Friday, June 22, 2012

Kipling and the Weaves - Day Three

I skipped Kipling's weave work on Wednesday and Thursday due to the 'extreme' heat here in the Northeast. Ultimately not so much about the actual heat as it is about the humidity and "feels like' temperatures. Everyone was just as happy to spend the evening in the pool instead of training. So here is Kipling picking up weave training after two days 'on' and two days 'off'. 


When I start weaves with dogs (mine or students' dogs) I really like to log short (5-10 minute) daily sessions for the first 5-7 days. Weaving is so much about muscle memory and while 12 poles is a very physical endeavor - the beginning steps of 2x2s (or my bastardized method) is pretty easy on the body in the beginning stages. I want to get a lot of positive reinforcement for "macaroni's" as early in the process as possible. The boys got their physical workout in the pool, everyone slept well and no one had to work in the sweltering heat.


Kipling pretty much picked up where he left off on Tuesday:




This doesn't happen a lot, but we had one of those sessions this afternoon (evening) where I knew we were on the edge of some really good work, but I didn't have the focus from Kipling that I wanted to have to progress or keep working. My first session went a little longer than I'd planned but I wanted to work through some more repetitions. So I put Kipling back in the house, he had a drink and took a bit of a cool-down nap while Teller supervised my pool chores. An hour later we went back out for this session:


Sure, I could have pushed through the first session - but remember two things - this is a fun game - agility should be an intrinsic good. Secondly, if you push too hard in a session you will see a factor of diminishing return. Your tired dog is not likely to have a breakthrough and when learning a behavior as complicated as weave poles you're going to get a higher rate of errors and frustration (dog and trainer). Step back, put it away and come back to it later.

In both of these videos you probably noticed a couple of things - he's got too much focus on ME. That's OK. That's been Kipling's learning style since puppyhood. He is a methodical learner, but once he figures out the game he's all business. I'll reinforce looking away, but I also expect my position to fade as he gets more and more confident on the weaves.

Secondly that I'm throwing food, not throwing a toy. I was blurring my retrieve with my reinforcement and what I was getting was a retrieved toy dropped a foot from my hand. I would prefer to throw a toy and trade said toy for cookie, but I really don't want to work retrieves to hand at the same time as weaves AND I don't want to reinforce partial retrieves. The partial retrieves are a new behavior for Kipling and we need to fix that separately from learning to weave. I think the broken retrieves is anticipation - which is actually a good thing - but....

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