One of the things that became apparent to me this past summer is the importance of maintaining your basics throughout your dog’s training career. Many of the tools that your dog mastered when graduating from basics have gradually eroded. Swim By is the one skill that seems to deteriorate the quickest. The Swim By technique is most often used when a dog elects to cheat the water on his return. Ideally the dog should respond by taking a 90 degree over when asked to do so. In a perfect world, he would continue on that course until released by the handler. In reality, most handlers are lucky to get the dog to cast 5-10 feet. In many cases, the handler gets frustrated and abandons the effort all together. This is less than ideal.
A few years ago Dennis Voigt shared with me a drill he calls “Swim By/Tune Up”. It is a variation of the original Tune Up Drill. It starts by running leg one of a Water Tune Up and teaching an exit point. The exit point will be used as your exit point for the swim by portion of the drill. As you continue through the legs of the tune up, you will receive your dog at the designated exit point. As in other Tune Up Drills, this drill will be repeated for multiple days. On day two you will gradually coax your dog to the exit point. Each time you will start to demand more of a swim by effort on the return. By day three you will begin to see what a real swim by effort should look like. You will want to take advantage of the opportunity to reinforce the swim by with a nick. The goal is not only to reintroduce the mechanics of swimming by, but clarifying the correction sequence used for a refusal to swim by. You should reread the previous sentence. I suggest you periodically use swim by after completing this drill in order to maintain its effectiveness.
Below I have included a photo illustrating this drill. The red lines depict the tune up blinds and the white lines are the swim by return lines. If you have any questions drop me a note and I will explain it further.
Thank you and good training!