Saturday, February 26, 2011

Motion Cue Testing

I'm in the process of going through all of the articles I've saved from Clean Run.  This morning I was began re-reading the series "It's Your Turn!" by Sandy Rogers which appeared in 2010.  The first article is about using acceleration and deceleration as handling cues.  Since we once again have snow on the ground, I decided to set up a very simple sequence to test the Aussies' understanding of these cues.  The basic set-up is shown on the right.  (Because of the snow, I did not use jump bars.  If you decide to try this exercise and your dog is knocking the bars, lower them or remove them completely until he understands what you are asking for.  Then reintroduce the bars at a lower height.  If your dog is performing as you want and keeping the bars up, raise them back to full height 2-4" at a time.)

Before I started with the course though, I spent a little time working on the dogs' understanding of the cue when we were just running along on the flat.  Namely, if we are running side by side and I slow to a stop, I want my dog to turn into me and come back toward me.  For example, if Belle is running on my left side and I slow and stop, I want her to turn toward me (which means she will be turning right) and come back to me to receive a reward from my left hand.  Belle got it pretty quickly; Dusty was far more interested in eating snow; Libby wanted to run and bark.

Ms Rogers advises waiting for the correct response, but since it was relatively cold out, I resorted to holding out a hand for a touch for the first couple of times for Belle.  With Dusty and Libby, I had to move backward to get the their attention.  However, I did make sure to not use a verbal to get their attention, since the object of this exercise is training the dog to recognize a physical cue.

Next I used one jump to practice the deceleration cue.  (I didn't practice the acceleration cue because the dogs all understand that one.) 

After working the one jump exercise with the dogs on my right and my left, I tried the exercise using two jumps as shown with the dark circles.  (With both exercises, start with your dog .)

Finally, for the big test.  Would the dogs understand the deceleration cue when it was given before a tunnel?  First I ran the light circle course continuing to run fast as the dog entered the tunnel. Then I ran the dark course, giving a verbal tunnel command and slowing as my dog was a stride or so from the tunnel entrance.  It worked like a charm with Belle and Libby.  Dusty chose to argue about going into the tunnel, something he frequently gives me flak about.

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