So today we started our agility training today on the flex tunnel. Our shaping training and clicker training is proving to be paying off. I have lately been doing alot of exercises encouraging Keeda to think about her work and to understand the meaning fully of the clicker. A couple of nights ago I cut open a beer carton and practised our shaping with the end goal of having keeda sitting inside the carton. I started by rewarding any look or interest in the box. I gave her 3 goes at this before upping the criteria. I waited until she physically touched the box with her nose or paw before giving her a click and treat. We continued "shaping" this behaviour, progressing from touching, one paw, two paws, and so on until she was sitting inside the carton. Playing "thinking" games like this encourages her to concentrate on the skill I am after and reinforces her training with the clicker and "shaping" behaviours.
So with the flex tunnel I used a similar method. I waited until she showed interest in the tunnel by just looking at it. She very quickly clued on that I wanted more interest in the tunnel and quickly moved onto walking up to the tunnel. It didn't take her long before she stayed inside the tunnel long enough to allow me to run to the other end just so she could see me. As soon as she saw me at the other end she understood the job straight away. It than became a patience game of waiting for her to make the decision to run through the tunnel without me giving an aid or cue. Slowly but surely I was able to move away slightly from the tunnel. Within 15 mins I had a puppy very excited and willing to run to the tunnel. I always made sure that the first thing she was looking for as she came out of the tunnel was me. I encouraged this by starting to play "I'm gonna race ya" (my version of Susan Garretts I'm gonna smoke ya) to encourage her to not only look for me but than to chase me down. As soon as she caught me I clicked and treated and turned around to go again.
All up a 20 min training session with huge success!
I had to remember though that it was her decision to go through the tunnel and found myself twice accidental walking up to the tunnel - hence giving her a cue. I immediately realised my mistake however (only due to Keeda failing to follow the cue that she doesn't know yet!) and came back to my starting spot to let her make the decision to run to the tunnel. By using this method I'm creating a dog that hypothetically will consider the tunnel as a high value game and will slowly introduce a cue, only when she does the exercises flawless and every time. I'm not going to start yelling "flex" and her learning that the word "flex" means to just run past the tunnel, jump on it, run around it, bite it. Only when there is a perfect entry with speed going through the tunnel will I introduce the cue.