Teaching "Swing"

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Teaching "Swing"

Postby collegeboundbritt » Fri Aug 07, 2009 6:32 pm

I am a twenty year old college student who was fortunate enough to be able to find an apartment that would let me have my brittany. He is adapting quite well and I'm a fairly active person so he gets to run along side my bike for at least eight miles a daly so he is happy.

Anyways I am working with him to compete in obedience with the AKC (possibly rally as a starter into obedience) and we are having problems with Swing. I have a beagle who does a flip finish and I thought maybe Paris could learn that but he hasn't picked up on it so I decided to get him to heel to my side. The other day I noticed that he often stands with his front feet in place and pivots his rear end around. I decided that turning that movement into a cue would be a good way to get him to swing. After a recall I use my left hand and kind of lure him by holding a treat in front of his face and moving it in a small circle so that he pivots his rear. I taught him this initially and didn't have him sit and have since inccooperated the sit at heel.

Some days he seems to be doing great but other days he seems confused and I know it has to be something I am doing. I have realized that my signal is basically luring and not really a signal which I know will be an issue in the ring but I'm hoping to fix that. Sometimes he circles instead of pivoting his rear as he has been taught to circle. I know my hand movements are similiar for the two but I'm at a loss as to what to do. He is pivoting to my side on a more regular basis but I'm afraid that I won't be able to phase out my luring hand signal because he relies on that so much more than my voice. With my beagle I just swung my arm back like I saw the handlers in the ring do but I don't think that signal will work with the movement my brittany is doing.

I'm sorry if this is terribly confusing but does anyone have any suggestions on how to get him to do the pivot on a more regular basis and on how I can phase out the hand signal, or at least turn it into one that won't be considered luring?

Thank you for any and all help.

Sorry for typos, new laptop and crappy eyes don't go well together lol.
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Re: Teaching "Swing"

Postby Lisa » Mon Aug 10, 2009 10:29 am

Hi there! Welcome to the board, and good luck with your Britt.

Since I almost exclusively use clickers and shaping when I train, my first thought is to quit luring, start capturing the behavior with a clicker, and give it a new command signal or word.

If your dog isn't used to clickers, it's really easy to start using one. I typically start all new dogs with the name game. If they don't know their name, then I wait until I have eye contact, say the name click the clicker and either toss or hand the dog a treat. I prefer tossing treats as it allows you to reset a behavior, but when starting out, some dogs need the treat handed to them. If the dog does know their name, then I wait until they aren't looking at me, say the name and as soon as I get eye contact, click/treat. I play that game several times a day, for a couple of days, until I'm getting a "whiplash" head turn when I say the dog's name. At that point, they've figured out what a clicker means, and they've learned to look at me instantly when I say their name!

Once the dog understands that a clicker is a reward marker and is followed by a reward (food), I start using it to shape behaviors. Some dogs catch on quicker than others, but I've found that Britts usually do well with shaping. There are lots of ways to shape or capture a behavior, depending on what the dog will do naturally and what behavior you are trying to get. If the behavior you want is something the dog is already doing, then get your clicker and treats ready, and as soon as you see the dog beginning the behavior, click/treat (toss the treat to reset the dog). The dog may look puzzled at first, but just wait...they'll do it again...click/treat. After a few reps, the dog will start offering the behavior more and more frequently. Don't over-do it when trying to capture or shape a behavior...10 or 15 reps is enough for one session, less if the dog starts looking brain-fried...then take a break and do it again a little later. Also, watch how many sessions a day you are training...some dogs need time to process and think about what you were trying to capture. You may find that if a dog is confused one day, if you give them a day or two break and try again, they'll have had time to process and suddenly seem to get what you want them to do.

Notice, you haven't yet given a name to the behavior, or even a hand signal or any kind of cue. You want to wait on that until the dog is consistantly offering the behavior to you. Once the dog is offering the behavior, start pairing your cue with the click. First, give the cue just before the click. Slowly, move the cue farther from the click...when the dog is almost done with the behavior, then mid-motion, then just starting, and finally before starting the behavior. Always click/reward when they've completed the behavior. Don't move too fast, and if the dog seems confused, take it back a step until you feel they are solid there. Once the dog is consistantly doing the behavior when you give the cue, you can drop the click/treat. However, if you want the behavior to stay solid, still reward on occassion - a "good dog" or pat on the head, or sometimes even a treat will keep the dog doing the behavior and coming back for more. I know it probably sounds like it would take a long time to teach this with a clicker, but really, I expect you could probably have the dog offering the behavior in less than a week.

There really is no limit to what you can shape or capture a dog to do...you just have to figure out how to break a behavior down and then mark it with a clicker.
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