Friday, February 19, 2010

Wednesday Agility class - Fun with Rear Crosses

Class tonight focused on 4 short courses that used rear crosses in various places. Our first run was definitely our best! I've decided to start bringing the video camera again - and Andi was kind enough to video for me. I got the first three exercises on video.

Things went down hill fast when I decided that to build some drive over the teeter I was going to have his dinner as a target. That was a big mistake! We aren't quite ready for that level of distraction just yet. And I probably didn't increase the rate of reinforcement for Steeler enough to keep him from running to check the spot out. However - I did get a lot of drive coming out of the tunnel. :-) I was going to edit the next two clips - but I didn't have the patience - so you can see just how bad it was.

On the second exercise we changed the location of one of the rear crosses and added the teeter and jump after the table. One thing that I did work on successfully was having Steeler jump that last jump with Trixie (who he adores and really wants to play with) maybe 10 feet away just hanging out being a dog. Steeler paid little or no attention to her! After we have some success with that I want to start having Lisa play with Trixie a little bit and work on keeping Steeler's attention.

With the third exercise the opening sequence was the same - but then we added a turn to the weave poles. Another thing that I want to spend some time working on is building some speed through the weaves. At home and in a couple of other places I have nice speed but not yet at the barn. Clearly I need to put more time into rewarding speed thru the poles at the barn.

We didn't get the fourth run on video - I think we were all running out of steam. This exercise was jump - weave - jump (rear cross) jump - tunnel. The tunnel entry was a tough one - we had send the dogs over the jump towards the far end of the tunnel and pull them back to us to go thru the end closest to us - basically rear crossing the tunnel entry. One thing that Catie pointed out at the end of class is that I wasn't finishing with Steeler ... I was giving up just before the course was finished. Maybe giving up isn't quite the right words - but I was stopping or slowing my forward momentum and still expecting Steeler to go full speed ahead. Something else to work on! :-)


  1. First, I think you and Steeler look great! You guys have come a really long way! I hope you don't mind some unsolicited feedback , but since we've worked through many of these issues, I'm hoping it might be a little bit helpful.

    If Steeler is anything like Peyton (and many dogs) he probably doesn't like to be wrong. Or even thinking that he's made a mistake. You can see that Steeler is I doing this right? It's hard to tell from the video, but he looks like he gets a little more worried with each run.

    One thing that I almost always do with Peyton is that if I mess up, he gets a cookie. If I pull him off a jump, I immediately say "good boy" and he spins right back around, gets a cookie and then we try again. I think a lot of times, starting and stopping can cause them to worry, but if the dog gets a reward (even just a verbal "nice try!" ) when we goof up, it can help ease some of that stress.

    The other thing that I noticed was an absence of reward when Steeler actually does what you are asking. Sometimes just a verbal is enough, but for example, after he finally did the weaves, I would have probably stopped and had a party. I know the temptation to keep going is strong, but I don't think many dogs see the "you did it right so we get to keep moving" as a reward. Does that make sense?

    And finally, speed comes with confidence. I think once Steeler stops worrying, you'll see his speed pick up tremendously. So you better get your best running shoes ready! :)

  2. Thanks Kim! You're advice is ALWAYS welcome!!!! I think you are right - Steeler was getting more worried with each run. I know that I get into that trap of wanting more and more and not stopping to reward when he does it right. I saw a lot of that today at an agility seminar - well not that they weren't stopping to reward - but that the timing was really important and you can miss the opportunity if you aren't quick enough.

    Steeler is definitely not one of those dogs that thinks the chance to continue is rewarding enough - and I KNOW that!!!! Now if I can just work on that in class.

  3. I understand...sometimes it's hard to remember everything you need to do in class. I'm just so used to hearing "give your dog a cookie!" so much from one of my trainers that now I do it without thinking. :) But it WORKS...also the more you can keep moving and keep that enthusiasm up (even if you have to circle back to try something again) the better.

    Ann B was saying at camp this month that she looks at rewards as making a deposit into a (relationship) bank and that she always wants her deposits to be more than her withdrawals. Every time a mistake is made and the dog has to do something over (that would be a withdrawal), she first makes a "deposit" by asking the dog to do something simple to earn a reward. She of course, said it much better, but that was the general idea. :)

  4. Yeah - the relationship bank is an analogy I hear often. You'd think it would be drilled into me by now.

    I feel like I am still finding my way with Steeler and dishing out cookies. I think I will ask my instructor to remind me more often to give him a cookie when I screw up. But on the other hand I am frequently told I am "chumming" or being a pez dispenser - to be fair that is usually during obedience type stuff. LOL - Poor Steeler really needs a new handler! Steeler and I went to a Tracy Sklenar seminar this morning - I need to think about some things and decide what I am going to do next.

  5. Hope you had a good time at the seminar! And don't feel bad...I think Peyton wants a new handler sometimes too. :)