Not All Exercises Are Created Equal

We characterize the exercises the dogs are required to do in two categories:

I Action l Control

Action exercises tend to be motivational for the dog — something he enjoys. Examples of action exercises are Heeling, Retrieving, Jumping, and Coming. Control exercises are demotivational — not something that is fun and exciting. Examples of control exercises are the Sit and Down-Stay, the drop for the Drop on Recall, and the Stand for Examination. The Front and the Finish can be either, depending on the dog's perception.

With that in mind, take a look at Table 17-2, which lists each category that the various exercises for the Utility class fall into.

Table 17-2 Drives and Categories for the Utility Class Exercises

Required Exercise

Behavior/Drive

Category

Signal:

Dog heels

Pack

Action

Dog stands at heel

Pack

Control

Dog lies down on signal

Pack

Control

Dog sits on signal

Pack

Control

Required Exercise

Behavior/Drive

Category

Dog comes on signal

Pack

Action

Scent Discrimination:

Dog selects by scent one article out of eight

Prey

Control (that is, more control than action because the article is placed rather than thrown, and the dog has to discriminate)

Dog retrieves and brings it back to handler

Pack

Action

Directed Retrieve:

Dog is sent out

Prey

Action

Dog retrieves one of three articles

Pack

Action

Moving Stand with Examination:

Dog heels

Pack

Action

Dog stands on command

Pack

Control

Judge examines dog

Pack

Control

Dog goes to heel

Pack

Action

Directed Jumping:

Dog leaves handler

Prey

Action

Dog jumps Prey Action

Dog jumps Prey Action

You can see from Table 17-2 that the potentially most devastating impact on the dog's motivation comes from the Signal exercise, which is immediately followed by another control exercise. It's not until the Directed Retrieve that the dog starts to have any real fun.

To maintain your dog's enthusiasm in practice sessions, alternate as much as possible between action and control exercises.

Obviously, the dog can learn the Signal exercise and even do it with some degree of verve, provided that you don't turn him off in the teaching and practicing phases. When you see that an exercise has a dampening effect on your dog, immediately follow it with something he likes, such as a Retrieve. You may have to split up the Signal exercise into its component parts to keep your dog motivated and only once or twice a week practice it the way it's supposed to be done.

Your dog doesn't look at all exercises in the same light. Some he considers more fun than others. By observing the impact an exercise has on your dog's psyche, you can keep him enthusiastic and motivated.

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