Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Frustration or... Retraining Sucks

So Monday night I took the dogs to the FRAC drop-in at Boulder Co. Fairgrounds. I had goals for each dog and my goal for Sage was to see if I could generalize the down at the end of the contacts in a different environment from home.

The environment was pretty laid back but at least they had an electronic "go" and I performed our competition ringside and startline routine in order to hopefully replicate a trial environment. The course started with a jump to dogwalk. Sage ran the dogwalk contact and was into the wrong course tunnel before I could attempt to cue the down. We repeated the dogwalk and same performance except she did not go into the tunnel this time. I brought her back and took her up the side and cued the down and she immediately went into the down. We continued on and she ran the rest of the course beautifully and had a nice running a-frame, and nailed a difficult wp entry.

Of course, this was just one drop-in session and I plan to return to the next one. But I was a bit disappointed that she didn't down on the second try. Maybe it's a lot to ask of a dog who has a two-year reinforcement history of running the dogwalk

I will of course take it on the road some more...
The other day though, I got to thinking...
How is it that I can run this fast dog clean on almost every course (we rarely have a wrong course) without verbal directional cues (the only verbal cues I use are her release cues and "tunnel" in the case of a discrimination.  I can do it because Sage responds 100 percent to my motion to tell her which direction to go. I use acceleration to cue extension, deceleration and/or lateral motion to cue turns (front crosses and rear crosses), and I rely on forward and lateral sends to allow me to get downstream and stay ahead of her on the course.

So can I use motion to cue contact behavior? Not sure.
Sage has a pretty nice running dogwalk. Our issue has been it's so fast that if there is a wrong course obstacle directly in front of the dw, she will take it before I can catch up. However... if I could somehow use deceleration on the dogwalk to at least get her to break stride and slow down enough for me to catch up and redirect her...

If I'm behind her on a straight line of jumps on a course with a turn coming up on say.. jump 4, Sage will respond to my deceleration and collect her stride and prepare to turn in the direction of my lateral movement.

I might experiment with this at the next drop-in session. I will however continue to practice the dw at home with the down at the bottom because I like how it shifts her weight to the rear.

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