The title of this post sounds a bit like an old Jimmy Stewart movie to me (okay, now I am dating myself!). Regardless, I thought I would catch you up on some of my teaching in Washington State last month. I had a Contacts & Weaves Day. I will post here about the weave work and to avoid making this post too long I will post about the Contact Session on my newsletter.
To start the day I set up this evaluation course for all of the dogs to run first . I have set this sequence up many times on Contacts & Weaves Day in the past (in Sweden, England, Belgium, Canada of course around the USA). As typical, in Washington only 2 of the 14 dogs at the seminar were able to hit the entry. So for the rest of the day I gave people the option; would you like to go back and work 2×2’s with your dog or have me set up more weave entry challenges.
Five of the fifteen people chose to have me work on sequences with weave challenges in them. With a big USDAA event upcoming that weekend perhaps they didn’t want to change too much that close to the trial. For that group I set up what I considered moderate challenges (I didn’t want to demoralize anyone that close to the trial) and most of them had only a few hiccups in their dog’s performances.
For the rest of the group we did 2×2 work all afternoon with some awesome results. However, there were a few common mistakes that I saw repeated so I am going write about them here. Hopefully anyone reading this can avoid making the same mistakes when you train your 2×2’s.
Before I start though I am going to state for the record that I think all these mistakes can be avoided by watching and really learning what I am teaching in my 2×2 DVD before you try and train your dog. While I was in Washington I got a lovely email from legendary American obedience trainer Jan DeMello. Although she doesn’t compete in agility any more, after viewing the 2×2 DVD she decided to give the method a try with some of her young dogs. She got great results and wrote me a wonderful letter endorsing the method. It is great to get such positive feedback. Please feel free to post your comments to the blog and I promise I will get to your questions as well. For now here are some glaring errors I saw in Washington that you should try to avoid.
1. Be certain you have a well defined reward line. I really don’t think this method will work nearly as well, (if it works at all) if you do not have a consistent reward line for your dog. That reward line eventually grows into the full set of poles (see diagram). It must be well defined in your own mind (a physical prompt for your reward line is never a bad thing).
2. Allow your dog to choose but do not build on a slow, uninspired performance. Yes the dog may do one or two repetitions slowly as they figure out there is value in the poles BUT THIS SHOULD IMPROVE! Your dog should be running towards the 2 poles like he is racing another dog towards a big slab of roast beef that just fell off of your dinner table. If he doesn’t, do not go forward in training.
3. Arousal, be certain to have it before you start! Get your dog excited and you will avoid scenario #1. Tug is a good way, but if you dog does not tug YOU MUST RUN, really run to get the dog’s heart rate up so he is more energized before you allow him to move towards the poles!
4. Allow the dog to fail. Way too many participants panicked when their dog made ONE mistake! They would alter where the dog was sent from or worst let “V-set” with their body, or take a giant step towards the first pole, anything to try and set the dog up to not make another mistake. Mistakes are a necessary part of learning. If you have worked your dog up fairly to the point of failure and he has had a ton of reinforcement for the correct response, be brave and LET HIM FAIL! He will figure it out.
5. Keep your sessions short. End it early and keep your dog wanting more. Two-three minutes should be long enough especially at the 2
or 4 poles stage.
Take my advise here, before you get your next dog, get my DVD and re-train your current dog using the 2×2 method. It will not only make your current dog better but more importantly you become comfortable with the method so that you and your next dog do not have the struggle of learning together!
Be sure to check out the newsletter (I will send it Monday afternoon so those of you that aren’t signed up, have a chance to get on board first) for the info on the contacts session in Washington.
Today I am grateful for a Sunday afternoon at home. Giving me a chance to catch up.