Discussion in 'Gundog Training, Fieldwork, & Field Trials' started by Johnny Walker, Jul 10, 2017.
How do you teach or reinforce a steady without using an e collar or jerking the lead.
Also, this may be another thread but something I had never considered is scent. Do I need to develop his sense of smell or is that something he will learn on his own. Do I need water fowl scent for his dummy or do they rely more on visual and direction from the handler?
With steadiness, I have a two-pronged approach. One is to hook the puppy's collar (or hold the lead) while I throw the dummy, so she can't run in. Reward in place, once you've thrown the dummy. Once she understands this, you can lose the lead/collar and just put your hand gently on the puppy's chest. Start lifting it away gently , so there is no pressure against them before you send them away with your cue. It didn't take me long to end up with a puppy who would sit by my side whilst I threw a dummy. She either gets a food reward for staying put, or her reward is going to get the dummy. Also, make sure you go and pick up (or have a helper pick up) more dummies than your puppy retrieves, so he learns that not every dummy is for him. You can also have a helper pick up a dummy if your puppy runs in, so he can't self-reward. I don't bother with this, though.
The other thing I do is have the puppy in a sit and stand a few metres in front. I place the ball/dummy on the ground, reward for not moving. Then I increase the difficulty by dropping the dummy from a foot or so off the ground. Then from higher. Then add a little toss. So it becomes incrementally harder. Different objects will have different values, too, so you can use that to increase the difficulty. Each time, rewarding the puppy for staying in place.
As far as scent, I don't use scents, but you may like to introduce a pelt with the dummy, which will give it both the smell and the feel of a bird. This is often done by covering the dressed dummy in a lady's stocking to start with, and then gradually poking holes in the stocking so a couple of feathers stick out, then a few more etc.
You can work on hunting games (the handler won't always know exactly where the bird has landed), by training a hunt cue, which means "you're in the right area, put your nose down and find it". I start this by tossing treats on the floor and blowing my hunt whistle when the puppy finds each treat. Then when the puppy is nearly at the treat. Maybe then move to a small patch of longer grass, so it's harder for him to see the treats and he has to use his nose. Then you can use patches of long grass and your dummy so the puppy has to hunt in a smallish area to find it.
Place boards are great for training steadiness. Or you could use a raised dog bed or simply a mat. But I find that dogs grasp the concept quicker when it is taught on a platform just slightly off the ground.
As for scent, that is not something I have ever had to teach. I just follow a steady progression from dummies to cold game to warm game to freshly shot game. With an advanced dog I will sometimes lay a track of scent (rabbit or pheasant) to teach the dog to follow a scent line as in hunting down a runner.
Thanks for the replies. Hunting season is around the corner and we've got lots of work to do. He is 14 months now and has a great sit/stay when it comes to meal time or waiting for something he knows is great. He has good concentration so I'm thinking he will be able to grasp a steady once trained for distraction. I'm gonna sprinkle some decoys around the landing zone to so he can learn whst he's supposed to be retrieving.
Just to add, steadiness should be a default behaviour, not something that you cue - other than asking for a heel in the first instance.