When people make the big leap to training their dogs in a reinforcement based program such as the one we have here in Do-Land, they sometimes fall into what we refer to as “the gap”. The gap is a place of paralysis. It is the time chasm where you see your dog doing something you know he shouldn’t be doing … the devil on your shoulder reminds you of what worked to stop it in your old system … but there isn’t a clear enough message coming through from Do-Land telling you what other options are available for you. So you freeze and do nothing. Knowing what you can DO is going to help you with the gap, so have a Plan ‘B’!
We’ve Got a Loose Potato!
A couple of weeks ago, we were filming when Tater gave a great demo of a situation where many people find themselves in “the gap”. That short video is below.
Now, Tater LOVES his Crate Games and has been rockin’ his “Wait, Watch, Work” training. He has received a great deal of reinforcement for waiting his turn, but as you can see in the video, there was a tunnel temptation that he could not resist. I’m sharing the video so you can see what I DO when things don’t go as planned.
All I did was move Tater back into his open crate. The Plan ‘B’ here is as easy as that! Along with having a lot of reinforcement history for waiting turns Tater has also had a lot of value built in the “Collar Grab Game” which is one of our foundation games, so I can take his collar to reset. Moving him back to where he was waiting gave him another chance to earn reinforcement for his job of waiting while stopping the reinforcement of being a ‘loose potato’.
If you find you are constantly needing to reset your dog, look at your foundations and layers of training to make sure your dog has a history of reinforcement for what it is you want him to DO, and if you are being fair with the level of difficulty you are presenting to him. Grow your dog’s capability with layered learning and strategic challenges.
You might be wondering what I was waiting for to release Swagger to take the tunnel at the start of the video… I was waiting for him to ‘focus forward’ on the ‘work’. Because my dogs are trained and live in “Do-Land” they have immense value for me. This attention from our dogs is a by-product of effective, inspired training. When you get it right your dog will never want to take his eyes off of you and you will have to create a new response; that of inspired focus forward towards something else! For dog agility, and other sports, we want our dogs to be focused on what they are doing, rather than looking at us.
Have you ever found yourself in the gap of not knowing what to do, so you do nothing? Or have you previously been in the gap, but can now do something that is in alignment with the trainer and person you want to be? Let me know in the comments!
Today I am grateful for everyone who is looking at their training from the perspective of “DO” and inspiring focus from their dogs.
Every time I look at Tater I just laugh. His whole demeanour is so … I don’t even have a word for it. Like he is bemused at the way that everybody does things on this planet. Unlike his other planet – planet cray cray lol
I find this often. I always back up, evaluate my mechanics and retrain what came before the oops.
Great post thank you!
I absolutely love that you posted this, both showing how to reset and for the joyous way that you responded. No judgement at all. It is such a good lesson. Thank you!
Love all of Susan’s training, My young dog can suddenly hear/see a monster across the yard & go with tail up alarm barking towards the gate, I bring her back to reset her with the collar grab which she’s totally used to (we are H360 students) is this right, sometimes I wonder if this is the right thing to do for her understanding, if she doesn’t leave us she gets rewarded, IYC on a larger scale?
Being able to see you respond to hiccups like this is invaluable. Watching a light-hearted reset not only makes me so much less self-conscious about how my dog behaves, that modeling is so important for me to see to learn from. Please keep including these and letting us see how you respond.
Seeing a video of just outtakes would be so much fun!!
Yes! I definitely feel like I get in the gap with my dogs! This was very helpful to watch especially seeing yours and Taters reaction. His reaction showed me that the need for reset is no big deal when things are done right and that if the reset feels like a big deal I have probably skipped some layers.
This was much needed, thank you! I’m afraid I’ve inadvertently reinforced some not-so-desirable behaviours in my GSD pup- and now he thinks opening doors and going into rooms he shouldn’t is the best game ever! Haha. I’m having trouble figuring out how to ‘reset’ this behaviour as if I go in there to quietly bring him out by the collar he turns it into a wrestling match or chasey. I imagine the solution is to find a way to make sure he can’t get in there at all! I’ll put some more thought into it 🙂
Pepper and I have struggled with the “focus Forward” . Its my fault as I trained him as an obedience dog first. I’ve found that teaching “go on ” and other cues that help build Peppers confidence and We are slowly getting some good focus forward behavior which is also eliminating the dropped bar issue. NOW if I can just get the ” Bossie Aussie” barking to stop!
Can’t wait to get started!
I am here for help with Bluebelle, she is a cross of beagle and coon hound. She is almost 1 year old. My really big problem is she is very vocal. She is also bullied by my older dog. She is willing to learn and likes one on one play/training. I am hoping you can help with some of her problems. At present our park is closed and we can not go there. She has high energy. You are so good with your dogs. I can’t wait to start with Belle and DJ.
Validation! My Sheltie was calmly lying in his crate, open door, when someone came to the door. He was off like a shot, barking to the heavens. I went after him, grabbed his collar, and brought him back to his crate. In my case, I closed the door for a few minutes since the person was staying. When I opened it, the person were till there, but he stayed int he crate. At the time I wasn’t sure if there were something else I could have done, so this is great validation for me, and perfect timing.
PIA & I do not do Agility, we do Obedience & Rally, But I know this is a huge problem for me. I have tended to be super cautious in handling a goof as 1 1/2 years ago she shut down in her Novice training and we have just recently gotten the fun back for her…I am not an experienced trainer & Id been listening to everything my trainers said to do, never being aware that I was the one who knew my dog & it was up to me to know when something would cause her anxiety. She got so anxious she stopped even wanting to go in the ring for class & when she did she’d start crouching…pretty awful. Through games we’ve moved past that but I am just constantly worried about how I react to her goofs. Planning ahead for what I would do with each exercise would be a big help. Thank you.
I dearly appreciate seeing how you handled this. It’s such a thoughtful method and I’m grateful for your modeling.
Quinn – what do I say all the training seems to go out the door at a trial. His head explodes and he can not hold a stay (which I need because he is a 20″ jumper and fast beyond belief) he also has taken to flying over the contacts. We are retraining the contacts to running and we have left many many runs after he breaks. All this is not the behavior you see in training. It is like the atmosphere of a trial puts him in a high that is crazy.
Hi Lori, there are a lot of layers that go into getting from home into the trial ring and a vast amount that we can do to set our dogs up for success with us in that situation.
You might like to review this vlog by Susan on our dogs arousal states:
Agility Nation is a phenomenal asset for dog agility training foundations and also for helping us to get our state and mind set good for trialling. You can register for the wait list here on the blog, or on this page:
This is a fantastic post! What a great example to illustrate that you not only have to have a plan “b” but it also doesn’t have to all too complicated too. I got a good chuckle seeing Tater seize the moment.
I have put off Ruff Love because my training techniques are not “perfect” enough. His lack of duration and his enormous food focus really frustrates me so i quit. I may have to fly to Canada for train the trainer training! Love Susan’s advice and example
Just what I needed!!! Thanks for all your wonderful training advise.
I am currently so in a “gap” with my 2 year old mixed breed. He was very good off lead, but soon after hitting the age of 2 has now discovered that he enjoys the freedom of zoomies in both agility and rally. Luckily, we have been working on the collar grab and that allows me to re-set him, but it can be so frustrating! I know we will work through it, but until that time …. ARGH!!!!
Despite following most of Susan’s puppy plan, my high-drive Sheltie used to get the zoomies or make up her own courses on a regular basis when she was about a year old. In addition to all of Susan’s great ideas about layering foundation work & Recaller games, the fix I found was to spend a few months actually TEACHING her a command for the zooms and making it a great game. Only in my fenced yard where she was safe, I would say “woo woo woo woo!” in a very excited voice. We would take turns chasing each other at top speed around the yard and under the bushes (NO agility equipment!) When she eventually got really tired, I’d calmly do a call-to-heel and reward her. Then we’d take a water break and do some fun control games. Now at almost three years old, she is a spectacular agility dog with awesome skills. We still play the “woo woo” game a few times a week. We often start a training session with some “speed circles” to take the edge off – we just run around doing the jumps and tunnels along the ring gates with very few tight turns and no stopped contacts. That helps her to keep her joy without the frustration of having to stop and “behave” until she’s ready for it. This is especially important when she’s been cooped up in bad weather. Just find a positive way to channel your dog’s energy!
Great timing and so needed this. Thanks so much but how did you get him to like the tunnel, have a small one and my dogs won’t go near it and how do you stop them from doing something wrong on a dog walk for i say leave it but is their a better way when walking. Again so Happy I joined this for learning so much. God bless you all
Is your dog happily crate-trained? My guess is maybe not? Dogs that love diving into their crates usually love tunnels. Get Susan’s book and DVD called Crate Games. To start the tunnel, get a very short one (a kid’s play tunnel or the Leaf Mate pop-up bag holder are perfect https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGizeesOcr4). Put it in a doorway in your house on a path that the dog loves to travel – kitchen doorway or hallway or out the back door. Just let the dog go thru it with no pressure to get his dinner or go out to play. You can toss high-value treats thru it and make it FUN! Soon, your problem may be keeping the dog OUT of the tunnel!
For the leash-walking problems, Susan Garrett has literally dozens of free videos on Youtube. Watch the It’sYerChoice game. And you can join Recallers, which is not cheap, but it is PRICELESS compared to hiring a “professional” trainer to come to your home.
I had a real ‘gap’ moment couple of days ago, having our first ever agility lesson. All was going well until some rooks flew over head – result- he was off like a rocket, barking. Flying birds are our major off the scale distraction if off lead in an open field. This was the first time I have had chance to try a recall off lead next to an open field but in a safe enclosure. Total failure! But hiding did work (in the tunnel lol). I realise now that the moment I took my attention off him to listen to the instructor was when it happened. Sorry, long post, but I find when I say what happened I start to think it through. There was always a chance this would happen, so I sort of set him up for failure. For the next lesson I will have extra super treats, and also put him on the lead while I listen, and also maybe put him back in car for a few minutes. Meanwhile, time to push on with redoing the games and upping the distractions!
I can`t get the video to play? Just showing a green screen!
Hi Sheila, if you are on and iPhone or iPad, you may need to do a system update. There is a recent issue with iOS that the update fixes.
This morning while out with Lyric we came across a pile of fresh horse poo! Lyric thought all her breakfasts, dinner & teas had come at once and started tucking in! Yuck. I got her by the collar and walked her away and although she looked back she stayed with me. On the return trip she stayed with me for a long time then just went to it and was really tucking in again. She totally ignored me and tried to avoid me getting her collar. I did eventually get it and I did really have to pull her away from it and this time I put her on the lead. She was sick shortly afterwards. What should I have done?
I have truly found myself in the “gap” I have started to do agility in a new location and the dog will leave me to go sniff or just to run around and I am paralyized as to what to do and unfortunately the trainers I am working with have no answer/options/ideas. VERY FRUSTRATING.
I find when dogs disconnect and sniff it is avoidance behavior. Meaning the dog is stressed and not confident. Try running away from him, creating a chase game. If he chases you, engage him in a game of tug or whatever he likes, make it exciting.