Today, I decided to revisit left and right, maybe this time, we'll have better luck in getting this skill down!
To start, I will have two identical objects placed to the left and right of Wally with him sitting front. I'll signal with my arm outstretched as well as voice cue, the ever so creative choices of "Left" and "Right" (I know, such a stroke of artistic genius, right?).
This will set him up to succeed in a lot of ways. He can follow the arm to get a clue to the direction. He has a target on the ground that looks very different from the environment, and there's the voice cue he can use if he wants to pick up on that.
Using a target also gets him into the idea that he's supposed to go until he "hits something" or is given another instruction. The first time I tried this, he went as far as my arm stretched and that's it (because I treated him from the hand there - taught him a bad concept).
I am still giving him the treats, but I'm marking him when he gets to the target (eventually, I'll put the treats ON the targets). That should help him get the concept down.
After each attempt, he has to come back to front position. This resets him and lets him get used to the movement of going left and right. This is opposed to him maybe facing left and then turning around to go right.
The session went well. As he continued to succeed, I mixed up the timing of when I gave the next signal. This helps practice focus and patience to wait for the signal, especially as he gets excited and wants to go for the next target.
Out on walks, we should be able to try something similar. We can either use the targets or pick an object like a street light and position him so that he can go left or right on the signal to the object.
Eventually, we will go with this on retrieves. I'll throw the dumbbell left or right and signal and use the "left" and "right" cues and arm signals to have him go get the dumbbell. Also planned is working the same exercise above with the targets, but with me at a distance from him.