Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Agility Voice Article 1 - Box Of Tricks - March

Box of tricks
There are many tricks we can teach our dogs that have a big relevance to agility. You don’t have to use agility equipment to be training for agility! Through a series of articles I aim to give you something to train with your dog, without having to even go out of the house. A new trick, each month that, over the series of articles will be aimed at different aspects of agility preparation and training. From body and self awareness to strengthening muscles and toning up. This is not just something you can do with your young dog try it with your competing dogs too.

Training sessions should be no longer then 5 minutes long. Which isn’t very much time IF you don’t plan what you want to get from the session. However, you shouldn’t expect the end behaviour within the first session. Break the sessions up. I have always got better results from a shorter planned session. Plan what you want to do, write it down, then train and look back at what you have done. Have you accepted something different and gone off on a totally different tangent? I will show through pictures and text the stages in which I mark ’click’ the behaviour and then how I progress it after each session. You should see this through the articles.

Rear Leg Raises
How do we start? Above I said that it is important to plan. To plan you need to see in your mind the finished look and what the description of the finished behaviour should be. Then in stages think about a not confusing and fun way in which you can teach the behaviour and more importantly getting the dog to understand and learn the behaviour.
I’m going to start with a box, it doesn’t have to be a special size, style or be decorated. Mine was picked up from the local fruit and veg shop, something that isn’t too high/deep.
Before I begin the actual training for this trick I’m going to let my dog investigate the box, let them have a sniff. And walk them through the box, I won’t train my dog with a ‘prop’ that they are not comfortable with. I will reward my dog for interaction with the box. Once my dog is comfortable with the box and walking through it I will then begin my training.
Stage 1 In the first session I am going to reward my dog for splitting his rear leg over the box. I won’t reward highly for this. I would reward this with a mediocre treat. Once the dog is splitting its rear leg over and out of the box I will then move onto stage 2. Some dogs may get this in the first 5 mins others may have to do a few sessions before their dog offers the behaviour. I am not going to use a clicker for this as I just want my dog to be aware of the movement, I will use a clicker in the next stage. It should look something like the pictures below.
Stage 2
My dog is now comfortable with stepping out of the box and not jumping out, now I want to start to mark the behaviour that I am looking for , which is the leg lift. I use both a clicker and the word ‘Yes’ to mark behaviour. They both mean the same thing but my dogs are more relaxed when training with a clicker, I will use the vocal marker once my dogs understand the trick. The marker to my dogs does NOT mean end of exercise it means ‘ That’s the behaviour I want, keep showing me.’
Below is a picture of where I would click and where I wouldn’t.

I am going to click when the dog is lifting his leg at the point that the lifting leg is as far away from the ground, as the dog is going to lift it. Click and reward with a higher value treat. You do not want to click when the dog is putting the leg down as shown in the above picture, next to the cross. This would be telling the dog - I’m rewarding you for the behaviour of putting the rear leg down and not the lift.
Make sure you practice the lift on both of the dogs rear legs. The picture above should illustrate this enough .You will find that you dog has a weaker side, just like humans. Help the dog even out by practicing the weaker side too.

Stage 3 - Holding the lift.
If your dog understands what they have just been getting clicked for they should begin to start to offer holding the behaviour if you withhold the click slightly. If not have you been rewarding in the right place? This is a good indication that there may need to be a few more sessions marking the lift.
Gradually start withholding the length of the click once they are holding the positions and not lifting and putting back down.
Mark each increased hold with the highest value treat followed by lots of praise and games.

Don’t ask too much and expect your dog to stand there for a minute. I have taught Stig to hold for about 3 seconds he will hold for longer but it’s not necessary for me to have him holding the position for longer.

Here is some pictures showing the stages in which I trained this trick to another dog.
For a dog who’s being shaped the 2on2off contact position I feel this is the easiest way in which to teach it.
First I’m going to reward one leg lifting to the box no clicker or vocal just a treat.
Once the dog is consistently touching with one leg I’m going to click the lift. Only the lift not when he is touching the box. I am then going to move the box away and reward.
I can use this trick for numerous different things
1. Rear leg awareness
2. When warming up my dog
3. Keep my dog focused and thinking about his rear legs in a long queue by the ring.
4.Putting on and taking off my dogs coats
5. Clipping his claws.
6. Looking in them or pulling something out.

Its not such a pointless trick after all!

Lucy Osborne