Out! And the Discrimination

The “Get Out!” is an essential directional tool for solving the discrimination. It’s not the only tool. And I suppose that other elements of training should be discussed at a later date. But for now, let’s assume that basic relative directional commands will greatly enhance our chances for success when two obstacles are presented in close proximity.

Discrimination: Two Obstacles in Close Proximity

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You’ll note straight away that we’re working with dog on right today whereas yesterday’s lesson was shown with dog on left. Frankly the introductory steps must be done on both sides before advancing to this more demanding criterion.

What I’ve done in this configuration is introduce a second obstacle that might attract the dog’s attention. However, I’ve set it somewhat back and not directly in the dog’s path.

I also begin to alternate the relative directional command to cure the “smart aleck” dog who simply repeats what he did last without really showing any evidence that he understands the point of the lesson. The smart aleck dog can often be as difficult to train as the dog that shuts down on repetition (who thinks he’s being corrected for having to do it over and over again). It’s sometimes a good idea to shift the context through a variety of other activities between repetitions.

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The exercise should be progressive. Note that I’ve shifted the jump 2′ forward and both the jump and the weave poles 2′ to the right. At this point the dog actually has to bend away into the weave poles.

In the previous drawing I didn’t make mention, but the set of the handler’s body is quite different for the Out to the weave poles than it is for the Come to the jump. To some degree I’m giving the dog additional cues by the set of toes, hips and shoulders. When I want the dog out and away I face perpendicular into the dog’s path to apply outward pressure. When I want the dog to come in towards me I face in a parallel path.

The illustration tool doesn’t really serve to show what I do with my arm. When I want the dog Out I push toward the dog with an open palm. When I want the dog to come in, my arm drops for a moment down close to my leg (for a moment drawing the dog into handler focus) and lifts only when the dog has drawn in enough to have a clear go at the jump. A lifted arm should indicate obstacle focus to the dog.

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This illustration shows the jump 2′ closer still; and the jump and weave poles 2′ more to the right. By this point the jump is becoming a considerable attraction to the dog; and getting out to the weave poles a more considerable effort.

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Progressing again with the jump 2′ forward; jump and weaves 2′ farther to the right.

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Now we are at the proofing step with the jump straight ahead and flush with the first pole of the weave poles. We’ve relied to a certain extent on patterning the performance. But alternating the Out! and Come! instructions gives me some assurance at least that the dog is processing the difference between the instructions.

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What I’d really like when faced with a discrimination challenge is not to have to micro-manage every single occurrence. With enough practice using a variety of different obstacles and working both left and right I should get a pretty good handler over time as to whether my dog actually understands the instruction.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at www.dogagility.org/store.

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