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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So, as I have mentioned before, I recently moved from the city to the mountains. Well, I've lost the ability to take Harvey for walks, but I've gained the space to finally learn how to play treibball. So I've started by buying a mat and a big blue ball. I read that the first thing the dog needs to do is learn a very good "place" command on their mat. Well, I've been at it for a week or so now and I really don't feel like Harvey is getting it. I can get him to lie down on the mat with a "place" command and I reward him, but I feel like the association is being made with lying directly in front of me. I'm not even sure he knows (or cares) that the mat is there. How can I better help him to make the correct association?
 

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Did you start by rewarding him for being on the mat? The way I always was taught was that you first start by bringing them over to the mat and clicking or rewarding (or both) when they put 1 paw on the mat. Then once they understand that is what you are asking, stretch for 2 paws on the mat, then click, and progress to all 4 paws on the mat, then to being on the mat and sitting, then to on the mat and laying down. I imagine the dog does not draw the connection between the laying down and being on the mat.
 
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I do treibball with my Dexter. Actually going to a match this weekend. So much fun!:)

First time teaching a target can be time consuming and a difficult concept for many dogs to get. And often it's the details that can really speed up or slow down the process.

Him lining up and facing you on the mat is actually good! That will help with orientation at balls and pushing to you later on. Def keep that as part of your criteria for your place behavior. But you do want to be sure he understands the mat/target is where he is supposed to go rather than just the space directly in front of you.

How have you been teaching it? This is one thing I really like shape (basically what jclark suggested above). And I spend a ton of time really ''magnetizing'' my targets (just means the dog REALLY want to get there). I know it's magnetized when my dogs are trying to put paws on it or knock it out of my hands when I'm lowering it. Lol

Do you see any purposeful intent in moving to the target? Looking at it and then laying down? Sort of a little hop onto it? Anything that would suggest he understands the target is important?

What does he do if you increase the distance between you and the target a bit? Does he still lay on the target? Or off the target but at the same relative distance away in front of you?

If he's not yet made the connection look at how you've been training it.
Often raising the target up helps a ton. Seems to just make it more obvious to the dog rather than something flat on the ground. Once understood then you can lower it back down.
Consider shaping it.
Also feed the majority of your rewards on the mat rather than high from your hand (helps magnetize the mat as the rewards happen on it). Those I do not feed on the mat are tossed to get my dogs off reseting allowing them to return to their mat.I start by tossing directly behind the mat as it causes them to hit the mat when they return, but later on toss in different directions so they have to return from different angles and reorient intentionally towards me.
 

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Oh! I know it has nothing to do with your question but just a pointer...
Don't teach pushing the ball yet. Get some distance behaviors like sending out around the ball both clockwise and counterclockwise and sending out to place behind the ball and holding position once their down first. Pushing the ball is often super fun for dogs. And if you don't have some of the less exciting stuff down first, some dogs start to just go to the ball and have a pushing party on their own. Lol
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Did you start by rewarding him for being on the mat? The way I always was taught was that you first start by bringing them over to the mat and clicking or rewarding (or both) when they put 1 paw on the mat. Then once they understand that is what you are asking, stretch for 2 paws on the mat, then click, and progress to all 4 paws on the mat, then to being on the mat and sitting, then to on the mat and laying down. I imagine the dog does not draw the connection between the laying down and being on the mat.
I sort of started that way. I tried a bunch of different things that really weren't working. I will elaborate on why I've been struggling below.

I do treibball with my Dexter. Actually going to a match this weekend. So much fun!

First time teaching a target can be time consuming and a difficult concept for many dogs to get. And often it's the details that can really speed up or slow down the process.

Him lining up and facing you on the mat is actually good! That will help with orientation at balls and pushing to you later on. Def keep that as part of your criteria for your place behavior. But you do want to be sure he understands the mat/target is where he is supposed to go rather than just the space directly in front of you.

How have you been teaching it? This is one thing I really like shape (basically what jclark suggested above). And I spend a ton of time really ''magnetizing'' my targets (just means the dog REALLY want to get there). I know it's magnetized when my dogs are trying to put paws on it or knock it out of my hands when I'm lowering it. Lol

Do you see any purposeful intent in moving to the target? Looking at it and then laying down? Sort of a little hop onto it? Anything that would suggest he understands the target is important?

What does he do if you increase the distance between you and the target a bit? Does he still lay on the target? Or off the target but at the same relative distance away in front of you?

If he's not yet made the connection look at how you've been training it.
Often raising the target up helps a ton. Seems to just make it more obvious to the dog rather than something flat on the ground. Once understood then you can lower it back down.
Consider shaping it.
Also feed the majority of your rewards on the mat rather than high from your hand (helps magnetize the mat as the rewards happen on it). Those I do not feed on the mat are tossed to get my dogs off reseting allowing them to return to their mat.I start by tossing directly behind the mat as it causes them to hit the mat when they return, but later on toss in different directions so they have to return from different angles and reorient intentionally towards me.
Unfortunately there are no competitions around here, but I still think it will be fun!

I started teaching by just throwing treats on the mat so he would go on it. But I don't think he even noticed the mat. I moved to trying to get him to sniff the mat before giving him a treat, but I still didn't feel like he was actually aware of the mat and not just sniffing the ground. I pretty much tried a bunch of different ways of getting him to notice the mat before deciding it wasn't working and just getting him to lie down on the mat. I was really consistent about having him lie down on the mat straight, but I think it's been long enough to know it isn't working.

I really like the idea of magnetizing. Currently he doesn't give a crap about the mat.

There is no purposeful intent. I seriously don't think he even knows the mat is there. He tends to get extremely focused on me during training (I guess that's what happens when you teach a really serious focus command to work on reactivity) and I imagine that anything that's just on the ground is of little importance to him.

If I increase distance, he just lies down directly in front of me, regardless of the mat. He definitely isn't making the correct association.

I think raising it is a great idea! That way he can't just plant his butt and not realize what he's on. He has to actually actively climb onto it.

I think I need some more information on how to best shape and magnetize. I think my main struggle with it is that Harvey prefers to lie down during training. He's very focused, but very spazzy and tends to either dance around or be lying down.

Also, if I raise the mat, how can I be sure he is making the association between the mat and not whatever he is climbing up on?

Also, I know not to have him push the ball yet. I don't think he would anyways. I've tried to play with him with the ball to increase his interest in it, and he really doesn't seem to care. I can kick the ball and sometimes he'll run after it for a second and then he totally loses interest and goes back to following scent trails. It's funny, he will herd people (which is why I want to get him into treibball) but he really seems like a hunting dog at heart! (probably part English setter). Is there something I should do with the ball to build his interest in it?
 

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This match is the first in my area (still a 3 hour drive one way though) and actually the first match for this organization (NATE) so is exciting!. Should be a real trial though by the sounds of it is the fall. :)

I agree that is doesn't sound like he is getting it yet.

I could have sworn I had footage of my puppy's first few matwork sessions but can't find it!

Anyway, I would def stop and do some shaping sessions with a raised target. Everyone will do this a little differently and I often make changes based on the dog but...

Start with whatever you are using up in your hands (dog is much more likely to ignore if already down when you bring them in to space to train).
Be ready to mark and reward as putting the target/mat down in front of your dog is likely to be your first opportunity to reward since he'll likely sniff/investigate. Mark (clicker or verbal marker) and then reward dropping a treat on the mat. Then watch feet. Mark and reward on the mat for more feet on the mat as well as staying on the mat. Mark and reward probably 5-10 times on the target. Then the last time you mark, toss the reward away. At this point in the training process, I would likely pick the mat up and then put it down again when your dog has returned. Helps the dog understand that the mat is important and that interaction is causing the rewards. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Once you see some happiness from your dog when presented with the mat and hopefully some intent/desire to get on it, then bump it up. I might lower the mat at this point.

Or perhaps begin to toss the reset treat behind the mat and leave the mat down. Your dog will likely return to you. Mark when your dog's feet hit the mat and then reward on the mat. Again mark more feet on the mat and/or staying there reward low on the mat (several times) then toss the treat behind the mat to reset. Repeat, repeat repeat.

At this stage you could work a bit on adding some distance between you and the mat as marking when he hits the mat should cause his to stop if he understands what your marker means. At some point along the way, I stop marking as feet hit the mat and look for a pause from my dog. I want them to understand to go to the mat and stay there before moving on to the next step. So I'm looking for and marking them stopping there!


Once my dogs understand that, then I tend to either work towards teaching position (can be a stand, sit or down) for behind the point ball or start to toss treats in other directions so start teaching to go to the mat and orient towards me from different angles and distances.

For position, I generally just wait. A dog experienced with shaping will offer something. Often a behavior they have been highly reward for in the past like a sit or a down. Mark and reward that and work your way to your end position. (I actually chose a sit as my Dexter's position as it allows him to see over the balls. He's a short terrier mix. My doberman's position was a down as he could see and was one of those impulsive ball pushers so helped to have that solid down.)If your guy doesn't do anything help him out by cueing a down. Mark and reward the down as well as staying down (btw feeding low on the mat initially is likely to encourage the sown so may already have gotten it earlier in the training process). Toss the treat to reset. He'll return to the mat. Pause and see if he'll think to down on his own. If he does really celebrate. If not help him out again. That pause is important as you do want him to learn that him laying down facing you is part of the behavior. It's not just go to mat. It's go to mat, face me, down, and wait for release.

For the different angles and distances just start to toss the reset treat a few times a little to the sides. Most of the time behind, but some times to the right and sometimes to the left. As you progress you can toss reset treats at tougher and tougher angles as well as further distances.

Once you get that stuff down you'll be able to get started on lots of fun stuff. Send outs (work both sides of your body), start teaching to pass and then go lay down behind a ball, directional behaviors to direct him to different balls, etc. :)

Really I wouldn't worry right now about building any drive towards the ball. Def get the other stuff down first. I like to teach send outs, orientation behind balls, circling balls (single and groups), going to place behind the point ball, and directing between several balls first. That desire to push will increase as you train! Only thing I might do is to just get him used to the ball moving if he's a sensitive guy. But it doesn't sound like he's bothered by it.:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Aspen, I will totally update! I'm honestly going to probably need a lot of help along the way, so I will likely be here a lot asking about it. It does look like fun. =)

Kmes:
Going to a competition sounds so fun! Harvey's a bit reactive/aggressive, so that may not be in the equation for us (maybe in time).

Okay, I will stop what I'm doing and take a step back. You're probably right that I need to do a better job of getting his attention on the mat.

Thanks for the advice! I feel like I have a much better idea of how to start training this sport. It's very foreign to me.

I will follow your protocol and let you know how it goes. I'll probably start a training log to track our progress.

I will definitely be back for more tips. =)
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
I had him work for his dinner tonight. He did pretty well. His focus on me is pretty intense, and I wasn't able to get him to even look at the mat by lifting it up and putting it down. However, I was able to teach him to put a paw on it while I held it. Once he put his paw on the mat, I put it on the ground and rewarding for paws on the mat and for sitting on it. I fed all rewards off the mat.. It's slow going, but I felt like it was progress because he now seems aware that the mat exists.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Update: He's catching on much better now! I can now place the mat on the ground and he will purposefully go to it. He's also starting to try knocking it out of my hands as I put it down. So I'll probably spend a while longer doing the magnetizing thing and then move to the next step. =)
 
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