The agility blogosphere is taking on a topic challenge. The , "If I knew then..." question.
The idea is to ensure that your dog understands that it is their choice. That if they choose wisely the rewards will fall from the heavens and they will be happy. Making the incorrect choice (lack of impulse control) the consequence is lack of reward and possibly a time out. I never understood how important this was, I just wanted to do obstacles.
Many people today equate impulse control with "crate games." Susan Garrett started the crate games craze, but often once the dog reaches a certain age, I see handlers stopping their impulse control games and the dog no longer is rewarded for the basic rules we gave them as puppies.
- You open sliding glass door and dog darts out, runs around the back yard, tongue out, tail wagging. Totally rewarded for darting out.
- You ask the dog to sit and put your hand on the door, dog acts like they are going to dart, remove hand. Hand back on, door opens, dog goes to dart out, door closes. Reward is removed. Dog sits, door opens, you treat the dog with food reward and then release the dog to go out, dog runs around the back yard, tongue out, tail wagging. Just rewarded for impulse control.
- Julie walks in the ring, walks to the line with her dog, barely gets the leash off, and the dog darts out and has completed 5 obstacles while Julie is yelling the dogs name. Dog totally got rewarded for running and playing without the handler.
- Julie walks in the ring, walks to the line with her dog, dog starts to act like he is going to take off, Julie walks back out of the ring. Repeat until dog can sit. Dog gets rewarded for sitting.
Four dogs barking at the gate when I open the door or four dogs laying down nicely at the gate when I open the door. I know which one I'd like to have, well for most guests.
Impulse control bleeds into all aspects of agility. Startline stays, tight turns, coming to you at the end of a run, walking to the line, exiting the ring, etc. If your dog understands that making the incorrect choice has a consequence of reward being removed, they will learn to acknowledge your participation and leadership in the game of agility.
The hardest aspect of this is controlling the environment so the dog is not rewarded by things you had not anticipated.
Working on the idea that "It is your choice" you can play all kinds of games teaching the dogs behaviors of control as you go.
- Using food in the hand, dog gets food reward when he ignores food.
- All crate games are ways to reward good behavior.
- Playing with a toy, taking the toy out of the dogs mouth, waiting for a down, reward for more play.
- Start line stays, go back and reward with food or toy.
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