Monday, October 5, 2009

Still looking for answers

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!

Gotta zoom!



Khyra The Siberian Husky And Sometimes Her Mom said...

I'm sure woo will find the answerS!

Happy Zooming!


Diana said...

Some things to think about. How often do you practice agility? How long to you do it? when do you do it? How often do you reward? When do you reward?

When you come home from work and your dog is really excited to see you, that may be a good time to run out into the yard and do a small sequence. Three obstcales and you are done. Really reward. Leave you dog wanting more. Dont worry about doing it right, just do it. Have fun. Are you having fun? After the run, chase your dog around the yard. Sometimes runs that are the funnest, are the ones that were just fast but really off course. You find yourself laughing and smiling even though is was all wrong.
How many times have you rewarded your dog after the first obstcale in the sequence? Be wild and do crazy things that keep your dogs attention.
Sorry to go on so much. These are just some ideas I was thinking about. I know I have problem running my dog ,so take them with a grain of salt. Diana

Bree and Reilly said...

Sad to say - but not all dogs want to run fast. Reilly can do perfect courses with no faults - except time. Everyone says he is the most laid back sheltie they have ever seen, so we go and have fun and to socialize. I guess the question also is....will making Ricky run faster make him happier or make him enjoy it anymore?

Johann The Dog said...

Ahh, haaa! Targeting, what did I tell ya :) Just kidding ya..but it sure works for us. Don't worry about the fading part, it will just flow naturally when the time is right. Oh and the holding back part, I don't like it either, but Mum started just pushing on my chest a little and growling and I loved that (maybe there's something like that you can try :)

I remember so well after healing up from my iliopsoas pull (which I got on an agility course, btw), I totally lost all my confidence and was getting slower and slower. You remember!

Then one day, Mum knew that no one has the the answers, so she dug deep and thought that Silvia's advice sounded, well fun - fun, fun, fun! And that's what we did from that moment forward, made it all fun.

When I was ready to trial again, we went to a trial over by you guys, and Mum ran as fast as she could and let me take any obstacle I wanted on an Exec course. You know the folks were crazy silly commenting about what the heck we were doing; and why did we think we belonged in Exec. But Mum knew exactly what she was doing and didn't listen to anybody. It sooo worked.

We think total fun is the key to speed, it builds lots of confidence, we don't worry about making mistakes (and you know how us shelties worry :).

But we also think that everyone has to find their key, it's so different for everyone, you will find it, I know it!!!

Keep an open mind, explore ideas, have lots and lots of fun - I see you do that in the backyard all the time :)

OK I wrote a book, sorry :) But we luvs ya!

And thanks so much for the comments today. I am so back to my wacky self and we went hiking today. Blog tomorrow :) I think you are right that all this hiking helps me recoup so much faster. Mum is soooo relieved! Thank YOU!!!!

Honey the Great Dane said...

OOh, such an interesting & informative post!!! Thank you so much for sharing, Ricky!

My human was especially interested because she's always pondering the question of making me a "faster EVERYTHING dog"!! :-) I'm like Reilly in that I'm REALLY laid-back and I'm like in in that I also treat training stuff like a job and so I get serious and am not cracker dog excited - my human says that is the hardest part about training me - getting me excited and actually moving in any direction at speed! This is especially important for our dancing coz twirls and spins and stuff look kind of lame when you do them slowly! Hee! hee!

by the way, I've learned the "Ready, Set GO!" game too - I love it - although I'm like you, I don't like to be physically restrained - it doesn't make me squirm, it just makes me depressed - but I'm happy to just wait beside my human until I hear the word "GO!" We didn't do it to a target - we just played this game as a race - ie,. when I heard "GO" that's when my human would sprint off like mad and I would have to run super fast to catch her - or sometimes, I get hear this just before she throws my tennis ball really far and i have to run superfast to catch those 3 words always make me really excited. But the problem is that it doesn't really help in dancing coz I can't just take off at a run and zoom across the ring - I have to do set tricks & moves, in time to the music - not too fast but not too slowly either but full of energy and it's not all in a straight line...humph!

Anyway, thanks so much for posting all these tips - am going to try out the targeting and see!

Honey the Great Dane

Marie said...

There's no perfect answer, because you'll just have to experiment to see what works for you two. I think the ideas that you mentioned are really good though. Targeting can be very helpful, and I think that Diana's suggestions about keeping training sessions really short and varying your reinforcement can be very useful too. Keep up the good work, and keep us posted on the progress.

Lian said...

Hi Ricky's mum,

Thanks for sharing this useful informations. I think we all need a boost sometimes, not all dogs are the same and can be trained the same way.

Have you thought about the VALUE for Ricky to do agility? Like many have said, they treat agility as a job not something they want to have fun with. Why not transform the job into a GAME? You DO NOT have to go right/clear in the course, you have to find your own course that you think Ricky would love to do and go off course, and make sure Ricky does not need to know he is wrong, he is always right and you need to priase/reward him more often.

If Ricky likes his treat, can you get a fluffy pencil case/coin purse to stuff your treat in it. You have to open the pencil case and show him there is treat inside and allows him to take it from the purse. Have a game of anything then chuck the purse for him to chase as and then run up to him, open the purse and let him have the treat by himself. After a few games, you know he is excited to get to the purse, then use it on agility. You can chuck the purse over a few jumps and get him to chase it, or over the contacts/tunnel, anything. You need to chuck the purse at different obstacles and he does not know when the reward is coming.

Also, have you think about giving him a break from agility totally? Maybe a 2 weeks break will make him excited again when he returns to agility?

Ricky the Sheltie said...

Thank you so much, all of you, for such great advice and encouragement! We got up this morning and saw all your thoughtful comments, and we so appreciate having such good and knowledgeable blogging friends! It really means a lot to us! We will definitely think about all of this info and let you know how it goes!

Sara said...

Wow, there's lots of good information here. You know we struggle with speed at trials too.

SGR said...

Woof! Ricky --- Well, I used to do agility and the same problem. It was lots hard work. Practice Practice and have just have FUN. Just want to thank you for your friendship - today is my 1st year blog anniversary. Lots of Golden Thanks. Woof! Sugar