Sunday, September 25, 2011

Weaving issues

I'm sure I've mentioned this in many other posts, as it has been an ongoing issue with little miss speed demon...she has had a lot of trouble with weave entries.  But, it's not as if she doesn't know the entry, or misses the entry.  She just blows by them.

My initial thought was that she didn't have enough value for the entrance/poles.  So, we worked 2x2s.  But, as soon as we got back up to speed, we had a similar problem.

So, then I started thinking that it was collection.  She wasn't getting on her rear and collecting to get into the poles.   So, we started working on collection and rear end awareness.  But, then we started our Contacts & Weaves class, and noticed that she DOES collect and get on her rear for her entry.

I pulled our trainer aside to ask why she felt that Lexi was having this problem, because I wasn't sure what else to do.  She suggested that we create a negative consequence for Lexi missing the poles.  And by that she suggested maybe pulling her out and marking it, or putting her in a down stay, or even putting her in the crate for a minute to make her think about her mistakes.  Her thought was that Lexi doesn't care enough about getting it right.  Her reward is agility.  So when she makes a mistake, she just gets to go again, which she loves. So she is essentially rewarded for messing up.  I think that sort of makes sense, because Lexi does love agility. She would do it for no treats...she clearly just loves to run and do the equipment.

I was a little skeptical about the negative consequence because Lexi, at home, can be quite sensitive.  Once my husband yelled at her while they were upstairs, and Lexi went downstairs and refused to come up and just watched him from a distance for the rest of the evening.  But on the other hand, when Lexi does agility, she is a different dog.  She is happy, confident, and crazy!  And clearly, what we're doing is not working.  It's clear that Lexi doesn't care if she does it correctly or not.

Well, we tried it one evening.  We just started marking her misses a bit more negatively (we used to say "what happened?" in a friendly voice, and we started being a bit more negative) and it was a huge failure.  Lexi started to worry.  I saw it right away.  I felt HORRIBLE.  She started to hesitate at the weaves.  She might get in, and then start walking.  Or she might miss, and just stop and stand there.  It was really hard to watch.  I know it's a fine line, but I couldn't watch my happy, confident dog start to worry.  And maybe I've created this happy, fun-loving monster, but I'd rather that than a dog who second guesses herself.  So, we ruled out that approach.

A few weekends ago we drove up to Cleveland for a Stuart Mah seminar.  Stuart knows us (and our dogs!) very well.  I will try to do a write up of the seminar soon, but we mentioned Lexi's issues to Stuart, and I think he pinpointed it right away.  It ties in with everything he has been telling us about her from day 1.  She doesn't care about the details.  It's too hard to slow down and make an entrance, so she doesn't bother.  The harder part is figuring out how to address this.  If we were training with Stuart every day, it would be easy...but we're not (see this post to see his previous comments about Lexi's issue with details).

Basically, we're going to try to reward her for coming in and making turns.  So for example, if she misses a turn to the weaves, we mark it, then try again but have a cookie out and feed her correctly in line with the weaves (but before them).  Easier to see than explain, and also easier to do when Stuart is there!

We'll see how it goes...I think she's doing better already.


  1. Funny, Lexi and Miley are so similar. Miley has lots of these problems. I think as Lexi gets older, she will be more responsive. When you watch Miley run agility you wouldnt think she is sensitive but boy is she. I wish I had picked up on that earlier. I think its great that you know that about Lexi. Miley use to blow by the weaves all the time. I didnt want to stress her so I let it go until I realized she just didtn want to slow down. So if she went by or missed the entry I called her back and made her do them again. For the most part she does them now. I think making her redo them was enough of a penalty that she wants to do it right the first time.

  2. I'm glad you found a positive solution.