On Wednesday, I discussed with Tika's instructor our various strategies for eventually preventing Tika from grabbing my feet after finishing a course successfully. Plan had been to get her to run out to look for her leash. One problem with that is that either USDAA or NADAC (or maybe both) consider that to be a toy in the ring, although so many people have dogs fetch their own leashes (it makes a lot of practical sense) that it seems silly for that to be the rule. However, it is-- and our progress towards getting the leash has been slow.
Another riend, who has gone through some pretty intensive clicker training and has written a book about it, raised the issue that she thought she remembered hearing that dogs who are rewarded with mouth activities (tug of war, goodies) are more likely to use their mouths in ways similar to Tika. She suggested that a nose touch to some kind of target might be an alternative.
So our intructor came up with the idea of teaching Tika to touch a fence post (like the ones that surround many agility rings).
On Thursday, I took Tika and Jake out to the yard with a fence post, a goodie, and a clicker, and started trying to get them to touch it with their noses. Jake was no closer at the end than he had been at the beginning--no surprise--this has always been my story with trying to teach him something new. However, at the end of a couple of 3-to-5 minute sessions, tika was already going out to touch the fence post and I was putting a command to the behavior. It's exhilarating to get such a rapid learning response.
Because I've been out of town since then, I haven't had a chance to try it again or work on it more (e.g., adding a jump between her and the post).
But it does show that she's a quick learner. Which leads me back to the ongoing frustrating puzzle of how, over a year and a half, I have managed to successfully teach her to pull on the leash using every method that I or anyone else has come up with that's supposed to PREVENT her from pulling on the leash. Garrrrrghhhh--