Author Topic: An unanticipated bonus of the barrel  (Read 2234 times)


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An unanticipated bonus of the barrel
« on: May 25, 2012, 02:00:33 PM »
Like many others in this group, I recently bought a pop-up barrel to use in training. Didn't think it would introduce any particular challenge to my dogs - I often send them around trees, garbage cans or to do serpentines where there is a suitable row of trees, chairs or whatever. All the training I and my dogs have been through in classes or workshops has been obstacle commitment based (one exception: the Keri Daun workshop we attended last year), and I realized that much of my improvised agility has followed the same kind of pattern - send out to perform a named obstacle rather than working the path. Though I have worked to change that, the dogs still know that if they see a lone tree or post or whatever in the general direction I send them, they commit to that "obstacle".

When I now got the barrel, I decided to avoid a verbal (go around) and use the new equipment to work on path training as opposed to the commitment approach. It has worked out really well. Introducing the barrel, which being an unknown piece of equipment, meant that they needed to pay more attention to me for direction. To keep the "I don't know what I should do here - need to check for cues" quality of the barrel, I ask for different performances at the barrel. In very short time, the barrel has fostered a tighter connection between us because they have to watch for my cues and love the reinforcement when getting it right.

What is really positive beyond expectation, is that this has carried over to other, familiar, obstacles as well. They no longer assume (at least not as strongly) that just because they can see a tunnel it doesn't mean they should take it without paying attention to my cues.

So - rather than being concerned about the introduction of new equipment that we haven't previously trained, I embrace it. I will keep adding in new unknowns to keep that attentiveness growing. I realize now how important it is for the dogs to try and succeed on new things. Much like when they were first introduced to agility and everything was new to them.

Thanks for putting us on this track!
Stefan Elvstad
Liberté Agilité Fraternité