We returned to class after a two week break and Gimme was the star of the class. She did well, once I had her focus. I woke up with a migraine so was late getting moving and late for class. This meant Gimme didn't get to do her leisurely walk of the classroom perimeter, so when our first turn came, she was still distracted and wanting to investigate. Kathy let me take my time to get her brain engaged and once it was, she did fine.
Kathy started us on working to do two new signs.
The first one we worked on was the clockwise and counter-clockwise simultaneous spins. Kathy had us start by cuing some spins, first stationary, then as we were moving. Then we practiced some switchbacks (signs 21a and 21b). From there we went on to just do the simultaneous spins. Initially Gimme wasn't focused, so we had to start by revisiting the whole verbal cue for a spin concept. She got a big round of applause when she did it on a verbal (which she actually knows) and I gave her a jackpot of treats. Of course, then she was so excited she couldn't do it on the verbal until she calmed down again. Still she did it very nicely.
Kathy did say she did not recommend doing this three step progression in one training session, she only did it for us so she could coach each of us through it. For our regular training, she recommends working the three parts in separate sessions or at the very least, with a large break between them.
The next sign was the 360º center pivot. Here the dog is in a center-front position and the handler pivots in place, with the dog side-stepping around them, maintaining center-front position. We were the last and I started with Gimme's weakest side - even there she was far ahead of her classmates. Gimme has very sophisticated rear foot awareness. I was able to pivot 90º and just treat each of the four quadrants when Gimme got aligned. When Kathy asked me to try it in the other direction, we were able to do it as one smooth 360º pivot. I was ready to stop and treat if she needed the support, but she was awesome. Kathy said we totally have it for a counter-clockwise pivot. My classmates were awed by how good Gimme was, and commented how flashy she looked doing it.
The other students had to do this in a square which combined backing up and 90º pivots. The key thing when training is to pivot first, then step backwards if the dog needs the help to get aligned again in the center-front position.
I think the reason this came so easy to Gimme has two parts. First, there is her sophisticated rear foot awareness. We free shaped this very early in her life, along with some of the fruit behaviors (The Project) which required rear foot skills. The other thing is how I taught Gimme "heel", "side" and "center". I taught them all as a position, not a behavior.
So when I move around and want her to heel, "heel" simply means to her to maintain a relative position to me, regardless of what I do. She does the same with "side" (right side), though is not as strong because I haven't practiced it as much. I am realizing just now (literally as I blog here) this is also why Gimme has such difficulty learning to back around me. Because we've only done it when I am pivoting toward her when she is in "heel" or "side", so she is maintaining the relative position. Thus when I want to remain stationary and have her back around me, its an entirely different concept for her. Which also explains why the usual method hasn't worked for her... so, back to the drawing board.
Anyway, since "center" was taught as a position, when I pivoted and repeated the cue, it made perfect sense to Gimme even though we've never actually trained this behavior or anything like it. Of course, there is also her innate brilliance. Just sayin'...