This is the final segment of this topic. You might have noticed in the video that Listo is using a target. I have a target on one end and no target at the other end. For the rest of Listo’s training until he retires he will have a target occasionally in use. This maintains the focus and criteria that I expect. It also allows me some freedom in my position. More on that later.
When we left off from the last post I was putting all the pieces together. I next train Listo to target on a full dogwalk. I do not push him for speed at this point. I do not want him walking though. I like a nice canter with no extra push. This allows for control at the bottom. The height of the dogwalk is 2 feet. Once I see control with the wait, touch and release, with speed (introduced after other criteria is established) I raise the dogwalk to full height. With the new height the criteria will need to be reestablished.
Once Listo shows me he understands the criteria at the new height, I begin to change my position. This has already begun by making sure that I am not consistent with my body language with the target and wait on the dogwalk. I want my position to be random so that the target is offered without prompting from a physical cue. This will make it easier to step away later.
From here on in I change my position so that I am leading out or letting him lead me to the target. I am either driving ahead of him or driving him from behind. I use a push word like “go” to keep him focused on his path to the target, especially when I am behind him. I will click and treat when he is on the dogwalk and then release and turn him to try again while going to the other end. This becomes a game and Listo learns to retry the dogwalk. I make sure that he always ends when I want it to end and he does not get to choose without my say so. If he does I do not “punish” him for it. My fault that he had the opportunity and you don’t want to kill the drive to try. If he offers me something great I will in fact reward it. That said I make darn sure he doesn’t get the opportunity to do it again. I don’t want him to learn to obsess over it.
While Listo is targeting I will start to move away from the end of the dogwalk. Laterally, ahead or behind. separating gradually. If Listo makes a mistake I try again. I will try to keep my position the same to see if Listo will offer to do the right behaviours. If not then what I was asking was too much. I will go back to a position where I know he will be successful. Then I try to change my position again.
Once he shows me that he can be semi consistent I begin to add distractions to the dogwalk. Examples are the placement of tunnels underneath or at the end or some other obstacle that Listo enjoys like the weave poles. When I do a dogwalk training session I would say I do no more than 15 repetitions and in fact I have done as few as 6. I get what I want from the session and I move on to something else.
That’s it for this post on Listo’s dogwalk training. Hope you enjoyed it! For those that thought to time his dogwalk he is consistent around 3 seconds. This isn’t super fast but it is a speed that I am comfortable with for safety’s sake. I can speed him up if I wish. In fact, once he demonstrates his understanding in the ring I will begin to introduce a speed release. It’s important to note that this should be randomly used or you will lose your target training. When executed properly it will look like he has a running dogwalk. The speed release is his release command given as he hits the yellow, bypassing the target behaviour. These posts are interactive so if you have any questions please feel free to pm me or use the discussion aspect of the blog!