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Agility: Obstacle Focus/Distance

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  • Agility: Obstacle Focus/Distance

    Timid Timber and I graduated from our first agility class yesterday . We got to run a very simple circular course with jumps, tire, tunnel, chute, Aframe, weaves, and table.

    It was fun ! Timber refused the tunnel which he usually thinks is super but the instructor said he was worried about staying with me so it was natural he did not want to lose sight of me. Oh, and I was already doing the ole pointy finger. (I swore I would never do that but would use my entire hand as it seems a larger signal that will help my upper body indicate what I want.) Heehee!

    Instructor shadowed us around the course, which caused Timber to drift out and worry, flicking his ears/glancing back: she realized her presence was pressuring him and moved back.

    Distance and extreme handler focus will definitely be our long-term struggle. What are exercises I can do at home that will increase his drive to obstacles/distance he can work away from me? I can send him to a target lid from ~6ft, fetching machine from ~10ft, recalling fool from a half-football-field-length. But I cannot send him to wrap around a jump standard unless I am on top of it. Guess I haven’t built up enough value for this

    We start our next agility class in August and I would love to get a teeny bit of distance plus some obstacle drive before then.

  • #2
    Time.

    If you remember, I have a clingy dog as well..it is building confidence and practice..truly.

    What are you using for "reward"? for new or scary situations...I had to up the ante with my Kate..normal string cheese and hotdogs werent doing it..I used liverwurst and then used our club's recipe for a concotion called Doggie Crack..it is liverwurst, salmon, cheese, eggs and flour cooked together. Kate LOVES it and when working on a "hard" area, I always get the good stuff out..I found for focus, playing the name game out on the field with high value rewards helped her remain VERY focused on me.

    that is good the instructor was out there..even if it was distracting (which is normal)..because if you ever do trial, the judge will be out there..as will be ring crew. They need to learn to tune it all out..and as I said..that comes with time.

    We did not work on distant work til I started level 2..and even at the end of level 2 is when we started getting consistent "sends" at a good distance and rear crosses..

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      I hope time will help. But I hate to be conditioning him to running at my side, then change my expectations in the future (go run ahead). Seems unfair.

      Ah, the hierarchy of treats! At home: boring store-bought fish-based treats (other boy has allergies) or duck jerky.

      At OB: was cheese but found he loves chicken dusted with garlic. Yum-mo! I've had a canine classmate snatch the whole bait bag right off my pants.

      At agility: hotdogs/w garlic. That is the only very special time he gets dogs. Last night I brought string cheese and hotdogs: warm-up & easy stuff was cheese. Scary stuff & running the course was hotdogs.

      I've heard dogs love salmon. I've tried it and I think chicken wins. In a few months, I need to discover the super-extra-rockstar-special-treat that is only for trials when we start competing in OB. Maybe bacon?

      ((I know some dogs react adversely to garlic: he's fine))
      Last edited by Bicoastal; Jul. 8, 2011, 01:28 PM. Reason: PS he will refuse dinner/treats to be with me espec if stressed

      Comment


      • #4
        so far liverwurst seems to be THE high value treat for most dogs.

        question: so the dog isn't toy-motivated? so you're probably rewarding the dog from your hand most of the time? that's a big reason why many dogs become "clingy"- all the rewards come from the hand, so they stay near the hand. If you instead are able to throw the reward so the dog gets the reward away from you it's easier to teach distance. If the dog isn't into toys I suggest buying a "jackpot" toy you can put food in and throw, like this one:
        http://www.cleanrun.com/index.cfm?fu...4&ParentCat=22


        Also sending the dog to a target helps- you send the dog over the jump/other obstacle to the target and then gradually increase the distance away from the obstacle you can send from.
        Another good exercise is set up a simple circular course, and first run near the dog, then gradually move yourself more and more to the interior of the circle on each subsequent pass around the course.

        And for professional advice about distance work, check these out: http://www.cleanrun.com/index.cfm?fu...ategory_ID=224

        Comment


        • #5
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MEDk..._order&list=UL

          this is my friend Jody, who as you can see, works at a distance with her dog Pik. She's also an instructor. If you'd like, I can ask her for ideas or if she doesn't mind, she might be willing to email.

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            3dogpack: Wow! Your friend really has the distance and obstacle discrimination down! Any tips/info she'd be willing to share would be fantastic. This guy should be much faster than me: if he would leave my side....

            Wendy: he plays with toys at home but not under any stress ie training or trial sites. Will have to get my hands on liverwurst. Thanks for the links! The jackpot toys I saw in person at Cleanrun's booth at Nationals: they were huge and coarse/stiff. My lil guy couldn't manage em. But he showed me he digs rabbit skin so of course I bought him one.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Bicoastal View Post
              3dogpack: Wow! Your friend really has the distance and obstacle discrimination down! Any tips/info she'd be willing to share would be fantastic. This guy should be much faster than me: if he would leave my side....
              I'll send her an email. Your boy is a Pap, right? She has one of them too. And he rules the roost according to Jody.

              Comment


              • #8
                Your friend Jody is really great and the lab is wonderful. I have an Aussie 15 mo old and we are plugging along really nicely. We have been doing agility close to a year and it is all coming together now.My big problems is remembering the course and my crosses. we had a huge breakthrough today when I was working at home. she has been scared of the see saaw movement and today she got to go with it and get it down without freaking out. this was a BIG breakthrough. She is getting much better about me sending her out. I can stand in the middle of a circle of jumps and pretty much direct her. There is so much to learn it is amazing.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Ride On View Post
                  Your friend Jody is really great and the lab is wonderful.
                  I love to watch them. Jody has had dogs for a very very long time and she has done some amazing things with them. She's a VERY good trainer. I think Jody is in her mid to upper 70's now and I've told her repeatedly....I want to be just like her when I grow up. She's my hero.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Wow Jody is doing great, I am 62 and do not move as fast as my dog so I need to have her go out and do the course a llittle more on her own. It is really fun, and addicting.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Bicoastal, sent you a PM

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        I sent Jody an email .

                        I often throw in OB commands when fetching. Pap forges a few feet ahead anticipating the toss, so I try to take advantage of the few feet of distance he just created.

                        "Sit. Sit. Siiiit..." He looks at me like I'm speaking in tongues. He walks up to me because he's unsure, closing that precious few feet of distance between us. "Sit." Taaahdah!

                        I have not a clue. But will keep trying. OB class tonight so I can ask the advanced folks what they do for distance.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Bicoastal View Post
                          I sent Jody an email .

                          I often throw in OB commands when fetching. Pap forges a few feet ahead anticipating the toss, so I try to take advantage of the few feet of distance he just created.

                          "Sit. Sit. Siiiit..." He looks at me like I'm speaking in tongues. He walks up to me because he's unsure, closing that precious few feet of distance between us. "Sit." Taaahdah!

                          I have not a clue. But will keep trying. OB class tonight so I can ask the advanced folks what they do for distance.
                          did she answer you?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Bicoastal View Post
                            I hope time will help. But I hate to be conditioning him to running at my side, then change my expectations in the future (go run ahead). Seems unfair.

                            Ah, the hierarchy of treats! At home: boring store-bought fish-based treats (other boy has allergies) or duck jerky.

                            At OB: was cheese but found he loves chicken dusted with garlic. Yum-mo! I've had a canine classmate snatch the whole bait bag right off my pants.

                            At agility: hotdogs/w garlic. That is the only very special time he gets dogs. Last night I brought string cheese and hotdogs: warm-up & easy stuff was cheese. Scary stuff & running the course was hotdogs.

                            I've heard dogs love salmon. I've tried it and I think chicken wins. In a few months, I need to discover the super-extra-rockstar-special-treat that is only for trials when we start competing in OB. Maybe bacon?

                            ((I know some dogs react adversely to garlic: he's fine))

                            treats depend on the dog..as I said, Kate's choice of treat is doggie crack..
                            Fletcher, my other border collie, who is a polar opposite of Kate cannot have doggie crack yet..it makes him nuts..I call him my crackhead..

                            I am of the camp that distance comes with PRACTICE...some dogs, yes, are masters at distanance from the getgo..others are "clingy" and need more help developing their confidence "away" from their handler and even then, some dogs arent super good at establishing impressive distance. your dog hasnt been in agility long, am I correct? While it's neat to watch some top teams work..remember, establish GOOD basics..dont put the proverbial cart before the horse. you obviously dont want to coddle the dog..but agility is suppossed to be FUN..if the dog is not having fun, something is not right. if you start forcing the dog to work at distance before he's ready, you could potentially cause a shutdown, mentally, espc on a more sensetive dog. most dogs can learn to be "Away" from you...its the transistion that comes with practice and getting away from food..the dog starts to understand food is the reward at the end..the reward out on course is simply the FUN in doing the obstacles..and in that aspect, they learn they can "get away" from you...if all this makes sense.

                            When we work on distance, we work alot on "go" in conjunction with treats, also the "stay n go". Also, remember to watch YOUR body language. It is interesting to me how much the handler's body language is tranfered to the dog...feet placement, shoulders'arms,hips,ect. these were espc important in pinwheels, threadles, and the like.

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Yes, Jody got my email and will respond later.

                              My biggest concern is changing expectations: presently, work close to me but in the future, work ahead. The right answer would become wrong.

                              I have learned the hard way in OB. If I had started with strict criteria instead of rewarding iffy positions, he would not be confused now when I do not reward iffy. It doesn't take much for him to stop offering behaviors if he's not right. Then it's my job to ask for something he gets right 100% then throw a party.

                              I would like to increase the distance sending him to a target. He thinks that game is pretty fun! Running + food = Happy Pappy. I don't know how to transition that distance and enthusiasm for an object (plastic lid/cookie tin/bath mat) to obstacles like wrapping a jump standard.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                If I had started with strict criteria instead of rewarding iffy positions, he would not be confused now when I do not reward iffy. It doesn't take much for him to stop offering behaviors if he's not right. Then it's my job to ask for something he gets right 100% then throw a party.

                                This approach- demanding perfection from day one- tends to be one that causes dogs to get frustrated and quit on you.

                                Do you understand the concepts of "shaping" and "splitting"? with shaping you start from "sort of vaguely resembles what you want", reward that at first, then gradually, oh so gradually, increase your criteria for rewarding. While "splitting" means you only work on one aspect of the behavior at a time and temporarily relax other criteria until you get that one aspect. Eventually at the end you put it all back together and only reward perfection.
                                So say you want the dog to drop on recall at a) a considerable distance from you, and b) go down so fast it looks like he was shot, and c) stay immobile until you call him again. Three different aspects- so you split and pick one to work on first. Let's say you want to work on going down fast. So you discard working on a) and c) for now. And now you shape- standing right next to your dog ask for a down and time it (count in your head) and repeat a few times until you know what your dog's current downing time is (say he's slow and it takes him a count to 5, on average, to go down). Now you shape it- at first you reward downing on a count to 4; once he's going down on a count to 4 more than 80% of the time, you now shift to only rewarding on a count to 3. And so on. Once he's dropping like he's been shot, move on to work on dropping at gradually increasing distances.
                                Keep in mind that your dog has had ONE round of agility classes. Most dogs aren't ready for competition without at least a good solid year of agility training (= 6 classes or so). So he's a real newbie. You can start gradually shaping more and more distance, sure, why not, an extra inch at a time. Just don't "push" him too hard or demand too much at first.
                                Most agility venues don't actually require the ability to perform distance work except for certain classes (e.g. gamblers). What you see people commonly getting NQ'd for is missed contacts, stressed dog shutting down and sniffing/running out of the ring, stressed dog getting the zoomies, dog refusing to down on the table, dog messing up the weaves, and by far the commonest- bad handling which causes off-courses, wasted time, stressed dogs, and knocked jump bars.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Its not rewarding "wrong" behaviors..it is, as Wendy put it, shaping and rewarding for small successes. Perfection, in a green dog, is not to be expected..the key is, rewarding SMALL successes, with the bigger picture being those small successes and reward register in their brain and leads to HUGE successes, those "lightbulb moments" and THEN its a super huge party!

                                  Distance will come..small steps to a greater reward.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Bicoastal, for clingier dogs, the distance will come with time. It is not about 'rewarding' the wrong thing, it is about the dog's confidence building. My three year old is an obedience dog also and can be very tight with me and 'clingy' but the other week in class I was able to send her down a line to a jump with a tunnel layered between us! Unthinkable even two months ago. If you want a book, get the Linda Mecklenberg book from Clean Run, she goes thru things like forward sends, etc. But it takes time with the less confident ones. It will come. My girl just got her first two Double Q's toward her MACH this past weekend. This is a dog that I've struggled with on the Aframe down contact. It all just came together last weekend! It's a great feeling but it didn't happen overnite.

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Thanks for all the great info!

                                      Alright, I need to drop my concerns about rewarding the wrong thing. My dad -once a dad always a dad - gave me a stern lecture last night for even saying "wrong thing." His passionate response it that this whole deal is supposed to be fun for the dog, so there is no right or wrong. Awwww, dads .

                                      I am familar with shaping but not splitting. Seems like my OB club and the local agility scene clash in training theories/expectations. (In both venues, I never use the word No and never punish or my pup will melt and that's no fun for anyone! Just a Non Reward Marker.) My OB club still has a lot of old school yank-and-spank instructors/leaders. Some of them are coming around to clickers and NRMs.

                                      In OB, I have worked to reduce his space bubble to get a dog happy to be glued to me! He used to be soooo scared to be within reach. Then I go into agility, and 1. I have a dog who won't do anything unless I'm on top of him which leads me to 2. Worry I'm going to squish him or trip over him in addition to the course handling issues that come with a fast dog who only runs if attached to his slow owner's ankle.

                                      Jody sent me a ton of info! It's going to take me a couple days to really go through it all.

                                      I have already purchased one of Linda's books and should receive it in two weeks. I do not expect to compete in agility for another year or so: it may take us a bit longer since I also spend time in OB.

                                      Comment

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