Today furiends I’d like to show you how I am progressing with the tunnel obstacle.
While my human was post-editing my video, I did a little web-surfing on the history of cat agiltiy. I was surprised to learn that the birth of dog agility was rather unintentional. Back in 1978 at London’s famous Crufts Dog Show, a horse-enthusiast was tasked with entertaining the crowd between events. He came up with an event that employed dogs doing equestrian-like feats. It was a hit, and then in 1986 it came to America under the title of the U.S. Dog Agility Association. It was so much fun that it has become the fastest-growing dog sport in history.
ICAT started 17 years later in 2003 by four cat show women who knew how beautiful cats could be when in motion. With their horse, dolphin, dog and cat show backgrounds they also knew how to train their furiends. The first ICAT event was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in October 2003 at a TICA cat show hosted by Enchanted Cat Club. ICAT and cat agility was a huge success! Exhibitors and spectators got caught up in watching the lively, athletic race of the cats and their handlers through the agility course.
Ten years after that, on November 26, 2013, Bite TV and Force Four Entertainment announced the start of a fun new web and TV series called Battle Cats (6×30 scripted comedy). Battle Cats is a competition-based series that tests the true skills of us felines. A cat agility arena was built right here in the greater Vancouver (B.C. Canada) area and was designed as the ultimate adventure course.
This week mom is working on building a few missing obstacles, and setting up a training course in her exercise room for me. That should be interesting. =^,,^=
Today my furiends is the first of our new weekly feature called “Motion Picture Monday” (I think we’ll shorten that to just “Movie Monday”.) The movies will document how I learn through clicker and target training to navigate various obstacles that are commonly found in an agility course. What is clicker and target training you ask? It’s a means of communicating with our humans in the form of a game, that not only shapes desired behaviour, but improves the quality of life for both of us, especially if you’re an indoors only cat. This is the method humans use to train dolphins. It’s is a science-based system called operant conditioning using positive reinforcement and a marker signal. It doesn’t have to be just for agility or cute cat tricks, (although I purrsonally think how much more adoptable a shelter cat would be if he/she knew a couple) it can also correct behavioural problems too by building new ones to replace unwanted ones.
Mom is still learning how to be a trainer and is figuring it out as she goes, but as long as she plays with me, I’m OK with that. First she had to figure out the difference in her own mind between clicker and target training, what the purpose of each was, and when to use them. She’s come to the conclusion that the clicker is the signal used to mark or shape the behaviour, and the target stick is used to lure me around…to follow it. Both are rewarded with treats at some point. The key is practice, practice, and more practice…. and don’t forget the treats! Eventually the target stick won’t be needed when I have learned the hand and verbal cues, but we’re not at that point yet. Verbal cues would be spoken words such as “sit”, “up”, “down”, “roll over”, “jump”, etcetera, and we’d follow their hands instead of the target stick.