UKC Glove Exercises: Directed Marked Retrieve & Directed Signal Retrieve: Part II

gloves obedience teaching the exercises Mar 25, 2020

Part II: The Directed Signal Retrieve

The Directed Signal Retrieve epitomizes the importance of breaking down an exercise and teaching your dog the individual pieces before you try the complete exercise. You need to think about this exercise in three parts,
1. Your dog's ability to go where sent as taught in the Directed Marked Retrieve,
2. Your dog's ability to take a cast to a glove, and,
3. Teaching your dog that sometimes he will stop and sit in the middle of the ring and sometimes he will go all the way to glove 2.

You need to be sure that you keep these three skills separate and spend plenty of time practicing them separately.

Step 1: Learning to Cast to the Gloves: Teach the Back Cast First!

While you are teaching the Directed Marked Retrieve, there is no reason that you cannot introduce your dog to the casting necessary to perform the Directed Signal Retrieve. It is important to start with the "back" cast that will ultimately send your dog from the center of the ring back to glove 2.

Which arm do you use to signal your dog into a down position? You should use the opposite arm to cast your dog back to glove 2. Every dog naturally turns back to his left or his right, however, you will make this exercise simpler if you insist that he turn to run back the same direction every time.

The dog in the photos knows a signal to drop with the right arm. Therefore, he is learning to go for glove 2 with the left arm as the signal. If you signal the down with your left hand, you will have to reverse the following instructions.

Begin with a toy, or glove, whichever your dog will be motivated to retrieve. Sit your dog facing you. Place the object slightly behind him and at an angle to your left. Point to the object and tell him to "fetch" (Photo 1). He should turn to his right to pick up the object. Continue to drop the object, and cast your dog "back" to retrieve. As he catches on, increase both the distance to the object and the distance that you are from him when you send him. As you back up, your signal will become higher, as if you are throwing the object beyond him.


Photo 1: Chill spins to his right as I point to the glove behind him.

Feel free to practice with several gloves in the glove 2 location. By putting a pile of gloves out at glove 2, you can continue training without having to walk the glove out between each retrieve. If your dog tries to pick up more than one glove at a time, you can insist that he not do so by saying "come" as he picks up the first glove, or putting him on a leash and making him come with one glove. You decide if this is a battle worth fighting. Weigh the convenience of having more than one glove with the need to hassle him for picking up several at a time, but don't use a pile of gloves and then let him bring in more than one at a time.

The back cast is the most important and the most difficult. Start with the back cast and get your dog really good at it before you continue with the other casts. Make this a fun game that you play every evening for his favorite toy. Be picky about the direction of his turn. Always make him turn to his right to go back and retrieve his glove (Photo 2).


Photo 2: Chill and I practice his back cast to a pile of gloves behind him.

Step 2: Learning the Over Casts

When you are confident that your dog is secure with the back cast, it is time to introduce the over casts. Sit your dog in the middle of the ring and let him watch you place glove 1 or 3. You do not want him to think that he has to turn back to find an over glove. He should be able to see them from his sitting position so angle them in slightly. Stand in front of your dog and point to the glove. Give your dog his command and signal to retrieve. Your cast can be as simple as if you are pointing to the glove. If he doesn't move, step toward the glove; continue to point to encourage him to go (Photos 3 & 4). It won't be long before you can put out both gloves. Any time that your dog goes the wrong direction, stop him with a "no, come" and meet him in the middle of the ring to re-sit him so that you can start again. As your dog catches on, increase your distance from the dog until you can stand in the handler's position (Diagram 1, Part I) and your dog can be left in a sit in the middle of the ring. 

Photo 3: I point to the glove, and step to my right...    

Photo 4: and then tell Chill to fetch.

Now it's time to sort out the back and over casts. If you have taught your dog to turn to his right to go back, it will be easier for you to add glove 3 first since he will be turning a different direction for glove 2 and glove 3. Be sure to practice more glove 2 retrieves than glove 3 as glove 2 will prove to be the harder cast to master. When your dog can successfully sort out the casts to glove 2 and glove 3, it's time to practice the difference between the over cast to glove 1 and the back cast to glove 2. Again, as you are sorting this out don't hesitate to sit the dog in a position where he can see glove 1 because it's slightly in front of him. You will find that this combination is more difficult because both these gloves involve your left arm and your dog getting up and turning to his right. He may have some trouble sorting the two casts out. If you are having trouble, move in closer to him and exaggerate your casts by stepping toward him to encourage the back cast, or to the side as you give an over cast.

When your dog is virtually perfect at differentiating the casts between both the above mentioned pairs of gloves, it's time to place all three gloves and practice random casts to each of them. At this point, the single biggest mistake that handlers make is to get in a hurry to add the send and sit prior to the cast. There is no reason to try to perform the entire exercise until he is practically perfect on each cast when started from the center of the ring. Remember, shorter is easier, so if you are having trouble, decrease the distance between yourself and your dog (Photo 5).

Photo 5: With Chill in the center of the ring, I place a glove at positions 1 and 3, and a pile of gloves at 2. We're ready to practice all the casts in a variety of order. 

Step 3: Teaching the Send and Sit

UKC Utility has three occasions that the dog must leave your side and run down the center of the ring; the go-out, the direct send to glove 2, and now the send and sit for the first part of the Directed Signal Retrieve. It is imperative that your dog is quite familiar with the go-out exercise before you start this part of the glove exercise. Otherwise you could run into a lot of problems with short go-outs! If you still have to show your dog where go -out is in a new location, you are not yet ready to begin this exercise. In Teaching the Go-out Parts I & II, a technique is taught that uses guides on the ground to illustrate the straight path to the dog. If your dog can do a go-out with two sets of guides in a new location, you are ready, and at a huge advantage, when you begin to teach the Send and Sit (Photo 6).


Photo 6: Chill demonstrates his ability to do go-outs using two sets of white guides to mark his path. This method of go-outs provides an easy transitions to the Directed Signal Retrieve.

If your dog is accustomed to doing go-outs between two sets of guides, teaching him the Send and Sit is a fairly easy transition. All you need to do is teach him that he will sometimes be required to sit between the first set of guides in the middle of the ring. In fact, it is so easy, that if you have not been using guides, it is worth your adding guides to your go-out exercise so that you can use them to aid you with your Send and Sit.

Begin with a set of guides in the center of the ring and several gloves at glove 2. Put a long line on your dog. Send him to retrieve glove 2 from just beyond the guides (Photo 7).

Photo 7: I send Chill to a pile of gloves through a set of white guides in the center of the ring.

On the next send you are going to say his name and "sit" as he goes between the center guides. If necessary, use your long line to stop him as gently as possible. As soon as he turns around, reward him by throwing him a toy or treat (Photos 8 & 9). Guaranteed, the first few times he is going to think you have lost your mind, but it won't take long for him to figure out that sometimes he gets to run straight through the guides for a fun retrieve, and sometimes he sits between the guides and something fun comes from you. Using the guides offers two advantages. First, it will help show him that you expect a tight turn and sit. Secondly, for the dogs that worry, it demonstrates exactly where you expect him to sit, so after he passes through the guides without hearing a sit command, he will more confidently run all the way to glove 2.

Photo 8: On the next send, I use my long line to stop him  

Photo 9: As soon s he sits between the guides on my sit command, I reward him by throwing him a ball.

Think of teaching the Stop and Sit like the opposite of teaching a drop on recall. You are going to get some anticipation and some confusion. If your dog doesn't sit, you stop him as gently as possible with the rope. If he anticipates the stop do not give him a second command to retrieve glove 2 as he will come to depend on this. Instead, go to him, take him by the collar, turn him back around and send him on his way. It is important that you "rewind" the erroneous turn. In other words, if your dog turned to his left to turn and sit, you need to take him by the collar and turn him back the direction of his turn, to his right (Photo 10). If you turn him right, you will have let him turn in a full circle in the center of the ring. This can very easily lead to a dog that, when unsure, spins in a circle in the middle of the ring. Dogs that learn to spin often do it very quickly, giving the handler little or no time to react and spinning is a very difficult problem to fix! Prevent it from starting by "rewinding" all anticipated sits!

Photo 10: On a subsequent send, Chill anticipates the turn and sit. I take him by the collar, turn him back around, and send him on to the glove.

There is some argument about whether or not you should use a go-out or retrieve command when you know that you intend to stop the dog in the middle of the ring. This is a retrieve exercise so tell him to "fetch." You may stop him and cast him, but there are gloves out and he can be sure that he is doing a retrieve, not a go-out! You want your go-out command to be without confusion. If you say "go-out," there will be no gloves present and he should always expect to go all the way to the end of the ring!

As soon as your dog is stopping and sitting in the middle of the ring without the aid of the rope, you can introduce the back cast from that location. Now the drill has three parts; he may go all the way, he may stop and receive a reward from you, or he may stop and cast back to the waiting glove.

During this transition, you must learn to read your dog! If he goes hesitantly, you should probably let him go all the way to glove 2. If he stops hesitantly, you should probably reward him for the stop by throwing him a toy or treat, and if he goes confidently and stops well, you can send him on to glove 2. There is no pattern or recipe to follow. You need to try to interpret your dog's behavior to best determine what to do. You need to do this exercise until you rarely, if ever, need to reward the dog for turning and sitting. He should be so confident about sitting in the middle that he cheerfully goes all the way to glove 2, or turns and sits and then willingly casts back to glove 2.

Step 4: The Entire Exercise

Once your dog is comfortable with the above exercise, there are only two things left to do. 1.Add the remaining gloves, and 2. Shrink the size of your guides.

If your dog casts to glove 2 by turning over his right shoulder, begin by adding glove 3. Place glove 3 in a location where your dog will be able to see it when he turns and sits. Again, this may require you to put it at an angle in and over from the guides. Now you are going to be tested on your ability to keep your dog's training in balance. You are going to have to interpret whether you should send him all the way to glove 2, or can stop him and cast him to glove 2 or 3. If you stop him too many times in a row, he will anticipate the stop on the next send. However, if you do not stop him often enough, you will get a sloppy sit in the center.

 If you are comfortable with your dog's ability to stop nicely in the middle, then you need to replace the obvious guides with something a little less obvious. If your guides have been white, use two neutral colored dowel rods or two leashes to form the guides. You may be able to take the guides away completely, but don't hesitate to put them back if your Stop and Sit becomes slow or starts to look like a U-turn instead of a pivot.

When you feel good about your dog's ability to differentiate between glove 2 and glove 3, try putting out glove 1 and glove 2, knowing that since the turn to both those gloves is to the dog's right, you may have more trouble sorting these two out.

Finally, you can let your dog watch you put out all three gloves and try a variety of sends to glove 2 intermixed with a Stop and Sit and cast to any one of the gloves. Make notes about your dog's errors. If he is consistently failing a particular cast, you need to back up by sitting him in the middle of the ring to practice that cast. If he's consistently failing the Stop and Sit, you need to back up to Step 3 and work on that component.

Regardless, as you put the exercise together your dog will make errors. Take the following advice;

1. If he anticipates the sit in the center, go to him, take him by the collar, and "rewind" him as you send him on to glove
2. If he casts to a wrong glove, stop him by saying "no, come" and meet him in the middle of the ring. Put him back in a sitting position and try the cast again. Then repeat the entire sequence with a send, sit and cast.
3. Mix plenty of straight sends to glove 2 with stopping and casting so that he doesn't always anticipate a sit.
4. If his sit in the center gets lazy or slow, go ahead and reward him for a sit by throwing him a toy or treat.
5. After being cast to glove 1 or 3, he may leave your side heading for 1 or 3, instead of down the middle of the ring. In this case, you need to spend more time on the Directed Marked Retrieve and make sure he remembers how to go down the middle of the ring
6. Don't dwell on the entire exercise. The dog is never too well trained to go back to practicing casting by itself, without doing the Send and Sit.
7. There is a benefit to practicing the Send and Sit exercise with glove 2 and one other glove out. Don't always feel obligated to have all three gloves in place. Simplifying simply makes for fewer mistakes and a more confident dog!

Putting the Directed Marked Retrieve and the Directed Signal Retrieve in Sequence:

Before you can confidently enter the UKC Utility ring, you have got to practice the two glove exercises in order. Most judges do not have you retrieve the same glove on both exercises, so there are a limited number of combinations that you can get. In other words, if you get glove 1 on the Directed Marked Retrieve, you will get either glove 2 or 3 on the Directed Signal Retrieve. The following chart shows the possible combinations.

 Exercise                                                           glove number

Directed Marked Retrieve        1          1          2          2          3          3

 Directed Signal Retrieve          2          3          1          3          1          2

The Directed Signal Retrieve is easiest if you get glove 2 on the Directed Marked Retrieve because if your dog runs down the center of the ring on the first retrieve, he is more apt to run down the center correctly for the Stop and Sit on the Directed Signal Retrieve. However, without plenty of practice, you may find that glove 2 is the hardest glove on the Directed Marked Retrieve.

If you receive glove 1 or glove 3 on the Directed Marked Retrieve, that exercise is decidedly simpler, but it makes it harder to get the send down the middle for the Directed Signal Retrieve.

In any event, with a trained dog, a meaningful training session on the two glove exercises might entail the following sequence;

Send the dog for glove 2
Send and Sit, then cast to 1
Send and Sit, then cast to 2
Send the dog for glove 2


Send the dog for glove 1
Send the dog for glove 3
Send and Sit, then cast to 2
Send the dog for glove 2

A little harder;

Send the dog for glove 1
Send and Sit, then cast to 2
Send the dog for glove 3
Send the dog for glove 2


Send the dog for glove 3
Send and Sit, then cast to 2
Send the dog for glove 1
Send the dog for glove 2

Notice that the sequences end by sending the dog down the middle for glove 2. This reinforces two important points. First, that you don't want the dog to anticipate the turn and sit, and secondly, you want him to ignore glove 1 and 3 and be willing to go all the way to glove 2.

Take notes on which glove order seems most difficult for your dog and then create your own sequences. However, don't dwell on any one problem. Keeping your dog willing to do all the sequences is the key. It's very easy to concentrate on one glove or cast as a problem and then find that your dog has gotten weak on another glove or cast!

Whatever you do, it's easy to feel a need to practice a lot of gloves! Try to break up your glove training with other exercises. Do a sequence, then practice your signals, heeling, or articles, then come back to your glove practice. You can never practice too much casting, so frequently work it separately by simply sitting your dog in the center without doing the Stop and Sit. You will also avoid trouble by frequently using an innocuous set of guides to keep your Stop and Sit quick and tight! You can master these exercises, and a dog that performs these two exercises well is one of the most impressive displays of obedience that our sport has to offer. 

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