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Sometimes the Old Ways are Better!

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I'm as into the newest Agility training techniques as the next person. I am totally behind lots of shaping and gradual conditioning and letting the dog learn by taking an active part in the process.


But sometimes . . . the way things were taught when I first got into Agility just worked better!! (Qualifier here - I am well aware that different approaches work differently for different dogs, so I am not knocking anything here - just sharing my experience)


Back when we were in Agility class, the instructor had us introduce the teeter to Bandit with the bang game. The teeter was super low and the end was held even lower and he got treats for offering a "bang" by slamming it down with his paws.


Super duper. Of course I was delighted, after my experience with Dean, to have a dog who was happy to bang a teeter within a few weeks of being introduced to it.


Bandit likes the bang game and he will use his front paws to slam that thing day and night. Yay!


We ran into the problem with the next step. By hook or by crook, he did NOT want to put his whole body on the board once he realized it was going to move. He would go up the side with his front paws on and back paws on the ground and slam it, happy as a clam. But get all the way on and have it tip under him. No way, no how.


Knowing Bandit, I can see him not liking an apparatus that is going to raise his back end above his front end.


And he's smart. He knew what he didn't want to do and he was working hard to avoid it.


OK, not gonna train a teeter when the dog understands the concept and is working against doing it!


I considered this carefully and came to a conclusion. The way I taught Maddie to do the teeter worked. The way I taught Tessa worked, too, but I don't have that setup available to me (teeter set up to land on two tables, starting out with just about an inch of movement and gradually increase it) so it's not an option. Bummer when you don't have a particular equipment setup, but that just is what it is.


I taught Maddie by having her go up to the tip point, fed the heck out of her, and then I moved the teeter so it tipped down, her getting treats all the way. Once she was happy to take that ride, I gradually let her take over more of the tipping, until she did it on her own.

Of course the "downside" of that is that you end up with a dog who goes to the tip point, tips the teeter, and then goes down to the bottom, but so what? Personally, I think that's a lot safer than when the teeter is going down as the dog is shooting to the bottom. I know people don't like to hear this, but I'm not going for the World Team here. Bandit will be plenty fast enough. 3 seconds lost as he pauses to tip the teeter isn't going to break us.


So, I got out my tip board yesterday and set out to teach him to accept the "ride". It didn't take long. On the first repetition, he put two paws on the board and tried to skitter up the side with his paws on the ground, so I stuck a chair at the end so he couldn't do that.

Then he happily offered four paws on. I held the board up so it would not move and fed, fed, fed.


After two reps, I let it drop just about half an inch. We're good!! He stayed on. Just a couple more reps and we got about an inch or so drop.

I expect that very soon he is going to be cool with getting on the board and letting me tip him. And we will go from there. Once he has it on the tip board, we will start over and do it on my practice teeter. And once he can do that, we will transfer it to the real teeter at the building.

It is just interesting to me because there really is a culture of rejecting the "old ways" of training Agility. And there are many I would not do. I would never take him by the collar and "make" him go over a teeter. I will lure shamelessly, but I will always let him get off if he feels he needs to.


But there are some approaches we have rejected that I think actually have a lot of merit - at least for particular dogs.

I'm on my own for weaves, teeter, dog walk, and A-Frame, but I am bound and determined to find a way to teach him so we can test into a (beyond foundation) class.


By hook or by crook, Bandit and I are going to do this!

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To me, it sounds like your instructor left out a step. Before I do the 'bang game' on the teeter, I will have worked my dog on a wobble board (to make sure I am being clear, this is a board ~ 30" X 30" square [or a little bigger or a little smaller] which tips in a 360 manner because the middle is on a ball or similar). I think a Bosu ball could substitute. I treat the dog for getting on the apparatus, then I start moving in a circle around and treat for staying on the board. The board wobbles up and down, side to side. Your tip board sounds somewhat similar, but only has movement in one dimension.

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Dogs can overtake your training plan.


Today we were going to start work in earnest on Risk's seesaw and while my daughter and I were discussing how to go about it he ran the length of it and stopped in a 2o2o. And it didn't freak him out, he was happy to repeat.


I made a low seesaw for the garden that we've never used.


Before that all he had done was a few goes with me holding his collar to steady him so he could feel the movement. At one time I wouldn't have wanted to model his behaviour like that but yes, old methods can work. There is a difference between physical guidance for safety reasons and dragging a dog over a contact.


Same with teaching him the weaves. He wasn't interested in fancy methods, what worked was luring him a few times through straight weaves and now just short of 16 months he has fast independent weaves from any distance or angle.


The curse of training is over complication. Sometimes simple works best. Have a clear vision of where you are going and get there by the easiest route possible without sacrificing criteria.

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Today we were going to start work in earnest on Risk's seesaw and while my daughter and I were discussing how to go about it he ran the length of it and stopped in a 2o2o. And it didn't freak him out, he was happy to repeat.

Same thing with us and the chute. I put the thing out, then while I was looking for something to hold the cloth part open, Bar flew through it multiple times. Put the chute in a little sequence and he did it fine. So. Check that off the list of things to do! :)

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I think with the multiplicity of methods for teaching this and that there can be a temptation to anticipate problems that may never arise.


I prefer to deal with trouble if it comes, not worry that it might when it probably won't.


Know your dog and be aware of areas where extra help may be needed. Don't assume that you will need an inch by inch approach.


Train confidently and your dog will probably develop a "can do" attitude.


Foundation work is the key. Get that right and the rest is likely to follow.

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