I train the Vorous
This is how I've always done it and it has seemed to work very well for me
and my dogs. I end up with nice, consistent, and solid send a ways. I've only done this on 5 dogs so it's not a proven method by any means.
I take a small white bath towel folded in half and place it at the end of the field with treats on it. I think I've always started with food for the imprinting. I take my dog with me when I set up this "target". While I'm getting things ready I keep a hold of my dog and talk to him (ooohhh, what's this? etc.) to get him really interested (usually just seeing the food is enough to catch their interest though). Then I lead my dog to about 5 - 10 ft away (depending on the size and enthusiasm of the dog). During the whole time I talk happily to my dog. We turn to face the "target" and I put the dog into a sit. I make sure that I have my dog's attention and hype him up by saying "Do you want some? yeah?" etc. Then I give the command voraus and we both burst from our spot running to the "target". I may repeat the command voraus while we're running. As soon as we reach the target the dog is allowed to eat the treats. While the dog is eating I'm giving lots of calm praise (stroking the dog, "eeesss a goood boooyy" etc.) We repeat this whole exercise a few times per training session. Enough times to get that repetitive thing going, but not too many times to cause burn out. I make sure to always end on a good one. Once I am sure that the dog understands what is meant by voraus I will discontinue to run with the dog every time. I will begin to let the dog start running first then I follow so that I can be there shortly after he gets to the target. So I'm actually following fairly close. Then I'll begin to lag further behind until I can send the dog while I stay at the starting point and once the dog reaches the target I'll then go up to him. I will sometimes go ahead and run with the dog still just to keep that enthusiasm level up.
Doing the down:
Now once I am sure that the dog will go away from me when he is sent I will begin to introduce the down part of the exercise. I run with my dog so that as soon as we reach the "target" I can have him down. I will usually still have the food on the towel to begin with that way while the dog is eating I do a very nice down. Again calmly praising the dog once he is down. When I feel that the dog is getting the hang of downing when we reach the "target", I'll gradually begin to put less food down so that I can give him more and more of the treat once he has downed until there is no food on the towel and he gets the reward only from me. Once this is going well, I will again begin to lag behind the dog when I send him until it gets to the point where I can send the dog and I don't move from the start until the dog is down and then I walk up to him and give him his reward. When this stage is solid I'll go the next step and wait until I'm in heel position before giving the reward. Then eventually the dog doesn't get the reward until he is in a sit
and the exercise is complete. I forgot to mention that when I tell the dog voraus I use my whole arm to point and don't take it down until we/the dog get to the "target". I also put my whole body into it and bend my knees. This way if the dog is unsure about where to go if he looks back at me I'm still showing him the way. An excellent example of this position can be found on the cover of the 1999 July/Aug issue of the mag. The picture is of Tim Cruser and his dog Quattro.
Up to this point every thing has been done at a fairly close distance to the "target". I believe in laying a strong foundation before increasing distance and decreasing (eventually eliminating) the "target". Once I feel I have a good, solid foundation I will very gradually increase the distance from the target and at the same time decrease the size of the towel/"target". (That way it appears like the "target" gets smaller because we're farther away from it.) I will keep folding the towel in half and in half again until I can switch over to a wash cloth and then begin folding it until I can switch over to a white plastic lid. I have about 3 different size lids that I use. Then I'll switch to a clear lid (which is actually kind of foggy looking). I usually don't have to use the clear lid for very long before I can eliminate the "target" all together. One of the most
important things is to ALWAYS place the "target" at the end of the field. It's your starting position that will change. Once the distance from the "target" has increased enough to get in those 10 paces before sending the dog I include that into the exercise also. I like the dog to still have at least 10 feet to run after being sent once the 10 paces from the start are included in the exercise. Depending upon the dog and whether it has a higher food or ball drive I may switch over to using a ball as the reward after the initial imprinting stages are complete. I have been fortunate in that I have always been able to make the voraus a very happy exercise for my dogs. I talk to them and keep their enthusiasm level up during the exercise. Actually I think my biggest problem with the exercise is getting them to heel those 10 paces because they want to go so bad. But hey I'll take that problem any day over not having good speed or not downing.
I don't think I have left any thing out. But I may have. I wanted to respond to you on the list (even though it's a lengthy response) because I hope that if anyone has anything to add they will and we'll both
learn something. So if anyone has a method that has worked better for them I hope they will share. I have 2 more dogs that I'll be doing this method with very soon, but one does not have that great of a food drive. So it will be interesting to see what I'm going to have to do with her to get the desired results.
Good luck with yours!
Permission given on 1/17/00