I wanted to share some information regarding what I think can be an over looked training exercise when training versatile dogs. I recently experienced it myself. Lex finished his HZP this fall with a 175pts. Right after, we started planning and preparing for the VGP.
Retrieving was solid and going well. Our blind water retrieves could be better and is something I plan on tuning. After getting familiar with the BTR rules we started for retrieving Foxes. I made a bold assumption this was going to naturally happen. After all, this is how rabbits and other game worked early on. It was after a single refusal I realized we had a problem. I did some work introducing the Fox in closer proximity. I also did some hold training. What I quickly realized was the weight of the fox was overwhelming. Although during our force fetch and retrieving training we used all kinds of objects we failed to use heavy objects to build neck strength and confidence in carrying heavy. The problem is the Fox is 10 pounds. German Versatile Dog trainers use an apportierbock. It’s a wooden training dummy that you can add weight too.
These are hard to find in the US. So we were going to have to improvise.
I sent my friend Michael in Germany a message to find out his training regime before starting. He uses the following steps • Walks dog carrying apportierbock, without weight for five minutes. • Next day five to ten minutes • Works up to 20 minutes walking without weight • He adds 2 pounds and walks for 5 minutes • He works up to walking with 10 pounds
I took a little different approach. First I filled a vinyl dummy with water and it weighed 2 pounds. I put this in the back year because Lex is compulsive about carrying things in his mouth. He carried this for a week every day almost all day. Then, I cut a piece of landscape timber which is basically a 4×4 with two rounded edges. It weighs six pounds and is awkward for him. We walk with this like Michael does. After only two days we were jumping a hurdle without dropping it. We jump a few times to keep the walks from getting boring. On the third day I started sending him to retrieve it. Soon we will move up to 10 pounds.
Working with weight is very important and should not be underestimated. I am finding that it also is improving his carry and where he grips items. Working with larger weighted items pays off and builds the strength and confidence you need. It’s also important to note. You should not start working wit heavy weight until all the permanent teeth are in and set on younger dogs.
Mr. Ferro with the Fox – A trained DD
Lex working with a six pound timber – DD in training