Tessa's crash course on laterals in front began yesterday evening. I managed to catch a few minutes to train after I had fed the dogs their supper.
The problem that Tessa and I are having with front laterals comes from her pivot platform work! She is so attuned to my body language for pivots in front that when I move to the right, her rear end goes left! And when I move to the left, her rear end goes right! Trying to convey that I want her rear end to move in the same direction that I am going has been a challenge!
Of course, I don't want her to doubt her pivots - they are so strong! So, I need to find a way to communicate to her that I want her to move differently, but only in certain contexts.
Last summer I had done just a smidgeon of work with her using a straight square bar on the ground at the training building. I had her stand with the bar directly under her so she would have to move sideways , at least for the most part. It worked pretty well, so I set up the closest thing I had at home - a ring gate with just the bottom bar attached.
It didn't work so well. She kept trying to pivot. She would pivot so well that she would neatly step right over the bar!
After that I switched to lures, but she kept pivoting!
Finally, I tried faking her out. I thought if I wanted her to go to the right, I would step a little to the left and then quick start to move the way she was going. Little stinker pivoted in the opposite direction of the way I wanted her to go every time!!
Of course, I know I need to go back to square 1 with this and take time and really build her understanding, but I was really looking for a way to get the behavior quickly, so I tried one last thing.
Years and years and years ago when I taught Speedy to sidepass, I used a dowel to get the sideways movement in front of me. He would stand in front, and I would hold the dowel out to his side and move it toward him in the direction I wanted him to go. I didn't even touch him with it - it was just a guide. It worked beautifully for him - he would neatly slide in the direction I wanted him to go every time.
I had tried this with Tessa a long time ago, but she was rather bothered by the presence of the dowel. But she has come a long way, so I decided to try it again.
At first she tried to grab it with her mouth and then she pawed at it. I liked that because it showed that she was not bothered by it. After that I lured her into front with a treat and then moved to the right, moving the dowel toward her. She got it!
We practiced just a few and quit!
Granted, it is highly doubtful this is going to transfer to a dowel-less behavior by Friday, but at least we are on our way!