Marsha Houston blog – 2min dog trainer – Haymitch con’t.

Haymitch has been on a crash course (no pun intended <g>) to prepare him for teacup agility competition. He gets mealtime training for dogwalk contacts (a sit at the bottom of the ramp) and a few sessions with the exploding pinwheel (“go on!”). He’s great dog-on-right going counter-clockwise, and sucks dog-on-left clockwise. So I’m doing 3-4 times as many pinwheels dog-on-left.

Additionally, once a day we spend 30 minutes in the training building where we’re working on sequencing, the full-size dogwalk and a-frame, the teeter, and weavepoles.

Sequencing – Haymitch seems to really enjoy running with me. He’s pretty steady about understanding his role, and rarely by-passes an obstacle. The most-often missed obstacle for Haymitch is a jump. I want him to understand that I’m not going to babysit agility obstacles, so I condition the dogwalk approach. I run at the dogwalk from 5 feet, from 10 feet, from 15 feet, and finally from the exit of the tunnel (about 20 feet). I’m going to add a jump to the sequence, between the tunnel and dogwalk, so he learns to take the jump that’s in his path.

Sequencing (mealtime) – For breakfast and supper Haymitch is learning the exploding pinwheel, taking three jumps in a pinwheel without my having to babysit them.

Full size dogwalk, a-frame, and teeter – Haymitch’s contact training actually started on our teeter trainer. It’s a wide, heavy, low tipping board. He progressed from that to the teacup teeter. I then introduced the dogwalk and he had no problem distinguishing between the teeter and the dogwalk. I then introduced the teacup a-frame. His first sequence contained both the teacup teeter and a-frame. Yesterday I tested his confidence by asking for the full-size a-frame, which he took quite naturally, as if he’d been doing agility all his life.  I always want to challenge him, so I took him to the full-size teeter which he ran up, rode down, and sat for his treat. He repeated this obstacle half a dozen times and seemed unaffected by the height, the tip, the noise, etc. So impressive!

Weavepoles – there are as many methods for teaching weavepoles as there are agility experts, and I’m not afraid of implementing any method if I feel it will add to my dog’s understanding of the obstacle. Haymitch’s introduction to weavepoles was with two poles, with a click/treat for entering correctly. I then added a third pole, click/treat for entering and exiting correctly. I then added a second set of 2 poles, with a click/treat or tossing a toy for going on to the second set. (As an aside, Haymitch’s favorite game with a toy is “keep-away” so I can get lots more repetitions if I train with food, whether I click/treat from my hand, or click/toss the treat into his reward zone.) Yesterday I wired a set of 6 poles, put him on lead, and got him to weave through all 6 poles for a toss of the tennis ball. Because I had him on lead I had better control of the “keep away” game. I may continue with the wired weaves, then transition to other methods if his weave performance is slow or unnecessarily deliberate.

I’m getting quite excited at the prospect of actually showing him in August. I’ll be anxious to see if he is adversely affected by strange environments, strange equipment, strange people, dogs barking, etc.

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2 Responses to “Marsha Houston blog – 2min dog trainer – Haymitch con’t.”

  1. amanda fortenberry Says:

    Wow this is so cool. How early do you start training for these competitions?

    • 2mindogtrainer Says:

      It really depends on the dog, Amanda. We start training as soon as the dog enters our lives, doing mealtime training for attention, to teach a new name, then we start training for performance.

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