Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Box Of Tricks - Agility Voice (May Article)

Box Of Tricks

Having trouble with waits? The equipment is just too much fun? How about another ‘Box of Tricks’ Wait Game.

So over the last few months we have looked at rear leg lifts, front and back leg box circles. This month we are going to use the box as another way of teaching the wait behaviour.
Below are the two starting positions that I may choose for my dogs. The sit and stand are just positions that I prefer. They are the positions that will be shown within the pictures throughout this article.

If your dog breaks the wait behaviour there is a good chance that your dog either doesn’t know the behaviour/fully or there is not enough value for the position! The wait I feel can be the most boring thing to teach, especially for an unmotivated dog. People tend not to want to teach a wait because the dog lacks the enthusiasm on the release. So why not spice it up and make it a fun game and reinstall or install the basic criteria with your box!
Ok so to start off what is your definition of wait?
Personally I do not have a ‘wait’ command. I will give you a definition of my commands and see if you can guess why I don’t use or need a wait command.

Command Definition of behaviour
Sit Bum on floor, no movement.
Stand Stood, all four paws on ground, no movement.
Down Lay on floor, no movement.

So if I had a ‘wait’ command the definition would be ‘no movement, stay in the position that you are in when I say the wait command.’
From what my sit, stand and down commands mean do I actually need a wait command?
No, because I say sit. Sit means ‘sit with no movement’ therefore this is a sit wait, I don’t need to teach the ‘extra’ command or say the extra verbal.
I try my very hardest to keep my commands as easy a possible so if something is similar I will look at loosing the command.
So first of all we need to mark the position that we want our dogs to stay in. You can either do this with the dog sitting in the box or on the box. If your dogs don’t understand the wait behaviour at all then sitting them in the box may be easier as they have to lift their leg up and over the box to get out.

So I am going to reward my dog for getting into/on the box. Once the dog is in/on the box I will then ask for the behaviour and reward. I will reward the dog for maintaining the position. First I will not move away, just side to side. If the dog gets up I will withhold the food/ reward and wait to see if they offer getting back to position. (in/on box) You may have to re cue them to do the sit, stand or down behaviour but wait it out first (see if they are going to offer it)
I start teaching my waits around the agility equipment, not always in a field with no distractions. I will have interesting things that they may like to investigate, but I wouldn’t start practicing it for the first time in a class full of dogs doing agility. That may be a bit too distracting!
In the case of the dog pictured in this article he already has some understanding and reward value for jumps and weaves so they may be very interesting, if the handler were to move towards them. So the wait value needs to be higher, therefore a better reward. Don’t be boring, get exited!

So I may then start adding in movement around the box. Here is a list of things I want you to try before you start adding distance from the box

Arm lifts


Star jumps

Spinning in a circle

Lifting your legs

Running on the spot.

So why would I do them before increasing distance?

(Only when the dog has had a high level of reward, for maintaining the position with you moving from side to side.)

I would do them near the box because I can quickly get a reward in for my movement and the dog holding position. If I do this further away and the dog holds position when I throw the reward they are going to move! (Unless you have a perfect throw and a dog that catches perfectly. I’m ruled out of that one! I’m sure 99.9% of people and dogs are too!) If you move away, straight away and do the above list, the dogs will most probably keep getting it wrong because they have not had the consistency and understanding that moving from position makes the treats disappear. Doing this close to them first means they get a quicker more accurate reward for movement so they should get an increased level of reward. If your dog is moving at this stage I would go back and make movement a bit slower. Let your dog start to understand that although their handler can be an absolute nutter your erratic movements boost the amount of reward.

I would then start to tease them with anything they already have value for i.e. equipment! (For those agility dogs that don’t wait) it could be toys or other dogs. Remember don’t throw them in at the deep end. You need to increase the interesting other objects slowly and increase the reward for maintaining the behaviour.

Build on this session by session, I wouldn’t try the whole lot in one session!

So get to that piece of equipment and then go through your movements and get the reward back in. I would then decrease the box to a mat and then decrease the size.

Even the most boring things can be fun!

It’s all just another trick

Lucy Osborne.