The other day I tested sending Ruby to the backside of the jump from 2m and from various angles around the jump. He surprised me by getting most of it right. It seems I keep forgetting that he knows this stuff and then I’m surprised when he can do it 😛 Actually he did everything right, but he kept curving into me before going to the jump and several times he almost ran into the wing because of it. What’s going on here?
I like to test/train stuff like this at home, far away from anything that looks like agility equipment. If I mess it up and really frustrate Ruby, this feeling of frustration won’t be attached to agility, only to my props at home (if any). Also, if I leave equipment out of the equation it helps me to analyze the situation and better understand what is going on.
So at home I took two food bowls. For the first two tries I only set one bowl 2m ahead, restrained Ruby and released with “Take it”. No problem, he went straight ahead and gobbled up the kibble. Next I set the second bowl to my left, so that it was slightly closer than the first bowl, but Ruby would have to go across my feet to get to it. The bowl ahead was full, the bowl to my left was empty. It should be an easy choice to just go straight ahead, right? Well, not for Ruby! He first started toward the bowl on the left and only after I took a step forward he changed his direction to the bowl that was directly in front. Looks like we replicated the problem 🙂
Obviously curving into me and going across my legs to get a reward is a strong behavior for him if he is drawn even to an empty bowl. It has nothing to do with agility equipment, not wanting to take the backside of a jump and the like – it’s based in misunderstanding of what I expect when I release him from a restraint.
We have been playing with it a few times and it seems I have thoroughly confused his poor whippety brain. Now he’s not sure if I want him to go ahead or stay close to me, go straight or curve in. He is slow and careful.
I attribute this to being a lazy trainer. I usually train with kibble at home and only bring out the goodies if I need more excitement or if I want to differentiate between a good try and a great execution of exercise. Of course yummy goods need to be chopped up first while kibble is just grab-and-go 😉 I think rewarding with something yummy could help here, because it would add value to going straight faster than kibble does. I’ll let you know how it turns out 🙂