Promoting responsible German Shepherd Dog ownership
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In the obstacle exercise, there can be several variations, such as the tunnel first, then the jump and finish to heel or jump, tunnel, finish or use of an open hurdle with no solid bottom. If the jump is first, I heel him about ten feet in front of the hurdle and sit him and walk to the end of the tunnel. My commands are hup, tunnel and fuss. I introduced the whistle for the command to come to heel or out and come to heel, but dropped it because I found the verbal command of fuss was more effective in the call off exercise. Judging is simply based on did the dog jump the hurdle, go through the tunnel and finish in the correct position with speed, while not biting a decoy who can be moving around and shaking a clatter stick. I use a tube tug that I carry in my right hand. Most of my training is off leash with an e-collar. Rewards are frequent and timing of the reward is important. For coming into heel or heeling, I reward with him coming behind me to my right hand. That is a direct reward so my marker is yes. If I use an indirect reward with the tug on the ground I mark with free. I also use a continuous marker of good or good boy. Training the obstacle exercise is fairly easy. He loves to jump and go through the tunnel. Early foundation training involved him learning that when a decoy was on the field and I was heeling and I marked for the reward, he had to take the tug or get no reward. That was all on leash so he could not self reward to the decoy. Initially the dog wants to reward to the decoy for a bite, but they learn there will be no reward unless they take the tug. I see more issues with Mals DQ'ing by biting the decoy when they are not suppose to because they are not as clear due to spazzing out due to so much drive.
It takes a lot of precision to teach subtle differences based on the word or reward you use to get the exact behavior you want. Going to the tug as intermediary reward before a bite is complicated to teach. It’s a long process to reach your ultimate training goals.
It helps having a very smart dog. There have been many times when being coached that a peer will tell me something like “ go ahead and down Geist” and my dog follows the coach’es comments and downs. It took a little while for him to learn to accept the tug as a reward with a decoy on the field because a decoy is a much higher value reward, but once he learned, he has been highly reliable which is a big asset in decreasing the likelihood of teeth on suit when not permitted which is a DQ.
The call off on a long bite will be our biggest challenge in the 2’s. He is learning on a tube tug thrown way down field. I basically do a send out from a static heel and after several reps, do a call off with the fuss command and he returns mid way into the send out to the heel position. This is where the use of continuous and terminal markers have a lot of value. The last session, he did not require any stim to call off. The value of progressing to not having to stim is that having to stim to obtain a call off increases the likelihood that he will hesitate to go out on the next send out. Being smart has pros and cons. Then we progress to a decoy.
So he’s not just following your commands, he can also hear them from the other person and follow what is being asked. I think of a smart dog as one that learns quickly with few repetitions. He’s able to respond as if he can see an end goal or a pattern.
The tug nearly ended our training. He used to Out relatively until I added the tug, then he wanted to win each time and hold onto it.
I can see where a stim would slow down progress on training. I’ve had mixed results with mine. Probably all my fault for not using the aversive consistently.
Fortunately, following other's commands is limited and in a certain context. In a trial, the judge will tell you when to out your dog and you get three chances. It would not be good if my dog outed when the judge said to out my dog. I typically use the e-collar as negative reinforcement or as a gas pedal, but in the call off, it is used as positive punishment and a brake. Getting consistently past having to use it to correct to get the dog to recall reduces the likelihood that he will hesitate to go out when commanded to bite in the call off. In a trial, the judge decides if the first or second send to a bite will be the call off so that it is never the same. That becomes a factor because you have to pass two legs/trials at each level to obtain the title.
You are on the way to passing. He’s learning very solidly. I see why you prefer this to IGE
Thanks. If my only choice was IGP, I wouldn't compete. I am also very fortunate that our club is only 30 minutes away. I think if I had to travel several hours, as many people do, I also would not compete.
Love the picture with the bucket!
He looks like one of your dogs in that picture. Maybe Teaky?