Sunday, March 13, 2011

Agility update... my downfall as a trainer

Scorch's agility training is revealing a lot to me about myself as a trainer. I'm really not as skilled as I'd like in breaking things down into small pieces, and not pushing training sessions too far.

I'm VERY lucky to have a dog who is so eager to work and does not get discouraged easily.

I want to see results. I'm very eager to see Scorch run that agility course... and I get frustrated with myself when I push him too far and behaviors fall apart.

For example: targeting the lid. Scorch is so enthusiastic about targeting that he throws his body all over the place and isn't always content to wait. I keep trying to combine multiple elements together, when I really need to be working on each element separately: the stay/rewarding for multiple targets, the targeting at a distance, sending him to target without my being at the target to reward, and targeting 2on2off without falling off the board.

So tonight we worked inside (thanks daylight savings time for stealing my daylight). I put Scorch in a stay and set the target down about 20 feet away. I set the coffee table to help channel him, and then I walked back to him before sending him. Every time we practiced distance targeting, there was either a helper ready to deliver a treat or a treat was already on the target. I don't know what universe my head was in thinking this was a logical next step... but predictably (to everybody but me), he ran to the target, touched it with his nose, then proceeded to spin around it, mouth it, pick it up, run back to me, run back to the target, then bring it to me. After I smacked myself upside the head, I simplified it a teensy bit.

I did a few refresher drills with multiple target touches so he would stay there. I still used the table as a channel. I stood right by the target and didn't ask for a lot of distance. Once he was properly refreshed and performing with a high rate of accuracy, I added distance but stayed next to the target. I would click for the first target after distance, then click when he repeated the target behavior (sometimes after 2 touches, sometimes 1, rarely 3).

Duh. I know this. Why is it so hard to follow advice that you give out? I tell students to break down behaviors all the time. Scorch was successful when I followed my own advice.

We're on day 2 of 2x2 weaving. It's tough for me. I feel very uncoordinated, but luckily Scorch is a supertrooper and is picking it up despite my bumbling efforts. Week 5 (I think? We had a skip week) of agility class is tomorrow and hopefully we'll start practicing our contacts on equipment!

Jump drills are going well. Scorch is rounding his back and is doing well with a 16" height. We'll probably go up to 18" next week if he continues. Tunnels are of course no problem. We got a super practice tunnel for $40 on eBay... it's 18' and a blast. We even can sequence the tunnel with a jump and vice versa.

I think I need to get out there and start photographing again. Or having Bryan do it. That would break up my rambling quite a bit. :)

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