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Old 12-29-2012, 02:21 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Help! Utility Signals

I could use some tips and advice on a problem I am having with signals.

Timber knows his signals, but I was having a problem with directed jumping. When I would signal the jump to my right, most of the time, Timber would come to me.

It took me a little while to figure out that my signal for the recall is actually quite similar to the outstretched arm to signal the jump. So, my words say "over", but the body language says "come". I can see why it's confusing him on what to do.

My recall signal is an outstretched arm pulled into my chest. I was wondering if a motion such as a punch out from my side would be clearer to him.

Any tips and advice would be greatly appreciated!
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Old 12-29-2012, 02:24 PM   #2 (permalink)
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No tips or advice -- just relaying an observation. Years ago I worked with a trainer who did an experiment on his own-well trained dogs who had been trained with both verbal commands and hand signals. He gave them a verbal command that did not match the hand signal. Without exception, they followed the hand signal and ignored the verbal cue. His take-away was that dogs are such good readers of body language that the hand-signal is a more natural way for them to understand a cue.
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Old 12-29-2012, 06:35 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Few questions

Do you extend your arm all the way out for recall or is your elbow bent at the start?

Do you use bar and high or just over?

Where do you look when you signal over?

Do you train multiple exercises per day or just focus on one?

Do you use his name before you say over?
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Old 12-29-2012, 11:18 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Magwart, Thanks for sharing! I absolutely agree. Dogs are much more aware of our body language than verbal commands.

Shyne,

You've asked some good questions!

For a recall, my arm is fully extended as I'm swinging it up and out. He knows to come when my arm gets in that position. I finish my signal by bending my elbow and bringing my hand to my chest. (2nd chance signal)

I know that some people change "over" to "bar" and "high", but my trainer likes to keep things simple and stays with "over". I think naming the jumps would be helpful.

I am making a point to look at the jump that I want him to go over. That's a little difficult for me because I am so used to watching him, but I know it helps him.

With new exercises, I try to focus on one. I usually do some heeling and throw in a few exercises that he knows. We play some tug or fetch between exercises to break things up.

Yes, I say his name before I say over. The only time I don't use his name before a command is on stays. His name means he needs to pay attention because we're about to do something.

I went out there this afternoon and changed my signal. I bent my elbow and then pushed my arm out from there and he took the jump that I pointed at. I think this was enough of a difference to make it clear to him.

I value your input, so any constructive criticism is appreciated!

Thanks!
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Old 12-30-2012, 03:19 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I think it is important to have a recall signal that is noticeably different than your jumping signal. Practicing in front of a mirror or videotaping a training session can be helpful. Please don't make my mistake and have signals that are too fast. This makes for a quick NQ in a distracting location. argh.

As your dog becomes more familiar with the order of the exercises, some of the confusion should decrease. Timber will start to realize that go-outs precede directed jumping, a sit signal precedes the recall, etc.

I guess if I could go back in time, I think I would try to focus more on the individual exercises. I was in a hurry to put all the pieces together and I think that is where you start to see confusion. Another thing that seemed to help Gavin was when I started to really focus in on the cues that I was giving him, making sure that they were clear. Having a consistent pre-exercise dialog also seems to be helpful for my dog. Before a go-out, I quietly ask, "where's your touch?" which means look forward to the go-out location. Before the signal exercise, I say "get ready" which means we're going to be heeling soon. Eventually all of these cues will tell your dog what to expect.

It's a tough class, but you're both talented and capable. Keep at it and I'm sure all the pieces will fall into place!
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Old 01-01-2013, 05:26 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Thanks for your reply and vote of confidence!

Yes, I agree, the signals should all be noticeably different. I changed my sit signal because it was too similar to my down.
I raise my right arm up for the down signal. For the sit, I was doing a big circle with my left arm. So, the upward motion of my arm could have easily been taken for a down signal.

For the sit, I keep my bent elbow close to my side and do an upward motion with my palm up.

I also have to make a concentrated effort to slow down my signals, so don't be surprised if it causes me to NQ some day.

I am trying to break things down and proceed gradually. One thing my trainer always says is, "you don't want to rush utility."

It is tough, but I love the challenge of it! A couple of years ago, I couldn't even imagine training for utility. It will take as long as it takes, but I am determined to get there.

I know you and Gavin will do well!!!! Best of luck to you!
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Old 01-01-2013, 06:35 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I try to keep my recall signal out in front of me, so it doesn't look anything like my jump signal. trying to think of how to describe it....not easy!

OK here goes....your dog is in his sit, whatever distance you're working....pretend you are reaching your open right hand (relaxed hand) towards your dog's nose....palm towards the dog, almost looks like a gentle "stop" signal. Then pretend you are quickly closing your fist around an imaginary line and quickly bring your hand towards your forehead, right between your eyes. Signal ends with your hand closed, thumb near your forehead. The actual signal has some snap to it. (visual snap, not audible.)

This signal is taught on a line, where you hold the end in your left hand and the line is over the thumb of your right hand. When in the early teaching phase, the signal is paired with a verbal and a light pop on the line. Both the verbal and the line are faded out quickly. If you "lose" your signal, remember to pretend there's a line there, and you're "snapping" the imaginary line from the dog towards your forehead.

Hope this makes some sense! YES the signal is in front of you, but the dog definitely sees it....and it doesn't look anything like the jump signal.
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Old 01-02-2013, 10:56 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Regina,

Thanks for your reply! I'd like to see that on video.

I'd probably bop myself on that one! lol
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