Time really does fly by. “Jessie” is almost a year old and we have advanced to the fourth level of the Training Pyramid. At this level we will teach beginning handling. It will be obvious that all the lower levels were necessary to learn in order to advance.
We will teach “Jessie” Baseball. Imagine a baseball diamond with a pitcher, catcher and the three bases as places we will teach the dog to go. Always start with the “Back” command. In hunting and in Field Trials and Hunt Tests, most of our commands will be “Back”. Place a pile of bumpers at second base. Go to the pitcher’s mound, line the dog facing second base. When he is anticipating the command say “Back”. He knows this drill from running Sight Blinds. Now we advance to true handling. Have the dog “Sit” on the pitcher’s mound and position yourself halfway between home plate and the pitchers’ mound with the dog facing you. Slowly raise you right hand straight up while simultaneously giving the “Back” command. If he turns and runs to second base wonderful. If he doesn’t, simplify. Move yourself closer to second base and have him run a few blinds from your side. Then give him the “Back” command when he is facing you. In time he will come to understand that “Back” means turn around and run back to the pile. “Back” is the command you will give the most, so in many drills, give the “Back” command frequently. Repeat this drill for several days, it is a very important concept for him to really learn.
The next step is the “Right Over” command. Sit the dog on the pitcher’s mound, place a pile of bumpers at first base making sure there are no bumpers at second base to confuse the issue. Toss a bumper to first base while the dog is sitting. Extend your right hand out and simultaneously give the command “Over”. You can assist the dog by moving to the right while giving this command. If he goes to second base where he has been trained to go, do not correct him with an e-collar. Just say a quiet “No” and put him back on the pitchers’ mound. You can also move him closer to first base and toss another bumper. Give the “Over” command again. Repeat this process until he is taking perfect casts to first base. Now remove all the bumpers from first base and put them on second base. Reinforce the “Back” command. He will receive many more “Back” commands in tests than “Overs”.
The third step is the left cast. Repeat the process you did to teach him to go the first base but this time place the bumpers at third base. The dog will be facing you from the pitchers’ mound, you will be in front of home plate, give him an “Over” while slowly extending your left hand. Repeat this command until he is taking perfect “Left Overs” and by that I don’t mean looking for scraps of food.
Virtually all handlers give “Backs” and “Overs” too quickly. Make sure the dog is looking at you and is truly focused on you. Extend you hand slowly, not like you are trying to throw the dog back with your arm motion. Dogs take time to see and process the command, if you slow down your movements, your success will skyrocket.
Once he has mastered all of the commands of baseball on an individual basis it is time to complicate the process. Put bumpers out at every base. Give a “Back” command and then a “Right Over”. Your next command will always be “Back”. The “Back” command is the most important so we keep giving it to him. Now give him a “Left Over”. If he makes a mistake do not use collar correction, just that gentle “No”. Say it as you would to a child implying everything is OK but you are going in the wrong direction. Remember you are teaching a difficult drill, if you start to pressure him too much, he may shut down and give you a “No go”.
So now he knows baseball. He will respond perfectly to the “Back” or “Over” command. All dogs are more proficient at going either to the left or right. If he has problems taking the “Left Over” cast, do the “Left Over” twice as much as the “Right Over”.
Now let’s get fancy. Place the dog on the pitcher’s mound and you are near home plate. Throw a bumper towards second base but perhaps 5 feet to the right of second base. Slowly raise your right arm and give the “Back” command. The dog must turn to his left, your right, and retrieve the bumper. Keep throwing bumpers closer and closer to second base until he does 10 perfectly when you raise your right arm.
Perhaps wait a day and we will teach him to take a “Left Back” by repeating the process on the left side. Sit the dog on the pitchers’ mound and throw a bumper to second base but to the left of second base by about 5 feet. Slowly raise your left arm and say “Back”. Keep moving the bumper closer and closer to second base. If he gets confused, SIMPLIFY. In time you will be able to mix it up so he will take either a Left or Right Back.
The last command in baseball is often overlooked. It is teaching “The Come in Command”. Place the dog on the pitchers’ mound and drop a bumper just a few feet in front of you at home plate. Give the come in whistle while dropping your arms down to your side move your arms like you are pulling the dog to you. After he has mastered the “Come in Command” you can refine it by placing a bumper off to your right and have him “Come in” while you have you right arm moving downward and outward. Repeat the same process with the left side. You have now taught the dog to come in on the whistle while you move your right or left arm so the dog will come in but favor the side you desire.
“Jessie” is a little over a year old and move than ready to run a Junior Hunt Test or perhaps a Derby in a Field Trail. She has a very good foundation to advance into Big Dog Work.
The following is an example of what “Jessie” will be able to do in time.
John Schulte DVM