When I can’t take the guys out for formal training, I’ll play with them in a manner that I equate to walkthrough practices that sports teams conduct, such as football and basketball drills or batting practice in baseball. It’s a relaxed and informal type of training but not entirely without discipline, and the focus is not necessarily on technique but on the principle of honoring.
I considered whether or not these kind of informal walkthroughs would introduce bad habits, or if the dogs would become sloppy in their techniques, but so far haven’t found that to be the case.
For example, with honoring retrieves, I’ll assemble the guys and tell them to “wait”. I’ll toss one of their toys and send one of them out to retrieve it. Sometimes we’ll play tug-of-war just to add variety and a little fun, but normally I expect them to deliver it to hand. What I don’t do is allow a game of chase which is a game strictly for play.
Mia is obsessed with nesting Robins and doves, and although the Robins are trash birds, they give me opportunities to work with the guys on honoring. When one of them goes on point, I’ll “whoa” the others if they haven’t already done so, and expect them to hold until I release them. While on point or honoring another’s, I’ll caress their back letting them know they’re doing well.
These simple little back yard drills seem to help keep their minds on birds even when we’re not “officially” training. I see it as being similar to keeping your child engaged in reading for fun during the summer, which studies have found puts them far ahead of their peers who don’t.
So will this philosophy apply to dogs? I guess time and testing will tell.
Will it encourage the dogs to point trash birds instead of game birds? So far, I haven’t seen any indication of it – we train heavily with pigeons but the dogs don’t give them a second look when hunting.