Training the “flip”.

Lauris Weelands asked this question in Improving Australian Dog Obedience

I am in the process of training Rally Advanced and one of the things my dogs need to learn is a left finish as opposed to returning around the back of me. I’ve got them doing it and was saying “flip” but wondered whether I should just say heel and give the signal with my left hand. The reason being if I say heel I want them to finish in a neat sit at my left side regardless of which way I have sent them. When I am saying ‘flip’ they aren’t finishing as neatly.

My reply

Lauris, my suggestion is that you might as well use two different cues, because you are asking for two different behaviours. Alternatively, you could use “heel” for both, and allow your dog to tell the difference between the two actions by using two different hand signals. If you want to work on voice alone though, you need two different cues. The other issue you raise is how to get the behaviour – in others word, flip into a good heel position. My answer is that you don’t have to worry about it at first. You are introducing a new physical skill, so cut your dog a little slack. Accuracy will come in time as your dog becomes more proficient. The main thing is that you have to use the training technique of shaping, which means progressing step-by-step in small approximations towards what you want to end up with. So reward your dog for a good flip, and don’t worry if it’s not perfectly straight. As your dog gets better, raise your criterion. This means, be a little bit more fussy about how straight the dog has to be to get a reward. Don’t be too exacting, but don’t be too generous either. For each training session (and keep them very brief), have a very clear idea – this close is good enough, this is not. As your dog improves, up the ante, until your dog is landing in a good heel position consistently.



About transformational1

I have many interests and I have had a varied career. I am a semi-retired professional dog trainer, specialising in the use of positive reinforcement. I do some consultations, I run instructor workshops and I am setting up a Dogs and Psychotherapy Research Project. I have a law degree from Melbourne University (but have never practiced) and I am passionate about Human Rights. My first degree was in Sociology. I worked as a social researcher on issues such as low income housing, women's refuges and women in the workforce. I live in an inner suburb of Melbourne, Australia, and I have a German Shepherd called Chance.
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