The Vizsla Newzsletter (Feb / March 99)
Creeping Correction

copyright 1999 by C. Walton, "CJ", Edgecomb, ME
posted to the working-gundog list on the Internet

The question asked was "I also have a bitch who was trained along more traditional lines who has managed to catch a couple birds (flying out of the trap) and is now back to square one. She's not holding her points, creeping and breaking -- all the really obnoxious, difficult behaviors to remedy. You alluded to correcting this type of behavior. Any ideas that you're willing to share with philistine"

CJ answers: According to the Old Testament philistines were used to being battered with the jawbone of an ass... looks like it's going to happen again...

Creeping is a particularly nasty problem to fix since it requires a correction and, unfortunately, corrections for creeping often lead to all kinds of behaviour problems including blinking (deliberate avoidance of birds). The reason is obvious, the dog is only thinking about the scent of that bird while it is creeping and when you yell "NO !" and grab the dog what is the first thought in the dog's mind?

Image: Spirit (Tigar Lily of Szep-Allat) - not creeping - finding pigeons in field trial training.
Photo by Susan Straughan

Yes, absolutely have a problem because dog doesn't link the correction to creeping but to the scent of the bird and you are suddenly teetering at the brink of disaster. What to do? Well, you have to have a diversion, a tactic that will separate the creeping behaviour from the bird scent so that dog will understand that the correction is not for scenting but for moving. This is a problem in canine logic and the answer isn't verbal because dogs don't understand human languages. The creeping repair scenario requires a hat. A hat that you wear without thinking about it, a hat that will become something that both you, and the dog, have to think about.

You are approaching dog, dog is getting ready to creep or is even walk past the dog and remove your hat and drop it on the ground directly in front of dog... keep on walking for a few steps. When dog steps past the hat you can step back, grab dog by the scruff of the neck and the hind quarters and say "no" firmly while lifting the dog up and placing it directly behind the hat. Then (this sounds weird but bear with me) gently stroke the dog's shoulder vertically and say softly; "good dog" then rise and walk forward again to the vicinity of the bird (preferably a caged bird).

If the dog creeps past the hat again you repeat the exact same performance: "no" pick up dog, drop behind hat, stroke shoulder..."good dog" and continue on. What's going on ? Well you are teaching the dog (I hope) that there's no sin in being attracted by the scent but the rule is: all the sniffing you want but "just don't go past the hat !" The fundamental idea is that the hat is a marker, a diversion, that establishes a limit to movement but not to scenting and pointing. The dog is not being corrected for approaching the bird scent, it is corrected because it moved past that damned hat. This effectively breaks the dog's concentration on the scent of the bird and so when the dog is placed behind the hat you must stroke it and assure the dog that the scent and pointing is just fine. It usually doesn't take long for the dog to recognize the hat as an obstacle to further movement. After some work with this you will find that dog will point and when you drop the hat in front of it the dogs' position in space is fixed.

No more creeping because dog is stopping for the hat. Now there's only one you have to use the damned hat every time mutt points ?

When dog is rock steady on point with the hat you can advance to step two, drop the hat, look at dog, bend down and pick up the hat, move forward past dog. If dog moves drop the hat again and correct the dog. Soon you are at the stage when the point is fixed when you drop the hat and pick it up again, then you progress to removing the hat, touching the ground in front of the dog with the hat and then putting it back on your head. Eventually the dog is completely weaned from the hat although you may need a bit of a reminder now and then...just take off your hat and hold it in your hand when you walk past dog.

Try it, you just might like it. Cj

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