the thrown treat) and is running back. Sometimes she needs a come command. I'm whooping it up with her, cheering her on, and we are both getting in some wind sprints. Since my wind needs all the help it can get, it is a valuable side-benefit of the game :-). We have been doing about 6 retrieves of the dumbbell this way, and 6 glove reps, adding in pivots and marking. It is not an overnight fix, but I think the long-term results will be very pleasing.

How is your dog's momentum?

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