Saturday, February 7, 2009

Bang Game

At last it is time to teach the seesaw. I can put it off no longer. The seesaw is a touchy subject for me. I always get rather hot under the collar when I think about the ridiculous situation we are in here in Australia since in its wisdom, the powers that be decided to remove the slats from the dog walk. Thus with the removal of the slats removing the ability of any given dog to figure out for itself whether it just got on the dog walk or the seesaw (until it flies off the other end of course!!). I have spent the last two months teaching an awesome two-second dog walk and now I have to risk compromising that because as soon as I teach the seesaw it brings a grey area into his performance. He will never be able to run it at 100% speed and know for certain that it is the piece of equipment that he thinks it may be. It’s a situation that just should never have occurred. When big name international competitors come here to give seminars they feel really sorry for us that we have to be in this position. They are lucky enough that the countries they compete in have more sense and understand the implications behind it.

I’m not sure why there is such single mindedness about this from certain members of the Australian agility community. The reasons I’ve heard for justifying no slats on the dog walk have no basis or scientific research behind them. One reason given was that the slats cause arthritis in dogs toes and feet. Considering the amount of impact that repetitive jumping and weaving cause on a dogs body it is ridiculous to think that slats would do any more damage. Apart from the fact that one fly off from the seesaw has the potential to do more damage to a dog in one second than a lifetime of running on itty bitty tiny little slats on a dog walk.

We constantly hear that dogs flying off seesaws and crawling up dog walks is a training issue in that the dogs haven’t been taught to understand the difference between a dog walk and seesaw (that look identical). It is the one piece of equipment where a dog has to rely on us 100% of the time to get it right (because naturally I never make a mistake when I’m doing agility!! Lol). As you would expect the people who appear to spout this rubbish either have dogs that run an agility course slower than my Grandmother could get around one or haven’t actually trained or competed with a dog in agility for years.

The other downside is that it makes our equipment different to what the rest of the world is currently competing on. If we do ever get the chance to go overseas and compete we will be faced with big variances in some equipment. Who would be mad enough to spend a few thousand dollars to get over there and put their dog on equipment that is different to what their dogs are used to? The dogs over there that do World Cup events are the best in the world and there is no room for hesitations because the dog doesn’t recognise what it is use to in backward old Australia (except for ADAA of course who recognised immediately the danger behind using no slats and immediately put them back on).

So, now that I have got that off my chest I can get started! I have been playing the ‘bang’ game with Sonic on the odd occasion for the last few months. He appears to quite enjoy jumping on the end and banging the seesaw down - probably a boy thing. I’ve slowly worked up until I now have him jumping on it when the seesaw is horizontal so it’s coming down fairly hard. I was using food to reward but he puts a lot more gusto into it when the toy is involved. He is not showing any signs of concern at this height (for Sonic fear is reserved for my electric toothbrush and ironing board/iron). I would expect over the next couple of weeks I will experiment with setting the seesaw up so it’s horizontal and then do recalls across it into the bang. This will then allow me to slowly progress increasing the angle of how high the board is over the ensuing weeks. I’m not going to start doing any agility trials with him until March so that gives me a bit of time to build it up and hopefully not wreck his dog walk in the process. I have been making a concerted effort to use the verbal cue “climb” when Sonic uses the dog walk to hopefully build a strong association between the two. This method worked really well for Riot. Riot has always had a very good seesaw so with a bit of luck and good management I'll be able to have just as good a results with the young fella.

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