For the past few months, we've been taking a beginner obedience class (at Let's Speak Dog)--not so much because I imagine we'll compete (we're a long way from thinking about that), but instead because I wanted to learn more about training for this sport. In addition, while Arlo's elbow has been heeling, we've been on a break from agility and, in addition to continuing with Rally, were looking for something else to try.
I like the focus and the concentration required for formal obedience--these are good things for Arlo, (world's most environmentally sensitive dog) to work on.
Watching this video, I think about just how hard he's working to do what I'm asking. Arlo LOVES to retrieve, but to learn a formal obedience retrieve he had to re-learn a bunch of stuff: e.g., wait while I throw the dumbbell, pick up the dumbbell in the middle, sit in front of me and wait until for the release cue (which for us = "give").
Like many before us, we backchained our retrieve. (There are lots of good "how to" videos on YouTube--unfortunately, I can't find my favorite one at the moment.) That Arlo willingly takes anything was both an advantage and disadvantage. He willingly took the dumbbell, but asked to hold it for more than a second, he wanted to play with it. :) So I had to be really precise with the clicker, and increase duration of the hold in tiny tiny increments.
The next step was learning to pick up the dumbbell from the ground. Again--Arlo will pick up most things when asked--but he had no idea that picking up the dumbbell from one side instead of the middle wasn't allowed. At first, because he was so enthusiastic, I actually did reward just a few times for picking up the dumbbell any which way, returning to front, and waiting for the release. But after that I just waited. If he picked it up the wrong way, I said "good try," and set it back down for him to try again. He did figure out pretty quickly that picking up in the middle earned the reward. When he got stuck (which still happens sometimes), we just went back a step and that seemed to help.
The last step was teaching him to wait while I tossed the DB--especially difficult for Arlo who is r-e-e-e-e-e-e-a-l-l-y motivated by anything that moves! Plus, we regularly play fetch where he doesn't have to wait (although sometimes I ask him to, just to keep things interesting). The cue for retrieving the DB is "get it," and I'm hoping that helps him distinguish from fetch, which doesn't really have a cue. We started with just a small toss and gradually worked up to longer and longer distances. Sometimes he gets excited and after he's got the dumbbell will run around with it. (It's pretty funny, actually.) And then this week we started working outside which has been kind of like starting over. But little by little we're figuring it out.