Tuesday, January 15, 2013

End On a Positive Note... People!

We had a pick-up Agility lesson which ended with my worst nightmare (besides running a course with a spider on me) : Public singing. We were working on our handling planning for a 12 obstacle course.  We planned and ran the first 4 obstacles, then the 2nd set,  the 3rd set, and then the entire course.

The instructor then announced that she was going to throw in a twist. She explained that we needed to move our 'handling thoughts' to our subconscious so that we were thinking less about our handling out there on the course. One way to do this, she said, was to sing 'Row Row Row Your Boat' while you ran the course only stopping your singing to give verbal cues to the dog. I was instantly horrified. I don't sing and I should be paid in gold and silver not to sing. But, in the spirit of getting  out of my Comfort Zone to let learning happen, I gave it the ole college try... and it was disastrous. Pico was skittering about wondering what the heck I was doing and what in the world I wanted him to do. The instructor was yelling, "Sing! Sing" and I just wanted it to all be over... and that's how the class ended. I left the class feeling foolish, wondering why I spent money to feel foolish, and thinking of all of the other things I may have accomplished on a Sunday afternoon.

One of the most important rules at The Agility Underground is to always be sure that your dog ends on a Positive Note. For example, Pico is working on his 2x2s. If we close the first set  too soon and he starts missing his entries, we change the scenario so that he ends the session by successfully completing an entry. If he is overly frustrated by the 2x2s, we may change the scenario altogether and ask him for something he knows well like a jump or something that is highly reinforcing to him like a tunnel. That way he ends the session with some sort of success.

When I first heard about this rule, I'll be honest, it sounded silly. At that time, I didn't understand much at all about dog behavior or dog training. It became apparent very quickly with Gilda, that ending on a Positive note was very instrumental in her ability and willingness to go forward in Agility. Gilda sold me on the concept's importance!

It occurred to me a few weeks ago that I consistently end training sessions with Jessica feeling positive and feeling like I have learned something. Our most recent session involved learning a brand new skill for me, the Forward Motion Front Cross (FMFC). [ Here is an interesting take on FMFC by Daisy Peel]
The cross itself is a bit tricky to learn at first (okay, ALL crosses are hard to learn for me!) In essence, the lower half of your body is signaling forward cues to the dog. The upper half of your body is balancing those cues to signal a turn to the dog. The real tricky part for me is the timing of it all. Jessica demonstrated in slow motion exactly which moves to make at each point in the sequence so that I would be giving Pico  information early enough that he could interpret the cues clearly.

{Hines Ward: hips and legs show forward motion
while upper body shows turning}

I didn't realize it until after we had gone home, but the minute I executed the sequence fairly well, we moved on to some Weave Pole practice! I'm guessing she does this consciously but either way,  Jessica understands  intrinsically that it is of utmost importance for the human side of the team to end on a Positive Note as well!

Lesson Learned!

1 comment:

gscindy said...

At least you didn't try to run the course singing "Eensy, Weensy Spider!"

And three cheers for people "cookies!"