Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Flipping Out in the Backyard

I've not been doing much backyard training lately because my yard is very small and only good for working on foundation type behaviors and we're at a point where training sequences is more important.  I've found that with a fast, big strided dog the backyard foundation stuff is not enough, I need to take it to somewhere where he can stretch out and run and learn to execute the obstacles at speed, especially the weave poles.

However I do want to participate in Blog Action Day and after last weekend's DOCNA trial which had many dogwalk - 180 degree turn to tunnel scenarios, I had a few people asking about Strummer's flips with the running dogwalk.  He was 5/5 with that dogwalk/tunnel scenario at this trial and you can see a few of his runs in the post below.

So I thought I'd re-post the backyard portion of the training I did for that.  I also have posts about taking it to the full dogwalk and you can find those by clicking on the 'running dogwalk' label and looking around October 2010 or so.  The following are 2 posts from October 2010.


I've been on a mission to get the 180 degree flip from dogwalk to tunnel on a verbal.  I thought I mostly had it but DOCNA Champs showed me that oh no I don't.

Even though I have a practice tunnel I decided to use a plastic lawn chair for him to run around because for one I could get in a lot more reps without having to wait for him to run through the tunnel and also because it's a wider turn and easier on his body.  In theory anyway.  That silly dog refuses to have any respect at all for his body no matter how I try to help him.

I've been working with the chairs for a few days now, several quick sessions a day and it took a good 3 days before he seemed to have any clue as to what I wanted.  After he failed for the third time in a row I'd give him some physical cues to help him then take them away and he'd be back to making mistakes, ie not turning away on the verbal cue and running straight ahead.

Yesterday's last session saw over 80% success though as did this morning's so this afternoon I broke out the tunnel and he's been near perfect.  Sort of.  After watching the video I'm not entirely happy with the performance.  He's not running to the bottom and turning but rather turning before reaching the end and sliding down the plank a bit.  He hits the yellow but if he takes to diving in the tunnel before running through the bottom of the plank he could easily start missing and in fact he did this on the A-frame at Champs.  He wasn't running to the bottom either with the chair and I was rewarding it.  The last rep isn't too bad and part of the problem I think is that I need to repaint/resand my contacts.  Glad I finally shot some video before I got too far along.

Some of the reps were straight ahead runs to a jump that was off screen.  My camera doesn't zoom out far enough to catch all the action and my yard is so small I can't place it farther away.  I had a lot of reps go straight because I don't want him learning to automatically dive into a tunnel whenever he sees one under the dogwalk.  He was starting to do that last summer.

Though I want the turn on a verbal I have been helping him out by remaining stopped and facing the side of the dogwalk towards the way I want him to turn when there's a turn and facing straight and moving forward when I want him to go straight.  If I want him to turn towards me I call his name and face the direction I want him to turn and indicate with an arm.  I'll get some video of that.  I didn't think he was having problems with that but now I want to see for myself on video what's going on.

Dogwalk Turns 10-2-2010 from colliebrains on Vimeo.


After some thought I decided to try using the prop of the pole to help Strum run all the way to the bottom before turning.  As I said in the comments on a post below I'm not fond of props and this is largely because I'm so crap at both using them and fading them.  I don't have a lot of faith in them either so I avoid them for the most part.  But I thought I'd take the opportunity to learn how to use them.  I wanted to use the running dogwalk experiment to improve my training techniques and here is one that could use some improvement.  Well, you can see from the videos below how that worked out.  In short, the pole only seemed to confuse and cause leaps and jumping off the side early to avoid it.  So after giving it the good old college try for a grand total of 2 days/training sessions I said adios to the prop. and the next session I had perfect turns.  I did have a training session on the A-frame/tunnel with my training partner but the mechanics of that turn is very different from the dogwalk.  Still it probably helped some.

Monday's session with the pole

DOGWALK TURNS 10-4-2010 AFTERNOON from colliebrains on Vimeo.

I had a theory that he was cueing off my lack of motion and shoulder position (ie facing the direction I wanted him to turn) rather than the verbal so I tried running forward and saying 'turn' and sure enough he went forward the first time.  I tried it again with a little less forward motion and he surprised me by taking the turn.  Maybe he is learning the verbal after all.

Tuesday's session with the pole

DOGWALK TURNS 10-5-2010 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

This session saw even more goofiness with the pole.  After that I decided I'd leave the poles to the strippers and figure out something else for next session.

Tuesday evening I met at my training partner's house to practice teaching verbal discriminations and turns for the A-frame/tunnel.  He was 100% with his turning cue, even with some forward motion on my part.  He was not 100% on his verbal for the tunnel vs A-frame so I helped him out with some physical cues but by the end I think he was starting to get the idea.  Verbals are hard, it'll take a lot more work but what I saw was encouraging.  I still question his ability to ever learn to process a verbal that doesn't have some physical cue to back it up during a course when he's flying full speed.  I think where it might work are instances where the physical cue is weak and the verbal will be extra information, like when the dogwalk and tunnel entry are close together and the physical cues to indicate one over the other are subtle and maybe not all that clear, the verbal can help him out.  In theory anyway.  We'll see how it works out in practice.

Wednesday's session, no more pole

DOGWALK TURNS 10-6-2010 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

I cheated a little here and positioned the tunnel opening so it was next to and a bit forward of the dogwalk plank.  This was to encourage him to run all the way down.  I'll inch the tunnel back a bit over more sessions to make sure he doesn't start to dive in from the side given the opportunity.  This session he started anticipating the turn and even turned with forward motion on my part for one rep.  And I rewarded it with a yes!  Next rep he started to do it again then stopped himself.  Third time was a charm and he went forward no problem.  I need to remember to put a lot of forward reps into each session like I did when I was starting out.

This post is part of Dog Agility Blog Action Day.  You can go here to see more posts on Backyard Training.


  1. I had some ideas for this blog day but haven't had time to do anything about them, so I'll just have to enjoy it vicariously with interesting posts like yours.

  2. I had a great idea but it was way too time consuming and I need to be spending time on other things right now so I went into re-runs.

  3. Thanks for the morning laugh.