Reinforcers that a dog loves can help build speed. What comes to mind when you think of rewards for your dog? Try to name 3 things. It's important to use all 3 types of rewards. Check your answer below.
- - - - 1. A game, like a pulling game -- as shown here. 2. A toy your dog can grab and run off with (like a ball, rag, or squeaky toy.) 3. A high powered food treat -- like a delicious, healthy sausage, a piece of cheese or other snack your dog loves!
(NOTE: a reward is not a reinforcer unless increases the frequency of a behavior.)
In this article, we will focus on an exercise you can do to help your dog build speed using a high powered food treat(a tasty nourishment based primary reinforcer).
It may surprise you, but you can use a tunnel and "creeping technology" to boost your dog's speed.
Watch handlers who don't trust their dog's start line stay and who creep out slowly. You can use that creeping behavior for helping your dog build drive!
First, place a reinforcer near the exit of a tunnel.
Next, put your dog in front of that tunnel, which often automatically sucks a dog into it! Then start creeping toward the tunnel, like a handler who does not trust her dog. As you creep out, your dog will likely copy you -- and start to creep, too. When she does, give your release command and lead her into the tunnel with your dog-side leg and hand. I like to also give her a "go fast" verbal cue, which is "Go! go! or Geeyah!"
In the photo where I am calling "Go, go, go!" you can see Momo making a "Beeline" for the tunnel. The meaning of beeline comes from honey bees. When a forager honey bee finds a wellspring of nectar it returns to the hive and sends a message to other honey bees, with a "Waggle Dance." The other honey bees fly directly to the wellspring of the nectar, making a beeline for it.
In the image where I have labeled the "Sausage Morsel" you can see Momo dashing out of the tunnel to procure her reinforcer. It's a reinforcer (not a lure) because she only gets to eat it when she races through tunnel. What's to stop her from just running around the tunnel to take it? Hahahaha. Simple, I tell her "No, Momo, not yet" Momo has been trained to only eat when given permission to do so. Momo has also been trained to have high obstacle focus, so that whenever she is close to an obstacle she will take it (unless told otherwise.)
the tiny piece of sausage sits on top of a plastic bag containing rather large chunks of sausage. That intrigues Momo! She can see all of the inviting sausage, but only gets to eat the piece sitting on top of the bag -- at least for now. Sometimes I will also take a bite out of the sausage before putting a piece on the bag for the ensuing exercise.
"I want some too," I can hear her saying as I put the treat just behind an obstacle for the next exercise.
Show Your Dog the Treat.
It's important to show your dog the treat so she knows what will be coming if she deals with the obstacle in question. Here I deliberately let Momo watch as I put another high powered treat on the plastic.
Some object to this method and call it luring or even worse, "bribing." Luring, smuring! It works and helps to establish the desired behavior and that is what counts. After the behavior is established the primary reinforcer can be phased out and only given intermittently, while one continues to give a secondary reinforcer. (To understand primary and secondary reinforcers, click here to see the article on clicker training.)
I repeat the exercise, putting another treat at the exit of the tunnel. Then I lead Momo over a couple of jumps and then back into the tunnel.
In the photo you can see how I am able to get ahead of Momo by sending her over the jump from a distance and giving a "turn left" verbal cue. (More on how to each directional verbal cues later.)
Momo is again making a beeline for the tunnel with good speed.
Momo continues her
beeline for the tunnel with good speed!
VIDEO:Building Speed and Drive in Dog Agility
Here's a video showing how I am using creeping technology along with high powered reinforcers to help Momo build speed in a short Dog Agility practice course.
The video also shows how I am training Momo to make sharp "V" like turns after taking a jump using a technique called a Reverse V-SET.