Thursday, 11 December 2014

The Ladder

Today, Daisy and Cybi had an agility lesson that focused primarily on core work and body awareness. It was a bit of a new one for both of them, but they did both do very well, albeit with some unscheduled entertainment. Both dogs are getting quite good at "offering" behaviours in the absence of specific instructions, so getting a reward for putting one paw on the wobble board quickly advanced to two, then three, then all four (for Daisy anyway - Cybi was not leaving the ground with that fourth paw for any reward! Next time.) Then we had a go at wobble cushions, which Daisy, being quite coordinated, figured out without an issue, and in fact could change position on a biggish cushion without any sign of even noticing that the surface under her feet was wobbly. Cybi was decidedly unconvinced by the whole "moving surface" thing, but could stand on the spot ok.

Then, we had a go at cavaletti. The idea is to teach the dog to think about all four limbs, rather than just let the hind legs follow where the front ones lead, and to begin to use the hindlimb muscles to help power the dog along. I think (not an expert on this) it's similar to the changes asked of a horse before jumping, so that it learns to propel itself along with its back end, rather than being off balance over its front end.

The one at the training centre is a box with poles that can be slotted in depending on the size of the dog and whether it is walking or trotting, but I can't find a picture of that exact thing. Kind of similar to this, only with all the poles in:

We're going to be using cone-cavaletti at home, because they are easier to get hold of:

Daisy tried it first, and high-stepped over each pole like a little Hackney show pony. Didn't touch a single pole.She has pretty good limb awareness, so that wasn't a big surprise. Then Cybi had a go. Poor little chap doesn't understand that he has hindlegs at the best of times, and as far as he's concerned poles are for leaping over. He initially demonstrated that he could clear the entire box from a standing start, which was impressive, but not quite what I'd asked for, so I ended up bribing (I believe the technical term is "luring") him into taking it a bit more steadily and stepping over the poles. It was very hard to keep a straight face, as he first of all followed the treat by walking his front legs out as far as they could go, leaving his hind legs on the spot,  then realising he was at full stretch and he hadn't got the treat yet. Then he tried jumping his back legs up to his fronts, leaving all four limbs crammed into the same small area between the poles. We took it even slower after that, and he at least got the idea that all four legs had to move - but partly because he has no idea where his limbs are and partly because he tries to do everything at a million miles an hour he bounced off most of the poles with most of his feet. No dogs were harmed in the training of this exercise, but I couldn't help but laugh at him, bless him. I think it will be very good for him for us to do lots of work on pole awareness and paying attention to limb placement, and hopefully he will figure it out in time...

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