Cancel your Friday night plans! After reading this, you will be just like me, and want to stay home watching dog videos all night. No concert or nightclub could possibly compare to the excitement of DOG TRAINING!!
Yes, it’s true. I am so dorky I stay up late at night watching dog videos (also sometimes horse videos, cat videos, bird videos, and FREQUENTLY baby otter videos). Even before people started paying me to watch their videos, it was a favorite pasttime. Then, somehow I lucked into this dream gig where people send me videos of their dogs, and I get paid to watch them AND give them my opinion. And they LIKE IT! It’s really perfect because it feeds both my voyeuristic tendencies and my need to offer my opinions to strangers on the internet. Bonus is I get to vicariously train their dogs through them and celebrate their progress and successes. So yeah, pretty friggin’ awesome.
The side effect is that I have had the opportunity to watch literally hundreds of dogs perform basic (and not-so-basic) behaviors and movements. With YouTube magic, I can replay and adjust the speed to watch exactly what is going on in slow motion. One of my obsessions is figuring out what those dogs, the ones who give really excellent performances, are doing differently from everyone else. One of my favorite obsessions is the performance of a “down”. I know, you’re thinking “What’s so exciting about that, Hannah? The dog just lies down.” But really, a sharp, clean Drop on Recall is a thing of beauty. The dog flying toward the owner, the instant reaction to the cue, the sudden stop of momentum, and the dog hits the deck. Beautiful. *sigh* So what makes some drops so sharp and pretty, and others are a drawn out process… which may still get the job done, with or without point deductions, but just aren’t inspiring? It turns out the *way* the dog drops matters. And we can trace the difference in mechanics all the way back to the basic stationary down-from-a-stand. So many layers! SO EXCITE!!
And so, I spend a lot of time watching videos of dogs on the internet…
But it’s not like I don’t have any friends, I do! I have several very good friends! As an example, I was able to talk my friend, Julie, into letting me experimentally paint her dog, AND she baked me a pie for the privilege! That’s friendship right there, folks. Dog painting + pie. (And if any of you are interested in friendship status with me, let me know and I’ll be happy to send you an application.)
This little project is also going to be included in my Clicker Expo presentations later this month, but I was so excited I had to share a sneak peek. The plan was to paint some lines on a dark dog, and then video him as he moved through different behaviors, to make it easy to see how his body was moving. He’s totally untrained in obedience (he’s a flyball dog), so I wasn’t expecting anything in particular. I just wanted to get some footage to go home and obsess over. Then of course, OMG! THE FOLDBACK DOWN!! Because that’s what I do.
Texting Julie later that night:
Here’s what I got so excited about:
Two things really stick out that I want to call your attention to:
1. His back feet – The first thing he does is step them apart to make room for his pelvis. In order to drop down and back, he has to give his hips somewhere to go. The feet move apart, but don’t come forward at all! Isn’t that cool?
2. His shoulder – As he drops, his shoulder extends. This tells me that he is truly pushing back into the position. The mats are pretty slick, so his feet actually slide forward a bit. But can you see how that pushing/sliding movement is TOTALLY different from a dog that might step forward into the down? Big difference!
These are two of the markers I see frequently in dogs that have really solid, stable, fast, drops out of motion. I used to be really concerned with does the front end go down first, but now I’m not so much. Certainly, making sure those elbows get all the way down is important. However, I’ve noticed that there are dogs who are going down front first, but still had a fair amount of creep. The dogs that have this extension in the shoulder (and in the lower back) are using all the “push” muscles as part of the down, and that gives them a really clean, flashy drop out of motion.
Did you stick with me this long? Then you must be my kind of people! Don’t worry, there’s more where this came from.