Wednesday, April 7, 2010

"Velcro" Dogs

This piece of vocabulary has been interesting to me for a very, very long time.

First off... "Velcro" is a brand name.... not really a reference to the product that is more officially, but relatively unknown, as 'hook and loop tape'. But 'hook and loop tape' doesn't have the same feel. I think if I started saying "HALT dogs" it would not go over well.

So, are these dogs-who-stick-to-people a good thing or bad thing? It depends on the person and their goals. If you're talking to novice dog sports people, if their dog runs off, they wish desperately for a 'sticky dog'. If their dog has no distance, they desperately don't want a 'sticky dog'.

I have a sneaking suspicion that there's some level of anxiety in dogs that stick with people without considerable training. And some of these dogs have also got into trouble for running off in early training.

Our solutions consist of training. We need to teach our dogs to be responsive, comfortable, and work at a distance.

Lately I've been thinking about the very impressive field tests (trials? etc?) that retrievers do. HUGE distances! Hundreds of yards away! I can come up training plans for almost anything. But I didn't have a solid plan for how to get that. Griff isn't really a "HALT dog", but I didn't think I could get him to do that.

And then, we go for a woods walk. And he runs, hundreds of yards off. He tends to stay within sight, and stays closer when I'm moving slower. But, given the chance, he will happily be exploring a hundred yards out.

The training process we use won't have to be impossible. Distance is in his natural repertoire. He's comfortable away. And just needs trained.

Obedience go outs aren't going to be a problem, he's at 10-15 feet now. Agility, he has not really been trained for distance but 15-20 feet is rather doable provided there is little motion from me. This training has gone easier than with Luna, who is happy to run off, but when working had to have slow, gradual, almost painful (for me!) distance training. Blaze was a lot like Griffin with distance training, only needing a little more work, probably due to my novice-ness at that point.

In the _Agility Right from the Start_ book there's a process called "Aim for It" for working with obstacles and items...taking into account the beginning/middle/end of the training period, and utilizing placement of reinforcement very effectively. We're using this for go-to-mat behaviors in class. And for agility class training and it's going better than expected.

Not much of a beginning, middle, or end to the post... I tried!

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