Puff's slowly getting the spoken command to turn Right or Left
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Thread: Puff's slowly getting the spoken command to turn Right or Left

  1. #1
    Bob Pr. is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultPuff's slowly getting the spoken command to turn Right or Left

    I find the differences in Labs' traits and learning styles fascinating.

    My first Lab, my beloved Bess [BF, AKC bench line (competitive breeder), 55 lbs, 1967-81], I believed then was a little slow to learn but I now understand she was near genius.* Bess learned to turn 90º Left or Right in response to my whistle calls (or arm signals) --* 2 high short tones meant right while one longer, lower tone meant turn left.* She learned that in just a few weeks or months and, once comfortably mastered, I could have her jump in the water and swim straight out then turn right, left, left, right, right, etc., up to at least 8 turns at which point I threw in her Training Dummy to retrieve.

    My beloved Puff [YF, AKC field line (competitive breeder) 65 lbs., DOB: 8-'01] and I have been working on this daily for over 4 years and she's just barely beginning to get it.* At first I tried making the same whistle calls that I'd used with Bess but at someone's suggestion switched to just shouting "Left" or "Right".

    We do most of our training while taking our daily early morning hour walks.* I carry a small towel to put over Puff's head as a blindfold while she sits at my left side.* Then I sling the TD, remove the towel, and send her to fetch.* Her hearing is SO super fantastic that she usually heads like a laser beam for where she's heard it hit the ground.* That's so reliable for her, I think it interferes with her using my directions. Her "nose" is also beyond super acute, too, so between those two senses, listening to me isn't appealing to her. [I might explain that often the TD lands in grass so it's hidden from both of us.* I have to rely on where I think it landed and sometimes (often?) my verbal commands from a distance are less accurate than the cues she gets from her senses when much closer to it.]

    I'm recently trying a new approach -- I put Puff in a "sit-stay" off trail in some tall grasses and behind a bushy evergreen if possible and then walk about 100 ft / 30 m. farther on where I sling her TD.* Then I call her to me and send her out to fetch.* This seems to be at last helping her to make progress in learning to rely on me.*

    Sometimes Puff goes left when I yell "Right" (or vice-versa) and then depends on hearing my immediate shouts of "NO!" "NO!" to correct herself.

    But she's now beginning to show progress from day to day.

    I'm aware yet again that, as usual, it's not so much a problem of my Lab being a slow learner as it's been a problem in her teacher being too slow in correctly analyzing the situation and setting it up to fit her needs and abilities.
    Puff [YF, AKC field line (from competing HT/FT breeder) 62 lbs, dob: 8-'01]

    Bess [BF, AKC bench line (from competing show breeder) 55 lbs., 1967-1981] "Poor Bess, the Wonder Dog":
    http://forum.justlabradors.com/showt...?p=748#post748

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  3. #2
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    DefaultRe: Puff's slowly getting the spoken command to turn Right or Left

    Glad to hear she's making progress. Funny how different it is for them to learn...Bess learned quickly with the whistle, Puff took longer.

    I'm going to try the verbal right and left for Tucker...that's a good suggestion I think.

  4. #3
    Bob Pr. is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: Puff's slowly getting the spoken command to turn Right or Left

    I think there are several differences between Bess and Puff that contribute to Puff's slower rate of progress .

    • Bess jumped in and swam the first time she saw water -- her build was chunkier, stockier, like a small beer keg and all of her back and the upper part of her tail were visible when swimming.* Puff is leaner, has much less buoyancy and barely floats.* I spent a spring, summer, and fall working with her daily (sometimes 2X/day) teaching her to swim.* This makes a difference because it was easier training Bess in the water than in the nature preserve Puff and I use.

    •* Bess NEVER got enough retrieving -- she was utterly insatiable.* She had one speed going after a dummy and the same one coming back, flat out, 30 mph on land.* Retrieving was #1 among her favorite things to do -- even topping eating which only seemed #1 as long as she didn't see a chance to retrieve available.* I sometimes wondered if I could teach Bess to read if only I could think of a way of connecting her progress with a quick retrieve.* Puff, on the other hand, views retrieving as something fun to do a few times and as an activity that can take her to interesting places to smell and explore.* Puff gets 30-50 retrieves each morning over 60-70 minutes time and I sometimes have to yell at her to pick up the TD (which she's dropped to explore) and bring it to me.* I reward Puff for each retrieve; for Bess, retrieving was its own reward.* So Bess's extremely high motivation to retrieve plus her desire to swim both helped a lot.

    • A third thing is that Bess didn't have the super sensitive "nose" that Puff has so that gives Puff a workable, accurate location method that Bess didn't have and a reason to ignore my shouts.*

    I think those 3 are the main factors.* I didn't see much differences between the two in learning "sit," "down," "stay," "come," etc.

    Puff [YF, AKC field line (from competing HT/FT breeder) 62 lbs, dob: 8-'01]

    Bess [BF, AKC bench line (from competing show breeder) 55 lbs., 1967-1981] "Poor Bess, the Wonder Dog":
    http://forum.justlabradors.com/showt...?p=748#post748

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    ThatsMyGirl Guest

    DefaultRe: Puff's slowly getting the spoken command to turn Right or Left

    Glad to hear that you are making progress w/ Puff.

    Whenever Sami would go the wrong way on a trail, I'd always say "wrong way" (and kind of in a sing-songy voice) -- not really thinking that she would get anything out of it. However, she picked up that she was going the wrong way, and to head the other direction or back to me. I was really floored when I realized that she actually "understood" what I was saying (well, you know what I mean here). So now I've started incorporating "left" and "right" into this. But instead of really trying to teach it, I'm just going to see if she picks it up through my use of it, the way she did w/ "wrong way".

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    DefaultRe: Puff's slowly getting the spoken command to turn Right or Left

    just a thought--and you may already be doing this, although your very complete description doesn't mention it--do you have Puff sit to a whistle [sittimg facing you] before giving her a directional? it's standard practice in formal retriever training for hunt test, field trials, and gneral hunting. some of the reasons:
    it gives the dog a chance to focus on you
    it [mostly] eliminates the tendency to turn one way or another naturally [dogs are 'lefties' or righties' just like us!] which can really make things turn messy.
    it generally slows things down, so You have the chance to do better--and breathe, lol!
    it's pretty easy to teach, you teach a sit to one whistle blast as per any 'trick', then lengthen it out. then you sit the dog facing you with a pile of bumpers or toys to her left AND right, far enough away so you have a liitle time..maybe 40-50' to start] and give your signal [verbal or hand cast] to the pile of your choice, with your whistle in your mouth...if the dog doesn't go the way you indicated, you blow her to a sit, quickly.. then try again. most dogs Love this game! note: normally 'straight back' casts come much later, they seem to be a whole 'nuther concept for most dogs.
    BTW, i believe also that dogs prefer hand signals & whistles to voice, they are much clearer to them, & that goes double for distance work!

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    Trickster is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: Puff's slowly getting the spoken command to turn Right or Left

    it generally slows things down, so You have the chance to do better--and breathe, lol!
    it's pretty easy to teach, you teach a sit to one whistle blast as per any 'trick', then lengthen it out.* then you sit the dog facing you with a pile of bumpers or toys to her left AND right, far enough away so you have a liitle time..maybe 40-50' to start] and give your signal [verbal or hand cast] to the pile of your choice, with your whistle in your mouth...if the dog doesn't go the way you indicated, you blow her to a sit, quickly.. then try again.* most dogs Love this game!* note: normally 'straight back' casts come much later, they seem to be a whole 'nuther concept for most dogs.
    This is very similar to how I teach directions.

    Nothing to add really apart from that 30-50 retrieves daily sounds like WAY too much for a dog that is not super high drive. I think this would be enough to bore the average dog and even the most seasoned pro hunting dogs would not get this amount on a daily basis. I would cut it down to a minimum of 10 a day. Truthfully, it sounds as though you are overworking her and giving her a break might reignite her drive.

  9. #7
    Bob Pr. is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: Puff's slowly getting the spoken command to turn Right or Left

    The training techniques I used with Bess were ones I invented mostly in 1967-70. I'd scanned a few books on training from the public library but they advocated such punitive methods I decided to make my own since I had the background to do it.

    (For more details on Bess, see my Rainbow Bridge tribute: https://www.justlabradors.com/forum/i...ic,1606.0.html )

    So when I got Puff (in 9-'01) it was easier for me to follow my previously invented "protocols" rather than some new system, believing the adage about old dogs & tricks applied to me since I'd not been a spring chicken for decades. IF I were younger and more flexible (knowing what I know), I'd absolutely use clicker training techniques for training Puff. BUT my reaction times are much too slow so it's safer and better to use a positive reinforcement model.

    (BTW, my whistle calls were made only with my lips, not using an external whistle.)

    I switched from whistling to the shouted "Left"/"Right" at the suggestion of someone on the JL forum, WigWag/Sharon, I think, when I'd posted about my difficulties in teaching Puff to go left or right. But that was long before my present analysis of the blocks to Puff's learning to rely on my commands.

    QOTD -- I'm fascinated about using the bumpers to the left and to the right. But how do you handle the problem of the dog picking up one, dropping it and picking up the other, etc., and then trying to bring all back by their slinging lines?

    I'll re-read your post. Are there any references on this you can point me to?

    Trickster -- Puff has always been a "low drive" Lab. I had to carefully monitor her attitude during our retrieving training in her first year in order to keep disinterest and satiation from interfering. I still do and hope I'm an astute enough observer that I can judge from her behavior during our morning walks as well as later in the day when "enough is enough" and when it isn't.

    Bess was very explicit in whatever she wanted and needed -- she'd pick up her stainless steel food bowl and bang it all over the kitchen floor when she thought her dinner was arriving late, or bark-bark-bark-etc. when her water dish was dry. But Puff is less explicit but no less effective. She paws me and looks expectantly in my eyes, wagging her tail, as if saying, "Daddy, guess what I want/need" It's up to me to guess correctly what she wants/needs. We've worked out a workable means of assessing how much exercise is enough and how much is too much. I think the question you raise about this is valid but I'm comfortable that my present monitoring of indices of too much, just right, not enough is adequate.
    Puff [YF, AKC field line (from competing HT/FT breeder) 62 lbs, dob: 8-'01]

    Bess [BF, AKC bench line (from competing show breeder) 55 lbs., 1967-1981] "Poor Bess, the Wonder Dog":
    http://forum.justlabradors.com/showt...?p=748#post748

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    DefaultRe: Puff's slowly getting the spoken command to turn Right or Left

    rock-solid 'sitting on the whistle' response eliminates/solves/allows you to repair any and all 'bright ideas' the dog may think of.......

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