Yesterday I was operating on about 3 hours of sleep (worked until 4am the night before) and the last thing I wanted to do was train dogs at the end of the workday. I decided I at least had to do something with Finn – being so young and impressionable, it’s very important to make him my priority right now. The others can skip a day or two, or even a week, without much impact. Not so with a 5 month old puppy, as I have commented on already!
I loaded Finn into my truck and went down to market to get supper. After shopping I got him out and walked him over to the local pet store for a little socialization. There was no one in there other than the owner. Finn said a brief hello and sniffed around. Then we left.
Our next stop was the park. It was pitch black by then, and again there was nobody there. It’s a real challenge to socialize dogs this time of year! Oh well, I figured, at least we can do some training and exercise. I took out a ball and started kicking it around. Finn dashed after it and when he caught up, he’d go to 12 o’clock, then lie down on top of the ball. Fun for him, but not so much for me. I’d walk over, get him to move back, and kick the ball again. This went on for a while as we worked our way around the park.
Then one time he actually bit the ball. Bingo! Just what I was waiting for. The second he grabbed the ball, I called his name and ran the other way. He dropped the ball and came to me. We then repeated that pattern a few times. What I wanted was for him to bring the ball with him, but each time switched into recall game mode (which we’ve done 1000 times) and forgot about the ball. I shortened everything up and did this in close quarters and by the third or fourth try, he brought the ball part way. The next time he brought it all the way.
I didn’t have to repeat that reward to get him to figure things out. He understood the game, and he liked it. A lot. And so did I. It’s a lot more fun to play soccer with a dog when they bring the ball back to you! We had a blast after that, out there in the dark, just the two of us. I was very proud of my little man. He’d learned to fetch, and got it down pat, in our first lesson.