Thinking (and working) outside the box

Box set up, June 29, 2014What a fabulous early morning backyard training session we had this morning.  The weather was perfect and the grass was freshly mowed.  The set up included one more hoop to the left and I started some reps running my dogs down the DW ramp off the set of steps to the left of the out-of-frame hoop (if this makes sense) so they entered the box at full speed.

I tend to set up symmetrical sequences so I can work with dogs on my right and left without needing to reset any obstacles. I really liked this particular set up for testing how well my dogs respond to my body language (upper and lower body cues) for GO ONs, LEFT and RIGHT turns by using a box consisting of 4 jumps surrounded by hoops.  I stayed well outside of the box (at positions like the 2 red Xs) in order to test distance skills while layering other obstacles.  Boxes sure are great for proofing handling at a distance since they provide very tempting off course options.

Lil totally aced the GO ONs through the box…..super fast, 100% confident, and not even a tiny glance at the off course obstacles. Lil’s OUT skills (turning away from me) were also stellar.  The only skill we/ I did not ace the first rep was OVER RIGHT (turning towards me)  when I just used a dramatic shoulder pull.  So the next rep, as Lil approached the first jump in the box,  I took a couple of small steps backwards while rotating my upper body and feet to face the path ahead and she totally GOT that I wanted her to turn towards me…. and she did it at full speed and with 100% confidence.  No question about it.

I also did some reps sending her through the 4 hoops around the perimeter of the box while I took just a single step to push on her line when needed (along with appropriate body rotation). That was quite challenging since 3 of the hoops were quite close to the edges of the yard but Lil GOT all 4 of them after a couple of tries.

Jake was also super fast, confident, and aced the GO ONs but when I send him ahead, he tends to think he knows the course based on whatever he did the last rep.  He had a blast and so did I but since I don’t plan to do BIG distances with Jake at trials… I am not worried about his creativity 🙂  when I am not using motion (running with him) as my primary cue!   Jake is such a fun dog to run!

Compared to just one month ago, I feel so much clearer about how to best use physical body cues for distance handling thanks to the ongoing guidance and feedback from my good friend Lynn Smitley.   She showed me my NEW backing-up “dance move” at our last trial and it worked perfectly to turn Lil towards me off a beckoning tunnel straight ahead which was part of the distance challenge in an Elite Chances course, which Lil aced.  This cue is so effective it has to be a natural cue for dogs.  Today’s session seemed to confirm that.

Below is a link to a video of Lil’s 2nd and 3rd ever BONUS BOX attempts and the Elite Chances run I referred to.

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2 thoughts on “Thinking (and working) outside the box

  1. Hi Dev, I’ve been reading your blogs for several years it seems, they are inspiring and from my computer or IPAD I cheer you on. I even have your link on my website to encourage others to do what you do with your dogs.
    I am reaching out because I finally have time to add some agility fun to my life with my Aussies. I would like to re-read your early posts on agility. How far back do they go, what year did you start talking about agility?
    Thank you for any help you can give,
    Caren Holtby
    Tidewalker Australian Terriers
    http://www.tidewalker.ca
    Vancouver Island, BC Canada

    • Thank you Caren! I started this blog in 2012 but I started posting videos earlier on YouTube. Below is a link to the first video of Lil as a puppy developing agility foundation skills. There are some older videos of Jake but I think you’ll enjoy seeing how much fun foundation skills are to train… and if those skills are solid, agility is a total breeze and a total blast to do with Aussies.

      Two things I think are worth spending a lot of time on. Teaching a dog that “GO. STOP. GO. is super fun vs. just training GO GO GO as stopping is a necessary skill for agility in the USA at least re: the Table, Teeter, and other Contacts potentially). Aussies are naturally VERY BOINGY so contacts can be challenging to train but necessary if you want to Q! 🙂

      Also, time is well spent on jumping skills and determining a comfortable jump height for each dog. IMO just because an agility organization says a dog X inches tall should jump Y inches high, it is not necessarily right for every dog. My goal with my dogs is that we all have as much fun as possible. I don’t care how high they jump and they appear to enjoy running faster and jumping lower… so that is what we do.

      If you click on that link, you will see an option to SUBSCRIBE to my channel to make it easy to watch other videos.

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