These days mom has really been pondering the question of how to make me a faster agility dog. After my slow starts at our last trial and then a pretty slow and ho-hum class last Wednesday, mom is looking for advice! Seems like the magic meatballs are not so magic any more. Don't get me wrong - I still like them! But they don't always motivate me. I am super fast when mom gets me to lose my mind. I don't do that very often when I know it's time to do agility because I treat agility like a job that I should do and do correctly. That's just the way I am! So mom experiments with trying to get me to do tricks before a sequence (or even just a jump) but I won't do it because it's time for agility. Or she tries to get me to tug and I won't - same reason.
Then mom started thinking about things that excite me (mail, paper towels, keys) and she made a toy out of rolled up paper. I had never seen such a thing and got so excited we practiced for awhile without treats and with me going very fast to "get the paper"! When mom tried to use treats and the paper, I wouldn't have anything to do with the paper.
Yesterday mom found some articles about agility online at Front and Finish (THE obedience magazine like CleanRun is THE agility magazine). She read a couple about speeding up dogs. Here is an excerpt about using a target to teach a dog to blast-off from the start line (please forgive the informal method of quoting and giving credit to the source - it's been a long time since senior english class):
"If you decide that running with your dog from the start line is best, then
train your dog for a blast-off start. The best way to do this is by
using a target. Place a target, such as a plastic lid, in front of
your dog. Put a treat on the target and hold the dog back until
he is squirming to get free and pick up the treat. Give your dog
a take-off command such as "Ready, set, go!". Release your dog
and let him eat the treat from the target. Gradually increase
the distance that your dog must travel to get the target. Always
restrain him until he is really struggling to get free before you
give him the take-off command and release him. This will teach
your dog to blast off with a fast start on your command."
from Speeding Things Up - A Success Story by Webb and Leslie Anderson published in the February 2000 issue of Front and Finish.
We thought this sounded like a great idea and tried it for the first time today. Mom put a target with a little piece of chicken on it about two feet away from me and held me back and said, "Reeeaaadddyyyy, go!" And I got the chicken - what an easy and fun game! Mom found out that I didn't like to be held back and would wait next to her until she finally said, "GO!" We increased the distance to the target and eventually added jumps one at a time until I did three jumps really fast on my way to the target. We're going to try this some more and in different places and with some other obstacles and see how it goes.
Mom also read another article called Agility and the Small Dog - Speed Challenged Agility Dogs by Gerianne F. Darnell from the October 2000 issue of Front and Finish and the author told this story:
"A few years ago I had the good fortune of walking out of a ring and
having Linda Mecklinberg talk to me for about 15 minutes
about my slow dog. I will always be grateful for this talk,
because it forever changed the way I looked at a course. Linda
told me that I would often need to run a course like nobody else
would run it. I would have to find "unnecessary" places to cross
in front of my dog, in order to keep him moving. She said somebody
might watch me run a course and say "Now, why in the
heck would she do that?" but that I had to forget about what
other people thought, and do what my DOG needed me to do.
She said I had to constantly be looking for a half second here,
and a second there, and that if enough of those seconds added
up, my dog could make time in excellent jumpers. For example,
she told me to meet my dog at the end of the chute and turn
him immediately to the next obstacle, don’t wait for him to
come out to tell him where to go next. He should know before
he comes out of the chute what I want him to do."
Now one of our instructors had already given us this advice, and we actually ran our jumpers run the other day with this in mind, but it was good to hear someone else talk about running a course like no one else would.
Any way, we just wanted to share these thoughts and also keep track of them for ourselves. It's been a long time since I posted something without pictures or video! I have made progress on my stand in the corner trick, so I'll try to get mom to make a vid to show it off!