Thursday, December 31, 2009

Page's agility foundation training

It is winter, and we've had snow on the ground for more than a week. My equipment is inside in pieces being stored, and it's been too cold to work VST. So, one of my winter projects is to work on Page's agility foundation.

When thinking about Page's training, I have reflected on my other dogs' training. I think I'm good at teaching my dogs handling and jumping. This is due to my foundation in the sport of agility through Linda Mecklenburg's Awesome Paws system that I learned through seminars and camps as I was beginning the sport. It was solidified through years of classes at Wild Weavers of Ohio and with private lessons with Jennifer Crank of Incredipaws.

After struggling to communicate weave poles to Devon, I found the 2x2 weave pole training method. I took Susan Garrett up on the challenge of 12 poles in 12 days, and Devon was weaving 12 poles in 9 days. She was right! This was an incredible way to teach weaving to a dog, and I will use it for training weaves in the future.

But so far I haven't been happy with the way I've trained my dogs' contacts. So my goal for Page was to have amazing contacts (as well as the handling, jumping and weave pole skills my other dogs have).

I knew I wanted a 2 on 2 off contact for the dogwalk and teeter. I like the results from the nose touch method, so I taught a nose touch to Page. But something wasn't translating in my brain until Lise Pratt (Page's co-breeder and owner of Suffolk Nassau Agile Paws) and I talked and she pointed me to a series of articles in Clean Run's October, November and December issues. These articles made it all click!

The series "Training a Two-on, Two-Off Contact" by Rachel Saunders put the nose touch and the 2 on, 2 off together for me. Rachel says in the introduction she had a nagging issue with the nose touch, and I did too. Her issue was why teach the a nose touch when you would eventually fade it. And while I see her point, the nose touch does give the dog something to do at the end of the board and it keeps the dog's head straight.

But my nagging issue came with transitioning a nose touch to a 2 on, 2 off. I couldn't figure out how the dog was supposed to figure out what they did with their nose translated into their feet on the board. And Rachel helped me out by saying she teaches the 2 on, 2 off and then adds back the nose touch. Yippee! That was what I needed to hear!

Page and I are now off and running on teaching her contact performance. (BTW, I already know how to proof her contacts because I have Rachel's Bridging the Gap dvd which I also like a lot!) He's a video clip on Page's 2 on, 2 off work. I'm at the stage where I need to take it on the road, which I was start doing Saturday. I also want her driving to the position on the travel board with me being in various positions. But so far I'm really happy with what I have.

I'm also doing a lot of plank work with Page. I took several articles written by Tracy Sklenar in Dog Sport Magazine on building a confident dogwalk and teeter and I've been working through the suggestions I found.

One of the big "ah-ha" things I've found is getting the dogs comfortable on the boards. Devon and Page both have outstanding proprioception (thanks in large part to Gaylan's puppy raising system). Even so, Page is the first dog that I've done this much plank confidence work with, and I love the results. Hoping on and off and turning around on low boards has given Page confidence on them. And when she has slipped off, it wasn't a big deal. She jumped back on!

I'm now working the up side of the board to a table. You can see the turns and the hop on/hop off we do, plus the racing up and down the boards. This is one of my aluminum dogwalk boards and it moves and makes a lot of noise since it's not braced below, and Page has no issues with it. I'll continue to work entrances from various angles on this higher board (I've already worked entrances on a board to a lower table and she did fine).

Finally, I've worked on the teeter. Also in the Clean Run October and November issues are two good articles on teeter training by Jen Pinder. I've used the two table method in class to teach the teeter, and I liked it. These articles update the method, and they dove tailed nicely with the 2 on, 2 off articles because both authors train the contacts the same.

What I did do differently is work the Bang Game first, before I had the 2 on, 2 off performance. Because the Bang Game was so unsuccessful with Devon, you can imagine my apprehension at teaching Page. I know this is the best way to teach the dogs; and I know Page is a completely different individual than Devon. But I was a little tense the first time I asked Page to do this game.

Page was fine with the Bang Game. The first few times she pushed the board down, my aluminum teeter made quite a racket. Page's ears flattened against her head, but that was the only sign of stress she gave and she jumped right back on the teeter again! Below is a clip from our last training session on the Bang Game. At the beginning of the clip, you see a very naughty Devon escape from the expen when I asked for Page. This is funny because I know Devon isn't really volunteering to bang down the teeter!

The next steps for Page are doing the 2 on, 2 off on the end of the teeter and then starting with the progression of the two tables.

Page is actually progressing more quickly through the contact work than I expected. She is also working on some recalls to heel and recalls to heel through standards in the various positions for the Awesome Paws Handling System. She's learning collection out of tunnels (and boy does she blast through tunnels). And she's learning control and stays with tug games.

I'll end this post by telling a story that shows how much Page loves to work. When I trained in the building yesterday, I worked Devon first. Page hates to wait her turn, and it's good for her. When I was finished working Devon and getting ready to step up Page's session, I realized I forgot the video camera.

So I let Page out of the expen, we left the building and we headed back across the yard. We got all the way back to the deck and I was opening the back door when Page realized we were going inside. She got a horrified look on her face, turn and bolted off the deck and raced across the back yard. She didn't stop until she was in front of the door to the building, and then she turned back to me with this crushed look on her face as if to say, "But MOM! You FORGOT to work ME!! I didn't get MY TURN!!"

Page would not come back to the house for anything but continued to stand at the door to the building waiting (I swear she was stamping a paw she was so irritated). I went inside and got the camera and came back out to work her. She was so happy that we were going back out to the building. What a work ethic!


Kathy said...

Thanks for linking to that GORGEOUS new IncrediPAWS website!

Deb said...

So if you can't say anything nice about Page's training, you'll just comment on that awesome new website Jenn has! ;-) Really, not even that Page looked great on the Bang Game???? ;-)

Kathy said...

LOL! She did look nice on the bang game!