“The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.” – Albert Einstein
I love solving problems. It’s what I do for work and I’m quite good at it. Well, at my specific subset of problems, of course. Not very good at being modest, though 😛 I think my love for dog training also comes from the same place: there is a behavioral puzzle to solve. If I do this, this happens, and if I do that… wait, why did that happen?
A common approach to solving math problems is to reduce them to something that is easier to solve or that we already know how to solve. As it turns out this is useful in agility as well.
When Ruby and I started in agility he only saw a tunnel once every two weeks and though he didn’t hate them, he also didn’t love them. I had to run with him right to the tunnel until his head was almost inside or he would pull away. His speed was not the greatest, either. I said to Silvia that I think I should be rewarding him for tunnels more, but she disagreed. She said she never rewards dogs for taking tunnels because they love them enough anyway and it creates a dog who will be hard to pull off the tunnel. Some call this the tunnel-suck, the magical power of tunnels to suck in any dog who comes close or even looks in their direction.
Well, I couldn’t see Ruby loving tunnels if we continued working the way we did, so as soon as I had an opportunity to train tunnels I sent him through, threw a frisbee, sent him through again… We had a blast. We probably did two or three sessions just sending him through that tunnel.
Sure enough, next time at LoLaBuLand the magic power of tunnels sucked Ruby in no matter what I did. It was weird but it meant my plan worked! Silvia was amused of course 🙂 I have a lovely video of this session somewhere, but I can’t be bothered to find it right now… maybe tomorrow 🙂
There was nothing to worry about, though. Because it was the rewards that created the tunnel-suck it was reasonable to assume that when there would be no reward Ruby would figure out the rules quickly. The tunnel was not self-rewarding for him. And so it was – the next time we were at LoLaBuLand Ruby was happy to run into tunnels, but didn’t run into them if I didn’t cue them. His overall speed increased because the tunnels were now FUN! Also, he didn’t pull off them so easily so I was able to leave him earlier and move to the next position. Mission accomplished 🙂
Another interesting part of this story came two years later when Silvia published her Foundations Fun DVD. On the DVD she advocates games that reward the dog for running through a tunnel. She also says not to worry that dogs would love tunnels so much that you couldn’t call them off and that you can have a dog who loves tunnels but also does tunnel discriminations perfectly. Hmm… sounds pretty different to me from the advice I got!
During those two years she was training little Le who wasn’t born liking tunnels. It’s funny how different dogs can change our perspective 😉
The photo in this post is (c) Monika Pl