Practise: Chaser

by | Sep 2, 2019 | Klog | 0 comments

“Good chasers learn from good bowling”


A casual launch of the food will fit the description of reward the dog, but this is the most vulnerable delivery process that diminishes the reward value for the dog.

What we often see:

~ The person emotionally, dismisses the process with a throw away sort of attitude, even turns away as the dog goes to collect.

~ The throw is so wild the dog begins the chase and then freezes, they can’t understand what has happened to the treat.

~ The food is too well disguised against the surface and the chase ends in a 3 minute search, usually whilst the person stands still and does not to assist except prompt the dog to “find it”.

Dogs are exceedingly good at chasing down prey when it behaves like prey.

This means it is:

below or at eye level,
they are running after it, or they see it in their  peripheral vision,
it is not coming straight towards them.

If the treats goes flying above their head they will have great difficulty tracking it, we then see them stare at the ground hoping to see the drop movement.

You will need to visualise the action as a bowler, not for cricket or baseball, but 10 pin or crown green bowling. To be accurate always point your hand towards the landing spot. This helps the treat fly in a straight line because the tendency is to throw with a curved arm which pulls the treats across the front of you.

In addition if you have thrown or tossed a treat and can see it but the dog cannot, I use the pointed finger, and “look” right over the top of the treat. I am sure the dogs think I sniff through my finger not my nose, but they have extended the “point” to at least twice the length of my arm from the treat.

Your dog will learn cues from your body language: where you look, face and ultimately point your hands towards gives them 90% of the information. The movement of the treat will then fill in the missing 10%. The more accurate you are with this action the move pleasure the dog will gain – and I am sure they will be only too pleased to help train you in this skill.

There is no advantage in being rushed, the collection of the treat, the preparation to bowl all give the dog clear cues about what is going to happen – this is the essence of removing uncertainty or confusion.

Enjoy the process, invest in it and be accurate.

Love The Chase

This is going to become one of the most exciting rewards you dog can experience, particularly if they enjoy chasing – which is most dogs to some degree. The benefit over using a ball to chase, is that no retrieving is required, no conflict about releasing the catch to you, and you can begin another repetition of the behaviour.

It will increase the arousal of the next behaviour. If you lock this pattern to a behaviour it will quickly and significantly change that behaviour.

The direction of chase

If you bowl directly at the dog their anticipation of this action will lock them into position – out there. This may be exactly what you are looking for, perhaps training movement at a distance, or the opposite if you need to the dog to return to you.

If you want the dog to run towards you, then the direction should be in the same direction the dog is travelling. As the dog begins to run towards you, begin the cue that you are about to bowl, then swivel 180° so the dog is coming from behind you. Make sure the dog can see your hand movement and bowl forwards.

Use a cue

It is important that the dog is not launched into chasing without preparation. I use the verbal cue “Chaser” (in recognition of Chaser the collie who knew a 1000 words) this allows the dog to separate away and alert to the action.

This can become a useful cue for arousal and piqued interest. It certainly serves very well as a return to me cue!

Use the right type of food

Depending on the surface you are training on your food should:

Visually contrast with the surface
Be large enough so that the dog can see the movement easily
Not gather grass, fluff and rubbish as it rolls
Holds its shape when landing and not shatter into 1000 pieces.

One evening at a class for teaching lifeskills, a lady returned with Mozzarella balls for her small dog to chase. These were like small edible ping-pong balls. He so enjoyed this that everyone was impressed to shop for the same treats. I am not a cheese eater and enthusiastically scanned the aisles, but then discover the price. Nope, not round here.

I like chunks of cooked chicken and to prevent them splintering on landing, sprinkle them in a little oil and bake for about 30 minutes so that they have a crust. This has a name: chaser chicken!

Measure your skill

I am a left hander. This made sure that I learned to use my right hand as much as my left. We lefties as kids learn to adapt because the world is predominantly designed for right hander folk. When I competed in Obedience, I spent many evenings learning to accurately throw the dumbbell with my right hand. I was determined my dog would have the same chance of success as every other dog.

You will be more flexible if you can not only bowl accurately, but also use either hand. It just takes determination and practise. Successful bowling means there can only be one treat in the hand, so don’t try to bowl from a fist full of food.

A little evening at a local bowling club would help, but if you only partner if you dog I am sure they will play with you.

This is your check list:

You should be able to bowl long as well as short.
You should ideally bowl with the hand that is nearest to the dog, so they have a clear view of the action.
The perfect direction is at 90° to the dog for the best angle for their skills. If the dog it at your 12 o’clock, then throw to 9 if you are right handed, and 3 if you are left handed.
If you are clean in the preparation the dog will chase and nail it without any hesitation

(A chase and nail it 10 points for the dog and 10 points for person, a chase and over run, is 10 points for person, but only 8 for the dog – more development on proprioception and perceptive skills)

Knowledge & Understanding

Skills &

Measuring competency

Stage 1 – Unconsciously unskilled 

We don’t know what we don’t know. We are inept and unaware of it.

This is where we all begin. As a trainer the recipe instructs minimally as “treat”. We now look at this and realise delivering a treat is a skill. There are many considerations and motor patterns to practise and develop.

Stage 2 – Consciously unskilled 

We know what we don’t know. We start to learn at this level when sudden awareness of how poorly we do something shows us how much we need to learn.

As we progress in our training, we may return to this stage many times as we become aware of skipping pass a skill.

Stage 3 – Consciously skilled

Trying the skill out, experimenting, practising. We now know how to do the skill the right way, but need to think and work hard to do it.

This is where the really hard work sets in. We may need to step away, re-learn our skills, self-checking our progress. Seeking feedback and working past the errors and future-less habits that came from skipping this stage when we first began.


Stage 4 – Unconsciously skilled. 

If we continue to practice and apply the new skills, eventually we arrive at a stage where they become easier, and given time, even natural.

This is heaven. This is where we find the flow and rhythm in teaching. This is where it seems natural and unforced, where our confidence comes through and we can lay down a learning pathway that brings pleasure and joy to learner and teacher.


Application & Activities


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