Wednesday, May 22, 2013

9 months - Using Pivots

You may remember somewhere in the past that I was teaching Kili to put her paws up on an overturned stainless steel dog bowl. I cannot remember now if I posted a video on teaching her to pivot on that bowl, however that is what I did. I basically lured her around in a circle with her front feet remaining on the bowl and her back feet making a circle around it. What was the point of that? As it turns out, the point of that was to aid in teaching her some of the signs used in Rally Obedience.

In Rally-O there is a course set up consisting of a series of signs on the ground. Each sign has an action/command that must be performed with your dog. Examples are "Sit-Down-Sit" (pretty self explanatory), "Sit-Walk Around" (ask your dog to sit and wait, then walk a circle around your dog and return to heel position), and "Weave Once" (weave through a set of pylons with your dog in heel position). Some signs are easy in one direction but infinitely more difficult in the other. 270 or 360 degree right is easy enough. You pivot around to your right the appropriate number of degrees while your dog heels beside you. Easy peasy. Now, I dare you to get up off the couch and try that... to the LEFT. Going to the left you are stepping INTO your dog. I guarantee that your dog isn't going to know where to go to stay out of your way. He may sit to let you walk around him. He may walk right out in front of you. He may stand up on his hind legs. But I am almost positive that he will not stay in heel position and swing his bum around... which is the only way to really stay out of your way and, more importantly, the only way to perform the sign correctly.

This is where that stainless steel bowl comes in. I had already taught Kili to pivot and keep her front feet on the bowl. I hadn't cared much about where she was in relation to me at the time. Now though, I asked her to put her front feet up on the bowl. I then used food to lure her head away from me, which made her step her hind feet TOWARD me into heel position. I then clicked and treated her for being in the appropriate position. I apologize that there is no video of this. The idea came to me while I was at Rally class. I grabbed a dog bowl and started luring. After only a couple of repetitions she had the idea. So no video because she's too smart. Once the dog has the idea further repetitions involve simply waiting for the dog to adjust her position and clicking and treating when she reaches the right place, as you see in the video.

Once Kili knew where I expected her to be it was time to start moving to see if she could transfer the idea. I did this by taking a tiny step away from her. I then waited for her to correct her position. If your dog is unable to make this leap then lure her back into position and C/T. Then take another tiny step over, lure her, etc. After a couple of attempts using the lure see if she can figure it out on her own. I had a smart cookie so I just started taking bigger and bigger steps until I was making her do quarter or half turns.

The dog has it in her head now to always pivot back to heel position. To achieve a 270 or 360 left pivot just slowly but continually move. Make sure you move slowly enough at first so that your dog can keep pace. As she gets better you'll be able to pivot faster and faster.

Eventually you will want to remove the bowl. I started by phasing it out. I replaced the bowl with a frisbee which is not as tall. Next I will probably try removing it completely, but if Kili can't make that jump then I will find something smaller and flatter than the frisbee... maybe just a small piece of paper.

I also showed a few other signs in the video, but they all use the left pivot to teach the dog a left finish.

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