Why is it that training with tables and crates are games and running with my dog on the flat without obstacles is called ground WORK? Why is all the fun stuff called tricks, and the running training called work? Why do I postpone putting on my running shoes and getting out there doing groundWORK when I could play more games and tricks. It’s cuz it makes me sweat and run harder and faster than I want to. And not nearly as fun and easy as standing around shaping stuff. Maybe I am feeling my age and level of current fitness, ahem. The catch 22 of course is if I keep doing it I will be in shape and then it won’t BE work, it will just be called that.
Don’t get me totally wrong, we do have fun running lines and circles once we get out and do it. Possibly Scoop is having more fun than his handler though. The sun is still shining, guess I have time for more WORK today. I know the value of this training, without it Scoop and I won’t be as good a team as we could be. That threat along with the knowledge that I won’t let myself do lots of really fun jump training before it is perfected, keeps me on track.
So, after our groundWORK session today Scoop and I were rewarded with getting to do some tunnel and table games. I decided to teach Scoop a tunnel this week. Some years ago I decided that I would delay teaching that obstacle until my dogs were older so I didn’t create a tunnel maniac. But it hasn’t exactly worked out the way I planned.
14 year old Riot learned tunnels at 8 weeks, and I let her do lots and lots of them before she was a year old. She liked them just fine but her favorite off course draw was the weaves. Panic was taught at maybe a year old, didn’t do them to abandon, but is a non-recovering tunnel addict. Ace learned at Scoop’s current age, and I had to work really hard to get him to drive with speed to and from the tunnels. I now think it is more about the dog’s mentality and what he finds fun, as well as making sure that I train the tunnel properly once I start.
I started by holding Scoop by the collar and throwing a toy through the open barrel of a chute without the fabric. Then I just stood around by the barrel saying yes when he entered and then toy tossing. (tunnel GAMES) I named it tunnel and went to the next step. Sometimes I held his collar and then released him with tunnel. We also trained sit stays right at the entrance and I released him from the stay and then gave the tunnel cue.
From there we went to a slightly longer straight tunnel, then one with a curve, and then the dreaded rear cross behind him going into the tunnel. For the rear cross I went back to the open barrel. There are two parts of the rear cross I was training.
1. I want him to go forward to the tunnel even though he saw me cross behind
2. I want him to turn the correct direction out of the tunnel.
I sent him into the barrel, then quickly stepped behind him, and tossed the toy to him if he picked up the side change cue. I had to be quick, and he needed to see my rear cross if he was to turn the correct direction. I did just as many tunnels with a reward for him coming out and looking for me on the same side as I did rear crosses. I don’t want him to ask questions about his direction every time he goes into a tunnel.
If he sees me on his left side going in, he should expect to still be on my left side as he exits. He should not turn the new direction unless he sees me cross behind him.
Right now Scoop is reinforced at the end of every tunnel with a toy toss close to the end of the tunnel, or for returning to me. I won’t add any obstacles or forward momentum out of the tunnel for a while. That’s my new rule. I am hoping he will learn to find me and turn my direction fast and tight out of the tunnel with this kind of training. Sounds real good on paper. We will see if it works.
Scoop is almost 11 months old and real agility is just around the corner! I hope you are having as much fun training the work as well as the games with your puppy as I am with mine.