Saturday, June 26, 2010

What Mika's been doing

(Trying out this template. I'm not sure if I'll keep it or not yet.)

Mika is still on a break from agility because of her shoulder. She's not showing lameness anymore, but I'm still resting her just in case. We've been getting back to tricks, which we haven't trained for a while.

We did a couple sessions of backing up today. It's a trick that I've been training on and off for years, but we just never completed it. She's always had a bit of a tough time with it. The traditional way of teaching it -- stepping towards the dog to get them to take a step back -- never worked. If I try that, Mika just sits down. I've tried luring her backwards with a treat, but it's just awkward and she isn't thinking about what she's doing. I've tried shaping; not much luck with that either, as the most I could get was a tiny step backward with one back paw, and it didn't seem like she was doing it intentionally. What has worked best for us so far as been using a low platform for her to target with her back paws (as explained in Sassie Joiris' "Tricks: Backing Up" article in the October 2009 issue of Clean Run). I started using this method last October, after being inspired by the article. When I wrote about Mika's progress with the method in October, I said:

"Mika actually did incredible with shaping this trick. She's not a thinker and gets "stuck" easily (when she doesn't know what to do she'll lie down or sit and stare at me). But she only got stuck ONCE in this 5-minute session! By the end of the 5 minutes she was backing up onto the book every time. She barked through the entire 5 minutes, hahaha!"

Well, one thing hasn't changed; Mika still barks the entire (I repeat: ENTIRE) time when we shape the back up trick! But she's also improved; we did 2 very short sessions today and she never got stuck at all!

Instead of using a book, I used a low block of wood that worked just as well. In our first session, she didn't really know what she was supposed to be doing and jumped over my legs a couple of times (I had my legs in a "V" channel the help her stay in a straight line). She soon remembered, though. Our second session was only one rep; she backed up onto the block of wood perfectly the first time, so I gave her a mini jackpot and ended the session. Yay Mika!! I'm only requiring her to back up one step right now, so she's just taking a backward step onto the block. When she gets more consistent, I'll increase the distance very gradually.


  1. Congrats on the progress on the trick, very awesome. That is funny about the barking, is it from frustration or did she think that was part of the whole trick? Very neat that you tried some different methods of teaching the back up until you found one that Mika liked, and it sounds like it is really going well!!!

  2. Thanks! I think Mika started off barking in our shaping sessions because of frustration, but now she barks out of excitement. (Mika barks when I put Wall-e in his crate so I can train her, when I take her out of the car at the field to do, she loves expressing her excitement through barking!!) :)