Thursday, June 18, 2009

Training the Out Command

I was thinking today how much of my recent agility work is really about what works for Wyatt. For example, in the discrimination work I have been doing, I need to paint a line a few feet ahead of him to show him the course/obstacle and to also put pressure perpendicular to his path half way between the previous and next obstacle to get him to understand that I am requesting that he take the outer obstacle. The "out" command seems to mean very little to him. I really verified this through trial and error.

I think we expect that we are going to train a verbal command with a hand motion of some kind that that is how the dog is going to discriminate. But I have seen that, time and time again, handlers use an out command but not really give any body and motion cues and the dog takes the other obstacle and handler feels that the dog is not obeying their command. I saw a dog taken off a course last week in just this scenario. The same thing happened all weekend to this otherwise great team. But I don't think you can just stand there and say out and expect the dog to get it.

I think our mental model is based on obedience and dog tricks where you train the dog to do something. But I think in agility and also obedience to a lessor extent, you have to find the body motions and cues that the dog understands. So you aren't training the dog at all, you are training yourself to find the motions that your dog understands.

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