Training Go-Outs

From Cheryl May, (

It is not unusual for a dog to confuse the go-outs with the directed retrieve. This is a *very common* green dog mistake. A suggestion from Gerianne Darnell is to line up with the jumps and do some go-outs and then do a glove. Don't alternate them, but mix them up. Put a stack of gloves (three or four) at corner one and corner three with none at the center. Sometimes you send for a glove, sometimes you do a go-out. Having a stack of gloves enables you to do several retrieves without having to replenish your glove supply. Of course you can always encounter an over-achiever who thinks he needs to bring back every single glove in the pile. In that case, just take whatever he brings back without comment -- the idea is to differentiate the two exercises, not to worry about how many gloves he retrieves. It works out fine in the end.

If you use a target, It's a good idea to have one for every go-out (but use one the dog can't see until he is right there at the target). Sometimes you let him get the goodie at the target, sometimes you stop him before he gets there. But the only time the target is absent is in the ring.

Even if you have a large dog, Gerianne's book, "Competitive Obedience Training for the Small Dog" has lots of helpful ideas. In it she gives several methods for teaching go-outs.

From Judith Byron, (

Once the dog understands the basic concept, it's time to travel!. You do not always need to haul the jumps, just go to a certain place -- let's say the wall of the local school and set the dog up about 10 feet back. Give him his cue word and send him. If he runs straight ahead to the wall, click and run up and give him his reward (food) on the wall. You can put it on the ground or target, but on the wall is best at this point. Most of the time, the first time out, even if he has run to walls at home or in a familiar place like a training building, the dog DOES NOT go out. Take him by the collar and take him out -- a bit of a correction, if you will. Then go back to the 10 foot spot, repeat the command and the dog will usually go. You have just showed him where to go. Do not reward him for the correction part except to keep a light tone and say something like "See, silly, this is where you are supposed to go". He shouldn't get particularly upset with this type of correction. Once the dog is successful, then go out and feed him after the clicker which you may use once as he leaves you to go and once after he gets there. Important at this point to impart information to the dog immediately. You may or may not be asking for a sit at this point -- you have to be able to run 10 feet and be there for the food reward fairly fast!

After one successful run without the food, do about 15- 20 more with food, lengthening the distance to about 60 feet. He gets food every time. Next day, go back to the exact same spot and set him up at about 10 feet and send him. If he goes, move back about 5 feet and send him again. No food. Then repeat the 15 to 20 -- going back to 60 feet all with food. You are trying to build confidence and repetition which allows the dog to learn and hopefully remember.

Next day, yep! Same place, only now go to 20 or 30 feet. Do this until you can go to that place and the dog will do two 60 foot go outs without food and the next day, start all over with another wall or babygates set up in another place. You can move around the local school and the dog sometimes will screw up even though to you it looks like the same brick wall! So you help and repeat until "run" means go as fast as you can straight out!! Always do the first 2 go outs without food after this exercise is learned. Reinforce with food after the first 2 early on and then go to randomizing the other 15 or 20. Correct by running the dog out if he doesn't go at any time. This is only after you have taught him the fundamentals at home where is is confident.


From Darby Lewes, (

The oldest target in the book is a raggedy bath towel. Spread the towel on the ground and train the dog to go sit on it, gradually increasing the distance to go-out levels. Then tear the towel in half. Train the dog to sit on it, gradually increasing the distance to go-out levels. Then tear the towel in half. Train the dog to go sit on it, gradually increasing...

You get the idea.

Eventually you have a postage stamp sized target, handy for pocket or purse, which can go everywhere with you.

From Joan Dawson, (

A popular target method is to use a piece of torn towel, which you can dcrease gradually in size. A variation on this is to add a bite of food on the towel. Once your piece is small enough the dog can't see it until they are quite close, so they always run out as they think it will be there. If it is never gone more than one time in a row they always trust it will be there as will the bite of food. One needs a helper to place or remove the target when the dog isn't looking. And you should NEVER have a dog sniff the ground for food. Why would they? If they don't see the target they have no reason to think there might be something there.

From Nancy Light, (

The business of how to handle the target had really stumped me until I used a method I learned from Lori Drouin On obed-comp. Actually, this is a modification of what she does (as least as I understood it) but it has worked very well for me.

I had also used food on the target or as the target. This was in order to help create a lot of motivation for an intense go out as Kyla (as have all my previous dogs) is very food motivated. The problem was in putting in the turn and sit of how to get her to turn and sit quickly and not keep looking for the food. I have used at various times, a long line or Flexi lead, stamping the ground, verbal correction ( a loud "SIT"), and many many times of separating the turn and sit from the go out. None of this was satisfactory. She is so food motivated that I could never consistently turn her off the food and have her respond well to the sit command. I didn't like how loud my verbal needed to be. If the food wasn't there I got short go outs or looking for the food. I know that touching the target can be shaped without having food on the target itself, but I did not go through that process so I can't speak to it. Having the food actually out there seemed a better way to me, to get the drive out to the target.

So what I use now is a small plastic dish with a lid. The food is there, but she can't get it. She knows it is there but must turn and sit first before I will give her the food from the dish. She must look to me to get the food for her, but since she knows the sit come first I am getting very consistant full length go-outs in all kinds of settings with a very quick sit in a nice quiet voice. The dish is clear plastic with an off white top which blends nicely with some of the indoor backgrounds I train at. Sometimes it is on the ground, sometimes it is up high (taped to the wall, or on a ledge), sometimes buried under a mat (makes a visible bump, sometimes in grass, which depending on the length of grass varies in visibility. sometimes on a sidewalk, or even below the curb where she can't see it.

The first few time she picked up the dish and played with it a bit, but since that behavior was unrewarded, it extinguished. I occasionally have her jump, but more often go out to her and give her a bit of food from me, and then from the dish. I can't say she is 100% straight, but the percentage is pretty high. If she is off, I just abort the exercise and try again. But her turn and sits are very responsive, something I definitely had been having a problem with. I usually get the jumps out, but have also done go outs with no jumps when we are in a strange place and I have my dish with me.



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