Sunday, January 15, 2012

What Does It All Mean?!

Many times, you will hear the instructors refer to "criteria" or "independent obstacle performance" or "obstacle vs. handler focus". We often use the words in classes and sometimes we may not have explained this completely. Here is my attempt to explain further.

This is the ideal performance of an obstacle that you have chosen to train for your dog. For example, with a 2-on/2-off (2o2o) position on the contact equipment, is your criteria for the dog to go down creeping slowly or running fast into the 2o2o? Does it matter if they peel off to one side, but still keep their position? Do you want them to stay straight on the plank and wait there until you release? Do you want the dog to go into a 2o2o and nose touch? Do you want the dog to hold his position until released? These are individual questions that you must answer for your own dog. When the instructors ask, "What is your criteria for this obstacle?" this is what we are referring to. With contacts, your criteria may be a running contact. That is fine, but you must be willing to do the work to get a reliable running contact, or suffer the consequences of perfect performance part of the time and not so perfect the other part. (Trust me!)

Independent Obstacle Performance  
This is the performance of the obstacle no matter where you are at in relation to the dogs position. You should be able to send to an obstacle, call over an obstacle, have distance (15-20 ft) from the obstacle and still have your dog perform it correctly. This includes all obstacles - even the weaves. This is taught with proofing, and trust in your dog of course! Proofing is a never ending cycle in your dogs training. Training is a process, and with time you will be able to have independent obstacle performance. Think of how great this would be to have on course!

Obstacle vs Handler Focus
You will learn much of this from Mike Adams, but we have implemented this in our intro classes as well.

In obstacle focus the dog should be able to drive to the obstacle. Your body will tell the dog that this is what you want; you will be running, using a stronger voice, and telling them where to go far in advance of getting there. This is nice for a long line of jumps to a tunnel, or a nice flowing circular sequence.

Handler focus means that the dog must direct his attention to you for further direction. You also use your body by slowing down, using a softer voice, and bringing out a hand signal. Handler focus is great for turns on course or discriminations between different obstacles.

The goal is to be able to walk a sequence and determine whether obstacle or handler focus is better for you at the time. Stuart Mah has taught us a world of information on this topic, and we continue to learn each time we have him for a seminar, go for a private lesson, or even watch him run his dogs.  Think about it from this perspective: highway vs. city driving. When you are on I-26 going to Asheville from Charleston, you can usually set cruise control and just motor away. What if your friend says "I have to go to the bathroom" right when you are about to pass the rest stop exit? You would have to slam on brakes and not be very happy. What if they would have told you that when you were 1 mile back? You could have turned on you blinker, gotten in the right lane, and merged over easily, slowing to make the exit safely. You would be much happier. The same is true for your dog. Early information means everything. With city driving, you must be much more aware - handler focus. (The driving scenario is courtesy of Lynn Weatherall.)

I will also add in
proofing since I mentioned it earlier and did not fully explain it - imagine that. Proofing is training the dog to hold its position no matter what happens. We do this with stays very frequently as well as contact obstacles. There is a popular title "But will he do it if I swing a dead cat". This is the idea. Once in a stay, the dog should hold it no matter what happens. Proofing is trying to find ways for the dog to break the stay or criteria so that you can train for that. What if I run away from the start? What if a whistle blows? What if I throw my arms up in the air? What if I throw the favorite toy? Oooohhhh that may be hard. Exactly! I love proofing because you can see the wheels turning in the dogs brain trying to figure things out. It’s fun! You can think of a zillion different ways to proof. Wanda, Courtney and I have proofed the word "OK" so that the dog will only release on our "OK" This is important in a trial setting when you have all sorts of people yelling and talking. Also, I try to sit Meg in a stay and say "This is Meg”. I usually do this in a trial for the scribe so they can make sure they are scoring the right dog. I am still in the process of proofing my Meg.

Training is a never ending process.  Learn as much as you can to be the best handler you can be

Kathy Price
Meg, WeBe Jammin', Jackson, Mr. Fix, Echo, Blaze, Bongo

1 comment: