Lateral Distance on Technical Obstacles

February 11, 2017

To be sure so called “distance work” in agility is nothing more than a matter of independent performance.

The element of performance most overlooked by the typical agility handler is the extent to which the handler by position and movement are embedded in the context of the performance. For example, a handler may believe that a dog understands the dogwalk and will make both the approach and the dismount as taught.

But in fact some dogs understand that performance only so long as the handler is in proximity and, in the case of the dismount, either putting on the brakes or stopped altogether, and for all practical purposes sitting on the dog’s head. Even a running contact may require the handler to run in perfect parallel to the dog at a proscribed lateral distance.

The training objective for any technical obstacle is disengage the handler from the context of performance. Following is a recording of a training session calculated to incrementally extract the handler from the dog’s performance. In this case the subject obstacle is the dogwalk:

Progressively increasing lateral distance training should be applied to all of the technical obstacles including the A-frame, the teeter, and the weave poles.

In the Jokers Notebook (issue #0) refer to “Lateral Distance” beginning on page 92 and “Lateral Distance Work on Technical Obstacles” on page 94. It’s a simple and nearly obvious method.

See Also: In the Jokers Notebook (issue #0); “The Two Minute Dog Trainer – Killer Weaves” beginning on page 90. This introduces training on technical obstacles for an increasing oblique; (though the text focuses on the weave poles).

Caveat ~ While the training method is “simple and obvious”, the independent performance of technical obstacles is one of those skills that is earned or deserved from training and practice. If the dog trainer fails to train and practice it follows that the skill is neither earned, nor deserved.

Notes Aside

This is an ongoing series intended as homework for Canine Manners distance seminar students; March 20 and 21 2017 in Broken Arrow, OK, (and others interested in training great distance skills who might visit these pages).

This topic is expanded and continued tomorrow! I will present a combination exercise in which distance skills from several of the topics discussed in this Blog over the last few days are all a part of the same exercise. And I should like to show how some of these skills are used on one of the NDAL League courses scheduled for this month (February, 2017). [I’m mindful before using fanciful distance work in the league course of something my mother used to say to me. She said “If it doesn’t work, it’s not showing off!”]

League Play Connection

Canine Members, the club in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma is an active franchise in the National Dog Agility League. The NDAL is a consortium of clubs around the world that each month will compete on the same courses under the same rules. And then all results are aggregated as a single event.

One very fun thing about NDAL league play is that for most dogs running the results include a link to a YouTube recording for each performance. It is very fun seeing how different handlers in different parts of the country solved the same course that you ran with your dog.

The NDAL fondly desires new clubs in: New Zealand, Belgium, United Kingdom, Finland, Mexico, Singapore, Switzerland, Russia, and Japan. Our league players are very curious about these different agility communities and would love to play and compete with them each month!

Here is an example of the results to a recent NDAL league competition:

January 50×70 Results

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You’ll find in the web store The Joker’s Notebook, an invaluable reference for teaching an agility dog (and his handler) to work a distance apart.

Secret Weapon for Distance Work

February 10, 2017

We can’t really divorce working a dog from a distance from “handling”. Handling of course is what the human member of the agility team does to communicate the order and direction of performance on the agility course. It is the verbalization of that handler ; it is how the handler cavorts in physical movement in his dance with the dog.

Imagine a handler movement, then, that creates acceleration in the dog and separation between dog and handler. Imagine a handler movement that is considerably more powerful and dynamic than a flat-footed send! That movement is rightfully the handler’s secret weapon for distance work.

Introducing:

The Tandem Turn

I’ll present the YouTube recording first; and then a comprehensive (long-winded) discussion.

CedarsTandemTurn ~

A Tandem Turn is a cross behind the dog on the dismount of an obstacle (i.e. landing side of a jump) or on the flat. It’s important to differentiate the Tandem from the Back Cross, which is a cross behind the dog on the approach to an obstacle.

We rely on the premise that our dogs already understand how we move. So in the Tandem we turn towards the dog, distinctly and boldly. The dog, understanding our movement should make the turn in this new direction although the turn is toward his side.

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This illustration shows the “counter-arm” Tandem. As the dog comes up over the jump the handler brings up his opposite arm, pointing out in the direction of the turn.

Of course, the turn is more than just an arm signal. At the same time the handler is rotating his body, turning, and moving in the direction of the turn. It’s also a good idea to develop a verbal command to coincide with all of these other cues.

Note that the handler’s position should be only slightly forward of the dog. The handler must be ahead enough for the dog to actually see the cues for the turn, while at the same time not so far ahead that the handler can’t step behind the dog.

There is a bit of a controversy with the Tandem Turn, that is, which arm should be used to signal the turn. It’s reported that Susan Garret once called the “counter-arm” the “evil-Ohio-arm,” and advocates using only the inside arm. Okay, “inside” arm sounds kind of obtuse, something that might belong to a Martian. To simplify, the “inside” arm is the arm nearer to the dog.

The inside-arm Tandem was originally shown to me by a lady from Los Angeles (Barbara Mah.) I thought it looked so silly that for a long time I called in the “La La” turn.

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However, I discovered that one of my dogs, who I’d been struggling for over a year to teach the off-arm Tandem, understood the “inside” arm immediately. He got it the first time he saw it, and made the turn perfectly. So, I no longer call it the La La turn. This is now the Inside Arm Tandem.

All the other elements of the turn are the same. The handler should rotate his body, turn the corner, and move in the direction of the turn.

Another significant difference between the counter-arm and inside-arm presentations is that the off-arm signal becomes the new lead hand at the moment of the signal. When using the inside-arm, the handler needs to switch to the opposite arm immediately after making the signal with the inside arm. He also has to remember to rotate his body. One thing that using the off-arm does, it forces the handler to rotate his shoulders. The inside-arm signal doesn’t do that.

Oh, as to the controversy about which arm to use. I like to operate under the assumption that we’ll use the arm that our dog implicitly understands. There are no “one size fits all” solutions in agility. The Tandem Turn should always be learned with experimentation.

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In fact, with some dogs respond to both signals, but give a different response to each. This illustration shows a scenario in which the turn is still away from the handler’s position, but the true course is the gentler path up to jump #2.

I would always use the inside-arm Tandem in this situation. I have a dog (Bogie) who takes the off-arm as a “hard and deep” instruction. He’d flip back to jump #3, giving jump #2 a pass. He’d interpret the inside-arm Tandem as a gentler turn, and would be, properly, directed to jump #2.

These aren’t hard and fast rules of the performance. The handler should experiment with both arms and understand the dog’s response to each. Know thy dog.

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The technical Tandem can be used on the dismount from technical obstacles, on the exit of a tunnel. The biggest danger is that the handler’s turn mightn’t have enough “push” to get the dog away before turning back. A Tandem is only successful when the dog believes in the turn. It must be convincing, and compelling.

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Oh, one final detail worth mentioning. The Tandem Turn “creates” distance. It’s a great movement to use to open up the real estate between dog and handler. In this illustration the handler is working parallel to the dog over the first two jumps with a bit of lateral distance. At the “corner” the handler surges into the turn showing the arm signal for the turn.

To the dog’s point of view the handler is making the turn; and the dog frankly won’t know until after jump #3 that the handler did not attend. It doesn’t matter. The dog should work faithfully in a path parallel to the handler to get to jump #4, even at a substantial distance.

Some dogs don’t immediately “get it.” They’ll turn towards the handler, rather than in the direction of the turn. Sometimes this is due to an error in the handler’s motion. But more often, it’s a plain fact that the dog turns most naturally in the direction of the handler.

For a dog like this you should take exceptional training measures. You’re in luck if the dog is toy or ball motivated. The handler can shape the turn away by throwing the toy or ball at the corner of the turn. This should be repeated, over an over, until the dog is taking the movement of the arm as a cue, even before seeing the toy go whizzing by his nose.

Next the handler will approach the turn and pretend to throw the toy. But immediately after the dog makes the turn the handler should throw the toy. The handler/trainer has made a transition from “lure” to “reward,” a very important concept in dog training. Just because a dog understands the turn in one direction, that doesn’t mean he understands it in the opposite direction. Both turns should be trained repeatedly. Don’t forget to experiment with both the off-arm signal and the inside-arm signal.

Errors in the Tandem

This is a variation of the Tandem that I call the “New Jersey Left,” or the “Whiplash Turn.” Have you ever driven a car in New Jersey? In order to turn left you actually have to turn right three times. What’s that about?

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Sure, it gets the job done. The handler changes lead hands and goes on without mishap. The bad part of this movement is that it chews up a minimum of about three seconds without actually going anywhere. You can see people do the New Jersey Left in competition all the time. It’s really quite funny.

Sometimes the New Jersey left is done intentionally. Sometimes it’s done by accident. Refer to the same drawing, above. What the handler is doing is picking up his right arm, the lead hand change used to signal the dog into the turn. The problem is that the arm is pointing the wrong direction. Sometimes the handler will actually lean in the opposite direction of the turn, or take a little sidestep that way, and then push into the turn. Of course by this time the dog has already turned in the wrong direction.

The only fix for this is to demonstrate how people turn corners. You move to the corner, and then you turn and go in the direction of the corner. What you don’t do is flap in the opposite direction, or lean first in the opposite direction. Remember, dogs already understand how we move. That includes how we turn corners. The handler, in a Tandem Turn, should turn the corner the very same way he’s been turning corners his entire life.

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In this sequence the handler steps in front of the dog, intruding on the dog’s path, turning the dog more sharply than intended. This is not a Tandem Turn. The handler isn’t in position to do anything about it. The Tandem is a cross “behind” the dog. If there’s any question of anatomy, the “behind” is the bit with the tail, a difficult concept for those who own Aussies or Corgis.

In this sequence the dog has taken the off course jump. The Tandem Turn tends to go wide in the presence of an “option” or a “trap.”

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This might be saved first of all by showing a very aggressive rotation of the handler’s shoulders. In the illustration the handler is using an inside-arm Tandem. It might be better to use the off-arm so that the turn goes hard and deep.

The real problem here is the selection of movements. On the approach the handler probably should plan on a Back Cross rather than a Tandem. One of the attributes of a back cross is a tightened turn on the landing side of the jump. This is an instance in which a tightened turn might be desirable.

Note that there are dogs that hate the Tandem Turn. On a percentage basis they are relatively few. But if a dog hates the Tandem, the handler should be advised to find another answer. You can tell when a dog hates it. The dog will come to a complete stop or otherwise simply shut down. It’s never the handler’s objective to shut down the dog.

When teaching the dog the Tandem a handler who consistently steps in front of the dog rather than behind the dog may shut the dog down. Great care should be taken to keep the handler from doing this to the dog.

The Tandem Turn is fast dog handing. The handler is mostly behind and pushing.

Notes Aside

This is an ongoing series intended as homework for Canine Manners distance seminar students; March 20 and 21 2017 in Broken Arrow, OK, (and others interested in training great distance skills who might visit these pages).

I am chagrined to realize that this comprehensive discussion of the distance handler’s “secret weapon” was not included in the Jokers Notebook issue #0. Consequently I’ve included the full text in this Blog. And I will edit issue #0 to include this discussion. [The text was written so long ago that I was still using CorelDraw to illustrate my lessons for agility.]

This topic is expanded and continued tomorrow!

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You’ll find in the web store The Joker’s Notebook, an invaluable reference for teaching an agility dog (and his handler) to work a distance apart.

The Exploding Pinwheel

February 9, 2017

The purpose of this training mission is to teach the dog the performance of a pinwheel as though it were a single obstacle with multiple elements. Think of pinwheel as you might think of the weave poles. The Poles are only one obstacle. Take the same ambition with a pinwheel.

A discussion of the Exploding Pinwheel can be found in The Jokers Notebook (issue #0 on pages 77 and 78/of course those page numbers will change after we’ve added a lot of new text and links to YouTube videos).

We have a YouTube recording of Cedar… being introduced to the “Exploding” Pinwheel:

Introduction to the Exploding Pinwheel

The text below comes from a lesson plan I wrote something like 15 years ago. It is included here as the writing credits the person who probably invented the method.

I learned this conditioning bit from Patty Hatfield-Mah. The idea is to teach the dog to understand the pinwheel, and take ownership of this common jump configuration.

We begin with the jumps in the pinwheel pushed very close together as in this illustration. The handler can draw the dog through the entire performance while remaining in one quadrant.

Note that the jumps should be set very low as there is scarcely 6′ of transition between the jumps.

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Before we move on from this step, we should be fairly certain that the dog has taken ownership of the pinwheel and will bop around the four jumps without a hint of luring or showing on the part of the handler.

As in any obstacle conditioning program, the handler’s keen use of a marker combined with praise and reward are essential to the dog’s learning. Any failure should be met with a neutral response from the handler. We want a keen dog emboldened by never being corrected or treated harshly. We allow the dog room to worry through the problem and discover that thing that earns the praise and reward.

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We gradually and patiently explode the pinwheel, advancing each jump from center in rational incremental steps, each of which we hold until the dog demonstrates a keenness and understanding of his job in the pinwheel before advancing to the next step.

The handler should be able to work entirely from one quadrant of the pinwheel. But this doesn’t mean that the handler should stand like a stump in the woods. We teach that a handler should face and move in the direction the dog should face and move.

A good handler would move in a robust manner that compliment the dog’s path in the pinwheel (and anywhere else on course). The teaching of the pinwheel in this manner is not about good handling, it’s about good training. When you combine good handling habit with good training discipline, good things happen in the course of the dog’s career in agility.

As the Exercise Advances

Dog training is most effective when the trainer approaches the objective with modest progression. “Modest” means that you take small discrete steps that allow the dog to succeed. “Progression” means that the trainer always raises the expectation for performance.

The exploding pinwheel exercise should fairly early on introduce the very real possibility that the handler himself/herself mightn’t even enter the pinwheel while releasing the dog to do the entire pinwheel. Even this objective should be approached with modest progression:

CedarExplPinwheelTandem ~

As the dog becomes more confident the pinwheel itself should be big and robust, like any pinwheel in competition. Each time the pinwheel is “exploded” to larger dimensions, the dog trainer should review modest intro steps with the dog:

Katniss Phoenix ExplodingPinwheelFeb17.wmv ~

Notes Aside

This is an ongoing series intended as homework for Canine Manners distance seminar students; March 20 and 21 2017 in Broken Arrow, OK, (and others interested in training great distance skills who might visit these pages).

This topic is expanded and continued tomorrow!

BLOG1197 NDAL

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You’ll find in the web store The Joker’s Notebook, an invaluable reference for teaching an agility dog (and his handler) to work a distance apart.

The Back Pass

February 8, 2017

It has been a few days since I’ve left any homework for the upcoming distance seminar at Canine Manners in Broken Arrow, OK. I expect that everyone who has decided to do any homework has been working with a pretty full dance card.

The Back Pass

Let’s add something simple to the dance card. I would like to teach my dog a “Back Pass”. While this might not immediately seem to be a “distance” skill; I promise to make the case with a rational argument later in our curriculum.

The Back Pass is a simple concept. The handler teaches the dog to circle around his body. This may at first blush seem like a Blind Cross, but it’s not a handler movement at all. It is a skill taught to the dog and might later be interchangeable with the Blind Cross.

Obedience handlers sometimes teach a Back Pass as a finishing movement to bring the dog to heel position. Of course obedience handlers are sided where agility handlers are ambidextrous. So the agility handler must teach both a clockwise and a counter-clockwise Back Pass as distinctly different performances.

This skill is ridiculously easy to train. I’ll share with you the introductory steps:

You’ll note that the command that I’m using is “Come By” which has surely spoiled my herding career. The command means for the dog to circle around my body in a clock-wise direction or, to be precise Come By way of the clock.

This second training session was only a day or two after the first. So you can see that it doesn’t take very long.

For circling counter-clockwise I use the verb “Switch”. It doesn’t really matter what words you use for the Back Pass, so long as you keep them straight for yourself. Please be aware that you may begin with an arm signal to supplement the verbal… but the arm signal must be faded as soon as possible.

I’ll leave you with a video from NDAL league play. This is Brenda Gilday with her dog Leela running in the January 2017 50×70 Fast and Fun League. Brenda and Leela, by my count, do the Back Pass no fewer than four times.

Notes Aside

This is an ongoing series intended as homework for Canine Manners distance seminar students; March 20 and 21 2017 in Broken Arrow, OK, (and others interested in training great distance skills who might visit these pages).

I promise new homework tomorrow!

BLOG1196 NDAL

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You’ll find in the web store The Joker’s Notebook, an invaluable reference for teaching an agility dog (and his handler) to work a distance apart.

Absolute Directionals

January 25, 2017

It is my opinion that distance training for an agility dog is incomplete until the dog knows “Left” and “Right”.

So far our homework has focused on teaching the dog to work independently at a distance. That’s a great start. But the handler must have the capacity to indicate the direction of performance.

To hazard a guess as to the percentage of agility dogs that today know “Left” and “Right”… I would say less than 10% and reckon that I am being generous in that estimation. This low percentage is not the fault of any dog. It is the fault of the dog’s trainer.

Approaching this training objective yields two positive results: building a distance dog, and making you a superb dog trainer.

The Introduction

The first Introduction to “Left” and “Right” I ever published was an appendix footnote in Go the Distance entitled “Linda’s Kibble Toss.” I will credit Linda Mecklenburg with this very basic introduction.

This is a free-shaping approach. The handler sits in front of the dog and utters the verb “Right”! The dog of course has no idea what the word means and may offer a series of behaviors while seeking out what the handler wants. Any indication to the dog’s right… will be marked and rewarded by his trainer (tossing a bit of kibble).

Before too long the trainer will want to draw the dog into the “Right” turn. This is essentially a luring action, drawing the dog into a spin. Please note that Right is always a clockwise movement. The trainer may not be too fixed or dependent on the luring motion although the hand and arm signal can be a supplemental cue to the dog. Remember that the objective is to teach the dog a verbal command.

The video below shows a point in training in which physical cues are extinguished:

Adding a “Left” Command

We started with “Right” and only “Right” to avoid the complication of making the dog try to grasp two new complicated skills at the same time. This may or may not be right. Regardless, it’s how I approach this training.

When introducing “Left”, the trainer goes right back to the free-shaping step just as we did when we introduced the “Right” command. It looks something like this:

Note that most of my training with a young dog is meal-time training. As I feed my dogs twice a day it allows me to be routine and structured in any training objective. And it allows me to train a dog that is keen and clever (coinciding with meal-time, of course).

Putting together the Mix of “Left” and “Right”

When we put both “Left” and “Right” into the same training session the dog’s trainer is obligated to keep statistics. The dog has learned to spin both Left and Right; but now we give a choice with only the verbal command. Initially the dog will be right just about 50% of the time. But you will become fascinated and thrilled as the statistic begins to rise above 50%!

Putting Left and Right on Agility Equipment

Ultimately we want more than a dog that faces us and spins either left and right, as impressive as that is by itself, our objective is to put those directionals onto the agility field. The following recording shows the introduction of directional commands in relationship to the agility jump.

Note in the video that in introducing the turning commands on a jump I always put myself on the side away from the turn. A dog turns most naturally toward the handler. So, I wanted to test the power of the verbal directional without regard to my relative position.

Clearly we are missing dozens of training sessions that didn’t actually get recorded. Teaching the dog to turn a specific direction on a verbal command is a deliberate process that takes time and patience and humor. The reward for this teaching is having the capacity to give the dog a cue to turn on a verbal cue and not have to always “handle” the dog into every turn.

Advanced Application

I already shared this recording with you when we were talking about “Named Obstacle” training. Now that we look back at it you should appreciate how absolute directionals are a constant feature of dog training and help us test other skills while working the dog at a distance:

Notes Aside

This is an ongoing series intended as homework for Canine Manners distance seminar students; March 20 and 21 2017 in Broken Arrow, OK, (and others interested in training great distance skills who might visit these pages).

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You’ll find in the web store The Joker’s Notebook, an invaluable reference for teaching an agility dog (and his handler) to work a distance apart.

Errata

January 18, 2017

Yesterday I misreported that the “Named Obstacle” training method was not included in the Joker’s Notebook issue #0. That was incorrect.

The Named Obstacle training method is included in Joker’s Notebook #0 beginning on pages 51 through 58. The Notebook uses the “restraint and release” method for beginning the training. Not all dogs are comfortable with the “restraint” part of this method, which is most appropriate for a type of dog eager to forge forward into the work.

As I am using this opportunity to update the Notebook [primarily to include links to YouTube videos]… so of course the page numbers won’t jive with the next publication of this volume.

Discrimination?

Obstacle “discrimination” is defined as two obstacles placed in close proximity (right next to each other) as options to the dog. In the Named Obstacle training we endeavor to take the time and effort to actually teach the names of obstacles to the dog.

But what if the obstacles are the same obstacle? Here’s a good example:

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We’re going to have to call this a “directional discrimination”. At #3 it’s not enough just to tell the dog Tunnel! And at #5 it’s not enough to tell the dog to Jump.

Tomorrow we will begin a discussion on teaching the dog absolute directional commands, notably… Left, and Right.

Notes Aside

This is an ongoing series intended as homework for Canine Manners distance seminar students; March 20 and 21 2017 in Broken Arrow, OK, (and others interested in training great distance skills who might visit these pages).

BLOG1186 Home

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You’ll find in the web store The Joker’s Notebook, an invaluable reference for teaching an agility dog (and his handler) to work a distance apart.

Named Obstacle Recognition

January 17, 2017

This is an ongoing series intended as homework for Canine Manners distance seminar students; March 20 and 21 2017 in Broken Arrow, OK, (and others interested in training great distance skills who might visit these pages).

Homework Review

Before moving on with a new discussion of “Named Obstacle Recognition” we should review our homework on Progressive Sending. I think I said earlier that I’m giving my potential students at Canine Manners about a year’s worth of work to accomplish in about 60 days. You must realize that I completely understand that it takes time and patience and practice to teach a dog skills. The ambitious dog trainer will find a couple times a day to attend to the dog’s training. And each of those sessions might be only five minutes long, give or take.

Below is a video of Cedar taken in a proofing step in her “Go On” training. Be mindful that progression to this point was weeks and weeks in the making and certainly not accomplished in only a few days:

Solving the obstacle discrimination by naming the obstacles

Years I spent solving the handling riddle for the “discrimination”… which is when two obstacles are placed side-by-side as options to the dog’s approach. And then I think I got lazy (or smart?) and decided to take a dog training approach to this omnipresent riddle of agility.

What if we just taught the dog the names of these obstacles… and then trust in the dog’s training just by giving the name of the obstacle we want him to take? What a concept.

The training steps are really quite simple. For the sake of illustration we start with a common discrimination in dog agility… the pipe tunnel under the A-frame. My method for teaching the dog the name of these obstacles is amazingly simple. I give the name of the obstacle that I want, if the dog gets it right… she gets a reward; if not, there is no reward.

Make it easy for the dog to succeed at first. The clever dog trainer wants the dog to succeed more than fail while being mindful that the training must progress by modestly increasing performance criterion.

Below I will share a series of YouTube videos to demonstrate the progression of this training. Don’t be fooled by the fact that you can “watch” all of these in less than ten minutes. The training itself will require weeks and weeks of investment by a patient and disciplined dog trainer.

The Introduction

The video below shows the introduction of “named obstacle” work with other objectives in the same training session.

And next we take the introduction out into the training building and begin the work with a solitary objective. Note that we begin with the tunnel and will save the A-frame for a later date. In this exercise I give a nice verbal introduction to the exercise.

Progression

A good dog trainer will often work at the edge of his or her comfort level, pushing the envelope of expectation so that the training doesn’t become flat and complacent. Note that we’re still working exclusively on the tunnel in this exercise. However, the shaping sequences change a bit as we work so that it doesn’t feel completely repetitious to the dog.

The next YouTube recording shows a training session in which I’ve added the A-frame to the choices for my dog. We will randomly alternate between the two. Note that I constantly make use of statistics. A statistic very much less than 50% indicates I should step back to a previous level of expectation. A statistic much over 50% indicates I should increase the criteria for performance.

Note that there was likely a day or two of A-frame only in advance of this alternating step in the progression of this dog’s training.

Proofing

Progress in the dog trainer’s expectation for success in an exercise like this is typically measured by distance. We established early on that what the handler would like to do is give a command for the correct choice of obstacles in the discrimination and trust the dog to understand the performance without the benefit of “handling”.

This exercise demonstrates prerequisite skills that are outside of the “named obstacle discrimination” training; notably, I am using “left” and “right” directionals to direct the dog.

This is a proofing exercise:

Notes Aside

The Named Obstacle training method is included in Joker’s Notebook #0 beginning on pages 51 through 58. The Notebook uses the “restraint and release” method for beginning the training. Not all dogs are comfortable with the “restraint” part of this method, which is most appropriate for a type of dog eager to forge forward into the work.

As I am using this opportunity to update the Notebook [primarily to include links to YouTube videos]… so of course the page numbers won’t jive with the next publication of this volume.

BLOG1185 Home

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You’ll find in the web store The Joker’s Notebook, an invaluable reference for teaching an agility dog (and his handler) to work a distance apart.

Progressive Sending and Kentucky Windage

January 14, 2017

This is an ongoing series intended as homework for Canine Manners distance seminar students; March 20 and 21 2017 in Broken Arrow, OK, (and others interested in training great distance skills who might visit these pages).

In the following discussion we’ll use bits from the January 2017 Masters league course for the National Dog Agility League. It is a reasonable practice to find training opportunities in the set of the floor.

Around the Clock ~ A Progressive Sending Exercise

Everybody wants to learn distance work. The real difficulty of distance work is two-fold: a) the dog must know how to perform obstacles independent of the handler; and b) the dog needs to be taught that he has permission to work at a distance from the handler.

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So we begin the day with an obstacle conditioning exercise on the tire that I call “Around the Clock”. The handler works at positions on the clock-face sending the dog to seek out the aperture and go through. Upon which the handler will mark the performance (praise or clicker) and then reward the dog. The first position is at 6:00 and then at 5:00, then at 4:00 and finally at 3:00. 3:00 o’clock is perhaps the toughest position because the dog will have to go out, give himself a square approach and the jump through.

As we work, the clock-face should expand. At first the handler works closely, represented by the white numbers; and then sends from a greater distance, represented by the black numbers.

I’ve put this exercise on a YouTube video. Though I didn’t use a tire, you can at least see the pace I set for this training.

Using Kentucky Windage in the Dead-away Send

The following illustrates a simple kind of distance challenge; send the dog away over two jumps, into a pipe tunnel, and call him back.

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You’ll note in this illustration that the dog is set square to the first jump. When my students do this kind of thing, it makes the hair in my beard turn grey. And don’t you know, I have a pretty grey beard these days.

The dog should not be set square to the first jump… the dog should be set square to the course which, as you can see is off to the right.

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Setting the dog up for a straight line for jumps #1 and #2 mightn’t be enough as a compelling option has been placed to the left. One of the Laws of a Dog in Motion says: “A dog forward of the handler tends to curl back to the handler’s position.”

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A thoughtful handler might begin with dog on left so that the dog has nothing to curl to, on the side of the handler. That doesn’t mean the dog won’t curl… and if he did, it would certainly spoil the send. In any case, the handler had better have reliable left & right directionals to direct the dog after jump #2.

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What the savvy handler will do in this case is use a bit of Kentucky Windage, leaning the shot into the wind so that the curl brings the dog to target.

You will note that in the last blog entry we showed a YouTube video of “Strategy for a Distance Handler” in the opening of the January 2017 course. In this video Marsha Houston very intentionally uses Kentucky Windage as insurance for solving the two-tunnel discrimination that opens the course:

Notes Aside

  1. Another of the Laws of a Dog in Motion worth mentioning is this: “Nothing straightens the line like the certainty in the mind of a well-trained dog.” So the tendency to curl back toward the handler when the dog is ahead mightn’t be as big a risk for the superbly trained distance dogs. But I, for one, believe in insurance.
  2. Feel free to attend the written homework. All of these skills are documented in The Joker’s Notebook issue #0: Progressive sending (to the #2 pipe tunnel); [JN00 “Around the Clock” p 46-47; “Progressive Sending” p 59.] The send to the pipe tunnel begs that you understand the principles of Kentucky Windage; [JN00 “A Discussion of Kentucky Windage” p 63-65.]
  3. The problem with YouTube is that you have to download a video every time you look at it. Unfortunately the quality of the presentation is tied to the bandwidth of the download. So it can be a pain to watch a video of any size because the picture stops or stalls as the download buffer catches up. It’s downright painful, especially if you have a less than optimum internet connection. Furthermore, we mostly get charged for our use of that bandwidth. So if you want to watch a YouTube more than once, you pay for it in bandwidth every time you watch it. YouTube does not make the video resident on your computer. I use a utility called aTube Catcher (Studio Suite DsNET Corp). It is absolutely free and it’s easy to use. The link to the official site to download your own copy of aTube Catcher:

http://www.atube.me/video/

Play with the NDAL

New clubs are always welcome to join the National Dog Agility League. Preview our January courses here:

http://natldogagilityleague.com/blog/2017/01/02/january-2017-ndal-courses/

Contact us if you are interested in joining play. Getting started with the NDAL is simple.

Like the NDAL on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TopDogAgilityPlayers/

Visit the NDAL blog: http://natldogagilityleague.com/blog/

BLOG1184 Home

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You’ll find in the web store The Joker’s Notebook, an invaluable reference for teaching an agility dog (and his handler) to work a distance apart.

Strategy for a Distance Handler

January 12, 2017

This is an ongoing series intended as homework for Canine Manners distance seminar students; March 20 and 21 2017 in Broken Arrow, OK, (and others interested in training great distance skills who might visit these pages). Canine Manners is an active franchise in the National Dog Agility League. It is useful to use the NDAL courses as a context for the study of teaching the agility dog an independent performance (sometimes called… distance work).

As I study the January 2017 Masters league course for the National Dog Agility League I can’t help but see the course through the lens of a distance handler running a dog that is perfectly comfortable with independent performance.

At the same time it’s clear that the plan I’ve devised for myself has a list of prerequisite skills. Allow me to demonstrate:

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Plotting only the first four obstacles of this course serves up, for me, a list of prerequisite skills. On the course map I’ve drawn a line to demonstrate exactly what I want to do as a handler. I want to move in a straight line from the start to a position intermediate to the A-frame and the pipe tunnel at #4. The transition between #3 and #4 is a “technical moment” and requires the handler to be right in the big middle of the action.

The skills list includes, from the start:

  1. A send to the pipe tunnel;
  2. Performance of the A-frame at a lateral distance;
  3. A back-pass in the transition from #3 to #4

Are you ready for some homework? In the next few days we will talk about each of these skills; and provide YouTube videos to demonstrate. If you practice any of these sequences feel free to send me your videos so that they can be used for illustration and comment on the pages of this web log.

Feel free to attend the written homework. All of these skills are documented in The Joker’s Notebook issue #0:

Progressive sending (to the #2 pipe tunnel); [JN00 “Around the Clock” p 46-47; “Progressive Sending” p 59; “Training & Handling #2 p 122.]

The send to the pipe tunnel begs that you understand the principles of Kentucky Windage; [JN00 “A Discussion of Kentucky Windage” p 63-65.]

Performance of the A-frame with the handler at a lateral distance; [JN00 “Unambiguous Contact Finish” p 19-22; “Back to the Abridged Training Plan” p 60; “Lateral Distance” p 92; “Lateral Distance Work on Technical Obstacles” p 94.]

A Back Pass on the approach to the #4 pipe tunnel; [JN00 “Come By” p 28-29]. Note that the discussion of the Back Pass when this issue of the Joker’s Notebook was written is quite primitive. We’ve learned a lot about the movement since then.

Illustration of Concept

We couldn’t leave this page without having video as a proof of concept. The video shows Marsha Houston running her wild dog, Phoenix, in the opening four obstacles of the January Masters NDAL league course.

Notes Aside

Play with the NDAL

New clubs are always welcome to join the National Dog Agility League. Preview the NDAL January courses here:

http://natldogagilityleague.com/blog/2017/01/02/january-2017-ndal-courses/

Contact us if you are interested in joining play. Getting started with the NDAL is simple.

Like the NDAL on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TopDogAgilityPlayers/

Visit the NDAL blog: http://natldogagilityleague.com/blog/

Page Number References

Yesterday I began this series as a context for homework for distance seminar students at Canine Manners, March 20 and 21 2017 in Broken Arrow, OK. In that discussion I failed to refer to page numbers in The Jokers Notebook (issue #0). When I have this page published I shall go back to that blog post and edit it to include the JN00 page number references.

The crazy thing about page numbering is that as I work I am editing the original issue #0 to include the YouTube recordings that so nicely illustrate the teaching from the original text. This means, of course, that when I republish issue #0 all of the page numbering from this blog will no longer match up.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You’ll find in the web store The Joker’s Notebook, an invaluable reference for teaching an agility dog (and his handler) to work a distance apart.

Homework for K9Manners

January 11, 2017

Canine Manners distance seminar students… this blog is for you!

On March 20 and 21 2017 I shall be in Broken Arrow, OK to lead a Distance Skills seminar. We’ve concocted a unique and fun format in which I will post nearly daily homework exercises in the lead-up to that clinic.

A distance seminar is a devilish thing. You must know that “independent performance” is all about training the dog. You don’t do it in a minute. And, frankly, you don’t do it in a couple days. Dog training is a patient and daily discipline that can easily span month and, in some cases, years.

So, it is my objective in the ten weeks leading up to this seminar to share about a year’s worth of dog training work. I will introduce foundation exercises. And when I have students in front of my we can do an assessment of

Our reference for this training shall be The Jokers Notebook, issue #0. You’ll find this workbook in our web store: www.dogagility.org/newstore.

Lesson 1 “Go On” Intro for Baby Dog

Go On is a very basic directional command. It means, continue working in a straight line without regard to the handler’s position or movement. Go On is the basic command verb, and may be punctuated with commands for specific obstacles.

Part 1 ~ As we were working with a very young dog, we used the “hoop” obstacle which is a staple for play in NADAC. There’s no jumping involved and so it is completely appropriate for a young dog. As far as that goes, a jump with the bar laying on the ground would serve just as well.

Part 2 ~ Adding depth and dimension

Once the dog understands the basic performance of a single obstacle we can add some depth to the exercise by adding more of that obstacle. Note that the training method is quite simple. When the dog gets it right there will be praise and reward. When the dog fails to finish the praise and reward are denied. The handler shouldn’t apply a negative marker. Allow the dog to sort out what it takes to earn the reward.

Part 3 ~ Modest Incremental Escalation

Each day we spread out the jumps or hoops… just a few inches. It doesn’t take very long for the distance to become impressive. In our example below we’ve included a pipe tunnel at the end of the line of hoops. And the tunnel is “framed” to the dog by the hoops.

Lesson 2 “Go On” Intro for a Mature Dog

If you think your dog already has decent focus for the jumps you can certainly begin with a slightly more advanced introduction to “Go On”. The YouTube below demonstrates this very nicely.

Notes Aside

Okay, I haven’t written to my personal blog for a long time. I’ve been blogging, of course, but not here. Most of my writing has been going to the Teacup Dogs (TDAA) blog, and to the National Dog Agility League (NDAL) blog.

I return to these pages expressly to for my upcoming seminar (March 20 and 21 2017) with Canine Manners in Broken Arrow, Giving out homework in advance is kind of a unique approach to a seminar. But don’t you know, teaching skills to a dog, especially teaching the dog to work independently at a distance demands that we engage in a very specific and intentional training program that frankly requires months and months of diligent work. It doesn’t happen on a single weekend.

Other people may also use the instruction that’s coming in the following 60 days or so. You are all welcome. A couple of old friends and associates have recently acquired new pups. I invite you, friends… to follow along. A dogs skills in working at a distance are earned and deserved through training and practice. Without training and practice they are neither earned, nor deserved.

ALSO… I’m going to use this opportunity to update the Joker’s Notebook issue #0 and embed the YouTube recordings that illustrate the teaching in the book. There’s something very two dimensional about the written word. The visual expression of those words might really make a difference in bringing home basic training concepts to a student of the game.

BLOG1182 Home

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You’ll find in the web store The Joker’s Notebook, an invaluable reference for teaching an agility dog (and his handler) to work a distance apart.