OK, I’ve come to the conclusion one can only stare at a bird-feeder for just so long before going bonkers. Rhonda agrees. Chickadees are simply too small to consider proper prey – and besides, Mom won’t let her out on the upper deck to chase them.
This past week, along with bird-watching; I’ve made a lot of progress on my knitting project, and I’m well into spinning up another bobbin of the third color needed for my next knitting project.
I really needed some physically and mentally stimulating activity – and heavens knows, the dogs did! So, after traipsing out to the barn and back this afternoon for props (good exercise in itself), I prepared to delve back into Trick Dog training.
I have two Expert-level tricks in mind. Quite a few behaviors will be put to the test in learning these tricks – not the least being balance and trust.
The first; the “double balance beam” is just for Ronni, since Baxter mastered this one last year, but I’m letting him play along so he can mentor his little sis and have some fun.
We start out teaching this trick by laying three [appropriate-sized for the dog] lengths of wood side by side about a foot above the ground to form a solid plank. For my 12-14 lb. dachshunds, I’m using 2” x 2” x 4’ long pieces of wood.
For better footing, I’ve glued strips from an old yoga-mat to the two outer pieces, which also helps as a visual reference.
Using training treats, I lure the dog across the plank from one side to the other, showing them (or Ronni, in this case since it’s no big deal to Baxter) that it’s perfectly safe.
Once the dogs are confidently hopping onto the platform and trotting back and forth on cue (I use “walk it!” because that’s the cue Baxter learned for the regular dog walk in Agility), I remove the center length of wood, leaving the two yoga-mat covered pieces in place – with empty space in between.
Just a note here; if I were doing this trick with a larger dog, I’d probably be using 2×4 boards and it would be a little higher, but the same training method.
The goal is for the dog to walk across the raised “balance beam”, keeping two feet on one narrow board (just wide enough for their foot) and two feet on the other board – and not worry about the open space in between.
An important skill for a dog to have mastered before attempting this trick is “rear-end” or “hind-foot” awareness. It’s easy for a dog to keep its front feet on the board(s), but for this trick they also need to be very aware of what their hind feet are doing or they will fall off. Which is another good reason to start out fairly close to the ground. 😉
A good way to teach hind-foot awareness is by having the dog back up onto a low platform or box. For Ronni, this old, deflated balance-bone was perfect. 👍🏼
It also helps if the dog has already learned to jump up on a small platform (all 4 feet) on cue. As you can see [below], the box I’m using is barely big enough, but Ronni knows “Jump UP” and “Stay”, so she was fine.
LOTS of treats were gobbled up in the process of learning the double balance beam trick! These are narrow boards!
Maybe by later this week, Miss Rhonda will be able to preform this trick with the same jaunty confidence of her big bro, Baxter!
Check back later in the week to see our progress!
NEXT week, I’m hoping to start work on “Push the grocery cart”! Fingers crossed.