Saturday, December 24, 2011

Luring vs Shaping in Flyball

The trend in dog training in general is shaping instead of luring or removing the lure very quickly. This makes sense to me because if the dog has to think about making the right choice vs following the reward they are more likely to repeat it. Also they are more likely to do what you want when you don't have a treat. Luring really only seems to work if you fade it immediately

In flyball we use shaping a little bit for wall work, but for jumping and box work we basically use luring. For some dogs this works really well. Indigo for example has always had a nice box turn and never went around the jumps. Other than the gutter I use to keep her turn tighter, her runs look exactly the same whether or not she has a jump in front of the box.

Some dogs have lovely turns ONLY with a jump board in. As soon as they get to a tournament, it falls apart. This is basically like the dog that will only recall if you show them a treat.

What people generally do to fix this is wall work, lots of box work with the board in place or reteach the turn from the beginning. Sometimes a clear plexiglass jump so the dog doesn't see it or can't anticipate doing a nice turn or a crappy one.  Rarely do people pull a dog from competition for this, so the dog does the bad turn in tournaments and gets rewarded. So without any different feedback for different turns, the dog has no reason to think it matters.

I've been working on a method for training this type of dog. Here is what I do:

1. Wall work to build muscle memory for a nice turn
2. Figure out the box aid that gives the dog the best turn
3. Always have the handler at the box to tug or not tug depending on the turn
4. Have a 2nd person send the dog on a full run with the correct box aid in
5. If the dog does a nice turn (they probably will) give a big reward
6. Next put in a smaller box aid (a gutter or PVC) and do the same thing if the turn is nice, give a big reward, if the turn is crappy give no reward and try again with a box aid back in.
7. If the turn IS nice, try again with no box aid.
8. Keep alternating between box aid and no box aid

 Continue this process so that the dog continues to get the correct feedback depending on the quality of the turn, making sure that you make it easier if the turn is bad. You can click or say "YES" for nice turns.

I'm curious if any other flyball trainers have tried anything like this?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Self Control

My Experience with "It's Yer Choice" so far

I've been playing SG's It's Yer Choice game with my three dogs lately and practicing a lot. The applications for fixing problems and having better behaved dogs is amazing. Indy got it right away because I've done a lot of "leave it" training with her. In the first session I was able to put treats on her front legs when she was in a down and she didn't try to steal them. Last night she was able to walk past a pile of treats on the floor when I called her to me. It was pretty funny because she walked by them she was afraid of them. During our training session I dropped treats by accident. Previously she would have stolen them, but she just stared at them!

Pax is very easy to train. It seems like he isn't paying attention (probably because I'm used to a border collie intensely staring at me), but he definitely is. He isn't extremely food motivated, but he is a food stealer (typical whippet). He was able to not steal a treat that I threw past him and no longer steals treats out of my hand.

Goose is more difficult to train in situations like his. It can be overwhelming to him and he'll flop over, panting and stressed. I like this game because it doesn't require any talking at less chance of me getting frustrated with him and showing my frustration in my voice. When he flops over, I just wait patiently until he gets up and starts playing again. I use very high value treats for him. He didn't get it the first session. The 2nd session he was a little bit better.  It will seem like he is ready to move to the next step and he will do pretty well with a harder game, but then if I go back to the easy stuff he sometimes forgets the game. Last night he did great actually. He was also able to walk past a pile of treat on the ground and not steal them.

 I've found lots of applications for this game that naturally weaves into everyday life. I'm hoping that the dogs will stop obsessing over cleaning up under Finleys chair at the table. A friend that has tried it with her dogs said they have been better about trying to steal food. I can already see it helping with self-control, better stays and better focus. I'm excited to see how they progress as we keep working on this and finding new applications. Next I'm going to try it with toys and tugs.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

We've Got Some Training to Do

We just got back from the December Dogwood Pacecetters tournament. It was a great time and very successful for our team. Pax ran in start again and was way more consistent than in November. His times were all mostly in the low 3.8s with one 3.77. I also figured out how to hold him so that my starts were more consistent. He is a crazy crazy dog.  Indy freezes when getting ready to run. She predictably watches the judge until he starts the lights and then she stares intently at the start dog. Pax on the other hand is bucking, barking, foaming and writhing all over the place...and he doesn't like to be held by his back legs. He almost bit me in the face going for his tug. He is serious about tugging.  I ran up to the line on every heat, turned my back and ran with the tug dragging behind me and he held his ball every time. He did great.  We still need to work on a tighter turn, running in the pack and striding.

Jeff ran Indy again and did a great job with her. She posted some great times with perfect passes by Jeff. Lots of low 3.8s throughout the weekend. She also tried to get away with dropping her ball and got flagged a few times. Naughty girl! Jeff did a good job of working with her during warmup and reminding her to bring her ball.

Goose ran well too. We didn't get a lot of video, but we realized that we need to work on his striding between the box and and the first jump on the way back. He takes two half the time and barely clears the jumps on those runs. Ben had fun pushing his passes and got lots of good ones (and a few flags, 4 to be exact).

We broke our team record with a 16.4 here

And almost broke it here, but Deco dropped his ball. I had a .11 start on this one, so it could have been a 16.2!

I am taking Susan Garretts Recallers 3.0 course. I've just started reading the course material today and need to get started today so I don't get behind. It's going to be a lot of work, but worth it I think. I already see lots of applications for flyball and agility training.

We have a New Years Eve flyball tournament coming up and then we will take a little break for the winter from competing in dog sports and training to give the dogs a mental break. We'll do lots of hiking and conditioning and very little training..after the recallers class I''m sure they will be ready for a break.

I've started thinking about getting Finley a dog to learn dog sports with. Obviously she is waaay too young now, but I'm starting to think about small dog breeds that will be a good pet and a good sport dog. On the list now is rat terrier, toy fox terrier, papillion, boston terrier, silky terrier, podengo. I have a while to decide and may end up getting a rescue, but the only thing that satisfies my obsession with getting more dogs is planning which dogs I might get in the future!