Archive for August, 2012

Marsha Houston’s 2-min dog training blog – Haymitch’s advanced training

August 12, 2012

Okay — so I could go to Haymitch’s first teacup agility trial (ARF in Columbus, OH, next weekend) without teaching him how to weave.  But what’s the fun of that?

TDAA competitions offer 10-12 runs over the course of a weekend, so there’s an opportunity to earn a Beginner Standard title one day, and move to Intermediate Standard the next.  Or to earn a Games 1 title one day, and move to Games 2 the next.

If he stays confident and focused and if my head doesn’t explode, he could earn his TBAD on Saturday. In which case he’ll need to know how to weave Sunday morning.

I should go prepared for weaving.

So the next 5 days will be devoted to a couple of advanced agility concepts, weaving and sequencing. And mental preparation …

Weaving —

I began attempting to teach Haymitch the 2×2 weave method. He didn’t get it at first, and didn’t get it at last. Dogs all learn differently, and he appears to be uninterested in offering to engage agility equipment unless I’m moving with him. With me standing still he offers non-equipment behaviors, like sit, down, jumping up, etc.  If I’m moving he offers to engage agility equipment.

I accept the dog I’m with, so I wired up a set of weaves and walked him back and forth a few times.  The wires, for such a little dog, provided no blockage to his efforts to jump over or duck under the wire. I put his leash on and he continued to easily duck under or jump over the wire. Hmmmmm ….

I moved to the 2×2 weaves, set them up in a slightly-akimbo line of 6 with the short TDAA weavepoles so I could get my hands in there easily, and began just luring him back and forth through the poles. I gradually allowed for a more independent performance. I gradually straightened the line of poles. Haymitch performed about 30 repetitions before he started to lose appetite.

By the 20th repetition he was starting to get the idea of what was required to earn the treat. I’ll repeat this training every day this week. When he starts actually weaving independently, I’ll open the weaves up again to build some speed and encourage that independence.

Sequencing —

Bud set the building for his private lesson with Pearl and her Tervuren (from Cincinnati). It was easy to come up with some sequences for Haymitch.

At first I did a number of straight runs over agility equipment. I lengthened those runs from 3 obstacles to 5-or-6 obstacles.

Next I put some “handler focus” bits in the middle of a straight line, asking Haymitch to pull off the obstacle in front of him to attend my lead. He missed cues the first couple of times, but quickly drew into the line I demonstrated.

As with agility obstacles, Haymitch showed he is fearless and intuitive. He goes into obstacle focus when my arm is outstretched, and comes into handler focus when my arm is dropped or I have my hand in “luring” shape.

Mental preparation —

I just can’t be more impressed with this little guy’s natural ability. We adopted Haymitch about 2 months ago and didn’t really start serious agility training until about 3 weeks ago.

I keep waiting for the shoe to drop, so to speak, and for Haymitch to fail to respond to training or handling but it hasn’t happened yet.

I’m really excited about his first trial opportunity this coming weekend. I’ve pulled out my training bag which hasn’t been used since Tempest and I attended his last trial — October 2011. Sadly it still contained T’s emergency seizure kit. Life is sad and strange and tricky.

I’ve received the worker’s volunteer spreadsheet and signed up to work as a bar-setter for intermediate and superior standard classes. I’ll probably work more than that but didn’t want to commit only to discover Haymitch is annoying when left alone in his crate.

I’ve arranged to meet dear friend Gwenn at the trial. We always have fun together and we hope Patty can join us as well.

Bud thinks I’m going to chicken out. Perhaps he’s thinking I’ll be haunted by the memory of Tempest, or be concerned about failing in front of people.  But I’m very excited about this trip and am really looking forward to getting away from home and enjoying the company of Haymitch, Gwenn, and Patty, along with all the great folks at ARF.

Wish me luck!

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