Schutzhund/IGP- Balancing or Juggling

Schutzhund/IGP- Balancing or Juggling

Let’s admit, we are all jugglers: school, work, kids, chores, dogs, cats, rabbits, you name it. Dog training sometimes feels the same. Some things are in the air, others flop on the ground. Priorities change, the number of items juggled increases, and so the speed. Such as life nowadays.

Many find Schutzhund/IGP sport fascinating because of the balance of drive and control it requires. When accomplished successfully, it is fascinating to see.

Balance requires two entities of the same weight, power, density, etc. We adjust each side until we find equilibrium. Sometimes, it is a lengthy process; other times, we hit it really quickly. It all depends on the amount of drive and control involved.

In our school of thought, we refer to Drive as Motivation and Control as Concentration. Because these are the tools that are easier to understand when designing a training session. For instance, we need more Motivation, let’s upgrade from a ball to a bite tug. We need more Concentration - go back to using food for a while. These are just small examples.

Let’s look at Obedience Heeling. So, we start building motor skills with food. At some point, the puppy is following the hand and happily prancing. We probably have the right balance at that time. If you were to look at the chart - blue (Control/Concentration) and red (Drive/Motivation) should be pretty close in size. The performance quality looks good - hitting the yellow center line (the last bar).

We then switch to the ball. In our school, at this time, we hold the ball in the left hand, away from our bodies and above the dog’s head. We are not heeling. We are still doing motor skills. The moment the dog sees the ball, it is guaranteed he is going to bounce and try to get it.

Drive increases, and performance quality decreases. The rhythmic prancing we had with the food is gone. We have to build it again. At some point, we get back the rhythm.

We progress further in training. Putting the ball under your arm might cause more temporary Concentration as the dog is trying to figure out why we moved the ball. Once you drop it a couple of times - Drive increases, and we are on the way towards the balance again.

So far, we are doing well, and the red and blue are balanced. Concentration and Motivation are equal. Heeling looks very pretty. Too bad we cannot keep the ball.

We place the ball on the ground as an external reinforcer. We start at about 90°. The dog sees the ball that is so easily accessible, and drive goes through the roof. We have to bring more focus to the exercise and get the dog redirected back at you. Eventually, we are back in balance.

And so it goes. Each training session is a balancing act. A combination of red and blue, hopefully, split in the middle.

Sometimes, if we try to get through the steps too fast, it turns into juggling. We are tossing the “drive ball” all the way high in the air and completely miss and drop the “control ball” on the ground. The session is over. We have to collect the balls and start again. Too much out of control that we have to take a break and get the dog some rest. We would see this in Protection frequently if an exercise started with a sleeve too soon.

If you think about it - balancing is better than juggling in the long term.  

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