On to articles!

Today was the first day for a “real” article in the scent-a-whirl. Since metal is normally the most difficult of the three styles of articles, I chose to start with this one, if for no other reason than to get it over with! 🙂 At this point, I do not know which of the two styles Kazee will be using in the ring, so he will be learning all three – metal, leather and wood.

I definitely like the new change in the AKC regulations allowing wood articles to be used. While I am one who chooses to try to train dogs through any aversion to a particular object, it also is not worth fighting over if the dog does NOT want to pick up a certain material.

Kazee has been practicing article pick ups every day, prior to working the toys in the scent-a-whirl. His reward for a good pickup is still his tug toy, but you can also use food as a reward.

I started with a pickup off of the floor, then a couple of pickups out of the open bin. The other three covered bins are empty. I am scenting the article each time before I place it in the bin. After a couple of easy pickups, I placed the article into the bin and covered it. Kazee was then released with a “find it” command. He is required to take the article out of the bin and present it to me. Same rules apply as his general pickups off of the floor – no dropping the article, no pushing it into me, no mouthing, etc. Eye contact is great, but I did not require it the first couple of times, as I wanted to make sure he earned his reward as quickly as possible.

Overall, I was very happy with his efforts on this new challenge to the game. We will be staying at this step for the next week, to allow him to gain confidence in finding and picking up his article out of the bin. He will be working through the entire progression with the metal article before I switch to another material. Stay tuned!

Train hard. Play harder!

Revisiting article pick-ups

Since this is the last week of toys in the scent-a-whirl, I decided I better revisit article pick ups with Kazee. He will be learning all three article styles – metal, wood and leather.

As always, I am still very informal with him. However, my requirements must remain in place: clean pickups, no mouthing and no dropping the article. Because of our past learning issues with picking up and holding items, he can respond in a somewhat unconfident way. He will try to push the article into me, without making any eye contact.

With his dumbbell, I am still letting him deliver the dumbbell by jumping up onto me, but by sitting on the ground, Kazee was not sure what to do with himself.

If you have a dog who is more motivated by food, you can do exactly the same thing I did with the tug toy. Just try to make the food a little more exciting than popping it into the dog’s mouth. For example, have them chase the cookie for a few seconds to build more value for it.

The dog needs to be able to pick up and deliver items before adding them into the scent-a-whirl. So, make sure you continue to work this separately with your young dog. The more items the better! It does not have to be only articles and dumbbells.

Train hard and play harder!!

Test day! 

You know the feeling in the pit of your stomach on test day? The “I think I am ready, but am I REALLY ready” feeling? Well, this was my feeling today when I pulled out the scent-a-whirl for Kazee. After missing four days over the weekend for a dog show, I decided yesterday was his last “fail proof” find it work. The lids were still on all of the containers, but he had been reliably finding the correct bin for some time. Time to bite the bullet and remove the lids! Basically, it was TEST DAY!

To help his odds, we started with only one similar, unscented tug toy in the bin directly across from his marked bin. All of the lids are removed, but there is only one toy in an unmarked bin. Remember, the scented toy (soon to be scented article) ONLY goes into the marked bin. Kazee was kept on leash today, as he sometimes has a tendency to do a victory lap with his toy. He has always been very good about coming right back, since playing with me is more fun than playing by himself, but I didn’t want to take the chance if he grabbed the incorrect toy. I played with Kazee to start the game, then placed the scented toy into the marked bin.

To find out what happened, you will have to watch today’s training session. 🙂

I was beyond happy! Remember, this is a dog who will plow you over for a tug toy! For him to bypass tug toys to find the “correct” toy, was wonderful and, yes, a little surprising!

He will stay at this step for at least a week before we start with articles. I pushed it today, having a toy in every bin, but you have to read your dog. If he would have tried pulling out the incorrect toy to play (or if he had showed confusion), we would have stayed at only one unscented toy until he was reliably and confidently choosing the correct toy. Mistakes are fine and he may make mistakes the next time we play the game. I think I will do this same progression the next time we play, adding one unscented toy at a time.

So, I think test day was a success! A+ for Kazee!! Remember, the end goal is a happy, confident working dog, who is not afraid to make a mistake.

Train hard, play harder!