Monday, October 27, 2008

Agility - Advanced Beginners I

A couple weekends ago, Romeo started his second set of agility lessons with D&S Dogs of Course. His first set was Beginners, essentially the class that weeds out the people that really want to continue from those that are just curious. It was a fun set, but I can't say that we really learned anything. Just a lot of playing with the equipment, introducing the dogs to all the different pieces, etc.

This second set is much more intense, and as I really enjoy training, much more enjoyable for me. I can completely understand why they set things up this way, so no complaints there, I am just really excited to be moving on to some real technique and groundwork training.

The first class (two weekends ago), we worked on tunnel entries, finding a tunnel entrance from all sorts of angles and distances, and building tunnel value. Lots of fun because, really, what dog doesn't love the tunnel?

This past weekend was building value for the jump, working on a send out to the jump from different angles, building value for the table, and sending to the table from distances and over jumps. Since Romeo has done the flyball thing, the set-up they had for the jumps and table was a breeze for him. We had three jumps in a straight line with the table at the end. Starting at the first jump, we took turns getting our dogs all riled up and racing them to the table, where the instructor had their reward (a ball, toy, tug, food, etc.). Then from the second jump, then the third, quickly weaning the toy out from being a lure and using it just as a reward for getting on the table. Also having the handlers stop short of the table, at a distance of 15 feet or so, so that the dog learns to work away from the handler. Romeo's previous flyball training really helped, the set-up was familiar so he knew exactly what to do and I didn't need to run up with him at all, though I still raced him to the second jump to get his speed up a bit.

The jump differentiation game was fun. Starting with just one jump upright, click and treat for the dog going around behind the upright, working on sending both directions. Apparently, I have been teaching Romeo bad habits by treating across my body (ie. if he is standing on my left hand side, I will occasionally reach across my body with a treat in my right hand to treat him, or vice versa). I didn't even realize I was doing it, so will have to work on breaking that habit. Once the dog got the hang of running around the upright, add in a bar to make it a jump and continue the game. Then start gradually moving backwards and varying the angle at which you send the dog to the jump. Romeo did really well and enjoyed the game a lot! We would break the monotony a bit with value-building games. Essentially, a lot of quick jumps with a treat as soon as the dog lands the jump. So I would stand very close to the side of the jump, and every time that Romeo jumped without a command, I would quickly bend down and treat him as soon as the landed over the jump. Back and forth and back and forth, until we were both puffing!

I really should price out some PVC pipe some day so that I can make a couple of little jumps to practice with at home. We have the make-shift weave poles, the stairs for contacts, and I use a large suitcase for a pause table. Just missing out on the jumps ... and maybe a buja board, too.

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