There’s a lot more to a foundation behavior than what meets the eye. Most of the foundation behaviors I train are taught for the conceptual benefit rather than the use of the behavior itself. I write a lot about using concepts in training in an old blog post here, so if you haven’t read that yet, I really recommend it!
Mud has been working hard on his retrieve and I’ve been teaching it with food. He’s actually pretty good about bringing toys back but the dedication to the toy gets lost once he realizes food is present. So I figured I might as well use this as a learning opportunity that to get what he wants, he first has to do something that may not be as much fun.
Everything has been going pretty well, if I toss the object out, he runs and picks it up and brings it toward me. The problem is that he still doesn’t have a lot of dedication to the object itself, if he forgets where it is or it’s just too far, he quickly looses interest and offers a different behavior instead.
This is the perfect opportunity for conceptual training. I need him to be more object-orientated and more confident moving away from me, two concepts that can be easily taught with another behavior: go to a mat. This is an easy behavior to shape and it requires that my dog moves to the mat independently and allows me to add distance quickly. Then once he is confidently moving away from me to interact with his mat, I can go back to shaping the retrieve and can build the same independence and object-orientation a lot easier since he’s already learned those concepts.
Here’s how his mat session went. He was easily going back to the mat and because I was marking for him sniffing it, he offered the down as well (click here to look back at how I taught his down and you’ll see why he was quick to offer it!). I jackpotted the down, since that would be the end goal behavior. However, the focus of this session really was building the confidence to move away from me and I would say he rocked that goal!