One of the Best Tools for Send Away - a Ball Dropper
If you think about it, Send Away main issues: the dog runs very leisurely, does not down, and looks for a ball. Sometimes, things are better on the club field, but once you are at a new location - the dog might not have a clue where Send Away is.
It is really exciting to use a ball at the end of the field for Send Away. The dog literally runs like a cheetah, grabs the ball in mid-jump, and returns proud of his possession. Power, pure power, is fantastic to see. The challenge is the lack of control.
Frequently, when we introduce a Down on the way to the ball, we might create conflict. Many Handlers become dependent on the “collar tool” to ensure the dog does Down. At times, when the “collar” is gone - so is the Down.
Ball Dropper is not cheap but is worth every penny. Most importantly, we get to control when the reinforcer is available. The worst thing is when you tell the dog to Down, and he keeps running and grabs the ball. Self-reinforcement for the wrong behavior - not helpful.
With Ball Dropper - the dog will never get the ball if he does not Down. It actually is a little more complicated than that.
First, we show the dog what Ball Dropper does - we drop the ball. The Machine makes a noise while dropping the ball, which can function as a marker. A little drawn out but still a marker.
The ball drops and we send the dog to it. As simple as that. We repeat until the dog is crystal clear. The next step is really eye-opening.
We have to get the dog to switch mentally from reacting to the Ball Machine to causing the Ball Dropper to drop the ball. We will create an expectation in the dog that there is a simple sequence of events. The ball drops, then he runs. Ball drops, then he runs, etc. Then we hold him but do not drop the ball. The instance the dog even shifts his balance forward - we mark and drop the ball. The dog slowly starts understanding that he must begin moving to the Ball Machine in order for it to deliver a ball. The dog goes from reactive to proactive. At this time, if you wish, you can start assigning a verbal command.
After that, we add a Down before reaching the Ball Machine. Please note that all this training is done at a very short distance. We send the dog to the Machine. In our system, we keep him on a leash because we use Negative Reinforcement for Down. When he is close, we say Down and help with the leash. Once the dog Downs, we mark and release the ball. This is where the beauty of the controlled outcome is - no Down - no ball.
We slowly build more distance and begin sending the dog in multiple directions. Yes, it is pricey, but it is so useful to have a couple of Ball Droppers. You can generalize direction right away.
Now comes more sophisticated training. We have to balance speed and the dog’s compliance to Down. If we Down too many times - the dog anticipates and starts slowing down. If we do not Down enough - he flies through. He does not get the ball but does not Down either.
Delivery of the reinforcer becomes critical too. We no longer release the dog to the ball after the Down. We either call him back to give a ball, or we come all the way to him to release him with a ball. Either or, he knows that after a Down - there is no more running forward. The worst thing that can happen is that you send your dog, he flies, he Downs, the crowd cheers, and he gets up.
After this, it is a balancing act - we send the dog and drop the ball to maintain the speed. We Down from time to time. Ball Droppers allow us to manage the outcome by controlling the access to reinforcer.
Please feel free to leave comments or ask questions at the bottom of the screen.
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