Training Hole

The other day I found an interesting, well interesting to me, training hole.  One of those, huh, that’s interesting.  No idea the hole was there until yesterday.  I’m still playing around with the best way to remedy it.

Overall, before yesterday, I’d have said Zora has a rather reliable stay.  In agility, in the field, in the house.

But over our time trialing, I’ve realized that if I do a lead out where I’m ahead of her then release the stay, she drives straight ahead.  But if I’m parallel to her or behind her, she does anywhere from a quarter step toward me before straightening to go through the first obstacle to pulling off the first obstacle completely when I release her.

When I leave her in a stay she looks at me not at the first obstacle.  And when released she doesn’t immediately look for the obstacle I’ve set her up in front of.  This costs us time and potentially off courses.  Plus it limits our success when I do different lead outs.

Zora at an agility trial, set up at the first obstacle.  Where is she looking?  Not at the hoop, but at me!

So yesterday I decided it was high time I trained this. To work on not releasing Zora until she was looking at the obstacle I set her up in front of. And work on teaching her to look forward at the obstacle, not at me, then move forward fast directly through the obstacle upon release.

And I found the hole.

My dog who I thought had a solid understanding of wait until released, doesn’t when she’s looking ahead and I’m visible.

By that I mean, if I ask her to stay and I then go out of sight, she’s solid.

If I ask her to stay and I’m visible, apparently her understanding of stay is then dependent on her being able to look at me.

When I set her up in front of an obstacle, ask her to wait, then I stand there body indicating first obstacle but waiting for her to look at it. She sits or stands or lies there staring at me, then tentatively looks away from me to the obstacle. The moment she looks at it, she self releases taking off like a shot. I like the speed, direction and commitment of the move off stay to the first obstacle, I don’t like the lack of actual release from me.

It happens too when she’s not set up in front of an obstacle.  After I realized what was happening at the obstacle, I removed it and just set her up to stay with me standing beside her, nothing in front of us.  I wanted to find out if it was just related to the obstacle being there or was this a more complete training hole.  Then I waited.  The moment she looked forward, taking her eyes off of me, she self released.  Same take off like a shot, fast forward.  Again I liked the speed, direction, forward commitment, not so keen on the lack of verbal or other release cue from me.

I’m currently percolating on how to train this without loosing that fast, committed, intense, direct move off the stay. And without confusing her further.

I’ve already realized I can’t simply time my release cue to the second she looks at the obstacle to start with. I’m not fast enough with my release cue, there is a mental delay for me to get the word out and by then she’s already self released.  At this stage her self release happens really fast after she’s looked forward, split second fast.

And I’m concerned that if I do a treat or toy drop on her head the moment she looks at it, I will degrade the fast move off that I’m really really really liking.  Same if I remind her to wait, she will stop the moment I ask her to but she then is once more looking at me.  I wait for her to look away, she self releases once more.  I don’t want to get a herky jerky ‘am I supposed to go or not go?’ type of response from her.  I want her to feel clear and confident.

When I think about how I’ve successfully trained my retriever puppies in past how to do this during baby puppy marking drills. I knelt down behind them, my hands gently on their shoulders. In this position I could feel when they were staying solid, and I could feel when they were looking straight ahead. Then release them when those things were happening together. From there progressed to no hands actually touching their shoulders, to then standing behind them, to then standing beside them and so on.

I’m not sure how Zora would respond to this at this stage in her life. Hmm, fun things to think about.

0 thoughts on “Training Hole

  1. This is so interesting to me. I got to the end and I was thinking, “I don’t know where to start with this one.” And then you talked about your retrievers and I thought, “That’s brilliant.” I’m curious to read how this plays out for you and Zora.

    1. Hi Julia, lol on your ‘that’s brilliant’ comment. It’s brilliant but not thought up by me, it’s been in the retriever hunt/field trial training world as a technique for years, decades, who knows how long. lol I just have been around the dog block long enough and played around with hunt tests with my past flat coats enough to have a chance to learn about it. I’ve learned a lot of things playing around in different sports with dogs over the years that I can then apply to other situations. It’s great 🙂 With retrievers (usually pups) when you do this, you have a bumper tossed out ahead to start then progress to the bumper being tossed when you release, etc. So on our deck I did something similar with Zora, but tossed a piece of string cheese instead. It worked incredibly well. 2 short maybe 5 rep sessions of that, and then a couple more short sessions in front of various jumps and hoops and she now has it. I cue Wait, I move into whatever lead out I’d like, then stand with foot and hand indicating the obstacle, she looks at it, I release ‘ok,’ she takes off like a shot. She’s a smart cookie. One of the reasons I think so much before I attempt to teach once I find a hole or want to teach her (or any other dog) something is so that I have a plan before I set anything up and can know pretty quick what is working and what’s not. This seems to have worked, yay! 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting!

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