Pounce - "Her Adult Game"

YouTube Link:​https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BQp75mIiqw 

                                                        A Bridge Not Too Far
                                                              Got Game?

Recently I wrote a comment in a training forum based on the premise of “not having a game”.  The last few years of using Hillmann's retriever training program revolved around using “The Game”. This analysis is an attempt to define a present, personal  perspective. Fortunately, I have been training a talented pup/dog and it has been challenging…mostly because she has the potential for exceptional retriever work.  

An early realization of the Hillmann "game" was that it is not about satisfying trainer expectations. The early process is to create focus and responsiveness as related to a trainer’s need for control. The framework for developing “the big game” revolves around “birdiness” and retrieving. This is the basis of a five factor training approach developed by Pro Trainer Julie Knutson which seems to mesh well with Hillmann's philosophy.   

First of all, since pups are not all the same, “The Game” will develop and materialize in many different forms. It is not so much about control, but about being flexible and effective in providing what a pup needs “in the moment”.

Early on, most want to “visit” retrieving before dealing with responsiveness or focus.

This is complicated because pups have traits that vary greatly in early development. There are often immediate conflicts between potential talent levels, instincts and maturity vs. the  trainer’s skill level and expectations.

There are no rules…just expectations and instincts…neither of which are well defined or developed. Learning requires a “game plan”. Hillmann provides the concept of a “Game” and it is not about satisfying trainer needs. What does that mean? It is all about “The Game”. For us, any time Pounce was not doing well, the “Game” was adjusted.

What does “not doing well” look like? This could make for a long list. Therefore, for the sake of simplicity, the topic/issue of early mouth habits was selected. This is simple to identify and can be difficult to “fix”. The issue is often a good read on whether a pup is relaxed and comfortable or displaying anxiety. Anxiety is often expressed via mouth behaviors and it may be counterproductive to subdue this by using corrections before a pup fully grasps the concept of corrections.  

This is where a little finesse goes a long way. By not expecting (even demanding) something "you want", it may be more proactive to avoid confrontations by doing something aimed at creating a responsive behavior…..as an alternative.

For example, pup comes in with bumper and is excited......you want it....so does the pup. Trying to take it too soon for many driven pups presents a confrontation leading to anxiety......for the pup and trainer. Rather than taking the bumper one could simply turn and walk away or wait. This may transition to effective sessions where walking at heel for a bit before sitting and taking the bumper (retrieve). A moment of "nothing" allows a pup to wonder “OK, what's next? More fun? Rather than instinctively dwelling on “This is mine!” A game modification can reduce impedance allowing responsiveness to re-surface. A high level of responsiveness is attained incrementally. 

Many want the pup to do whatever “right now” rather than teaching/creating a new expectation with a bit of finesse.  I am fairly certain that by now most will have noticed there has been no mention of actually using corrections.  A well designed "Game" is not driven by corrections.

Pups don't come "wired perfectly” right off the shelf and most will do much better if their trainers did not try to "rush the job". Develop a game specifically for the pup and do what is needed in a seamless progression with “The Game” as glue.  

Here is an example that worked well with Pounce. She is always animated, has "off the wall" retrieving drive, not big, very fast and sensitive. Everything is going 90+ mph.
Hillmann’s Traffic Cop was magical. On one hand I had the “Flash” and then suddenly a focused "Thinker". In between was mostly a blur for quite some time. Between “Traffic Cop” sit and “The Game” is where we developed responsiveness, focus and control. It was (and still is) the bridge to “What’s Next?” 

                         note: Developing "The Game" is an individual process.

YouTube Link:​https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTjDscCADgA

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