Thursday, August 23, 2012

BRINGING UP PRESTO! Box Work: Itty-Bitty Go-Outs

In last week's post, I discussed the use of the PVC box in teaching Presto! the down, the sit and the stand.  I also use the box to teach the go-outs (send away) part of the directed jumping exercise.

Presto! has been practicing go-outs since he was in his tenth week.  He has been doing little sits/downs/stands in the box almost since the day he joined our household, so he is comfortable in "his" box.  He thinks it's a fun place to be; he gets to do hands-on things with me and he gets treats.

You have to understand that I'm 6'5" and Presto! was still a really little guy when we started this, so a lot of the handling I'll describe here was done on my knees.

I put a target dead center in the back of the box, inside the box.  Presto!'s target was a white lid, three inches in diameter.  (Actually a plastic lid that would fit an opened can of Hill's Science Diet dog food.  I had elevated that lid to its highest and best use.)  I put the lid on the ground, topside up.  I want the treat to be perched on top of the lid, not down inside.  In the beginning I had a white pole stuck in the ground a few inches behind the target, just outside the box.  Shortly I'll begin putting a couple of baby gates out there from time to time, alternating with the pole. The stanchion supporting the baby gates will take the place of the pole.  Right from day one I want my little guy to associate that visual cue with the word "straight."

Because Presto! was so young, he had not learned to sit and wait while I placed the treat on the target.  (Believe me when I tell you that border collies are not born with the word "wait" as an intrinsic part of their vocabularies.)  So I'm practicing go-outs when my wife Barbara is available to place the treat on the target.  In the beginning she pointed to the treat to get Presto!'s attention focused.  But by the second session he knew exactly what he was aiming for.

We started a couple of feet in front of the box.  The target and the pole were at the far end.  The closed end was toward us; I wanted Presto! to get comfortable jumping that raised bar on the way in.  For orientation purposes I put my hand in Presto!'s collar and -- Oh, my achin' back! -- walked him out to the target a few times.

Then I started sending him on his own.  I kneeled down behind him, both of us centered in front of the box.  Presto! watched while Barbara placed the treat on the target.  Then, holding him with my left arm around his chest, I extended my right arm straight out next to his face while saying, "Go-outs, Presto!, straight, straight."  (I know, I know, it should be my left arm giving the line, but at this point it's easier to hold him with my left arm/hand.  Otherwise I'm in a crossed-arms position.  And I don't think it makes a bit of difference at this point.)

At this very early stage I don't care whether Presto! is sitting or not as we set up for a go-out.  What I do care about, and what tells me a lot and makes me very happy, is that Presto! is straining to go.  Hallelujah!

Then, in rapid succession, I say, "Away! (he tears out to the target), "Get it!" (he grabs the treat), "Presto! come!" (he comes blazing back and jumps for the treat I'm holding about 18 inches off the ground.) 

All I want right now is for go-outs to become woven into the fabric of Presto!'s life.  Later we won't have to work through the jarring transition that's necessary when a dog has been taught to stay close and look at you, then suddenly has to learn to run away from you, do it rapidly and go in a straight line.

For a long time we'll be doing only what I have described above -- mostly leash-free but occasionally on a flexi.  And at slowly increasing distances.  Right now Presto!'s itty-bitty go-outs are about 20 feet.

Presto! and I aren't even thinking about the turn and sit.  But you and I will . . . in the next post.


No comments:

Post a Comment