Murph Training IX: Murph’s First Blind Retrieve

murph with dummy

Murph sizes up his dummy 

photo by Tim Bronson

This weekend, I took Murph with me when I took my son to play in a hockey tournament in Connecticut. Four games and four practices in a three-day period gave me a lot of time in the hockey rink parking lot to work with Murph on a number of things.

With nothing but time on my hands, I spent a lot of time with Murph on heel and sit commands. I continue to hammer those things home, and it’s showing great results, so I decided to introduce a first real blind retrieve drill using what Murph’s learned.

It is important to note that I don’t want to do blind retrieves a lot right now, because his teeth are still coming in. So he got one retrieve twice a day with a very soft and small Dokken puppy dummy. But it gave me chance to utilize all the heeling and sit work I was doing as well, and it gave him something new and interesting to break the monotony.

There was a big field by the parking lot, and for most of the day I made him walk across it at heel a number of times, alternating with making him sit for extended periods of time to work on steadiness. He’s become very solid at these, so I was interested in putting them to use briefly. It should be noted; I took a bit of a chance here and did this off lead to really give him a test.

I put the Dokken in my pocket and walked him across the field to a spot, tossed the dummy down a few feet in front of him. Now came the fun part. First of all, he obviously needed to stay in place and not move, which he did with no problem. Steadiness at sit was working. The real test came when I turned and called him to heel going away from the dummy. He hesitated a moment, but to my gratification, turned and came into position and walked away with me, though he looked back a couple of times. I quickly gave him terse “heel.” All that heel time was working well. I walked about 30 yards and turned again to face the dummy. He turned with me and sat on command. He knew exactly where the dummy was, but to his credit he sat still. I then pushed the issue, by walking away for a couple of minutes. Steadiness training prevailed and he didn’t move. I came back, leaned down and pointed at the dummy, tapped his head and called his name “Murph.”

Off he went, picked up the dummy, at which time I immediately blew the recall whistle. He turned and as he came to me, I gave the “heel” command as I wanted him to return to heel and sit so I can take the dummy. I wasn’t expecting a great result, but to my surprise he came around to my left and sat at heel with the dummy in his mouth. Awesome. All the work at coming to heel and steadiness at sit translated into a very gratifying puppy blind retrieve with all the components working.

The hard part was stopping there, but again, I don’t want to aggravate his mouth, nor do I want to over emphasize this to the point where he gets too excited about it. While he is doing well, he is still a puppy and there are many boring miles to go to have complete and unquestioned control. But for the first time, he put it all together and it was a great moment.

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