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This is the third and last installment of our Improving Toss and Fetch Retrieve Series. This content will be covered completely in video, images and text in our next Disc Dog Foundation online distance learning class which starts Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011. It will also be added to the first update of the DiscDogger’s Toolkit.
Reward Placement and Field Pressure in Toss and Fetch
In the rules of Toss and Fetch, the field only goes away from the handler in one direction. It’s a law of Toss and Fetch, actually. The throwing line defines the direction of play. Anyone who plays Toss and Fetch can easily see that the cool part for the dog takes place while sprinting away from the handler. There is nothing to look forward to on the way back to the handler after the challenge and glory of catching the disc. Frequently this becomes a dog’s basic understanding of long throws. This let down factor when the handler appears on the horizon is a large part of the problem with dogs who have a slow retrieve in Toss and Fetch.
The structure of the field itself also works against teams when playing a traditional game of Toss and Fetch. The throwing line is the edge of the field exerts Pressure upon the dog. That Pressure slows a dog down if it is not overpowered by the value on the handler.
There is a simple way to change this understanding and to relieve that pressure. Just flip the field on every other throw. This will take the Reward Placement – way out there!!! – of the game of Toss and Fetch and leverage it to create more speed.
Flipping the Field
Flipping the field means playing in both directions. Instead of starting at one end of the field and throwing only in one direction, place yourself in the center of the field and throw in both directions. This should be done with two or more discs.
Drop and Fly
Two discs can be used, like bitework for retrieve as covered in the last installment of this series. The handler takes two discs and throws one long. The Drop is cued as the dog is returning, it is marked,”Yes!” and is reinforced with a long throw in the opposite direction of the first.
This throw can be made immediately after the cued drop happens, slightly after or may be timed to the dog’s movement
If the throw happens immediately after the drop it will be very challenging for the dog to make the catch. It will force him to run hard after the target. It will reinforce the Drop on the run quite well. Tremendously challenging disc placement probably does the most for improving retrieve speed, but be careful. If the target is always uncatchable the dog may start to slow down because there is no opportunity in that impossible catch. This could really damage a dog’s drive for long catches. It also could create a pattern of missing discs that could teach him that the catch is not an important part of the game.
Waiting a bit before throwing can give a dog a better chance of making the catch but it may or may not reinforce the Drop well. It is great for most dogs that are not total disc monsters. A momentary pause before throwing allows the handler to deliver discs that are successfully caught. It will totally help the dog’s retrieve speed.
Timing the throw to a dogs movement will yield the least speed increase and should really only be used on lower drive dogs and dogs that need a lot of help going after long throws for a limited time. This is essentially waiting on the dog and will not have as much effect on building speed. It also could promote a dependence on the presentation of the next disc for speed.
Double Disc Retrieve
If you wait for the dog to get to you and then ask for the Drop you can work on a full blown retrieve. This can build a retrieve so blazingly fast, it’s ridiculous. Think about it. Your dog comes running back with the disc, you call the drop shortly before he arrives, say 3 yards away. Dog drops, and you immediately throw a monster toss behind you in the other direction. It doesn’t take much imagination to see the end result. The dog will come hauling back, drop when asked and continue running for the catch. It’s not hard to turn that into a fluid drop and go around after you’ve got the haulin’ butt back to the handler part down.
Single Disc Retrieve
Once the Double Disc Retrieve is nailed down, or at a time of the handler’s choosing, wait for the retrieve, call the Drop when the dog arrives and bend down and pick it up for a throw it in the opposite direction. This, very closely, represents a game of Toss and Fetch and generalizes the previous drills into a normal game of toss and fetch.
Rewarding with Action and the Consequent Cue
It is extremely important that the performance of the cued Drop, happens before the next disc is presented for throwing. The Drop needs to make the next throw happen and the dog needs to believe that. Once he believes that the cued Drop makes things happen he will carry the disc until he hears the Drop cue, no questions asked.
Also, once you start the Double or Single Disc Retrieve with the Drop and fluid Go Around instead of the throw behind you, the Drop will lead to the opportunity to run out and make another catch.
All of these drills can and should be randomized. The location of the cued Drop needs to be randomized. Don’t get stuck in any one mode for too long or unitended patterns may be created. Your dog can learn patterns that you probably don’t want to have to un-teach.
Don’t forget to work with a single disc at times and to work some regular old Toss and Fetch, and if you’re one of those real anal types, go ahead and paint the field and get your timer out every once in a while. Just make sure you get value on the handler and get some reward placement on the flip side of the field and you’ll be OK.