Guidance Training- Teaching a New Concept Quickly

This morning I was out with my lab Ob. We were working on a new set-up that would require Ob to not only swim across a small pond to a pile but that pile was a good 30 yards from the far shore line. My goal with this exercise is to teach him to continue to the bumper or bird no matter how far from shore it is. We have done similar drills with different obstacles on land, and have had the bumpers up to 10 yards out of the water, but not more.

On the first attempt, I needed to handle Ob three times, to pile one. Once out of the water, he wanted to stop and look, not carrying through to the pile of bumpers. The second time, when he was almost to the points, he stopped before I used the Vibration option, with pushing the button and giving the command, “Back”. The result was, he moved through the stopping points, only hesitating at the very edge of the pond. On the third run, I used the Vibrate option and Back command only once, Ob did not stop at all. The fourth time, Ob went straight to pile one.

Now – we moved around to 90 degrees from where we started. Again on the first run, I needed to handle Ob, twice in the water, the swim to pile two was about twice the length, and once on land. On the second run to pile two, I followed the same sequence, as I did with pile one.  This time, Ob needed only 1 Vibration and Back command as he came out of the water. The next 3 times, he went right to the pile.

Let’s break down how the Guidance training worked and compare it to Escape or Avoidance training. On the first run to both piles, I did not use any stimulation, my goal was to get him to the bumpers. Observation was key in the application of the Guidance training as was the timing. I noted the areas Ob got hung up and his body language in those areas, slowing down, head dropping, and change in direction. As I watched Ob’s body language change, I immediately applied the Vibration with the command Back. The Vibration continued until Ob moved through each spot and stopped once he committed to carrying through to the pile.

Instead of telling him to stop, you’re doing it wrong (whistle, nick, whistle). I was able to say yes, keep going using the Vibration to encourage and motivate. Plus he was rewarded in two ways, first he controlled the Vibration, and he got the bumper much quicker. In total, this sequence was used three times, three with pile one and once with pile two, from a completely different location.

Now there are number of factors that can attribute to the speed of learning, the biggest one is that the dog has the proper foundation. With that being said, once a dog understands how Guidance training works, it will learn very quickly. And yes, a dog that has been taught with Escape or Avoidance training methods can be taught with Guidance training.