Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sunday January 28th 2007 - home practice

(Backfilled in October 2009 due to impending closure of Geocities)

Directionals breakthrough!! I haven't put a whole lot of effort into teaching left and right since first teaching Walter to spin left at our beginner's agility course a year ago, but I had it in the back of my mind that that was one thing I'd like to get done over the winter. He's got spinning left down pat, but over the last few weeks I've been doing the occasional short practice luring him to spin right but haven't been able to fade out the luring. Until tonight!! Walter was able to spin left and right on verbal cue only (well besides any unconscious nonverbal cues I may be giving) and I made sure to randomize which direction I asked for. It was so neat!! Just like I never thought I could teach a dog to weave, I never really thought I could teach a dog to distinguish between left and right either. Of course, we'll still have to work on him generalizing the directionals to mean things other than a spin directly in front of me. I found that using the clicker to mark the moment when he turns his head and is committed to the desired direction has really been effective. I'll admit that until fairly recently I was reluctant to use clickers for anything because I didn't understand their use (didn't understand that it's a training aid for teaching new things; thought I'd forever have to bring a clicker with me everywhere I went with the dogs) but I'm so glad I finally "gave in" in the fall and bought one. My appreciation of clicker training grows with every new thing I use it for!

Another thing, I've just started teaching wave and sitting pretty. Ok they aren't strictly agility-related, but the idea is I want to build Walter's repertoire of "tricks" (perhaps "tasks" is a more appropriate term?) which come in handy for focusing him before agility runs and lots of other situations where I might want him focused on working with me instead of worrying about what might be going on around him. So far we have a few of the basics: the obligatory sit and down, as well as bow, hand-touch, spin left, spin right.

On another note, January 2007 marks Walter's and my first year agility anniversary!

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