Sunday, February 24, 2013

Weekend Update- All About Foot Work

Yesterday we worked on boxwork and getting snappier turns off the box.

I'm really, really happy with Demo's turn.  It's coming together really nicely.  He needs a faster box, but that's beyond my control at the moment.

Sunday after work I worked on hind end awareness skills with the Agility dogs.  Trophy is working on advanced skills of trying to place each foot individually on a fitpaws paw pod, but I didn't take video or get photos.

Also, I have to apologize for the quality of these photos.  I had to take cellphone photos as my short focal length lens is broken, and my zoom lens on my good camera has an extremely long focal length (the dogs have to be about 10 feet away to get them to focus).

Hind end awareness is beneficial in so many ways, especially for dog sports.  Many dogs don't think about where they put their back feet.  In flyball this can be the difference between a good push off the box and a dangerous turn.  In agility it can help primarily with contacts, and footing on the dog-walk and teeter.  Finally, it can turn into many funny tricks.

So how do I start?  With Shaping.  I want the dog to offer shifting weight back to one hind foot.  I want to click for the same rear foot all the time at first.  I have found that my dogs are very front foot oriented so they try to spin around and walk down whatever prop I'm using, so I rig up an xpen into a chute so the dog can't turn, and can only move forward and backup.  I place a book on the floor at the back of the xpen and start upping my criteria to the dog placing the back foot on the book.

When the dog is offering that consistently I place a few more books or a shoe box to raise the height and wait for the dog to offer it again.  If I wanted to teach an independent rear leg lift I would continue on in this fashion, continuing to raise and raise and raise the height of the props to get the proper height of the leg lift, and then slowly remove props while keeping my high leg lift criteria for the reward.

However,  my goal for this training session is more about a contact behavior, so after Demo was very readily offering back feet on the boxes I switched out the boxes for my flyball jump board.

Then I continued rewarding for standing and backing up the board.  I also slowly opened up xpen so he had more options of directions and I could proof the backing up.

We had to trouble shoot with Pan, who wanted to only offer laying down and crawling forward.  Since I was using the xpen and my weave poles are sitting in the living room, I used them to block her from laying down. After she was reliably understanding that I wanted her to back up, not lay down, I set one pole on the ground under her.  Next session I will try to remove that.

Pan also did this hilarious crazy foot dance when working on the board.  I took a video (and you can see the new position of the "don't lay down" tube).  It's crazy wobbly as I was trying to hold my phone steady and click and reward all at the same time.  My criteria at this point is to wait for her to take another step backward on the board, but for the most part she's just picking up her feet and setting them back down in the same spot in this crazy-flaily dance.   have I mentioned I love her?

Well, next time I work on this I hope to get a video of the whole progress... and one that's not so shaky...

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