Thursday, April 25, 2013

Gimme a "T"

T is for tunnel.
Several months ago I wrote about how, due to her deafness, Hokey was really struggling with reading rear crosses when heading into a tunnel. She would lock onto the tunnel entrance and "tunnel vision" would take over; my motion would become irrelevant. Once inside the tunnel, our visual contact would be broken and since she does not have the ability to pick up auditory clues, she would have no idea where I was and would repeatedly end up turning in the incorrect direction when exiting the tunnel. 

Since then, Hokey has become more experienced with the information being given to her through my handling. I've also worked on getting her to look for me as she exits the tunnel. Last weekend I took her to a little group training session/informal class at a place we've never been and one of the compliments I received on her training is that she was looking for me at the exit of the tunnel to tell her where to go next. I was curious to see how far she'd actually come in the past few months, so a couple of days ago I set up an exercise with a jump on either side of a slightly curved tunnel in order to see how well she could predict which way to turn as she exited the tunnel. I kept it simple at first.

Then I mixed it up just a little bit in order to see if she could still follow the information I was giving her regarding which direction to turn when exiting the tunnel.

I was still curious if Hokey's ability to read a rear cross on a straight tunnel (i.e. "puppy cannon") had improved, so I set that up today. It still needs some work. We did have a few instances of "missed communication". I noticed these were more apt to happen during a more straight on approach to the tunnel then if we had a more angled approach.

But overall, she is making progress. Months ago, she almost never turned the correct way out of a straight tunnel when I executed a rear cross. Even repeating it several times didn't seem to clue her in. Now her "hits" definitely exceed her misses. Here she is turning the correct way several times.

I finished off with the big exam - an exercise that mixed things up between rear crosses and non-rear crosses. She did excellent!

T is for Teeter
In my last blog post, I explained the process I was using to train the teeter, but didn't have any video clips to demonstrate. I've rectified that.

We play two different teeter games. The first is the "bang game" where I line Hokey up parallel with the slightly elevated end of the teeter and have her hop on. This teaches her how to use her body to push the end down and stay balanced. It also teaches her the 4-on end behavior I'll be looking for. We work on her staying in position until I release her. In most dogs, the "bang game" also helps to acclimate them to the noise the teeter makes when it hits the ground, but since Hokey is deaf, maybe calling it the "push it down" game would be more appropriate.

Next, I work on getting her to run across a low teeter, encouraging speed, but also getting her to stick her 4-on end behavior no matter what my motion is until I release her. In previous weeks, I had someone else restrain and release her. This past week I restrained her then raced her to the end where she would stop, but I would keep going. Here she is on a very low set teeter.

And then one set a little higher:

It appears she has a pretty good grasp of the end behavior criteria because the one time she overshot and came off the end, she tried to fix herself without any prompting on my part.

And here is Hokey running a little mini-course that incorporates all of the contact obstacles. Her A-Frame and teeter are coming along nicely. I haven't spent much time training the dog walk yet, so we still need to tackle that more seriously.

T is for Table that needs to be Trained
I also need to spend some time training the "down on the table" behavior in the hopes of getting a faster down and better duration. The table is often considered a bit of a no-brainer obstacle that doesn't need much training time compared to other obstacles, but when you have a dog that doesn't like to go into the down position in the first place, it's something that requires some dedicated training time. Out of all the many things I've trained this dog to do over the past several months, I would have to say that "down" was the thing I struggled with the most. Even now, she displays some resistance to going into the down position and has a tendency to slightly rise back up with her elbows hovering just above the ground - you can see both of these habits on display in the above video. She loves jumping on the table itself. But going and staying down? That's another matter. I've tried to find ways of making "down" into a fun and highly rewarding game for her, but so far I've struck out.

So that's my Terrific Testimony on Training Three T obsTacles.

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