I read that Jane Killion would be here March 10th and would work on “issues” so I signed up for the Saturday morning Introduction class, the Saturday afternoon session on Issues, and the Sunday morning Handling class. I didn’t take the Sunday afternoon Course Analysis session because I didn’t feel that we were far enough along to justify $50 for that class. I wrote in my registration the Parker wouldn’t go over the dog walk. Saturday morning Jane said “We’ll get your dog over the dog walk.”
On Saturday, I got to handle Jane Killian’s cattle dog over the dog walk with the instruction “click, throw the treat off the dog walk to give the dog relief from stress, and repeat.” Jane Killian asked the group if they wanted to address our issues on Sunday since we didn’t get to them on Saturday. The group said a resounding “NO.” I kept my mouth shut. Sunday morning I got to run Parker over the dog walk when it was flat on the ground. Then we left because our time was up.
On the drive home I though about the money I‘d spent on this seminar and was disappointed that Parker still wouldn’t go over the dog walk. BUT (and this is a very big BUT) I had learned to “free shape” a dog. No collar, no leash, no correction, just click and reward when you get an approximation of what you’re trying to teach. What could I do with this new skill? I free shaped Parker to put his toys by name into his toy box. I free shaped him to sit in a rocking chair. Starting on March 12th, I went to the agility field at least four times a week, loaded with canned cheese and turkey hot dogs. We’d do some skill sets and include the dog walk. If Parker got on the dog walk he got a hot dog thrown on the ground when he started shaking to “relive his stress.” If he took a step forward he got a click and cheese. I e-mailed Jane Killian my frustration and she said “Keep trying. He will do it.”
Day after day of get-on-the-dog-walk-get-a-hot-dog, and step-forward-click-get-cheese-step-forward-click-get-cheese, jump off, and repeat. Free Shaping--really?? There were days when I wanted to grab him by the scruff of his neck and throw him on the darn dogwalk. Parker would get to the crest of the dog walk, freeze, and jump down. I wouldn’t let my frustration show. Just a pleasant “What you gonna do?” and repeat the process over and over and over. Before we left the field each day we always did something I knew he’d do well so we wouldn’t leave on a bad note. One month and one week later, April 18th, Parker walked to the top (click-cheese) and walked over and down like he’d never had a problem. He went over starting at both ends, handled from both sides, and finished up doing it in a skill set. Thanks Jane Killian!
Diane Rutledge and Parker