More on the "Second Action" - Directed Jumping Signals

By Jim & Phyllis Dobbs and Alice Woodyard

Over a series of repetitions, move the dog's and handler's starting positions from 1 to 5 as shown, so you gradually achieve the geometry of directed jumping. Work both left and right signals in each session by changing the dog's starting position to the other side of the platform.

In this article we will continue working on the Second Action of the Three-Action Introduction with the Tri-Tronics collar. In the Second Action, the dog learns to turn off mild stimulation by moving away from the handler.

In the last article, Part 8, we taught the dog the "Remote Send." In that exercise the dog learned to turn off mild stimulation by going to a low platform from a starting position remote from the handler. The foundation for the Remote Send was covered in Part 7, where the dog learned to turn off stimulation by going to the platform when sent from the handler's side.

Now in Part 9, we will expand on the dog's understanding of platform work, with the goal of being able to correct a refusal to jump in the Directed Jumping exercise. We've found that teaching a dog to turn off stimulation in this situation is best based on the dog's understanding of the Second Action: turning off mild stimulation by "going away." This is because you teach the dog to move in the direction that you indicate to turn off stimulation, using the familiar platform as the target that defines "where to go."

Refusals in the Directed Jumping Exercise

Dogs will sometimes try the option of quitting when they feel the conflict of choice (they know they're supposed to jump, but which one?) This is apt to happen after the dog is stopped for heading toward the wrong jump, perhaps stopped more than once. (Of course, not all dogs will try to quit in this situation, and you may be blessed with one that never will.)

Not all refusals to jump are "conflict refusals." For example, maybe the dog refused because he's not yet comfortable with jumping at an angle, or thinks he can't clear the jump, or the bar jump is still unfamiliar to him, etc. In these situations, the dog needs more practice at lower heights, or other confidence-building sequences, not a correction.

But if the dog has decided to quit working, then refusal can become a habit in the exercise unless it's corrected effectively. How will you accomplish that correction? Walking out to the dog results in a poorly timed correction that the dog has trouble understanding (and may resent because of its "personal" element). Long lines are so cumbersome in this situation that for many trainers they're just not effective. Having an assistant correct the dog can open a "can of worms," and result in a dog that looks around for the boogie-man after stopping and sitting instead of watching you for your signal. Therefore, a remote training collar may be your best choice.

Assuming you can give an effective correction for a "conflict quit," should you? Opinions vary. Our own opinion is, be conservative. We think that when an inexperienced dog refuses to jump out of conflict, it's best at first to give a second signal without stimulation, and/or simplify by taking a step toward the desired jump as you re-signal.

If you're too eager to correct a conflict quit, or correct too harshly, the dog will stop quitting, but in the process of winning the battle, you could lose the war. You could make your dog overly concerned about the whole exercise, and he could retain that attitude about it for his entire career. This dog will be stressed whenever asked to perform the exercise, and cumulative stress reduces a dog's chances to be a good "campaign dog" over the long haul.

But, although you shouldn't be too eager to correct a "conflict quit," there are nevertheless times when a correction is appropriate to get the dog to try a little harder, and get past the conflict problem. For example, refusing to try at all may start to become a habit in the dog once he finds out it "works." Or it may occur in a dog that has lots of experience in the exercise, but has now decided to see if there's an easier way to make his jumping decision (wait until Mom signals twice).

It's our goal in these articles to show readers how to familiarize dogs with remote trainer corrections, so they can incorporate those corrections in their own training when they judge it appropriate. An article can't tell you exactly what to do in your individual situation, because facts and circumstances vary (including the circumstances of the dog's mistake, the temperament of the particular dog, his foundation with the exercise, his training foundation in general, etc.).

Why Teach the Correction Ahead of Time

Why go through this platform stuff and introduce the correction outside of the context of an actual error by the dog? Assuming the dog understands the Directed Jumping signal, why not just reinforce a second signal with the remote trainer?

With some dogs you can do this, and they respond appropriately (perhaps as much because you made it uncomfortable to continue sitting as for any other reason!) But with other dogs, you can confuse them by using a correction with a remote trainer if they don't already understand how to respond to the stimulation in that situation.

Remember, the dog has refused to jump because he feels in conflict (conflict over which jump, or whether you want him to go at all, especially if you have stopped him for trying the "wrong" jump). Adding something else to the equation that he does not understand (the new form of correction) can just increase his conflict. In his confusion, he may just continue to sit there, or he may overreact and run straight in to you.

Therefore it is best to teach the response you want ahead of time. And it's easy to do if you've followed our program up to now.

Sequence for Learning an Enforceable Directed Jumping Signal

Before you begin, remember the dog must have already completed the basic platform exercise in Part 7 of our series. And, even though the platform is familiar to the dog, when you start your first session be sure the dog knows where the platform is by letting him watch you set it down, or by walking him onto it a few times.

Place the platform beside the dog, 4-5 feet from him. Stand in front of the dog, and signal him to go to it, using the same signal you'd use for Directed Jumping. At first, use the command you've been using that means "go get on the platform." Also, the first couple of times you can help the dog figure out what you want if you take a step toward the platform as you give the signal. Praise and reward him when he's on the platform.

Give him a few repetitions without stimulation. When the dog is familiar with the set-up, give him a few more repetitions but press the button just as you signal. And release it as he gets on the platform.

Work both directions in your first session, leaving the platform in one place, and moving the dog's starting position to the other side of it to give the other signal.

As the dog becomes confident in going to the platform when he sees your signal, you should add some distance between the dog and the platform and between you and the dog. (See the illustration.) Progress until the dog starts about 15 feet from the platform, and you stand about 25 feet from the dog when you signal. Remember, when the dog must travel more than 5 or 6 feet to reach a platform, stop stimulation the moment he turns to go. Don't make him wait until he arrives at the platform to "turn off the collar."

At this first stage, the dog will actually be making a 90 degree turn to go to the platform. This initial over-turning helps him understand that the Directed Jumping signal calls for a sideways motion to turn off the collar, as well as a motion toward the handler.

Next, start the dog farther back with each repetition, with you still standing in front of the dog but farther from the platform each time. (See the illustration.) This geometry decreases the angle the dog moves when he turns to go. Gradually the angle becomes the one it will be when the dog heads diagonally toward the high or bar jump in the Directed Jumping exercise.

Build all this up over several short sessions. Praise and reward the dog when he gets on the platform, and play with him between repetitions. Remember, every session should include work on both the left- and right-hand signals.

Whenever you set up in a new location, make sure the dog knows where the platform is before you begin using stimulation. A good rule of thumb is to send him at least once from up close. Then, still without stimulation, send him once or twice from the distance you plan to use when you start the lesson.

When you see the dog getting up quickly and moving confidently toward the platform's location in response to the signal, phase out the use of stimulation with the first signal. From now on, you will only press the button if the dog fails to go on the first signal.

Using the Correction

The result of this learning sequence is that the dog will give you a confident response. He'll get up and move the way you want him to when he feels the stimulation turn on and sees your Directed Jump signal.

To use the correction after a refusal, apply stimulation as you give a second signal, just as you would when using some other form of physical correction. But with Directed Jumping corrections, it's often best to simplify the decision slightly for the dog at the same time that you apply the mild stimulation. Therefore, as you press the button and signal again, take a step toward the desired jump.

The use of stimulation with the second signal motivates the dog to try next time to make his decision upon seeing the first signal, thereby avoiding stimulation. At the same time, simplifying slightly with some "body English" as you correct will improve the odds of his doing the right thing. (If taking a step does not simplify it enough for your dog, you can also sit the dog closer to the jump or stand closer to the dog.)

The "Hung Signal" Method is Incompatible with this Training

Some trainers teach or proof signals for the Directed Jumping exercise by the "hung signal" method. In other words, while the dog watches, they hold their signal arm out for a while before giving a command to jump. If the dog tries to head for the desired jump after he sees the signal but before he hears the verbal command, he is "wrong" and is therefore stopped and/or reprimanded.

If you're a user of the "hung signal" method, then do not teach a Directed Jumping correction the way we describe in this article. You will undo your prior training, and the inconsistency of your expectations will confuse your dog unfairly.

First Appeared in:
Front & Finish

Obedience Index  •  Library Index  •  Dobbs Home

Dobbs Training Center
9627 Spring Valley Road
Marysville, CA 95901
(530) 741-0375 - FAX (530) 741-0242