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Thread: Teaching a mature dog to take a line

  1. #1

    Default Teaching a mature dog to take a line

    I have a 4+ year old lab

    I've been working him pretty close limiting things to how far I could throw a dummy or launch one on a few occaissions

    So he has the bad habit of starting to "hunt" once he gets 30-40 yards out instead of taking a line

    Any pointers on teaching a mature dog to "take a line"?

    This summer my son is going to be home so I'm thinking that having him help might make some drills easier or more effective

    Thanks

  2. #2

    Default

    Your son can be a great help if you are wanting the dog to mark at greater distances. Start your son throwing marks at the usual distances the dog retrieves and gradually have him move farther away. It might also help to have your son wear a white or light colored t-shirt to help the dog mark.

    I thought at first you were wanting the dog to start some blind work and that would entail pile work and lots of drills.
    "It's the journey that's important, with experience and knowledge to be gained along the way, in the company of our faithful dogs and our good friends."
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  3. #3
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    Default extending a line

    There are a couple of ways to go about it. The first is through marking, the second is to piles. Let's talk about marking today.
    I decide what type of line I want to extend. I look at my goals, or what I want to achieve. Do I want to extend over flat ground? Or hold a line on a hill side? Or uphill or down hill? Over over varied terrain? Normally, I pick a spot that the thrower can hit every time. I plan on extending the line by moving back after each mark with the dog. Why? As the marks get longer, you don't have to worry about the dog running through the area of an old fall, or mark, that he picked up earlier. By always having the dog go to the same spot, you eliminate the need for it to hunt.
    I like teaching dogs to mark on open ground, not heavy cover. I encourage use of their eyes. The nose will normally kick into play when needed to help find difficult marks. If you don't teach them to go into an area and look, the tendency is for them to drop their heads and try to smell it. The eyes become ineffective.
    My thrower can stand in heavy cover, or behind trees, or whatever, but the mark lands on open or flat ground. The line, again depending on what I want to do, can be through about whatever you want. I suggest though that you start on flat open ground with no obstacles to run around or get in the way. Remember, the key to success is positive repetition.
    I would plan on starting at roughly the same distance you can throw and the dog will go every time. Now here is the tougher part. Only back up each time the distance that you think he will be successful. No sense in backing up 20 yards if he hunts 18 yards short.
    The first day start at 30 to 40 yards. You might extend the distance successfully to 60 yards. The next day, start at 40 yards again. If the first day you got to 60 in 5 yard increments, push to 8 yard or 10 yard increments. Once you get to the same spot you ended on day one, then shorten up the extending distance again. Try to work to 75 yards, or 80, or ever 100, but DO NOT TEST HIM! Day 3 start at 40 yards, and head out pretty quickly to 75 yards or so. Pay attention to the dog. Just because you and he have been to the same spot 3 days running does not mean he knows how to run 100 yards.
    If you just figured out that you are throwing the exact same mark for multiple days, good. Most people don't figure it out, and start testing the dog to failure because they think that once a dog can go 100 yards one place, he can automatically do it in another.
    This is where you really have to think. At some point, when you have been there multiple days, and have extended to a distance that meets your needs, you will test him. If on day 4 I extend a dog to 300 yards, then on day 5 I might test him at 150 or 200. That means on day 5 I do no extending at that spot. I run a "cold" mark right off the bat. But you have to read your dog from the previous days. On "test" day, when you walk up to the line, the dog should be looking for the gunner. If you are in doubt, STOP!! You can shorten up the mark to be successful.
    You should end up with different marks that you run on a regular basis. These are confidence builders. They are the marks that will let you build distance effectively. Continue to run your marks this way and you'll end up with a dog that has a lot of confidence.
    I remember a field trial in Pacines,CA. The first test in the Amateur had a mark that was so far away you could not see the bird. That was the first bird of a triple. Even the flyer was out around 200 yards. It just goes to show what a dog can do. For hunting, it is rare indeed that you will ever call upon your dog to go more than 100 yards, in part because of tall grass in swamps. But building in distance in training gives them confidence.
    Don't forget, once they figure out how to go long, you also have to throw short marks to get them to check down.

  4. #4

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    Thank you both very much!!

  5. #5

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    Hey River Rat,

    Great post (as usual). This might be a stupid question but when you say throw short marks to check down after working long ones, is that to keep the dog from over running the marks? I have had gunners ask me if I wanted a short check. I have always said yes but wondered why. The books I have read do not go into this. Anyway I look forward to your post on piles as I may be starting piles here soon depending on how pup progresses. Also you have any suggestions on how to introduce hills, grass, dips and water etc. after flat field work. I have started to introduce them but she seems to use her nose more than her eyes.

    Thanks

  6. #6
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    Default Back chaining

    I havenít proven this yet but I learned about back chaining in a Flyball class.
    There the first thing they do to train the dog to come over a number of jumps in a straight line. They sit the dog at one end and call them, first 1 jump then 2 jumps then the rest. Eventually the dog will run out over all the jumps to the flyball box, jump on it releasing the ball and run back over the jumps allowing another dog to cross on the last jump. Itís very complex and I felt it was too much to deal with right now. But I liked the theory.
    In the field I sit the dog at the pile and back up. When I reach my first obstacle, a hill, log, tall grass I stop and call the dog. Back up just behind the obstacle and send her. Back up and call her making sure she comes straight through. Stop again send and back up again all at the level that you maintain success. Once the dog is running the entire thing straight, toss a bumper off to the side, retrieve it then send again. Fix any spots where the dog veers off the straight path. If he will go straight after retrieving off of the line, throw a leave it bumper. This may take weeks and always balance the drill with a happy bumpers or easy marks to keep the momentum. One thing I used to do with my pro trained dogs was nitpick the line. I learned to give him some leeway to figure it out himself.
    My 6 yr old dog is really loose from not enough training and too much hunting in the woods so I go out about once a week and do some of this stuff. Not enough to compete but its fun to try and I canít put a lot of pressure on what she doesnít know. We get a lot of practice on breaking down the tasks. At our ages I have to keep the training really fun and stress free for both of us.
    www.alaskadognews.com

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    Default Yep and yep.

    Quick answers, as we want to keep on task, in this case, extending dogs.
    So ARR, you are correct. Short marks, mixed with long, help teach a dog to check down where the mark is as contrasted with running a set amount of time or distance.
    As weird as it seems, I have seen dogs blow past short gunners/throwers to drive deep, especially when there was something else out there like a flyer that they wanted worse than the short bird.
    Linda describes "chaining" very well. I like the analogy. And I think those dogs running over gates and fences and going flat out are way cool and athletic. Also, in Linda's case she is using a pile. I'd bet her dogs handle. You can also teach a dog to run to piles without force fetch and handling, but it is a bit harder.
    Some trainers focus on lines by blinds. That is they force fetch, and then train the dogs to run incredibly straight lines. That does 2 things. It shows a dog how to run straight (not around obstacles) and how to handle at the same time. By doing it via a blind, corrections typically work better. The theory is that a dog that runs strong lines may be superior in some ways to a strong marking dog.
    Think about this. Strong marking dogs do their thing on their own. Sort of a free will hunt so to speak. Dogs that handle, and in this case run lines, do the same for both blinds and marks. Back to the marking dog, based on training of course, he may not be as adept at running lines as the handling dog is. Hmm, interesting philosophy. What do you guys think?
    But keep in mind through this that the focus is on extending the distance that a dog will go to make a retrieve. If we talk about too much else, and train that way, we are in deep doo doo. In training, focus on a topic, and work that. Only add in other things once you and the dog are competent.

  8. #8
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    Default the pile

    Lining to piles can be a bit harder as they are not exciting. Tools in your bag of tricks that will help are:
    Heel- the dog has to be able to turn with you. No matter which way your body is aligned, so is his.
    Force Fetch- It makes things a lot easier later. It gives you something to fall back on. Forcing to a pile segues into lining very well.
    Lining with your hand- Placing your hand over the dogs head, and holding it steady to point the way, helps the dog understand which way to go. The hand is NOT the release for the dog to go. The hand should stay still, not get thrown around.
    Wagon wheel drill- uses heeling and lining drills for very short retrieves and finite lines. Adds lots of control for a handler.
    What I say about extending to a pile hinges to some extent that you have some of the things mentioned in your favor.
    I go to a place that has lots of room when extending a dog. I try not to always place the "destination" at the edge of a field, or other barrier, as I feel the dog learns to go to those edges to hunt. Break it up by having them not always go to that barrier.
    I'll heel the dog to our start point and throw as many bumpers as I'll need into the pile. After the last one, I line him, and send him. As he leaves, I back up a bit. When he returns, I repeat a throw, and send him again.
    I keep backing and throwing just as long as I can hit the pile. Then when I am too far to hit the pile, I might sit the dog, move forward myself, get the dogs attention, throw the bumper to the pile, return to the dog, and send him. I can keep backing him up that way as every time I walk back in front and throw the bumper, he should be watching me. Keep your eye on him. If he gets bored, looks around doesn't pay attention, cut the training session short or find a different method.
    The dog has now gone to the pile multiple times. Do you think you can send him from the distance you are at now without a throw? Careful about testing! If not, move back closer. Walk to the pile, drop a bumper or pick some up and drop them, walk back, cue the dog, line him, and send him. If he really likes to work, he'll go. If not, sorry. Be ready with another bumper that you can throw over his head to the pile. Keep thinking! Think outside the box! Be ready to problem solve. This is not a math formula and you might have to figure it out as you go.
    Once he starts going without throws, you are on your way. You can keep backing up forever. Again, just watch the dog. Keep it fun. Question. How long is this training session going to be? What? 4 days? 6? More? People want results now. If you try all this in one day for too long, you'll get results, maybe the wrong ones, but don't come crying to me. Keep it short. Make it simple. And have fun.
    Ok, what did I miss?
    I like for the dog to see the pile a long way. This is a confidence building drill. No sense in hiding the bumpers.
    ARR, we'll get through the extending process and then talk about building marks in terrain.

  9. #9

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    Good info from AK River Rat.
    Low cover is best. Almost like a golf course grass. You want the dog to see the mark on the ground and not have to hunt it up in cover.

    Once extended out to your comfortable retrieving distance then you can start other factors such as different cover and terrain. But always start flat in very low cover.

    Dogs that just don't get it and are stuck at that bumper throwing distance I have another drill. It's called "fire drilling".
    Have your thrower throw the mark. Send the dog. But have the thrower toss another bumper into the same spot again while the dog is in route. Keep doing so until the dog has entered the fall area.
    With this drill I can extend out young dogs very quickly. It also teaches then to maintain momentum and hold there heads up. Keeping there head up prevents them from putting there nose down to start hunting short of the mark. It helps them to better use there eyes.

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    Default hey there WL

    Glad you got here finally to lend a hand. I like the same drill you do for marking. It does all the things you said. For extending a line, it is also a useful tool. As long as the thrower is paying attention, if the dog hangs up the thrower can help by HUP HUPPING the dog, and/or throwing another bumper. Those 2 things can help pull a dog a long way.
    When I have to help out a dog in that manner, I shorten the line up for the next throw. I'll normally be conservative and when he is successful, I can move back quickly again.

  11. #11

    Default

    Hey thanks guys,

    Sorry Motor I seemed to have hijacked this thread. The "Fire Drilling" sounds like an excellent idea. My father is coming back up for the summer and I looking forward to having a reliable extra hand to help with the training. My wife and friends are getting a little tired of gunning I think. Anyway, Wetlands' post has got me thinking I need to back up and work on extending the pup in flat cover (especially before all the grass and weeds start to grow), introduction to water and most important keep working on obedience. It seems to all stem from obedience. The pup is doing better but still needs a lot of work. I am too eager to start new things. Having too much fun I guess. As always thanks for the help guys. Here's to more sunshine and happy bumpers.

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