Tuesday, June 12, 2012

It's Your Choice in the Real World

When I got Tangle I decided that I would be very committed to foundation skills with him. Teaching them from the beginning and reviewing often. Tangle and I worked on the It's Your Choice (IYC) game again today. I have to admit this was part of a class assignment and at the beginning of today I didn't really understand how it completely applied to agility. But, being the good student and wanting to participate fully in the learning process we did IYC today. Last week we did the traditional food in hand IYC that is so famous (Susan Garrett and Mary Ellen Barry). Then we did IYC with food on the ground and walking past it on leash so that I could control his access should he decide to be naughty. He did great. I break up the self-control with bouts of tug to help get his stimulated and happy again. Having control all the time isn't much fun is it and is easier if you aren't very stimulated.

Let me note that the only videos that I have seen on IYC involved the food in hand, food on the paw, food on the nose, food in a bowl, they all kind of fit into the pet trick category to me. Makes you wonder what does this have to do with agility. Sure, it teaches self control, but how do the dog generalize this skill to the agility field. Read on... Today's session was out on the agility field with toys and distractions. Our assignment was to continue to progress with this game and make it real world. So, I gathered all the toys from the toy box, stuffed them in a bag. Brought the other two dogs into the yard just beyond the agility field (Tangle has trouble ignoring them). My objective was to walk back and forth, drop toys, have Tangle ignore the toys and dog and when he did he would get rewarded. Again, how does this relate to the real world?

For some odd reason it suddenly hit me. The assignment is to make it more and more real world. That is, bring the distractions and choices into his working life. For instance, we have been working on a very short sequence where Tangle has to follow me and ignore his favorite obstacle the A-Frame. THAT is the real work of IYC. Choose to follow me because the reward is greater in the long run, or self gratify with the AF (and no reward from me). Or, a Tunnel/Dog Walk discrimination, choice the obstacle that is cued rather than the favorite obstacle. Or, proofing weaves by throwing toys at the dog while he weaves. He chooses to continue the weaves for the big reward rather than self-graitfy with various toys. I went back and reviewed our standard run from this weekend. Just in off courses alone Tangle had 5 opportunities to make choices. It was his choice to stay on course or follow me :)

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