Admittedly, this was not how I originally taught his go-outs. He started with food on the gate and that was all fine and good but I saw the "destination behavior" technique at a Laura Romaik seminar this summer and was enchanted. (Seriously. Some women are enchanted by jewelry and shoes. I'm enchanted by training methods.) So I switched. I'm all about making the work as fun as I possibly can for my dog and for whatever reason, Phoenix loves to touch things - nose touch, paw touch, you name it. So I put that to work for us.
Phoenix had been doing "scratch" go-outs with increasing enthusiasm and accuracy throughout the fall. I was eager to test them at the match we went to in Des Moines over the weekend, since he had never done go-outs there.
But they didn't have the back of the Utility ring gated. There was no center stanchion to scratch. Okay. Well then. What to do?
Before our run, I set him up a few feet from a blank wall and asked him to scratch. Apparently that behavior transferred easily from stanchions to walls because was happily scratching the wall in no time. Yes! And treat!
When we did go-outs in the ring, I marked him to his (nonexistent) go-out spot and sent him with the command "Go scratch!" This presumes he will go out and scratch the gate unless I tell him otherwise to sit, in which case he's expected to stop and sit, not keep going to scratch the gate. The turn and sit has been heavily rewarded, too, so it's pretty much a win/win situation for him.
Phoenix ran across the ring. He stopped dead center, he turned sideways, he looked at me . . .
. . . and he pawed the air right where the center stanchion would have been. If it had been there, he would have smacked it good.
What a wonderful brilliant clever talented awesome Skinny Little Dog.
I ran out and he got a cookie and then we practiced scratching the actual wall, which he was happy to do on the next go out.
I wish everything was that easy.