Sunday, September 16, 2012

Building a Strong Foundation - RTH


I'm working on building a strong foundation with Hokey to eventually make us a better team when we start doing agility in earnest. Part of that foundation is working on the recall to heel (RTH) positions. We've begun working on 3 of them: the Foundation RTH, the Backy-uppy RTH & the Extension RTH. This isn't the "sexy" part of agility; it may seem as exciting as watching paint dry. However, RTH positions are important building blocks that will provide the firm foundation on which our teamwork will later sit.

The RTH positions teach her to respond appropriately with her body in accordance to my signals and position so that she begins to learn extension and collection and learns to face in the correct position so that we are both heading on parallel paths to the next obstacle; she will be able to predict where we're headed next based on learning what each of these positions means. Watching these videos, I am not always happy with the ending position of my legs & feet which should technically be together and pointing forward. This is definitely something I'll need to work on and a good example of why video taping yourself can be so useful when improving your training and handling.

For two of these three positions, I've found it helpful to use a wall or fence to help Hokey learn to keep herself straight in relation to my end position. Here we are working one of the positions (the Backy-Uppy RTH) where she starts by facing me and then turns and finishes next to me facing in the same direction that I am. I want her to hold this, and all, RTH positions until I release her.



Here we are working the same position over a jump.



Here I am working Hokey in another position (Extension RTH) where she is behind me and I call her so that she is in a heel position next to me. Again, I am using the fence as an aid to keep her straight. I also show her doing this over a jump without any aid.


The other position we've been working on is the foundation RTH. In this position you call the dog straight to you and turn so that you are both heading on a parellel path at a 90 degree angle from your dog's original position. If you are call the dog over a jump, this would mean that you would call your dog over the jump and then turn so you and your dog are parallel to the jump you just took. Unlike the previous two positions discussed, a fence or wall cannot be used as an aid to keep your dog straight. Instead, a chair or some other 4-cornered object that you can work the position around may be employed. I found a little plastic patio table worked great for this purpose (not shown here). Here Hokey and I work the foundation RTH using a jump.


There will be more RTH positions to add to our toolbox as our training progresses. Greater distance will be added as well, which will help Hokey to learn extension and collection.

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