Send Away, Drop & Recall
What the rule
Class B: The handler will stand with his dog in the heel position and on command will send his dog forward about 20m to a marker and command the dog into the down position. When the dog is down the handler will be ordered to recall his dog or to move as directed and then recall the dog while he is moving and continue with the dog until ordered to halt. The dog must remain in the down position until recalled and then move smartly and directly to the handler.
Class C: The exercise is performed in the same manner as for Class B. The dog will be sent to a spot discreetly marked so that it is readily visible to the handler but not easily identifiable by the dog.
(See Clicker Training for an alternative method using a target stick.)
Material: Stake/target stick with tape or flag, prey item or retrieve article e.g. ball. (A small mat or towel can be used instead of a stake.)
Step 1: Getting the dog to run to the marker/mat.
Place the dog in a Sit-stay or down position. The handler moves 3m away, plants the stake and sits behind it before calling the dog. The dog runs to the handler and when it is about 1m-2m away the ball or prey item is gently thrown into the air towards the dog for it to catch. When the dog catches the ball the handler calls “fetch”, moves to collect the ball before the dog drops it and rewards the dog with some food. Always sit behind the stake so that the dog can associate the send away with the marker/stake/mat. This exercise is repeated until the dog runs willingly to the handler at a fast speed. As in the recall, the greater the distance the dog has to run to the handler, the faster it should run, so the stake is moved out 5m, 7m to 10m as training improves.
Step 2: The stake is returned to a short distance of 3m-5m.
The dog is given a Sit-stay. The handler walks to the stake, shows the dog the ball or prey item, places the reward at the base of the stake and returns to the dog. The handler holds the dog by the collar, points to the stake and encourages the dog to, “Go”. The dog is released to run to the stake and the reward. The handler quickly follows the dog to praise it enthusiastically for running to the stake. Give a release, “Take a break” or “free”, throw the ball into the air and play with the dog for a few seconds. If the dog does not run to the stake, the distance must be shortened. Step 2 is the most important because this is the first time that the dog is working independently away from the handler by going to the stake! You must be very sure that the dog associates the stake with the reward before you go any further. The stake is again moved further away as training progresses.
Step 3: (Teaching the down away from the handler but not yet at the stake)
Before this step can be started the “Down”-command must be revised. The dog must go down smartly and willingly so that it will respond to the down command 3m to 7m away. (Remember to use the Three & a Freebie and the 5 – 5 – 5 rules.)
Initially the ball is thrown no more than 1m away. When the dog retrieves the ball a “Down” command is given. The dog must go down immediately. If it does not, you must return to working on the down exercise next to the handler. Do not give the down command before the dog has retrieved the ball because a good retriever will ignore the down command until it has picked up the ball. Also, do not give the down command every time you throw the ball because the dog must not think that he is supposed to go down every time you throw something. Once the dog will down consistently close to the handler (Three & a Freebie rule) the distances can gradually be extended so that he will go down instantly further away. The reason for combining this exercise with the retrieve of an object is that the dog is being forced to go down while he is excited about the reward. Later he is going to have to go down while running away from you.
Gradually move further away from the dog until it goes down at greater distances. Do not attempt to down the dog with the send out until the “down” is absolutely correct at a distance otherwise you will have to start giving corrections and the dog’s attitude will possibly suffer!
When the dog has satisfactorily completed the previous two steps then send it to the stake and reward. When the dog gets to the stake, call its name and give it a down command. Remember to move quickly to the dog and give an immediate reward and release while you play with the dog for a few seconds.
Step 4: During this step transference begins where the dog does not always find a reward at the stake, but is rewarded for going to the stake. The dog must never know when the reward is there so a random pattern must be followed. It is recommended that the reward must be a ball or a larger object that can easily be seen by the dog. If a food treat/reward is used, the dog is inclined to slow down as he nears the stake and starts smelling the ground for the food/treat. On the first send out the handler will give a down command and then plant the stake 3m away and place a reward at the foot of the stake in full view of the dog. The dog is sent out as before and downed at the stake. The second time, the handler again walks to the stake but this time only pretends to place a reward at the stake. The handler returns to the dog and gives a send out with a down when he gets to the stake. When he responds correctly the handler quickly moves to the dog and gives a reward and/or throws a ball. The third time is the same as the first and the forth as the second. This is followed by a random pattern for a week or more.
Step 5: Now, in this step, the handler does not first go to the stake to put a reward or pretend to put a reward. The handler starts a session by placing a reward at the stake, plays with the dog and then hides the ball in a pocket or jacket. He quickly gives a send out so that the dog will run to the stake. When the dog goes to the stake a reward is given as before. In order to get the dog to continue going to the stake when he cannot see a reward, a random pattern need to be followed. Over a period of time the dog is weaned from seeing the handler walking to the stake so that it will go to the stake when sent. The dog must associate the stake with a reward and not the spot, so rewards are continued each time. When the dog can go out time after time without the handler first going to the stake then he is ready for the next step.
Step 6: The stake is now gradually moved to greater distances of 20m or more. If the dog moves quickly to the stake the next step is to have the dog down before it gets to the stake. Send the dog and then give a down command at no more than 5m-10m away. Random training is important because the dog may want to slow down in anticipation of the down command before it gets to the stake. So, don’t overdo this exercise. Rather send him the full distance 3 times before an early down.
The dog can now also be sent to the stake but not downed. If he automatically downs he should be encouraged to “Go” further. Once the dog understands what is expected of it the stake can be removed and replaced by a smaller peg, object or mat. A square white marker is used in Class B.
At this stage the dog needs guidance from the trainer. I find it best to start the dog from a sitting position, stand astride the dog with my hands on the sides of his head and pointing him in the direction I want him to run. Whilst tilting his head slightly forward I repeat the words “Look straight” “Look straight” (or “Go touch” if taught during Clicker training). I slowly remove my hands upwards and away so that when he wants to turn his head I can quickly redirect his head repeating, “Look straight”. If this method is applied when the stake is used in the earlier steps, the dog soon learns the meaning of the command and begins to look straight ahead.
Step 7: Recall.
After successfully downing the dog at the stake, leave your position, moving at normal pace towards the dog, make a right or left turn, call the dog to come, halt after walking for another five paces and wait for the dog to get into the heel position on your left side. Praise enthusiastically.