First off, I’m not talking about potty training. I’m talking about “I just got home from work, its winter and dark outside and my springer, Hunter, is bouncing off the walls with unspent energy.”
The dog practically assaults me to play with him, following me, grabbing his retrieving dummy … all followed up by barking if I don’t get the hint. So, I start with tossing the dummy across our big upstairs room or down the stairs. That really gets him going.
To add a little finesse to the game, I make him sit behind the sofa so he can’t see me and hide the dummy in all sorts of creative places: Under a blanket, atop a table, beneath the sofa, and so on. I then tell him to “find the bird,” which is the command I use afield when necessary.
The toughest retrieve for him was from atop a table. Hunter needs some scent work, so this is a good exercise. He first looked in old or obvious places. Then he starts using the ol’ nose, which is what I want him to do. He passed the table a few times, but I could tell he caught some scent. The plastic dummy doesn’t carry much, which is perfect for such close quarter work.
After a few more frustrating minutes, and checking in with me for hints, he went back to the table and, sure enough, went in for a good sniff, hopped up on his hind legs and spotted the prize!
We have a ball, Hunter gets some good training and exercise and I feel better as a dog owner – such a deal. You have any unique training tricks to share?
-Mark Herwig is editor of the Pheasants Forever Journal and Quail Forever Journal. Email Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.