Flipping the Field for Toss and Fetch Retrieve Speed
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
If you are playing by 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 we’re going to play. If you play the game of Toss and Fetch you can easily see that the cool part for the dog takes place only while moving away from the handler. There is nothing to look forward to on the way back from the handler after the challenge and glory of catching the disc. Frequently this becomes foundational understanding of the dog for long throws. This let down factor is a large part of the problem with most dogs who have less than a smoking retrieve in the game of 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, and as the edge of the field, it exerts Pressure upon the dog. That Pressure slows dogs down if it is not overpowered by the value on the handler.
There is a simple way for us to change this understanding and to relieve that pressure. All we have to do is flip the field on every other throw. This will take the Reward Placement – way out there!!! – of the game of Toss and Fetch and use it to our advantage.
Flipping the Field
Flipping the field means that your’re going to play in both directions. Instead of putting yourself at one end of the field and throwing only in one direction, you will place yourself in the center of the field and throw in both directions. This can be done with multiple discs, or single discs.
Drop and Fly
Two discs can be used, not unlike our Bitework for Retrieve as covered in the last installment of this series. The handler takes two discs and throws long. The Drop is cued as the dog is returning. The Drop is marked,”Yes!” and is then reinforced with a long throw in the opposite direction of the first throw.
This throw can be made immediately after the marked Drop, 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 the dog to run hard after the target. It will also strongly reinforce the Drop on the run. It probably does the most for improving retrieve speed, but be careful with this. If the target is always uncatchable the dog may start to slow down because there is no opportunity there. This could really damage a dog’s drive for long catches. It also could create a pattern of missing discs that could teach the dog that the catch is not an important part of the game.
If you wait a bit before throwing you can give your dog a better chance of making the catch and it may or may not reinforce the Drop well. It is great for most dogs that are not total disc monsters. It allows you to deliver discs that are successfully caught. It will totally help the dog’s retrieve speed.
Timing the throw to your 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 do as good a job of 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 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 you’ve got the Double Disc Retrieve down, or whenever you want, you can wait for the retrieve, call the Drop when the dog arrives, bend down and pick it up and 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. Think back to what the Double Disc Retrieve looks like once it’s a fluid drop and go round.
Rewarding with Action and the Consequent Cue
It is very important that the performance of the skill we are looking for, the 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 the Dog believes that the cued Drop makes things happen they will carry the disc until they hear 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. Imagine a world where the Drop happens on cue…
All of these drills can and should be randomized. The place where the disc is dropped needs to be randomized as well. Don’t get too stuck in any one mode for too long or you’ll create unintended patterns. Your dog can learn patterns that you probably don’t want to have to unlearn for them.
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.