a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: And STAY Down!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

And STAY Down!

SUMMARY: Personal training part 1: Working on Boost's table down--also bar knocking, refusals, and go ahead.

Background for nonagility types

Table down: The table is one of the obstacles in the Standard (sequentially numbered obstacles) class. The dog must lie down on the table, wait while the judge counts 5 seconds, and not leave until after the judge tells the handler "Go." [Handlers also usually have the rule that their dog must not leave until the handler releases the dog; I used "break!" for Boost.] The problem: The judge's count stops if the dog isn't completely down, for example, let's say a certain BORDER COLLIE whose name we won't mention lifts one elbow (or more) half an inch (or more) off the table in excited anticipation.

Refusal: On any obstacle, if the dog has started its approach towards the correct obstacle and then ceases that approach (hesitates definitively, turns away and turns back, like that), that's a "refusal" and it's faulted. In most classes, faults will prevent you from earning a Q (qualifying score). For example, let's say a certain BORDER COLLIE w.n.w.w.m. turns back and says "This jump?"

Runout: If the dog goes *past* the intended obstacle, that's a "runout" and it is also faulted. For example, pick some random BORDER COLLIE FROM MY HOUSEHOLD and you may well see her looking at me and continuing to run without checking to see whether there is an obstacle right dagnabbed in front of her that might require going over.

Jump bars: You already know that knocking a jump bar is also a fault, I'm sure. And that certain BCs in this general vicinity have a problem with that.

Proofing: This is not just in agility: When you think the dog understands her job, gradually increasing the pressure or temptations to do the wrong thing so that you can catch her quickly when she makes a mistake or reward her quickly when she continues to do the right thing, so that, for example, she knows "down" means "lie down and stay down" always, in any situation, no matter what.

Background re Boost

As in, 50 fricking attempts at a Masters Jumpers Q with only one success to show for it. As in, not a single carnfounded Grand Prix Q since spring of 2008. Really. As in, most Standard runs with a reaaaaalllly long time because our elbows are hovering over the table instead of resting on it, sometimes even going wayyyy over course time, which is inexcusable for a dog as fast as she is.

So now.

Lesson with Nancy

We hied our hineys up the hill yesterday to have our horrible handicaps healed. Huh!

I'm condensing an hour's worth of discussion and examples, but need to track it for my own sake.

Today, I'll talk about the table. Tomorrow, the rest of it.

We want her onto the table fast and in a down fast--ideally in one smooth motion. And to stay all the way down. (These exercises are geared towards a dog who goes down but then rises again. Don't know whether there are different exercises for a dog who won't go down in competition, sorry Hobbes!)
  • Get her excited to go on, e.g., hand in collar, "readyyyy!". Don't have to be more than a couple of steps away. Just as with everything else, send by stepping with my leg CLOSEST TO HER towards the table. (We've identified that I tend to do this with the opposite leg, which I wonder how I ever got into the habit; I've known about using the correct leg and arm for YEARS!)
  • If the dog isn't fast enough in the down or makes a mistake (lifts an elbow, e.g.), get her off the table really fast (just take her collar and bring her off), be cheery and excited, and get her back on as quickly as possible (with the command); you don't have to move far from the table during this maneuver. As soon as she's good, give her a treat (preferably drop on the table between her front legs so she's going down for the treat, not lifting her head to you). Be very quick with the treat if she's having trouble and gets even a half second of success.
  • If she fixes herself (quickly), e.g., starts to move then puts elbows back down, go ahead with reward, means she's getting it.
  • With a handful of treats, hold them over her head. (See makes a mistake, above). Hold them behind her. Hold them in front of her. Wave them around. Hold them lower than the level of the table. Etc. Same thing with a toy.
  • Pretend you're the judge and say "5...4...3...2...1...GO!" (N. says dog shouldn't have any reason to confuse this with your "go on" because context is different.) If excited Go! is too much, make it calmer and quieter and gradually increase excitement. (Boost shouldn't leave except for her release word.)
  • Jump and dance around the table. Throw the toy. Do exciting things with the toy and throw it. 
  • You need to be able to move a long way from the table; as soon as she's down, quickly move 10-15 feet away to proof it. If you hang out by the table and then move away, she might take that as a cue that you're about to GO!
  • Also recommended: Teach her a chin-down command and use it regularly on the table.
  • Do a million tables with these various proofings.


  1. Hobbes decided a long time ago not to do tables with Rob. Then he always did lovely tables with me for a couple years until he told me no more tables, ever. I told this to Rob and he's like, Whatever, because he thinks I'm a weirdo. But no tables. I love Hobbes, tables or no tables.

  2. Yeah, I've seen Hobbes 'splainin' it to you on the table at USDAA trials. Dang fool dog.