Contact Work

I've been a good trainer the past week and am actually working on the dog's contact criteria for agility. I've had my 12ft board for just over a month now but have only done contacts on it maybe once a week, if I'm lucky. *maybe* (well probably not) I could get by with that if I wanted a 2 on 2 off, but since I'm wanting a running contact it NEEDS to be trained every day for awhile.

However this week had not been without frustration. I'm using Silvia Trkman's method which start with a flat board and is gradually raised as you reward the dog for running all the way to the end. I've realized that even though I've been doing the dog's training for several months, they have apparently learned absolutely nothing; now that I'm doing it on a regular basis their learning deficit is obvious. So I'm starting as low as I can possibly go without it being flat (it's the same board I use for the teeter so there's a piece of wood in the middle that does not allow it to be flat) and trying to reward only ones in the last 22" of the board (contact zone is at 42"). I had no idea how big to make my reward zone so I'm just hoping that 22" is a good number :)

With both dogs I am having the hardest time deciding if they made it in my reward zone or not when they are running at full speed. This has resulted in a ton of rewards for less than stellar contact performance. Usually I can tell that they missed it, but not until after I have had to decide whether to reward them or not. With Lance I am using the manners minder (yay for another use of it!) and am trying to "click" as he hits the end of the board so I only have that half second to decide. With Vito, I had to switch to throwing a ball as the reward as he just doesn't run as fast towards the MM. Luckily he is absolutely crazy for the ball so now he is running extremely fast, but this has made it even harder for me to decide if he hit the end of the board or not! Not only do I have to decide, but I have to time my throwing of the ball, and have a nice straight throw that does not land in the street!

So basically I am totally screwing up by dogs! I was almost on the verge of giving up running contacts when I decided to backchain it. Now I've been starting the dogs only halfway on the board and am slowly making my way back the 12ft. This has meant that they haven't been at full speed when running (which would likely upset Silvia) but has at least allowed me to teach Lance and Vito something. I just started that on the two sessions I did today but have already seen a great improvement in the dogs' performance and in my reward ability. Hopefully when I'm all using all 12ft and start raising the board again I will have had enough practicing in judging my criteria to be of some use to my dogs!

Owner of Storm and Jackal  – ( July 12, 2009 at 9:12 AM )  

I know how you feel when your learning a new method and trying to teach it at the same time it can get frustrating. I've been having the same trouble with the pivoting and heeling. Keep at it and you'll get there. And have fun!

Life With Dogs  – ( July 13, 2009 at 3:18 PM )  

Amazing how the little things trip us up. :)

Honey the Great Dane  – ( July 17, 2009 at 2:32 AM )  

Thank you so much for the 'backchaining' tip!! I had never heard of that before but now that I think about it, it's a great idea! After the competition, am going to give Honey a couple of weeks' break from dance training and then we'll start again and try that out! Thanks so much!!


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