Monday, January 14, 2013

Whippet Flyball Update

PAX: I am pretty sure I already ruined Pax's muscle memory to take 3 strides off the box, by running him for a long time with the wrong striding. Looking back at videos from last year when I was training him, I had the gutters in the wrong place and was not setting him up well at all.

For the last several weeks I've been trying a new method. I keep it very simple and just recall him over 2 jumps. If he takes 3 strides off the box, he gets the tug. If he takes two twice in a row, he gets nothing and I make it easier for him to succeed. I'm not sure if it's working, but it's my last idea to get him to fix this problem.

For his wide box turn I've been laying a baby gate flat on the ground 1/2 way into the lane, so he can't go wide. I need to figure out a way to fade this too. Still working on that. When we do anything with the box, and jumps and striding all together I don't withhold a reward if he does it wrong because I think that would be really confusing.

The only way this type of training can work, in my opinion, is if you make it very simple. If you are working on ball holding, you can withhold the reward, but you need to just use a dead ball and no jumps or box. I definitely thing dogs learn faster if they get different feedback depending on what they do. The more positive way to do it would be to shape him to take three strides, but I haven't figured out how to do that yet at the speeds that the dogs are running!

SPY: Spy is doing well with her ball to tug exchanges. She even did a few at practice. She is very distracted. I tried running her against our calmest dog and even had the other dog wait until Spy was all the way to me and she still wanted to run over and say hi! I need to get her used to the motion of other dogs and work through distractions. Next practice, I plan to play the game "Look at That" and some premack.

Look at That (LAT) is a control unleashed game. First you teach the dog to look at something (anything at first) and then click the head turn toward the thing and treat. Once they get the game, you can start clicking for specific things, like other dogs or people or anything that they react to. This teaches them to acknowledge that the thing is there, but they can just look back at you and work through it. It's a positive association with the thing being there.

Premack. For this game, I'll keep her on a leash and while the other dogs are running I'll give her the option of focusing on me for treats and playing or go look, try to chase the other dogs. I'll be far away enough that she can make a good choice! This is "trick" her into thinking that she chose to ignore the other action going on around her! 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Exciting Stuff

We haven't been to any events with our dogs lately, but a lot has been going on. We left our flyball team and just started a new one! We have 6 members and we decided to call ourselves Mass Chaos. In just the short amount of time since deciding to start a team, we found a new facility for practicing and teaching classes. We are entered in our first tournament in February. We still have a lot of work to do, but it's been a fun process.

I haven't been doing anything with the border collies other than taking them on hikes and working on their recalls and sit/stays. Spy is taking puppy class and is working on a trick for her last one. I decided to do something useful, so she is working on "go to your mat". I was a little worried about her distraction issues in flyball, but she has been much better lately and is very focused at home. She loves tugging now. She can do a dead ball/tug exchange, which is about where I want her to be. She is very good at hand touches as well. I am auditing Silvia Trkmans puppy class and will post about how that is going.

Oh Pax, Pax Pax. I've been working with him a lot. I don't know if I'll be able to fix him. I wish I knew as much as I do now, a year ago. At least the new puppies on our flyball team will benefit from what we know now! I am going to keep at it and then give him a try in Feb to see how he looks. Until then recalls and box work several times a week.