Training dogs is not rocket science and really consists of elements of both positive and negative reinforcement.
Examples of positive reinforcement may be treats or a simple “good dog,” which I call praise. With so many forms of negative reinforcement, it would be nearly impossible to name them all. But one that I feel is the most important, and probably most overlooked, is a simple snap with a choke chain with either a leash or check cord. This correction is the most basic, yet effective, form of control training and can be taught by anyone.
In a recent seminar I had my retriever, “Bumper” showing off advanced retrieving skills. I had a vast collection of dummies and bumpers, which showed his abilities making multiple and blind retrieves. Around his neck was a remote training collar, which enables me to give him a correction without actually having my hands on him. I informed the crowd that all the things I did during the event, could actually be taught to him with a simple long rope. Obviously they all disagreed and thought there was no way possible to get a dog doing the things they saw, with a simple rope. With all the equipment I was using, well over $500 in value, how could this be done with a simple rope?
Let’s say I brought home a 7-week-old puppy fresh away from his litter mates and all I had was a 50-foot long rope. There would be no choke chain, no retrieving dummies and obviously no technology such as a remote training collar. Could I get a young dog making multiple and blind retrieves in just one year? No way, right? Well I think it can be done, and here’s how to do it.
First, I would go outside, find the nearest tree, and get a series of small 8-inch sticks. Using two or three of them with varying diameters ranging from 1- to 2 inches, I would get the young pup retrieving all of them. After a few days of retrieving, I would cut a 10-foot piece off my rope, which would leave me with a 10-foot small cord (rope) and a 40-foot long one. Then, using the 10-foot section, tie a slip knot in it and let the pup, drag it around when he is outside and during retrieving sessions. This will enable me to bring him back when he starts to get independent later in the retrieving process.
As the puppy approaches the 3- to 4-month age, I would transfer over to the longer cord and cut the 10-foot piece in two, — with one 7 feet long and the other 3 feet. Also, I would keep adding to my collection of retrieving objects by getting larger sticks so as the dog gets bigger, it has heavier things to go after. The 7-foot piece would become my leash and choke chain with the slip knot. Now, I would start the basic commands such as “heel,” “sit,” “stay,” “down,” “kennel,” and most importantly, “come.”
As the puppy approaches 6 months old, I would start to get more and more demanding with these commands.
Control The Dog During Walks
Taking long walks with the pup would continue on a regular basis using the long check cord. Getting the dog understanding that I have control even at a long distance is essential. Focusing on staying within a reasonable range and demanding recall when the verbal command was given would be a priority. Again, snapping the long rope with verbal commands will ensure this.
After enough repetition, I would let go of the rope and continue using the voice commands to see if the dog responds without a correction. If the pup starts to react to simple voice commands to avoid a correction, my hard work is paying off.
Now let’s say the dog is approaching 8- to 10 months of age and is starting to get more independent. Again repetition is key, and at this stage we would get a structured retrieve through the force fetching process. In a previous article I detailed this process, but it basically means I would get a guaranteed retrieve throughout this training. Generally done in six to eight weeks, I would add this to more regimented obedience drills.
Adding new forms of discipline during this time frame would include an ear pinch to make the pup pick up objects. Slapping the dog’s chin while holding onto objects to ensure a good grip and not dropping, along with rolling the bottom lip over onto teeth in order to demand a release. Again using a thin branch about 3 feet in length and about a half-inch in diameter, would provide me a “riding crop,” which could be used in conjunction with the rope to help with the on leash obedience commands. Light taps with this crop on the butt or chest can help solidify things such as a “sit” or “stay” and many other commands.
The 8- to 18-month age frame takes a lot of dedication and hard work. Obviously there would have to be a great deal of repetition with the commands and drills since only a rope and a few sticks would be used. However, TIME, with this training device can lead to a well-trained dog simply by using a long rope!
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