User:Lindsay Ridgeway/Reward-based Field Training for Retrievers/How to Use This Book

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How to Use This Book[edit]

This book is intended primarily as a manual for training retrievers for field sports. As such, it contains many training plans, each associated with a particular training objective. The training plans are presented in a series of chapters to provide organization for the material.

However, this book does not present training plans in the order that training is to occur. Quite the contrary, a puppy is never too young to begin retrieving, yet the marked retrieve is one of the later chapters of this book.

What, then, is the correct sequence of training? The answer is that the training cannot be done in a rigid sequence, for several reasons:

  1. It is essential that many of these skills be started as soon as possible. Examples of cues that deserve immediate training are "here", "sit", and "give it".
  2. During the dog's life, many of those same skills will need constant reinforcement. If you train a particular skill and then do not practice it, you may find that it is not reliable when you need it, even though it was entirely reliable at one time. But which skills need shoring up over the dog's life varies with the dog. For example, a dog with a predisposition toward resource guarding may need continuous practice with a highly reinforcing "give it" his whole life.

No single sequence of training is right for all trainers and all dogs. Eventually, your retriever will need to learn all of the skills presented in this book. Therefore, the best plan is to begin working on a number of skills in parallel, one in one session and one in another, and continue to add more as you complete work in those previously started.

Getting Started[edit]

Begin by examining the table of contents (TOC) for the entire book. A consolidated TOC is available at the top of the Print Version of this book.

At the minimum, you may also wish to click on particular topics and glance at the material to get a sense of the content. Thoroughly study the material whenever you prefer to do so:

  • Some readers prefer to read and digest the entire contents of a manual before starting work.
  • Others prefer to defer thorough study of a particular topic until they are about to use the material.

Planning Your Training[edit]

Next comes the key to a solid training progression. As you organize each session, day, or week's training, review the TOC again. If an item catches your eye that you've never read before or for which you've forgotten some of the details, click the link and read the material for that topic as well. Then you will have the information you need to plan your next segment of training.

By continually reviewing the TOC, you'll be able to maintain perspective of where you are in your dog's training, and to select the best project for you and your dog at all times.

Here's a general approach for choosing particular training projects:

  • Limit your choices for each session to those training plans for which the dog is ready. Information in each training plan, such as prequesites and sections on Extending the Behavior, will help you make that determination.
  • From among those plans for which the dog is ready, select the ones you deem most important at the time:
— Perhaps you'll choose one that you feel deserves a higher history of reinforcement because of its importance in the dog's life, such as recall.
— Or perhaps you'll choose one that is ready for more work because you've been concentrating on other areas.
— Or one day you give a cue in the field and your dog doesn't respond correctly, perhaps too slow, perhaps not at all. So you decide to dedicate an evening, or perhaps a week of evenings, to practicing that cue, perhaps adding the clicker and some high-value treats, to the re-training process.