Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Working Bandit's Foundation

Bandit is at an awesome place in his development as a learner.  He truly has become the "sponge" that puppies are often said to be.  I actually didn't find him to be a "sponge" as a puppy, but now he is learning at a fast and furious rate, and his interest in training has skyrocketed.

And I am absolutely loving where we are at!

Recently I took some private Agility lessons with a friend.  We really were working on foundation of foundation - games off of the equipment that will give Bandit the pieces of skills that he will need when he is on the equipment, particularly contacts.

We had a lot of fun in those lessons.  The absolute best part for me was seeing Bandit curious, eager, and engaged as he was introduced to the exercises.

We also discovered a few holes that I hope to spend some time filling in over the winter.

One hole that we discovered is the fact that Bandit tends to release off of motion.  This makes sense when I think about it.  With one exception, I really have not put much effort into teaching him to choose to remain stationary as I move away from him. 

Back when we took Basic class, the whole situation was overwhelming to both of us.  Bandit really was at a point where he needed to just take it all in, and I was puzzled by the learning style of my brand new puppy . . . who is something of a unique learner.

At that point I elected not to work the "stay" exercises that were being introduced in class, really considering them to be above Bandit's puppy pay grade.

Later on, we started the exercises for the "stay" class that I took at bronze through the Fenzi Academy, but, again,I found the whole thing to be a bit beyond where Bandit was at right then.

When we took the Intro to Agility class, I did do some work with him on this when he was in a splat on his mat.  He was very successful with that.  I believe the visual boundary of the mat made a great deal of sense to him, and he quickly learned to maintain the position as I moved away from him, and to remain there until released.  However, it has been a while since we worked with the mat.

This past Sunday we found that Bandit really has no sense of holding a position for any duration if the person working with him begins to move away.

So, today we began some work on this.

I grabbed a handful of treats and had Bandit sit.  Without giving him a "stay" cue, I started to shift myself away from him just a bit.  He got right up!

No problem!  We tried again.

I had him sit and just gave him a few treats while he was sitting there.  I shifted away slightly while continuing to feed him.

After just a few reps, I was able to shift backward away and he was remaining stationary in the sit!

And just a few reps after that, I was able to take one step back and one step to each side in front of him.

The thing that I loved best about this little training session was that the whole thing was built on Bandit making the choice to remain stationary.  When he broke, which he did do a few times, I just asked him, in a neutral fashion, to sit again, and then lavished the treats on him once he was sitting again.

To avoid the default sit, we will work this in different positions - down, stand, perhaps with two back feet on something and his front feet on the ground.

The thing that was so much fun about this training session was that the whole thing was centered on building Bandit's desire to hold the sit for duration - even though it was the tiniest duration - as I moved a little.  When he broke, it was a valid choice on his part.  But when he maintained the sit, it was very reinforcing for him.  Soon he was choosing to stay there.

I love this type of work!!  I don't know why I think filling in "holes" in a dog's training is so much fun, but I really do enjoy it.  And now Bandit and I have plenty to do . . .



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