Monday, 21 May 2012

Chutes and Ladders - I can stay!

Every dog has a threshold of comfort and although it seems obvious now, I was left scratching my head often when Reese could not maintain a group sit or down stay when there were many occasions she could hold a stay.
The situations Reese can hold a stay in:
-in the field while I walk 70 yds to throw a double.
-beside Ardi in nearly every situation, with nearly every distraction in my yard or house.
-in the agility field while I change the jump heights on course.
-in the training center while I put equipment away.
-on the start line in agility – 80% of the time.
-can stay in another room while I get her food ready.

So like I said, what seems obvious now is that the group situation, with other dogs and handlers exceeds her threshold for performing a stay.

We have some motivation to get ready for the draft test in September and to be ready she will need to do a 3 minute sit stay in a group. There is also a stand stay, for 1 minute, but it is done alone with the handler only 6 feet away.

Waiting @ the Agility Field

Lianne reminded me of a technique for lengthening behaviours, in this case the behaviour is a stay. Sue Ailsby in her book “Training Levels Steps to Success”, calls it Chutes and Ladders. What it means is you start by only going as far as you have success, returning before the dog reaches its threshold (breaks) and click and treat. You then head out and go a little further, then return again before the dog breaks. If the dog breaks, you move back to the beginning and start again.

In the case of Reese, I am working at both lengthening the distance I can move away while she stays and the length of time I can be away. I have to be careful to not change the requirements of both at the same time and increase the requirements in small steps.

We have had the opportunity to practise with a few dogs Reese knows. To begin, I’ve established that her comfort zone is about 15 ft for 30 sec. So we are working toward 1 minute at 15 feet. After 2 sessions with 2 different sets of known dogs, she has been successful in a 1 minute down and sit from 15ft. So we will continue working on duration and then up the distance. The important thing is to move in small increments to increase the threshold of her comfort.

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