Marks and Contacts:
(above) December 24, 2016. The purpose of this video is to show how a dog’s weight shift back when stopping on a Mark bucket is nearly identical to the weight shift back that needs to happen for a dog to perform a safe 2o2o on an A-Frame. The video with a Mark bucket was slowed down to match the speed of video with the A-Frame to better show the comparison. Training a dog to stop on a Mark bucket is an easy way to train a dog to use his body correctly for safe stopped contacts (2o2o or 4on), without subjecting the dog to endless repetitions over full-height equipment.
(above) Takoda doing 4on the A-frame. Note his position when going over the apex. He is in control and collecting in preparation for stopping at the bottom. One foot came off the A-frame to help him stop at the bottom, which I’m totally fine with because it’s really hard for a dog to drive that deep and stay 4on. I decided to train 4on vs. 2o2o because occasionally young dogs speed get the best of them and I was betting on the fact if I trained Takoda to do 4on, if he couldn’t completely stop 4on, he’d gently step into a 2o2o. If he was trained to do 2o2o, he’d either hit the ground super hard or leave the A-frame when he over-shot. I cringed when Jake, my first agility dog did that and I think it put a few years on his shoulders and elbows. Anyway, I love how Takoda went all the way to the bottom of the A-frame even with me lagging behind. I also loved how tempted he was to come off the A-frame as I kept walking by, but he stayed put.
(above) One final comparison. A straight approach to the A-frame and a row of 16″ jumps. It’s amazing to me how similar my dog’s jumping form is in both scenarios. I’ve found the same to be true with Lil, my Australian Terrier. I don’t know why those little glitches in motion are showing up during slo-mo. The motion is smooth until I render the final composite. URG.
Marks and Jumping:
The thing that is so profound about using a Mark at the end of a jump grid or any sequence for that matter is the dog is focusing on and running towards a “behavior” vs. a “reward.” This keeps the dog in a thinking/ working state of mind all the way to the Mark… and beyond since the dog needs to wait on the Mark while the handler walks over to deliver the reward.
(above) December 24, 2106. Lil’s first time jumping after taking a few months off from agility. The Mark should have been two strides away from the last jump vs. one stride away as seen in this video. You can see that Lil doesn’t have time to rock back before hitting the Mark at the end of the grid when the bucket is so close to the last jump.
(above) I set up this bounce grid to test Mark bucket spacing. Placing the starting Mark where I’d naturally position my dog for a jump grid worked well (obviously). The ending Mark seemed to work best when placed a couple of strides after the last jump (in Lil’s case about 8′ away).
(above) Lil, one stride between jumps.
(above) Although Takoda was exposed to SS puppy grids way back when, I don’t do much jump training with my dogs. The video above is of Takoda bouncing over 16″ jumps. The spacing of the jumps in the first two reps was tight and awkward looking but it didn’t seem to faze Takoda’s enthusiasm. The thing I like best about using a Mark at the end of a jump grid is how the dog continues to weight shift back vs diving over the last bar to get to a toy or food target placed on the ground. I think its clear that starting with a “super sit” on a Mark works great for insuring a nice weight shift back from the start. I think everything is easier to see with a long-legged dog like Takoda vs. a short-legged dog like Lil. Although I find it useful to watch both dogs to see how different their jumping styles are.. due to radically different body types.
Mark Training Videos
(above) Mark Demo using a single bucket. Very basic skills being practiced by both of us! For me this session was about trying to remember to reward in heel position.
(above) Adding more fun stuff and handling variety to Mark training. Once a dog is reliably running to the Mark, sticking his landings, and waiting to be released, you can start adding more handling variety by mixing in something for the dog to wrap, like a tree, a barrel or a cone. Handle from every position and if your dog understands your handling from every position and continues to maintain criteria on the Mark, you can begin to increase distance / speed. You can see how much fun this is for my dog (and me). This is how the two of us developed our shared handling language that worked beautifully when we started running full courses.
(above) Once your dog enthusiastically runs to Marks, sticks his landings, and waits until releases, put the behavior under stimulus control. Heeling in close proximity to a Mark bucket is challenging mental work for the dog, but worthwhile for sure. I like to alternate between heeling by the Mark and sending my dog to the Mark at trials before we run, especially if my dog’s attention is wavering. It doesn’t take much space and you can work your dog on-leash, right in front of his crate before heading towards the ring.
(above) More advanced Mark training. This video was shot at the tail end of a long Demo so Takoda’s enthusiasm was not as great as usual.
(above) Lil, a barrel, and 2 Marks, January 24, 2015
(above) Sitting on a Mark before releasing reminds a dog to push-off from the rear vs. pull from the front.
(above) Mark training translated seamlessly to a flattened A-Frame
(above) Introducing Pinwheels using Marks. Takoda was nearly 4 months old.
(above) Group Mark session. Takoda had a hard time staying on his Mark when Jake moved.
(above) Takoda being introduced to hoops and a Mark. He was 15 weeks old.
(above) another rep running through hoops to Marks
(above) Takoda’s confidence was growing rapidly that day!
(above) Mark bucket on the end of a flat plank. Takoda was 3 months old.
(above) Group Mark session. Takoda was 10 weeks old.
(above) Takoda early Mark sessions. He was 9 weeks old.
(above) First Group Feeding Session. Takoda was just shy of 8 weeks old.