Goal Setting and Raising Criteria (Continued…)

Following on I’d like to give as an example what I’m busy doing with my young retriever at the moment.

The Big Picture… 

From heel position and on verbal cue the dog will go out in a straight line and retrieve a placed dummy.  Immediately on pick-up she will return in a straight line directly to me and sit facing me, holding the dummy.  She will be close enough that I do not have to stretch out to reach the dummy.  She will hold the dummy and wait for my release cue.  After she has delivered the dummy she will immediately swing around to find heel position.

Getting there…

Because we are back chaining the retrieve the element that we have been working on the longest is the swing finish from front.  This behaviour was shaped using a raised object to assist in moving her hind legs to get into position next to me from facing me.  She got this concept really quickly and if I had not known what our next goal was we could have got “stuck” there.  Of course, our next goal was for her to do the behaviour without the perch.  She very soon was getting 8 out of 10 for this and if I had not planned what to do next, this would have been our next “sticking” point.  The next step was to do the exercise holding the dummy, delivering it in front, and then moving into the heel position.

Of course, we had worked on her deliveries of the dummy to hand separately, so adding it in to the sit-hold-deliver-heel sequence was child’s play (or puppy’s play).  Because there are times when I would like her to come directly to heel holding the dummy so that I can take delivery there, this would be the next step in the process.

We are not seeing the big picture with clarity yet as she is still learning about impulse control, but all the building blocks are ready and waiting to be assembled.  The most exciting thing about this pup is her innate retrieve desire.   This, coupled with her courage and perserverance, are like a diamond in the rough.

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