A very useful detail in obedience training is that the dog learns to stare in the direction he will have to go. This is something that I use a lot when teaching the exercises where the dog has to run out and when I start taking away the help. It is also of great help in reaching a high percentage of rights as the handler learns quickly to anticipate where the dog will be going. This means that you can avoid sending out the dog if you see that he is aiming at the wrong direction when you get ready for an exercise. This will also be useful for sending the dog out on a search and in tracking. This is same principle as the dog will be looking in the direction he will be going. Later in training, it will prove to be a very good tool as, once the dog knows this very well, if you get ready to send him out and the dog is thinking wrong, you can ask him to look in a different direction. In my next post about looking in the right direction I will show and tell more about just this. I normally start by going around an object (in the book “The puppy who becomes a star” you can read about the way to teach this to the dog) or you lay out some toys. If you cannot stop the dog when he goes wrong, rounding an object is better that using the toys as you avoid letting the dog get a reward for the wrong behavior.
1. Start training with an object – either the dog will run around the object or you let him take a toy, a couple of times.
2. Then you hold the dog by his collar, you look forward towards the object and show incredible interest for it; once the dog looks in the right direction, you let him go.
3. Continue training so the dog can keep focused on the object longer and longer before you let him go.
4. Then you lay out one more object – at first, the two objects will be at a far distance from each other – one in front of you and one behind you will be a good way to start. Take the dog by the collar and walk in the direction of the object you want to send him to. When you see and feel that the dog has his mind on it you send him. Vary between sending him to one and then to the other.
5. For the next step, you lay out four objects in different directions and you stand in the middle; and you vary sending the dog in all the different directions. Practice at being sure that the dog will go in the right direction before sending him. If he is looking in the wrong direction, I tell him that it is wrong and ask him to look again while I move towards the right object. Sometimes I must get very near before I can let go of the dog – and then I let go. Once again, there must be a high percentage of success. You may even start varying between different exercises from a distance.
6. Now you can put the objects nearer each other, which will be more difficult, but you must continue being careful to send the dog only when he is looking in the right direction.
7. When the dog starts to understand, I reduce my movements and try to get the dog to move his head – as soon as he stares intently in the right direction I confirm to the dog that this is right.
8. My goal is that, if the dog looks at something in front of him, I can with one word make him understand that this is right, or that he must seek a new direction.
In this film you can see a sequence of this with a dog who already has progressed in this training. When you watch the film, think about one thing: is the dog’s direction and glance which will determine where he will go or is it the word?