Nicola and Zest's August update!
Thankfully Zest has now finished her season and can be let off again on walks and is allowed round the rings at agility shows again. This month has been all about firsts: Her first experience queuing at an agility show, her first time in a 'have a go' ring at a show, her first 500mm high jump, her first blind turn on angled jumps (one of a few ways the dog changes side in agility) as well as her first full height tyre.
In our last blog I spoke about how I use clicker shaping in lots of my training. Clicker training is something I like to introduce to puppies when I meet them at around 5 weeks as a fun little game, one of the first things they will learn when we settle in at home, will be used to teach most agility obstacles and in their older years to entertain the older dogs and keep their minds active. In my last blog I mentioned that I had started to get Zest used to the idea of a “cone of shame” through clicker shaping but I would love to explain how it works.
Clicker shaping originally came from Dolphin training as a way to let the dolphins know they had earnt a fish and could come and get a reward. It works the same way with dogs; 'You do a behaviour I like, you get a click that will then be followed by a reward'. Clickers are very precise training tools, so they are not so good for teaching loose lead walking or duration behaviours, but are very good for capturing those fractions of a second behaviours you might struggle to mark with your voice.
As an example, let me explain how I teach the tyre that is shown in the video in slow motion. Firstly I would introduce it at a low height and only when the dogs is of an appropriate age. I would have lots of Natures Menu Treats and my clicker. I would then just stand there next to the tyre with my dog, if my dog looked at the tyre I would click and reward, If my dog then moved towards the tyre click and reward, if the dog then touched the tyre click and reward, if the dog put their head through the tyre clicker and reward, any feet through click and reward, until eventually my dog is hopping through the tyre quite happily backwards and forward earning rewards. The advantage of clicker shaping is that the dog is no longer reliant on a lure to help with the behaviour, which means I no longer need to be close to the dog for the behaviour to occur.
Aside from training Zest we had visitors round at the house last week for a summer BBQ Zest was very well behaved and one of the guests, a dentist, even commented that he wished his patients had teeth as nice as hers. I did suggest he recommended a chew on a raw bone for his patients... maybe not!
Love and Licks,
Nicola and Zest