Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Day 104

I knew we couldn't just sail along forever without a bump or two in the road. Today I got my first flat-out refusal to retrieve the dumbbell. Now mind you, I haven't move it forward nor have I changed anything since yesterday. My suspicion is that she was sending up warning flags for at least a week. All the slow to respond stuff she has been pulling and then the sudden decision that I was no longer going to be "allowed" to touch her ear.

Well it all came together today, in not one but two training sessions. Each session was pretty intense. First I got everything ready and then I went to adjust her chain collar, no problem. Next I started to lay my thumb next to her ear, problem. She protested. I said, okay just so long as you actually do as told. Put the dumbbell on the ground about 3 feet in front of her, removed my hand and said "fetch".

I get that sideways glint I have come to recognize as her way of saying, "go to *ell". That particular look is always followed by her NOT doing something she has been told to do or by her DOING something she knows she is not supposed to do. Anyway, I get the glint and she promptly turns her head away in the classic "I don't see it, so I don't have to do it" move. BAM! I am on not one but both ears and she is taking me to the dumbbell at top speed. The pick up is fast and clean and the return is good. For the next five tries she pulls the very same stunt. Then on the sixth try she is lunging for the dumbbell almost before I can get my hand away. Two good retrieves with good returns and we quit for the morning.

Along about mid-day the she works better than any of the others when it comes to doing sits/downs/recalls/place commands. I almost get the feeling she is showing off to them since she is the youngest by several months. (The others in this case being Zeus and Jersey.) Since I am back to working alone, I find it much easier to work all three at the same time when doing the "yard work" part of the training.

Evening and we revisit the retrieve again. Again, it is a repeat of the morning session. I think it is interesting that she has chosen the retrieve as her challenge exercise. It almost seems she must have read a book on growth and development cause she started with the challenges at six months of age.


  1. This may be a naive question, as I have never done an ear pinch nor even seen one done, but is it absolutely necessary? It's the only part of "traditional" (as opposed to clicker) training that still bothers me now that the brain washing has worn off. :) It seems like something that could be replaced with the eCollar, but I'm guessing since you still use it that's probably not the case...

  2. There are many different ways to teach a working or forced retrieve. I just happen to use the ear pinch as my correction/modivation of choice.

    No matter how much a dog may like/love to play retrieve there comes a day when that dog says, "nope, I just don't feel like playing today." When the retrieve is elevated from play to work the relationship between dog and owner changes enormously. The dog's status in the world becomes higher. The dog's entire attitude becomes that of a serious, self confidant and helpful companion;a creature of value, worth and usefulness. This is something the dog values, frequently above all other things.

    To give such a gift to a dog is a wonderful thing and the gift may not, can not be given by anyone who is not committed to being a good and steady leader.

    Now I'm off my soapbox.

  3. Just to make sure there is no misunderstanding... I'm not objecting to insisting that the dog do the retrieve whether he wants to or not. It's just that I think I would have a hard time pinching anyone hard enough to hurt, let alone a dog who won't understand why. Maybe (likely) using the collar instead is no different, but there's just something about that "reach out and pinch someone" that makes me cringe.

    If it's necessary I'll try to do it... I was just wondering how necessary it is.

  4. Of course, everyone should do what they are most comfortable with when they are training. HOWEVER, it is worth noting that Sanity was started at 8 weeks of age by her breeder with a play retrieve. The play retrieve was continued until she was only 2 days shy of 5 months of age.

    At that time the trained/forced/complusive/working retrieve was started. Even then it was some time before the first correction in the form of an ear pinch was introduced. There should never be a situation where a trainer just reaches out, grabs and pinches the dog's ear without there having been a careful and carefully planned period of training leading up to the time when the correction must be made.

    I have actually worked with some dogs that never again in their entire life needed to receive a second "real" ear pinch. Just a touch to the ear was enough of a correction to help them shift back into a working mode. Then there are others, the more willful ones, who at some point or another will need to be corrected back to the path of righteous behavior via a two ear/two hand ear pinch correction. The amount of effort used must be dictated by the dog in all cases but the first time.

    That first time really needs to be fast, sharp and true. Like the pinch of the average six year old girl when she needs to get rid of a pesky boy on the playground or get a bothersome younger brother to leave her alone. For those of you reading this who have long forgotten what that sort of a pinch is like, just go find a proper six year old and ask her to teach you.