I based my idea that applying food distractions to the retrieve over the high jump should be an easy transition based on these facts -
1) Margot does not pass any dog in any of her retrieve classes unless they will retrieve their dumbbell through a tunnel of food.
2) We JUST practed expanding that concept by having a food tunnel for the recall and place command.
3)The retrieve over the high jump is just a combination of those two things.
I started by just putting two piles on each side of the dumbell (placed). Once he got that we created a tunnel that looked like this...
For some reason that I am unsure of, this was an extrodinarily difficult concept for Rugby. He saw these treats, which were the same exact ones from the other day, way too tempting to trust himself around. He tried lots of ways to avoid the treats. From refusing to jump at all, to trying to jump onto the couch and get around the treats to come from the back side....
...to jumping, staring at the dumbell, looking back at me, then just coming back without it. This was just really hard. We did stop each of these problems as they arose, but it just caused him to become more creative. He needed my help a lot before we had an entirely successful attempt. I put his string on him to keep him from making those large loops on the couch and then off the couch to get to the dumbbell. Then he got it - and he KNEW he got it.
That is by far my favorite part of working with Rugby. That moment when it all just clicks, and he wishes he could do it over and over and over agin. When he holds his head high and his tail won't stop wagging. For those moments - it is all worth it.