Blue and the teacup tire

I settled on a rule this morning, and I’m interested to see how long it takes Blue to adhere to the rule using positive reinforcement (feeding her) and negative punishment (not feeding her) for performance. Here’s what she’s doing.

When she jumps through the 12″ tire she tries to turn really sharply to the right or left to race back for food. This tight turn is created when she purposely snags her rear legs, starting at her flank, on the tire itself. Like a tractor which turns sharply when the farmer applies a hard brake on one back wheel, Blue snags that tire with her rear leg and lets the braking assist in pulling her head around.

Perhaps this is a pattern she found useful since she’s 13″ tall and 30″ long, so it takes more to turn her than just pushing off with her front legs.

When she hits the tire, when I see it swaying, when I hear it clanging, I do not feed. I simply turn around and re-present the tire. If she clears the tires with no swaying or clanging, she eats. Anyone want to take bets on how long it takes her to figure this out? I’m betting 4 days.

Bud often, while at seminars, makes the comment that harsh, or correction-based, obedience ruins agility. Usually his comment is met with a barrage of “oh, no one teaches obedience with popping, jerking, hanging, smacking anymore.” I beg to differ, folks. My very first experience with obedience was at a local community center where the instructor rolled out mats in a 50-foot square. We were shown how to pop-n-jerk our dogs around that square in basic obedience class. No one ever mentioned positive reinforcement or treats, clicker wasn’t even known then.

I heard just yesterday that the lady who taught my class has quit teaching for this community center and has been replaced by a guy who — you guessed it — lays out a 50-foot square of rubber mats and has them pop-n-jerk their dogs around the square for basic obedience.  Lordy be.

We’ve long held that the only punishment allowed at our training center is a neutral (or negative) one — the removal of the treat, the removal of attention, removal of the dog from the start line, returning the dog to the site of their error and re-attempting the skill, etc. There are a lot of people out in the world, though, who see dogs and children as infinitely smack-able. I always hope that the world’s children have as many advocates as dogs — and we can always use more advocates for dogs.

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