I need to work with Thomas to get some videos of this, but Max is officially a retrieve master! Why did I not teach her this earlier? It was much easier than I was making it out to be with my procrastinating and whining.
Here is a breakdown of how she learned:
1. I gave her a bead and placed an empty yogurt container under her so that when she dropped the bead, it would go in the container. Still, she flung the bead quite frequently in the beginning. I decided to reward her with little bites of cookie instead of safflower seeds. It wasn't as healthy, but she loves cookies so was willing to work harder! After I knew that she knew what I wanted (place the bead in the container), we went back to safflower seeds.
2. When she nicely placed the bead in the container (as opposed to accidentally dropping it in there), I gave her a jackpot of being picked up by me, getting a kiss on the beak, and being told how she was so wonderful.
3. When she was consistently (18 out of 20) putting the bead in the container, I moved the container slightly to the right so that she'd have to move her head to drop the bead in. After she got that down, I moved the container slightly to the left so she'd have to move in the other direction.
4. I then used different objects, in increasing levels of different, to replace the bead:
5. I moved the container so that she'd have to walk a few steps to place the bead inside. Once again, she was not willing to do this for safflower seeds, so the cookies came out for a few more training sessions.
6. I placed the bead on the ground and she had to pick up the bead and walk it over to place it in the container. She will currently walk the bead over different levels of her stand if she knows the reward is a tiny piece of cheese, but not for safflower seeds :) We usually practice this on the counter so that we have a flat surface, instead of on her stand where we do the majority of our training.
That's where we are now. We need to work on #6 some more -- going from further distances, etc. Once she gets that down, I'm going to pull out the ring toss toy I'd purchased a few years ago. There are so many other tricks that are based on retrieve; I can't wait to see what else she can learn!