A few people asked for more ideas for ring preparation.
In this video, Lyra is working through some early steps of ring preparation – I’m beginning to take the toys off of my body. Prerequisite skills for this work include: 1) Your dog can work with distractions in the training yard, (since your toy will be visible and accessable to the dog). 2) Your dog can work with multiple toys – some on your body and others on the ground. When working in this manner, the reward could come from either place (body or training area).3) Your dog can be called away from a distraction for at least a few seconds.
With these skills in place, you are going to teach your dog that she can work even when there are no toys on your body, and toys are visible in the training area. She will be rewarded for good work with the toy in the area.
This video shows Lyra’s second session working with no toys on my body – and toys visible in the training area.
To begin, make sure your dog sees that the toy is not on your body – place it on the table in front of the dog. Call your dog away from the table and ask for the beginnings of work. In this video I’m using both heeling and a retrieve of a novel object.
You can see Lyra struggling. There are a few reasons for this. First, I had already worked her a few minutes earlier, but the video camera didn’t work properly, so she is working twice in a very short period of time and she is somewhat out of drive. Second, the distraction index is rather high – there are deer outside the gate and she can smell them, along with a variety of new objects in the training area. Finally, she does not yet understand that she will be rewarded when there is no toy on my body. She thinks she is working “for free”.
To get her through this, I use a combination of patience (waiting when she leaves me), mild harassment (note my tone of voice when she leaves or looks away; there is a note of expectation there), and genuine enthusiasm when she succeeds. Remember, she thinks she is working for interaction only, so I really am pleased when she gives me a happy attitude with a wagging tail and ears up.
I hold my expectations for high quality work, but I ask for reasonably short spans of it. When she works well, I continue no more than a few seconds before rewarding.
Throughout the video, you see her struggling to heel without looking at the table or becoming distracted. Because of her foundation, I feel comfortable pushing through it but with some dogs, it would make more sense to lower the criteria. Note that if she struggles, I still attempt to successfully complete whatever maneuver I had tried in the first place. I don’t avoid distractions or distracting areas.
We’ll work at this until she can comfortably work towards or away from the table with toys. The next step would be to occasionally put toys back on my body, so she’s never absolutely sure which location will yield a toy. Finally, I’d want to get her to a much greater level of concentration and drive before I asked for more.
Note that this training is only for work she already knows; anytime I teach her a new concept or one she is still mastering, the toys will return to my body so that I can be timely with the rewards, and also reward more accurately for position.