Homework for Tempest

I wanted to go back to reconstruct some of the early exercises I did with Kory now a year ago so Marsha can do some of the same foundation work. Kory is a fantastic distance working dog.

Fundamentally a dog really should learn to work independently at a distance as one of the first steps in the training curriculum. Bear with me here. What we’re trying to fix in the dog’s brain is an understanding of the game. And the game is to be out there away running and jumping and so forth.

With this in mind we’re going to introduce the toy as the primary reward for work. There are several good things about toy work. The toy becomes a principal motivator and instills “game” in the game. And, you can give the toy a toss to promote continuation of movement.

I’m pretty sure I started Kory on hoops rather than jumps. But it really doesn’t make too much of a difference. Tempest is only four months old, and the jumps will be set down at 8″. We start with the jumps (or hoops) in a modest curl with the handler beginning at a station about mid-way, and ready to take a step or two to support the dog’s movement. As the dog goes over the #3 jump we give the toy a toss to the red X to promote continued movement.

As we work with the dog the handler begins farther back in small incremental steps and moves forward supporting the dog less. It’s possible that the dog will pull out of the curl of jumps. The dog trainer’s response is simply to deny praise (the marker) and the toss of the toy (the reward).

Gradually we straighten the jumps and add a bit more distance between them. The dog trainer’s ambition with opening up the jumps should not exceed the dog’s ability to be successful.

The simple verbal directive is “Jump, Go On!”

What’s going to get to be more difficult is placing the toss of the toy in a timely manner forward of the dog to promote continued movement. What I found myself doing with Kory was anticipating his success and giving the Frisbee a toss so that it would be sailing over his head about the moment he was sailing over the jump.

It’s possible that we could have a reward for the dog turning out of the line of jumps. In other words, I’ve thrown the toy in anticipation of a successful rep. Oh well.

Don’t forget… the simple verbal directive is “Jump, Go On!”

The thing to do is not really be in too much of a hurry. Ultimately we’d like to own a simple three jump send away with the handler remaining behind the first jump. The dead away send is the toughest distance challenge we’ll ever face in agility. By any definition of the game the handler will not and cannot be moving well or much supporting the dog in any way.

The verbal directive is “Jump, Go On!” really is all  the support we have left to give the dog.

Our lesson next month… how do we turn the dog?

Playful Pinwheels ~ Thinking Outside the Box

While it’s true that I practice an “own the pinwheel” kind of training with my dogs, when push comes to shove I will reserve moving badly for some class that absolutely demands it. Think Gamblers, for example. In routine course work however I will endeavor to move in a way that inspires the dog and ensures that he is well directed.

I’ve written a great deal about pinwheels over the years. There’s something about a pinwheel that inspires the handler to move like an old musty stump in the middle of a swamp. Moving badly is good training… but it is not good handling.

The conundrum is ever that the dog’s path is this big robust thing while the handler’s path is more diminutive and restrained. Even a slow handler can outrun a fast dog in a pinwheel. The real painful match is when a handler is working a dog of moderate speed and handler is so completely defined by the inner limits of the pinwheel that the dog gets no sense of excitement or electricity at all from the handler. Just between you and me and the wall, if your dog isn’t one of those ballistic self starting everything-at-top-speed kind of dogs, then handling him as if he were is an error.

Blind Cross as a Pinwheel Movement

The trick in a pinwheel is to find a way to move. That means more real estate. Frankly there’s only so much real estate inside the pinwheel. But if I think outside the box, there’s plenty of new real estate for handler movement. In this first playful attack on the pinwheel I have the handler step outside the box in the transition between jumps #4 and #5 using a Blind Cross to race the dog to the outside. The transition and the moment of the Blind Cross are indicated in this illustration by the red colored paths for dog and handler.

Tandem Turn as a Pinwheel Movement

Another important skill in a pinwheel is the Tandem Turn. The Tandem is a cross behind the dog on the dismount of an obstacle or on the flat.

To play with this the handler will approach jumps #2 and #3 with dog on right, crossing behind the dog into the Tandem on the landing side of jump #3. Note that if the handler intends a Tandem Turn then he should endeavor to arrive at the jump at the same instant of the dog. The Tandem tends to create a wide sweeping turn in the dog’s path and accelerates the dog’s movement. These are perfect attributes for a pinwheel. Though you might get into a bit of trouble with it if you have an Afghan Hound or a leggy Border Collie.

Using All of Our Pinwheel Tools

Both tools, the Blind Cross and the Tandem Turn can be applied to the same pinwheel. In this illustration the handler executes the Blind Cross in the transition from jump #3 to jump #4 and then promptly uses a Tandem Turn to step back into the box after jump #4. The Blind Cross is indicated by the red paths for dog and handler; the Tandem Turn is indicated by the green paths for dog and handler.

This is an interesting handling choice that requires a speed change. The handler begins with slow dog handling (forward and pulling) into the Blind Cross; and then abruptly transitions to fast dog handling (behind and pushing).

Note that in the conduct of the Tandem Turn the handler actually wants to arrive at the jump at the same instant as the dog. We might argue that a Front Cross would be better than a Blind Cross because the Blind Cross is a racing movement and might make the handler arrive at the jump prematurely. However this is really a “know thy dog” condition. If the dog slips forward of the handler prematurely out of a Front Cross then the handler is behind the dog at the turning jump and so a Blind Cross would have been a better choice of movement.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

Who is this fellow?

First correct answer, posted as a reply to this blog post, wins a free copy of the June Jokers Notebook.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training Plan – June 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: http://countrydream.wordpress.com/web-store/ . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special05” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.


5 Responses to “Homework for Tempest”

  1. Carole Says:

    It’s Sid Caesar.

  2. Debbie Says:

    It’s Freddy the Freeloader

  3. Vicki Says:

    It is Red Skelton

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