Rain and I had a major breakthrough on our circus elephant exercise last weekend!
Some of you out there may be wondering what the heck I’m talking about. Allow me to explain…
Way back when Rain and I were in Foundations of Agility—when we attended class on a different day and in the evening—Molly started us on a shaping game which involved the dog spinning around with her front legs on a stool. When the behavior was in its final form, Molly said, our dogs would look a little bit like a circus elephant performing.
She didn’t have a name for the trick but I decided to start calling it “circus elephant,” and the name caught on fast.
Here’s Molly’s puppy Marvel doing the trick in its completed form:
Now that we don’t get agility homework from week to week I’ve been trying to work on challenges and teaching Rain new tricks to keep her doggy brain occupied.
We had come to a bit of a wall with her circus elephant progress. Rain has rotated her body to a certain point pretty consistently but we were having a hard time getting her to complete the circle where she’d be facing away from me for just a split second.
A few weeks ago I asked Molly about it in class. She gave me a couple of suggestions but also pointed out that Rain may never get the whole thing down. We’ve been spending a few minutes on it each morning for the last couple of weeks, and I’m happy to present the following video evidence that we’ve made a major breakthrough.
How did we get there? Molly had suggested a certain way of treating Rain that would turn her face away from me, setting the stage for that little leap of faith the dog needs to do to complete the circle. After several days of practice like that we got tantalizingly close but Rain’s spine was still aligned with my right leg. One time I treated her from the other side of her head for no particular reason…and she completed the circle for the first time! Then I did it again, and reproduced the results.
Rain now understands I want her to complete the full circle, and I’ve been confident enough that I’ve had her perform her breakthrough for some people in our life. Rain has impressed everyone so far, so now I present our breakthrough for our friends on the internet.