Skills Review

On the short flight from “the Cities” to Duluth I started scratching out a TO DO list; including a variety of tasks I might get done during this road trip. It didn’t take long to write a pretty long list. It’s really no wonder I’m such a bad example of a tourist. Every excursion is a business trip from the moment I wake up ‘til I fall asleep late at night.

So… don’t you know, I turned the notebook over and started a different kind list entirely. I’ll share that with you below.

Six Month Training Plan for Kory

Kory is a magnificently trained dog for a two-1/2 year old. Yet I’m fully aware that it would be a mistake for me to get complacent in his continuing education. Here’s a broad list of things I’d like to accomplish.

Get Out ~ This is a simple relative directional which means “increase lateral distance” or more to the  point: choose the obstacle farther from my (relative) position.

Even as I write this I’m fairly sure the implementation won’t be a “Get Out” at all; at least not as I’ve trained it to other dogs in the past. I’ll likely use Left and Right to solve directional discrimination; and I’ve already begun this work, with some success. I should dredge up a bunch of my old Get Out training and proofing exercises to test the concept.

Turn Back ~ This is a skill that I taught my old boy Bogie. It means “turn around and repeat the obstacle you just finished.” This skill is handy in a Gamblers class for cutting down on transition movement during point accumulation (when the judge doesn’t have a much of silly restrictions, like no back-to-back.)

If you think about it the Turn Back command is probably an absolute directional! If the dog understands the performance then it doesn’t much matter where the handler is parked.

Jump Close ~ This is intended to be a pre-cue instruction meaning “jump collected; wrap the turn; and get back to me.” I haven’t really thought through the training steps. I’ll probably play with it is a free-shaping objective (possibly putting it counter-point to “Go On”).

Right now Kory is an absolute freight train if I’m not forward, in position, to give a physical pre-cue. I want to put it on command.

Quiet Contacts ~ Okay, my verbalization for contact performance has gone over the  top. The dialog might go: “Lie down! Walk up! Bottom! Lie down! You stay you monster!” Somebody took a picture of Kory with me (the handler) in the composition. My face was a frowny scowl of a grimace. So I’ve been practicing smiling with a pleasant expression on my face while I unleash that verbal torrent.

Anyhow the ridiculousness of it has me determined to go back to the trainer’s drawing board and fortify the performance with a handler who works silently.

No Handling Discrimination ~ I’ve been working on this for some time, teaching my boy the name of obstacles. I’ve focused primarily on the tunnel walk or tunnel A-frame. But I want to fortify the success up into the 95 to 97 percentile range. I also want to practice with a variety of other obstacle combinations.

Auto Down on the Table ~ Now that the AKC doesn’t demand trained dogs on the table I can exercise my criteria for performance as in the USDAA. There is no confusion of Sit vs. Down. Table means down. Sounds like a job for the two-minute dog trainer. But then, so do all of these objectives of the six month training plan.

Left and Right on Recall ~ A Border Collie handler a couple years ago told me that Left and Right directionals are effective only when the dog is moving away from the handler. When the dog is moving towards the handler, as in a recall, Left and Right are meaningless to the dog.

Sure enough it’s very difficult to turn my boy when he’s coming towards me. It’s as though the logic of Left and Right are overpowered by my forward position.

On the other hand, what this really suggests is that the training of Left and Right as solid directionals from a recall station, forward of the dog, should be taught to the dog as an independent skill taking the same baby steps that you might take teaching the dog to turn Left and Right while sending him forward of you. I’m not daunted by the mission at all. Besides, it would be both fun and profitable to own a skill that others believe is impossible.

Post Script

Plan your work and work your plan.


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