Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Crates and Tires: Archie Has Adventures

Archie started a new agility class. It at the same facility and with the same instructor but we had to move to a new time because my own classes are beginning this week. 

The other handlers in his new class are considerably more advanced than those in his previous classes. For one thing, every single one of them has their unleashed dog run back to his crate upon completing each exercise. This may not sound like a big deal, but to command a dog to return to his crate when that crate is many yards away, and the handler and dog are surrounded by lots of wonderfully exciting agility obstacles, and there are very interesting dogs in other crates with handlers nearby who almost certainly have food on them, and to have the dog comply without hesitation and with speed, well, that's a pretty big deal. 

I'm a big fan of crate training, so I embraced this immediately. It's a fabulous test for young Archie. To have him choose to ignore all of those distractions and run as fast as he can back to his crate and wait inside it for me to catch up to give him some treats is a measure of his self-control and comprehension. 

It's also an interesting example of generalization. All my dogs have to run to their crate before I leave the house. All of them get a treat every single time. Azza and Archie are shut into their crates while I leave Mimi loose, but the expectations are the same for all three. So Archie has already had a lot of practice at running to his crate then waiting there for a reward. But his crate at home is his crate--nobody else shares it. His crate in class? We don't even use the same crate each time, and many dogs would have been in any particular crate since he last saw it. He has clearly made a conceptual leap about the concept of "crate" and the behavior associated with it. 

His instructor has been putting out the tire for the past few classes. It took Archie a while to get the point of the tire (he kept trying to go under it or next to it rather than through it) but he's got the idea now. In fact, I think he's carried it to quite another level. 

Archie has this funny habit of treating everything like a jump: he leaps airborne into tunnels, he hops over hoops, he leaps almost straight up as he exits the weaves (this one in particular I'm working to extinguish). Now that he understands the tire, he has decided that if jumping through it is good, jumping even higher through it is better. 

Last night, he clonked his head on the upper rim of the tire every single time he jumped through it. Just think about that. He only has to jump 12" to clear the bottom rim. But that's not nearly exciting enough. He is jumping over 30" and hitting the top of the tire in the process. The tire, a hollow plastic tube, is suspended from elastic cords so he isn't getting hurt when he does this--it certainly doesn't slow him down. Still, while extremely amusing, this is not a behavior I want him to repeat, so I'll be working to change this too. 

Archie turns 1 year old tomorrow (September 21). He's a remarkably happy little fox terrier and he and I are having a lot of fun with his agility adventures.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Some CircusK9 Photos

I thought I'd drop in some photos. Never a dull moment at CircusK9.

Archie and Azza are nearly always touching each other. Nap time is no exception. Those extra feet sticking out between them are Azza's hind feet. She folds up like a piece of origami. 

I must have muttered something about dinner time. I turned around to find them arrayed like this and was very lucky that I had my iPad handy. I swear this is not staged!

Azza likes to prop herself on toys when she chews on an antler. She will even rearrange toys to make a better platform. This time, since a toy wasn't immediately available, she propped herself up on Archie. Needless to say, this didn't last long. Antler kabuki ensued.

Mimi has healed well from her dental surgery. I couldn't resist taking this photo today. Not an incisor to be seen. I can't decide if this is sad or funny. Bit of both, I suppose.

Archie and the Teeter

Archie loves his little round tippy board. He will leap onto it from quite a distance, sticking his landing and sitting for his treat or release to the next obstacle--they are almost equally valuable to him now. His focus in agility has dramatically improved in the past three weeks. Looking forward to late December when he can begin competing in AKC, I got him a real teeter.

Someone else made the aluminum base but I prepared the plank. Priming, painting, surfacing--the board was ready when the base arrived. 

Archie's initial introduction to the teeter did not go well. Archie was rather freaked out by the noisy, clanky frame. So I put that away in the garage and let him explore the plank by itself on the ground. With the mounting hardware on the bottom, the plank still rocked about 2 inches. After a couple of days, he was happily running back and forth along the plank to reach targets on either end. I then put a 4x4" post under the plank. It was really interesting to see Archie go through the process of exploring this thing, learning where the tip point was, and most importantly, learning that he controlled everything. That latter bit was most amazing. I could see his entire expression change the moment that he figured that out.

So today, a week after his new teeter base arrived, I hauled it back out and set it up at the lowest height. Even so, the teeter still had far too much tip, so I put a rolled up towel under the "down" end and piled up some cushions under the "up" end. These served two purposes--they made the teeter much quieter and they greatly reduced the distance that it would move. But with the increased height, the teeter is now a one-way obstacle, so I taped just a single target to the "up" end (I want him to race to the end and hold position there, riding it down to the ground then waiting for his release).

Archie watched me run Mimi over the teeter a few times, clicking as she hit the target. I also had two jumps, the table, and his tippy board out to serve as distractions from the teeter. As usual, I always run her first so that I can test out my set up. Plus Archie stands at the back door and gets very excited when I run Mimi. I want him to be high like that so he can learn to focus and run with control even in that state.

Then it was his turn. I clicked him for any interaction with the teeter, including jumping on then immediately off it. He even jumped over it a couple of times. Fine by me, that got a click and treat too. Then he noticed the target on the end. I put a treat on it--it was just higher than he could reach with his nose so he put his paw on the end of the board...and pulled it down so he could get the treat. I knew then that he was very close to putting it all together. After a couple of passes at the teeter, I ran him over the other obstacles. I didn't want to exhaust him mentally on just one thing. And this gave me the chance to reward happy tippy board actions--I use the same command for the tippy board and the teeter so I could reinforce the behavior.

Archie then started jumping on the teeter board just behind the tipping point. I clicked the moment he reached the tipping point and gave him many treats, one after the other, as he advanced past that point and the board began to move down. Like the other day, there was a very distinct moment when he realized that he was in control of everything. Within a couple of minutes, he was running the length of the board to the target. He even pulled off a jump to do the teeter instead. That was when I called it a day--it's best to finish on a high note if you can!

Not bad for a week of training.