I love my job! As a dog trainer I get to play with dogs, puppies and help people train their dogs to be well behaved family members. But by far I love teaching dog agility the best.
If you have never seen a dog run agility it is wonderful to watch. You can visit this link to see agility videos and see what it is like. It’s even more wonderful to run it with your own dog. A lot of people think only Border Collies can excel at this sport but from the smallest chihuahua to the largest Great Dane, all dogs can take part in this great sport. We have many students at our dog training school and we see all kinds of dogs. One of my students PE came last week for a private lesson with her Whippet.
Isn’t she cute? I love Lacey! I have often tried to slip her in my car when PE isn’t watching but for some reason she keeps a good eye on her. Lacey has a nice wardrobe as you can see, here in the North East dogs without much fur need a coat!
Anyway, they came for a private lesson because Lacey has always stopped on the bottom of the A-frame. A technique we teach dogs so they safely navigate this large piece of equipment and hit the yellow contact zone at the bottom. The rules for agility state the dog must have at least one toe nail in the contact zone or they will incur a fault and will not qualify. But dogs need to have a concrete job, so for years we have taught them to come to a full stop at the bottom with back feet on the yellow zone and front feet on the ground in front. This can be very hard on a dog’s shoulders over time, so we have begun to teach some dogs to run the A-frame, but they still have to hit the yellow zone. You will see what I mean in this following video.
There are a couple methods I have been experimenting with. This one was using stride regulators. Basically teaching the dog to stride into the yellow area. We thought Lacey was understanding so tried a sequence.
I am not a fan of changing a dog’s natural stride and we had limited success with Lacey so we decided to change to a method we call the box.
I learned this from Rachel Sanders (an awesome agility instructor!) at BARK agility camp last summer. It is her method and is still fairly new. We started with the box made from PVC and the size of the yellow contact zone, on the floor, using clicker training to teach Lacey to run into the box. We then translated this to the a-frame. Now I have to put in a disclaimer here because I moved Lacey too fast out my own curiosity (Bad trainer!) but I am fairly confident this method will work for her. Here she is with the box the a-frame:
So PE when home to construct a PVC box of her own to work at a slower pace. We want Lacey to understand she must get all 4 feet in the box every time to earn a reward. At that point we will put it on command (what I call putting it on cue, that’s trainer talk). Then we will get together in a week of so and move it to the A-frame to test Lacey’s understanding. then we will move tot the next phase if she is ready and start having her run short sequences ending with the A-frame. I want to document this here because I find it interesting and I hope you will too.
What a great job!