Saturday, March 24, 2012

Teaching Natasha Rose "Whoa"

We are beginning Natasha's classes in Whoa. Below are videos on how we are teaching her. I'll be adding record of her progress here too. Chile does not have a large Field and Gun Dog community as they have in the USA, though there are many who hunt with dogs.  There are no Field and Gun Trials here either. Jorge picked up a DVD from Gun Dog Magazine: Training Pointing Dogs. We also subscribed to the magazine to help us along the way with Natasha Rose. We also turned to good ol' Google and YouTube to help fill the gaps.

Below are some of the resources we found on the internet.

"Whoa isn't for birds"

Teaching a pointing dog to hold point and stand birds with style and intensity depends on a solid foundation of the "Whoa" command. This command is also a prerequisite to training a dog to back, be steady to flush & shot, and stop on running birds. It may even prevent a dog from getting snakebit or running in front of a speeding car.
It’s important to understand that the place to teach "Whoa" is not in the field on birds. That is teaching the dog to hold point. Training a dog to hold point should come after the dog is comfortable with "Whoa" and when it responds with excellence the first time the command’s given. Holding point, backing and -the icing on the cake-steadiness to wing & shot are all built on the yard command "Whoa." "Whoa" is simply a command, or cue, instructing the dog to stop where it is and stay put at that spot until instructed otherwise. Attempting to teach a dog "Whoa" by leading it on a check cord to a planted bird and giving the command prematurely can create disastrous results such as blinking. 
As with most commands, trainers use a variety of methods to teach "Whoa" and with varying results. An individual trainer’s patience and ability to read a dog is important in creating a stylish response to the command. Terms such as the "rope-and-sling" method and "’Whoa post" as well as training tools like flank hitches and prong collars are only a sampling of things that have developed through the years in connection with "Whoa" training. Personally, I have borrowed, tweaked and improvised in developing my approach to teaching "Whoa." I use a combination of the "Whoa" board, the "Whoa" table, barrel training, the suitcase handle and remote training collars. 
Association and reinforcement-both positive and negative-are powerful learning tools for dogs. I prefer to make the command "Whoa" a positive one. I have seen too many dogs cringe in anticipation of something bad happening when they hear "Whoa." This is the result of trainers either having followed the command with too harsh a correction or having corrected the dog before it completely understood what the command meant. In either case the dog now associates punishment with "Whoa." Because holding point, backing and steadiness to wing & shot are taught by association and repetition in conjunction with "Whoa," the association with the command must be positive or there will be no foundation to build on. 
Much of my advanced training, such as holding point and steadiness, involves a "Whoa" board; therefore, I want the dog’s initial exposure to the board to be positive. A "Whoa" board is simply a piece of plywood roughly 2 x 3 feet. I like a board that can be raised four to six inches, so that later the dog will have to step up onto it. In advanced training, I teach the dog to remain on the board while birds walk around it or flush from remote launchers. Because dogs are place-oriented, it is much easier to teach the dog to remain steady at a specific place before progressing to an open-field situation....

My "Whoa" table is simply a 12-foot-long, 12-inch-wide plank. The plank can be nailed to sawhorses to raise it to approximately waist height. I then place the dog on the plank. The plank is narrow, so the dog will not move its feet. As when the dog is on the barrel, I stroke its tail up, prevent its head from moving and soothingly repeat "Whoa." My objective is to teach the dog to stand tall, with head erect and tail high.

Everything I have done to this point has taught the stationary dog to stay put and be comfortable with the word "Whoa." I have not yet taught the moving dog to stop on the command. I only begin this next step after the dog is comfortable remaining still on the table and barrel. To teach a moving dog to "Whoa," I use a "suitcase handle," which is made by tying a snap on both ends of a 36- to 40-inch piece of check cord. I run one end of the cord around the dog’s flank and through the snap. I run the other end around the dog’s neck and through that end’s snap. The result is a slip lead around the dog’s abdomen and another around its neck. This way I can pick the dog up off the ground with my "suitcase handle."

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Video examples of teaching the command, Whoa

Using the "Whoa Table"

Practicing the Whoa on the table

Another technique is to use ropes to teach the dog "Whoa" means "Don't move a muscle!" This technique is not demonstrated on the Gun Dog DVD, though it is alluded to when they mention there are various methods to teach this command.

Using ropes to teach Whoa

Taking the Whoa to the ground

What this space for photos of Natasha Rose's training:

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