After my little experiment at Friday night agility using a verbal marker and garlic sausage to get Billy looking into (and later running through) the tunnel, I went a step further today and introduced the clicker. Bill was leery of the noise initially, but freshly cooked garlic sausage made him brave. I decided to get him targetting a plastic lunch box lid, and it took only a couple of minutes- he seemed to immediately grasp that the click meant he got a piece of sausage. I had to tap the lid a few times to get him near it, starting with looking at it, then sniffing near it, then touching it.
I started to move it around, and suddenly he "got it"- jumping away from me to touch his nose to the lid, then jumping back at the click to get his sausage. He even ignored Joy the cat, too involved in the game to bother with her. The most impressive thing for me was his eye contact- he truly understands communication with eye contact, and even when he was turning to touch the lid, Bill was watching me to see my reaction. Clever clever pup.
Muddy is such a good boy- despite my inconsistent, irrational, impatient weavepole training, he keeps working for me, keeps trying. For just a few seconds of tugging or a quick throw of the tennis ball, he keeps giving it another go- and I think he even enjoys the training, its our special time. In just one week, we've gone from 3 poles wide apart to 8 poles just inches apart (or straight, but slightly slanted).
Unfortunately I'm just not happy with that wonderful progress, and had to "try something else"- putting him back on lead and hoiking him through. Unsuprisingly, it didn't work, he just lost his rhythm and footwork, and started walking through.
So today I went back to our channel method, tried to keep it all positive and successful, and Muddy has forgiven me, as usual, and gave it 100%. I have 3 weeks- that should be long enough to close the poles those few inches- I just need to stick with this system and let him develop his rhythm and confidence. Worst case scenario- we scratch from agility, and stick to Jumping. But I think we can do it.
Jack's contacts were great on Friday night- much slower than our running dogwalk experiment, but still quick enough and solid enough for a decent teams effort. Good old Jack, he's truly the most honest, giving, easy dog, and I wouldn't be here at all it if it wasn't for Jack. Love ya, Jubby!