Thursday, October 24, 2013

Training Urban Agility Skills: Long Balance



Skill: Balance: dog walks across narrow curbs, walls, logs or boards
Benefits: Increased proprioception and body awareness, improved confidence, increased ability to work with distractions, and increased core strength.
Sports applications:  Agility-dog walk;  Obedience-heeling, rear end control; Flyball-box turns.
Safety: Always spot your dog, be ready to catch him or provide assistance if needed. Let your dog choose to perform the behavior, and then reward. Be aware and prepared for the fact that some dogs (like some people!) seem to be afraid of heights and might panic and jump off unexpectedly after a certain elevation. Lift your dog down from the wall or find an alternative route down if you’re balancing above your dog’s shoulder height.
How to train:
Find a low, wide wall that your dog can easily get onto. Start with a wall about mid-leg height and at least twice as wide as your dog. Have your dog walk across, reward frequently.   Gradually decrease the width of the wall.  If needed, shape the behavior of four paws on the object and start with a ramp-like object.. Start in a low distraction environment and click and treat for any paw interaction with the object.
Work at low heights when the width is challenging for your dog.  Include a variety of surfaces, such as logs, metal, and concrete walls. Have your dog balance during the day and at night, in  all weather conditions, and at a variety of places.
Separately train balance at higher heights, only working your dog on a wall width that he can consistently balance on at low heights.

Advanced Version: Train your dog to balance on rails. Teach your dog to back up on narrow walls. Balance over your head height (REMEMBER your safety rules!)