Monday, January 10, 2011

The Devil is In the Details - Especially at a Distance

It was warm enough to bring a short tunnel out of storage and set up the course I posted yesterday.  I had hoped to work on a bunch of different sequences, but I quickly discovered that getting Belle to run to the second tunnel using the numbers in the white circles was not that easy.  

The problem turned out to be my mistaken belief that standing parallel to Belle's path from #3 to #4 was the way to go.  Some of the runs were successful, but certainly there has to be a way to be more consistent.  I confess I was unable to spot the problem in the video I shot (mostly because I used a tripod and I'm so far away from the camera).  I figured out what I was doing wrong by accident when we later in the afternoon to try again.

Because of the constraint of the bonus line, I was stopping while Belle was in tunnel #3 or shortly after she exited.  This is something that happens when you are sending your dog 50 feet or more away from you.  Sooner or later you run out of real estate.  Coming smoothly and gradually to a stop after Belle exits the first tunnel is probably the best plan, but it's not always easy to execute.  In training, I'm trying to get Belle to realize that I want her to go on when I come to a stop with my feet in a wide stride, my hand out-stretched and my voice cuing her to continue.   What I failed to realize was that standing parallel to the path I wanted her to take wasn't supporting her line to the second tunnel.  Without that subtle pressure on her line, Belle had to guess what I wanted.  Since a dog tends to turn in toward her handler, much of the time, she turns left.  Even when she took the second tunnel, you can see she slows down and looks back at me.

Since getting to the second tunnel turned out to be difficult, I should have rewarded Belle upon exiting the tunnel when she made the right choice.  When we went out a second time, later in the afternoon, I made sure to reward the correct choice by tossing her ball for her as she exited the tunnel.  Hopefully, we'll be able to go out tomorrow and work on this some more.

I also took Dusty out to work.  We concentrated on the dark circle sequence, beginning at the straight tunnel.  Once he was successful with that, we backed up to the second jump and then to the first.  For Dusty, the bonus line was at the exit of the first tunnel.


  1. Would a solid "GO tunnel", "GO ON, tunnel" have helped solidify what your body ques couldn't?

  2. I gave her various verbal cues, but when they weren't supported by pressure on her line they weren't that successful. Additionally, I think it is best to not teach a dog to ignore your body cues in favor of a verbal.

    Part of the challenge in distance work is making your body cues big enough that the dog can see them. Another challenge is to give unambiguous body cues. Running parallel to your dog's line is not an effective way to get relatively close to them. If you are behind them, it is important to run so that you are converging on the line you want them to run. If you are ahead, then you can run a straight line because the dog will be running to catch up with you.

  3. If I understand correctly...getting Belle to drive to the 2nd tunnel you had to gently 'push' towards her (and to the right) to keep her from turning towards you instead of just pushing straight ahead of you (and her). I assume it has to not be too big of a push otherwise you'd be pushing her towards the right-side jump instead of straight ahead to the tunnel? But then again, I guess neither your body nor your verbal is giving a "turn" command...

    My Holly's max distance line is about midway between the first tunnel and next jump, but I hope to increase that distance by the end of this year. Her confidence in me (and herself) is slowly building :)

    This is VERY interesting and very helpful! Thanks!

  4. That's right. Fear of pushing Belle over the off-course jump was what made me think I should be paralleling her path to the tunnel. I even stopped moving to check the way my feet were pointing. I thought, "Good girl, they're pointing straight ahead." Unfortunately, if you think about it, "straight ahead" is not really pointing at the tunnel entrance. Body angled slightly toward the line puts my feet pointing at the entrance.

    I really look forward to working some more with this setup in order to learn how I have to handle at a distance so that Belle understands what obstacles I want her to take.

  5. It snowed last night, so I put a jump where the straight tunnel was. This made it much easier for me (practically a no-brainer) to move on a converging path as I sent Belle to the the curved tunnel.