September 25, 2005

Backing up.

It is important for agility dog to be aware of what their back end is doing, and to be able to shift their weight to their haunches for contacts, weave entries and jumping close to the bar. A foundation exercise in teaching this is the 'back-up' game.

Their soft-sided crates are in the living room so I used them to create a chute along the wall. I sat cross legged at one end and Dusty soon came up the chute to investigate. I held out a piece of chicken in my closed fist. She has already learned that the best way to get what is in my hand is to not touch it, so she had a sniff and pulled back. Click - and I threw the treat between her front legs so she had to back up to get it. (Click for behaviour, treat for position). She got the idea fairly quickly, as the chute left her with limited options. We had three short sessions and she was backing up to the end of the chute, about a dozen steps.

Today we tried it again without the crates. We started from scratch, rewarding any move backwards with a click and a treat thrown between her legs. She was soon up to three or four steps back as I gradually increased the criteria.

Then I was distracted and didn't click in time. She had taken several steps back and as I looked back to her, she droppd into a down. While I looked at her, wondering what I should do now, she had a 'lightbulb moment' and scooted back in the down position. Big hugs and lots of praise.

While I am training Dusty, Thommo practices waiting in his crate with the door open. I toss him a treat and a good dog when he is relaxed. I then put Dusty in her crate (door closed) and have a short game with him before another session with her.


Deb Harvey said...

What verbal cue are you going to use for the backing up?

Marj said...

I know a lot of people use 'back' as a directional command, but I think I will use that here and use 'out' to turn away from me and 'close' to turn to me, and then use 'come by' for a clockwise cast and 'away' for an anti-clockwise one.

With Thommo I have a 'left' and 'right' and a 'back-back'.

I haven't been able to decide whether it is better to teach absolute directionals or ones that are relative to my position.