Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Butterfly Boxes

Monday, I worked all three Aussies on a series of jumps (with no bars) laid out similar to this:

The butterfly box is very versatile for working on distance.  The three distance lines are for gauging progress.  If your dog needs help to be successful, don't feel the line you have chosen is a barrier.  Step in and help your dog be successful.  The two jumps at the 10 foot line are basically there to accelerate the dog into the box.  In this configuration, you can work on sending, wrapping, turning your dog toward you or away from you.

A word about the "jumps."  When I’m working on handling, I usually put the bars on the ground.  I want my dogs to use all of their energy for playing distance and running.  Additionally, these exercises are about my handling and teaching the dog how to interpret it at a distance.  When my dogs jump, I expect the bars to stay up.  If a bar were to come down while I’m trying this distance stuff, I would either have to stop and address the dropped bar or abandon my criterion for jumping.  No bars; no dilemma.  Lastly, if I can handle the exercises with no bars, my timing should be a piece of cake when I decide it's time to add them.

Since Belle and I have been working on this type of distance for a while, she had a rocking good time.  Next up was Dusty.  Dusty was distinctly unhappy about this exercise, so I put him in the house and brought out Libby thinking I could demonstrate with a less-well trained dog how to gradually increase handling distance in a training exercise.  Well, Libby really surprised me—she cheerfully (if not necessarily correctly) went out and performed.  Here is the video in slow motion with a running commentary.

After having such a good time with Libby, I decided to try it again with Dusty.  He demonstrated nicely the need to simplify an exercise so the dog can be successful.  Libby has always taken the attitude that if there is an obstacle in front of her, it must be the obstacle that comes next.  Turning her off a straight line can be like trying to turn the Queen Mary.  Dusty, on the other hand, drops back into handler focus way too easy.  He has hit the occasional sandbag in Tunnelers when he feels he has to check in to make sure that this is indeed the tunnel he is to be taking.  In order to sell Dusty on the idea that he is indeed to take the second jump, I have to move into the box as you will see in this video.

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.  ~Roger Caras

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