Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Straight Sits

The 4H Agility Games Clinic went quite well yesterday. I had fun with the kids.  We did a more beginner group in the morning and a bit more advanced group in the afternoon.  We were able to stick right to schedule, and if anything, I had a bit of extra time.

During lunch, one of the kids asked about straight sits for Obedience. Her dog has a tendency to sit crooked.   Both the kid and parent spent quite a while telling me about this and how it definitely was the dog just not wanting to sit straight.   

- "He's always done it."'s possibly been reinforced a ton from the humans.   And there could be a physical cause contributing to the behavior.....something more serious like Hip Displaysia, or just the dog's general conformation making it more uncomfortable for him to sit square.
- "He especially doesn't like to sit on mulch."     If you were wearing a swim suit....would you want to sit on mulch?  Remember...your dog is very short haired!   Sitting on cold, hot, pointy, pokey, wet things is not going to be fun.
- "In training we do heeling and then sit"    It's good training to do one thing at a time.  Do you want to fix your sit, or practice automatic sits in heeling, or work on heeling?   If I were in your situation, I would do a lot of sit training separate from heeling, separate from stays, separate from other things....until the straight sit is fixed.
- "We're worried the judge would take off a lot of points."    Not in rally, and likely not much, if any, in obedience.  Watching you work, I would be more conerned about how you pull the leash every time you stop....that's 1-3* points every single time. I would be more concerned about your dog not sitting at all.... 1-3 points.    I would be more concerned about your dog not being parallel with you. You have to set your own priorities.
- "He just doesn't want to do it."   There area  lot of reasons he might not want to....but what you're saying also tells me he thinks it is not worth it.  If I asked you to reach in a big muddy gross pile to get a penny, would you do it?   ("No!")   If it was a thousand dollars?  ("Yes!")   We need to have a reinforcement history. We need to have reinforced your dog for sitting with such good reinforcement and so many times that he will sit no matter what.    My dog Griffin isn't the smartest dog...he's not stupid either.  But he does some silly things due to his reinforcement history.  One day I asked him to put his feet up against a solid wall.....and as "up" usually means get in the car or on a bed....  he put ALL four feet on that wall....looked at me in a panic...and fell.    His reinforcement history for "up" was so good, so strong, that he responded no matter what...until gravity intervened.
- "He really is stubborn."     Maybe there are other contributing factors, like core strength....we can do exercise ball work or that sort of thing to build his physical ability. He is a very athletic working dog, but his types of activities, the types of terrain he works on, the things he does....may not be what he needs for the strength to do this.
-"In his previous competition training, for other sports, he was punished every time he sat."  Then you're doing  a great job to get sits.... we need to improve his history of reinforcement, really get things to pay off.

And then they demonstrated.  The dog sat straight 5/5 times.  The reinforcement?  Came a good 10 seconds after. I demonstrated how to have the food ready and how to give several pieces, very quickly in succession, for the completion of this sit.  Latency, how long it took the dog to respond, and the speed of the behavior were both lacking. 

Griffin worked a bit during lunch.  Outdoors, a rally course was set up.  He wanted to sniff the grass at the start line.  After a minute of sniffing I gave up and led him by the collar inside.  He worked much better there....some bobbles due to drains on the floor and other little things....his about turns lacking.    A few people sitting around clapped for his left turns and later were thinking we were crazy to not be trialing yet.   They didn't see him work outside and probably think I'm too picky about my criteria.     But for obedience....we really do need to "Maintain Criteria!"  I was very happy with how quickly he got to work indoors....and then last night after class, he was just brilliant.   I haven't gone back to watch the video....I'm afraid to see that he wasn't as great as I'd thought!

*While 4H scoring is supposed to be like AKC/UKC/etc..... it's not always....

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