Monday, January 30, 2017

Trick Training Tutorial

I posted this trick on my Facebook page, and a friend of mine then asked on Facebook how I taught it, and after I had written out a 500 word essay, I thought I should maybe post it here instead, complete with videos.

Getting Started:
Like any behaviour, there's more than one way to do it, but any way you choose should address the basic components of the final behaviour. These are: 1) jump over a thing; 2) jump accurately over a specific point; 3) jumping through a narrow space between two objects, and 4) jumping with something above their head; 5) all of those things at the same time. If the way I did it isn't working for you and your dog, think about what part of those 5 seems to be the problem, and then you can work on just that part some more.
- Ida started out already having a "jump" command, so we skipped most of the "teaching to jump" part.
- what I'm calling a baton can be literally anything that is a couple feet long and easily graspable with one hand - a broom stick, a ruler, a wooden spoon, a jump pole, etc. Just something straight(ish) and rigid.
- When you start making a hoop with your arms without any other props, it helps to have a mirror so you can see what you're doing. It is surprisingly hard to tell what's circular from the side!
I started by teaching her to jump over my arm using a baton as an extension to make it easier for the dog to figure out the initial behaviour of jumping over a thing. Once she was consistently jumping over my batarm, I shortened the baton part by adjusting my grip further and further down, so less of it extended from my hand, until I was able to drop it altogether and she was consistently jumping over just my arm. We worked on arm jumping until she was comfortable jumping over my arm at shoulder height when I was sitting. This didn't take us very long because we've been doing set-point for agility and she's easily clearing 24" from a stand-still.
Tip: If the dog tries to go under or around instead of over, lower your arm until it is easy for them to step over and then raise it a tiny bit with each rep until they’re jumping. The baton also helps with this… I was almost laying on the ground initially, so having the baton meant I could teach her to jump just over the baton leaning on the ground to start and then slowly angle it up.
Once she was comfortable jumping over my arm, I slowly started angling the baton/pole upwards, which helps the dog 1) jump over your arm while it curves slightly, and 2) get used to jumping in a more confined space. This was the first date we started working on it; initially when I started to angle the baton, I put my hand back down on the floor to make it easier, with the baton angled up.
Once she had the hang of it though, I raised it up more.

Once she was comfortably jumping over my arm with the baton upright, I angled the pole back out again and started moving my other arm into position. I started just with it angled over my head and gradually lowered it with each successful rep until I was eventually holding onto the pole with both hands with about 18" between. A bigger dog might need more space to be comfortable. This helps the dog get familiar with jumping through an enclosed space but with lots of room still.
Once she was jumping through the closed hand-pole hoop, I made the hoop gradually smaller by moving my hands closer together an inch at a time. The pole adds additional benefits here: 1) holding it with both hands makes sure you're actually making a closed hoop for the dog to jump through, and 2) it teaches the dog where to jump in relation to your arms. When we initially started fading out the pole, Ida jumped "outside" my arms if my hands weren't lined up well – she’d kind of jump between my hands instead of through my arms. I think keeping the pole in play until she was consistently jumping through the middle of the hoop would have eliminated that.
I don't have any videos of the intermediate part where I was holding the whole pole. :(
Once my hands were a couple inches apart, I got rid of the pole altogether and started making loose arm circles with my fingertips a few inches apart. Then I gradually closed them, and voila! A dog jumping through my arms.