Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Indoor Games (part one)

It's that time of year again, it's cold and dark by the time I get home from work and all I really feel like doing is snuggling up with a warm fire and waiting for spring... 

...However, my four-footed partner and I have plenty of agility work to do, plus she needs other mental stimulation and exercise as well (as do I, but that's not why we're here, so let's not go there). We've got a few other indoor games I'll cover at another time, but for now I'll share the newest addition to the rotation.

I call it "Start Line Laser!" (okay, so that's just a working title). ...

For those of you who don't know, a solid stay on the start line is crucial in order to grow in agility and ours is anything but solid. It used to be, but that was back when she was unsure of  this whole agility thing and was perfectly happy to sit in one place where she felt safest. Now that she knows the fun beyond the start line, the last thing she wants to do is just sit there and wait for my lead out and her release word. What she needs is better impulse control. What I need is a better way to teach it. She needs to learn that the fun only happens if she waits and all of my returns to the start line, the verbal "uh-oh's", and other nonsense just doesn't seem to be working. If anything, it's become a whole other game to her.

I've ordered Susan Garrett's "Crate Games" which teaches "self control for a phenomenal sit-stay", but until that arrives, this is our new way of tackling an issue and we can do it in the comfort of our home ...

Combining her love of the laser (yes, I know the dangers of some dog's becoming obsessed with them, and no, she's nowhere near OCD about the thing) and her willingness to forsake anything else for it, I figured we'd try to see if she loves it enough to WAIT for it.

"I am soooo going to figure out how to catch this damn thing!"
  1. Play a little laser chase to get her aware that it is on like Donkey Kong! Stop.
  2. Have her sit at my side similar to how she would in front of a start line.
  3. One "wait" command from me, said with total confidence in her, and off I walk .
  4. Turn on the laser at a point on the floor near me.
  5. Once she is aware of the laser, but offers me her attention, she gets her release cue and OFF SHE GOES. 
  6. Alternate the criteria (walk out far, but keep the laser still; walk only a few steps, but move the laser around on the floor.
She only broke her stay once and when she did I lazily sat my butt down and followed up with some less than exciting trick commands which she immediately looked bored with. She didn't break again after that (maybe she's actually learning that good stuff follows 'wait' and nothing good follows a break!?)

.... So, it seems like a good exercise. Whether or not it translates to agility is yet tbd (and it certainly doesn't address her other start line issue which is plain ol' nervousness), but I actually think this might somehow worm it's way into the back of her super-brain and make a connection. Maybe. (On a side note, the laser also seems like it will be a useful tool to work on her "out" (away from me) command.)

Worst case scenario is that I learn from the DVD or one of her trainers that what I'm doing is not a good idea, but I doubt that will happen, right? Well, whatever, it filled up our night and kept her little body and active mind busy! Yea! Only 118 days, 15 hours, and 50 minutes until spring! Woo-Hoo!

For anyone who doesn't run their dog in agility, this is still a useful indoor game... what dog couldn't benefit from learning better self-control while having fun zooming around after a little red dot!

"Is it there? Is it on the wall behind me? It is, isn't it?"

Watch this video to see a conversation that is very similar to one Zainey and I had recently! 

1 comment:

  1. What a great start line practice! Unfortunately for me, Sophie is one of those OCD dogs. We played 2 times with the laser when she was a puppy. Now she can't see a shiny object or reflection without pouncing. 70lbs of dog trying to pounce in a car because the phone made a reflection...oy!!!