After agility class was complete, Deb and I set up the dog walk at full height, along with 2 jumps and a tunnel. The exercise was taken from Bud Houston’s Blog and is intended to work on the dogs exit or dismount from the contact of the dogwalk. The blog suggests that the dog be released to all 4 positions without handling , I took this to mean handle it like it were a distance challenge.
The biggest challenge I could see is that Reese has not done a full height dog walk at the training center. We rarely set the dog walk at full height in the building; the flooring plus the lack of room rarely provide a safe approach. Deb and I were very conscious of the slip hazard and handled the dog walk approach by pushing the dog over a jump set parallel to the dog walk up contact. We let the dog square up their approach before we continued on our path along the walk. Both Reese and Rush have good 2 on 2 off contacts, so handling the dismount was fun and fairly easy.
After having success with this sequence we decided to work on having the dogs discriminate between the tunnel and the dog walk approach. We added a set of 6 weaves directly in line with the dog walk, but on the other side of the jump.
In order to set Reese up to succeed, I started close and approached the 2 obstacles with her on my right. I made a deliberate step sideways towards the tunnel with exaggerated movement. I then backed up about 3 feet on every attempt, until I was sending her from about 15 feet away. Then I switched her to my left side and did the same with the dog walk. I was so close to the dog walk up contact that she would have to duck behind me to take the wrong (tunnel) obstacle. I repeated this a couple of times. Then sent her over the jump directly ahead of the dog walk, had her do the weave poles and wrap back over the jump heading to the dog walk / jump combo. I asked her to do the “Walk” but I think I was late and she had already committed to the tunnel. When she came out I picked her up on my left side with out stopping to tug or reward her I spun her back to the sequence. She took the jump with good speed, completed the weaves quickly, as she turned back toward me I directed her over the jump and clearly said “Walk” . In a split second you could see the wheels turn and she glanced at the tunnel, but then took the walk. I was thrilled; we celebrated and tugged, and ended our session here.
As Bud Houston says in his blog, having success once does not mean we own the behavior. I have to say that I was thrilled with Reese’s honest attempts to process the information I was giving her. As always, much more to come….