This week in Bug's agility class we reviewed wraps and front crosses. We also discussed the placement of rewards. Before I started taking classes with Kathleen I rarely treated anywhere but from my hand - what do I have but a bunch of dogs that stick to me like glue. Hmmm...
I am happy to report that my "bowling" of treats has gotten much better. I rarely release my treat too early and I almost always throw my treats versus treating from my hand. There will be times in the future when I treat from my hand I am sure, but for right now this is working really well for us. Interestingly enough Kathleen also talked about using toys as a reward and I had brought Bug's tug (and a couple of Ike's fave toys, too: the sheepy octopus and the braying donkey) last night with the intention of trying it out in the class setting.
Kathleen gave us a handout called "7 Habits of Handlers with Demotivated Dogs" by Elise Paffrath. The habit that I am currently trying to break is when I get lost or make a mistake on course it is very obvious to Ike/Bug. And it has nothing to do with them. How unfair is that? What Debi said a few weeks ago at her seminar, which other trainers have said to me before ad nauseum in different words, is your dog should walk off the course thinking you are both brilliant - whether you screwed up royally or not. I am getting a bit better about not being flustered by xyz (whatever went "wrong") and rewarding my dog for being brilliant and putting up with me - this comes into play more with Ike than Bug, but it is equally important with both dogs.
In the first sequence, when I walked it, I couldn't decide if I wanted to do a front cross between 4 and 5 or 5 and 6. I asked Kathleen if it mattered and she said that technically wherever you can do a take-off side front cross you can also do a landing side front cross. Huh. I didn't know this! However, in this exercise she wanted us to do our front cross between 4 and 5 and then wrap from 6 to 7.
I think I must have continued my forward motion a bit too long because Bug's wrap was a bit wide. I think he handled the sequence well, though. It was my faulty cues that caused him to go wide. Even with his long back if I cue him correctly he can turn quite tightly.
In the second sequence Kathleen asked us to do a landing side cross after jump 4 so that it would be easier to get our dogs into the correct tunnel entrance.
In order to do that the dogs needed to have a bit of distance going over the pinwheel. Kathleen did not want us to go past the plane of jumps 2 and 4. First we practiced sending our dog over jump 2 and 3 with a tossed food reward after 3. This was difficult for some dogs and handlers to manage. I understand – the mechanics are so hard at first.
After practicing sending the dogs out over jump 3 we ran the entire sequence. The first time I did what Debi refers to as a bit of “admiring” – when you wait a second too long watching with pleasure as your dog does what you have asked him to do. Kathleen had to remind me to slide over and get into position for my front cross.
I used Bug’s tug (which is rabbit and fleece with a handle) coming out of the tunnel – I thought it would be a great opportunity for a little bit of chase and tug. And it was – we tugged across the entire room and back to pick up our leash. Good boy, Bug!!
Bug’s tug is a very high value toy at home. It is secreted away and only taken out when we are working on skills. Bug goes nuts for it. Since I have been relying so heavily on food, I was nervous that the tug wouldn’t be holding its value in a more stimulating environment. After Bug was able to tug at the teeter clinic I thought I should start bringing it to class and be brave enough to try tugging with him, if the sequence was conducive, to reward him.
The second time we ran this sequence I did not admire and got into position quickly. Once again Bug tugged happily.
This week I also brought a sheet to cover Bug while he was crated. I rewarded him heavily for being quiet. Once again a classmate’s mum took over treating Bug for me while I was listening to Kathleen and walking the sequences. It is great that she steps up like that; I really appreciate it. We lucked out a bit because the other corgi was not there and he likes to bark and really gets Bug going. If the sheet does not cut it another thought I had was I could bring my Manners Minder and put it in the crate – Bug adores the MM.
This week I am going to try and work on Bug’s “go” and try to charge up a new toy I bought for him. It is a tennis ball with a tail. Since this toy can be thrown (and will roll wildly) I thought it might be a good addition to my bag of tricks. In addition, I could always split the ball and add treats to the mix.
3 days ago