Working Trials Sendaway and Redirection
Starting Sendaway and Redirection Training
with an Improbably young Puppy.
The concept of training very young puppies is far from new, in the late seventies I watched with amazement as Sylvia Bishop demonstrated Distance Control off lead with an eight week old puppy, a dog which later became a very famous Obedience Champion.
The idea of teaching one of Working Trial’s most complex of exercises to a puppy who’s mind has barely formed, does not seem to sensible. The very young puppy has no preconceived ideas so when the information regarding the exercise is presented to the puppy in a completely stress free and reward rich way the puppy soaks up the information and quickly allows it to become one of it’s basic understandings in life.
Taking Sylvia’s idea if infant training I set about devising a way a method which would allow the puppy to assimilate my requirement with out any stress yet building motivation to a level where the puppies enjoyment of the exercise will override the confusion which is inevitable during the teaching of a multi choice exercise which is carried out at great distances.
I decided to school the exercise in reverse, by teaching the redirection first. I had to devise two things, the first being a way to motivate the puppy into doing what I required. The second a method of remotely releasing the pup to perform its task, (asking the puppy to wait would obviously be far too stressful). With a puppy as young as this the only controllable motivator is food. But with a very young puppy it’s not advisable to be adding random tidbits or treats to its diet and potentially causing upset to a delicate stomach. A puppy of eight week is very likely to be on 4 or 5 meals a day, my logic told me that if I extended the time between the lunchtime meal and the teatime meal by maybe one or one and a half hours the pup would be suitably hungry but still short of being distressed.
The second requirement was a way to remotely release the pup so that it can run to its food. I made a cage with a string operated guillotine type door and an open top. To be totally safe I pegged the cage to the ground.
I had already spent a considerable deciding what the whistle commands were to be.*
In the initial stages of this training arm signals work only to distract the puppy from its goal.
The Puppy in these Photographs is only 10 weeks old and using the techniques it is being schooled in several skills It will become aware that when it hears the whistle something good is about to happen.
The pup will also learn a disregard for distance.
Possibly most important the puppy is learning to learn a skill which will remain with it all its life.
1st strip of Photos
Puppy is shown the food then gently placed in the release cage.
2nd Strip of photos
The whistle command is blown puppy and is released from cage and allowed to run to the food, the handler quietly follows picks up the puppy and repeats the whole process after moving the bowl of food and cone further away from the cage.
When you embark on your very first session, set up your cage with the guillotine door facing the direction you want the puppy to run. Place your bowl of food** maybe 20% of its meal on the ground at the base of a road cone. Pick up the puppy and hold it over the bowl of food let the pup sniff and even have a lick at the food then with the puppy struggling to get to the food place the puppy in the cage pick up the string which operates the door, (at this point the cage and bowl should only be about 6 feet apart) when you are at the end of the string blow your whistle command and then pull the string operating the door. The puppy will run to the bowl of food, quietly walk after it and pick up the pup when its finished eating, Move the food bowl and cone further from the cage, place more food in the bowl let the puppy have a lick then repeat the process. By the time the puppy has had all its food for that meal it will be covering probably twenty feet. If the puppy loses interest return to a shorter run or continue the next day.
* You would be surprised how many people embark on this training and haven’t given any thought as to what commands / whistles they are going to use, and starting by using ill thought-out or random commands that will creates nothing but confusion.
** Never put the food on the ground as this will cause the puppy to start sniffing around, and as scent is the dogs primary sense we need to avoid the puppy defaulting into sniffing around what it perceives as its goal.
At a different time of day I will sit on the floor and using luring teach the puppy the stand, sit and down in an informal distance control all done with treats so as little stress as possible.
By the time the puppy is 12 weeks I will have a remote down on command and a wait.
It should be getting quite good by this time but will still be “work in progress”
I usually start with the training using a release cage when the puppy is 6 or 7 weeks old
And do the training at least daily in all but the severest of weather. When the pup reaches about 12 weeks it will probably be covering 60+ yards and getting too big and heavy to be lifted into the cage.
One of the elements I like to bring in at the pups meal times is “look straight” I do this by
on the garden path or at the side of the house I place a small road cone and put the puppies food bowl at the base of the cone. Then carrying the pup I show it the food I even let it have a quick lick, I walk back along the path going down on my knees I smooth the puppy into a sit, this might take a few seconds it will be looking at the cone and bowl probably squirming to go, after a few second of you holding the pup it will go quiet focused on the cone, at that moment you give the Sendaway command and release the pup to run to the cone, when you have done this a good number of times the puppy will sit on its own (you will still need to be restraining it) and focus on the cone at this point I will be giving the command “look straight” you will soon be able to start the exercise without first showing the pup the food. You will simply place the pup in the sit tell it to “look straight “ then release it with the Sendaway command. Follow up quickly (not running) and when the pup has finished eating ease it into the down with a down command.
From this exercise the pup will learn that Looking for a cone will lead to an exciting run followed by it dinner then going into the down will get the enjoyment of praise attention and fuss. An all together pleasant and rewarding experience. The handler will see the pup starting to get a glimmer of understanding of Look Straight, Away, and Down. This is just another small piece in the 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle that is Sendaway and Redirection.
When the Puppy is getting to big for the Release Cage start doing an extension of the Look straight exercise using various safe venues and increasing the distance from the start to the cone and food
As will be seen in other parts of this article I mention the traffic cone or road cone used as a target the reasons behind this are; ~ in my opinion Sendaway and Redirection needs to be a visually based exercise the reason behind this is a dogs primary sense is its huge ability to scent and if the dog defaults into using its nose during a Sendaway the handler will have major problems controlling the dogs focus at a distance. To help to avoid this problem using a clear visual marker will avoid the dog defaulting to its scenting ability. If in the early stages of training a bowl of food is connected in the dogs mind with the cone, the habit of running to a visual target will be set in place. By using clear visual markers a format for building the dogs understanding of both Sendaway and Redirection will be readily available.
Why Road cones … everyone knows what a cone is, the Day-Glo nature and the shape of the cone means that only very rarely with it visually disappear because of light conditions. And the cone always looks the same from whatever direction your looking
The things a puppy is learning by running from the release cage to the cone and bowl of food, are not what you might imagine;~ first the pup is learning that when the whistle signal
is heard something nice is about happen i.e. running to the food with the visual reference.
Second the pups learning to disregard distance. It should help avoid the pup becoming clingy later.
Third by moving the cone and food away from the cage an understanding of if in doubt go on, will be gained (where a more normal reaction for a dog which might be uncertain is to stop and look back to the handler for reassurance.
Forth and probably the most important thing, the puppy is learning to learn which will be a big help later.