19 April 2013

This morning between rain showers I took Strafe and Kiba out to the agility ring. Strafe did a little bit of collected bounce grids at about his shoulder height, just for fitness. With Kiba I've been working on her new verbal, just testing to see if I can get her to understand it. And I can't say it's going super well so far. I started out by saying "turn!" and rewarding her really strongly for coming towards me (not hard, since that was her initial response to an unknown but excited sounding verbal cue). Then I started saying it around obstacles and rewarding her for coming off them rather than taking them. Lately we've been walking around the ring and when she looks at things I say "TURN!" and when she starts coming towards me I run away and she chases me and then gets the toy. That part is going pretty well. When I add speed or sequencing it all falls apart very quickly. After some thought, I decided that rather than making it a verbal cue that means "don't take anything at all and come straight to me", it might be easier to train a cue that means "wrap the next jump wing and come back to me" since she usually loses me after things like lateral sends, where I am not really close to her and she picks the obstacle she seems to THINK is next, and then I can't call her off it anymore (she seems to think me calling her is me calling her TO the off course obstacle, which she will wrap every so nicely before returning). So I decided to make "turn" into a wrap type of cue. I don't even care if she turns tight on it - I just want it to mean "jump that jump and then find me", rather than "jump and continue on the line you see". But after today's first session I am not optimistic that this will work for her. I will continue trying for a few more weeks, but as I've said previously, I'm not one to continue on a path that isn't showing success or at least forward progress; it's too frustrating for both dog and handler. So today I used the short jump grid I had set from Strafe, and put the bars on the ground. I stood right next to the first wing, and said "turn! turn! turn!" and sometimes Kiba wrapped the wing and came back to me, and we had a party. But if I moved back a little bit, she always locked onto 2 jumps in a row and it took 3 or 4 tries before she could figure out how to just take one (bars on the ground, mind you!). Since she already understands that "turn" means come back to me, this was fairly discouraging. But I will continue playing with it and see how it goes. I did enter her in an AKC trial at the end of May, at her regular height of 16" - I did consider dropping her to P12" but I just don't think the jump height matters that much anymore. And I'm afraid if she's running even faster at 12" it will be even harder to turn her off the wrong obstacles as well. As I've always said about Kiba - if she can't jump 16" anymore she will retire.

Strafe, on the other hand, is sometimes so careful on the jump grids that if he even touches the bar once he will then throw on the brakes and attempt to add an entire stride in a tiny space just so he can be sure to avoid hitting it again... when all I really want for him is a good workout! Funny boy!

Photo by Agility Gallery

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