Disappointment and stuff to think about

Tonight Vito had a new agility class with the focus being on contacts.  It's only a 2 week class but I really wanted to get some feed back on his running contacts for the dog walk and a-frame and learn what the next is.  Plus I have no clue what I want to do on the teeter but right now he has a verbal "stop" cue and does a 4 feet on.

My group started with the teeter.  Fellow classmate Patty yelled at me for babysitting him too much and told me to work my way out of the picture (thank you Patty!).  I realized that I haven't distanced myself form his performance at all yet and slapped myself on the forehead for not doing so sooner.  Vito surprised me in that he actually knew what to do without me blocking his path and even did so without me verbally cuing him to stop!  I'm not sure when Mr. Kamikaze grew up and stopped trying to fly over the top or abruptly slam to a stop and almost somersault, but apparently he did it without me knowing!  I asked the instructor if she thought Vito should continue his 4 feet on rule or switch to a 2o2o and she basically just said not to mess with it if his 4 on rule is working and is fast, check and check.

The dog walk was next but I'm going to save that story for the end and go to the a-frame.  I was hoping to get some feed back on what my exact criteria should should be for Vito.  I've read Silvia Trkman's FAQ about a billion times but she doesn't say that much about the a-frame.  It seems as though she does all the work on the dog walk plank and then it just transfers over to the a-frame with only a little bit of back chaining on a lowered plank.  But Silvia also points outs that you don't want it to transfer too well as if the dog is going too low on the a-frame it's going to stress his joints and likely lead to the dog starting to jump in order to avoid that.  But this is where I am confused since I am not sure what to reward with Vito and what not to.  The only thing I'm for sure on is that I want 2 strides on the downside, which I'm pretty sure is agreed on by all!  For the most part Vito does do this and it looks good except when the a-frame is too low and Vito flies over the top and practically does a handstand as he lands in the yellow! 
Well tonight I used treats on a target a couple feet out when sending Vito and he seemed to do good.  The first one was an iffy one that I wish the instructor had seen.  He definitely did two strides on the downside and hit plenty in the yellow, but it was one of those confusing ones for me since it looked completely different from the dog walk.   The second one the instructor did see and this one looked beautiful. 

Now we return to the dog walk.  I put out a toy Vito hadn't seen before about 12ft out and send him across as I sprint the length with him.  Vito flies.  Completely misses the entire contact even as he is at least a good foot above the yellow.  Bad.  I send him again and Vito soars.  Very bad.  I put him on just the down side of the dog walk and send him. Big jump.  I get yelled at.  Now Vito hasn't missed his contact yet since, well I can't even remember when but never since we've done full height.  He hasn't even done so much as a little pounce as he has had very close to 100% success in class and open ring time.  This was Vito's only second time at this particular facility, but the first time about 2 weeks ago he did really well.  I was crushed.

A big discussion followed.  Basically I was told that Vito should be switched to a 2o2o on the dogwalk.  Even if I have a really nice dog walk the adrenaline of being at a trial is going to be hard to train through.  But the main reason she, and every body else, pushed the 2o2o was because he is too fast.  Vito sprinted the dog walk so so fast that I think I saw some dropped jaws.  And honestly his dog walk today was faster then I had ever seen it.  People don't think I'll be able to keep up with him and have any chance of directing him where to go.  I was asked why I needed a running contact with him, especially since he could be trained to have a really fast 2o2o with his level of confidence.  I was crushed.  I've spent months training his beautiful running contact and not only did his performance suck, but I am being told that I shouldn't/can't do it with this dog.

After the discussion the instructor asked if I had a less valued target so she could see what I see in his running contacts.  I put down the lower valued object (treats) and Vito performed perfectly.  And then we did it again with the treats and he was perfect once more.

I've thought about it a lot in the 3 hours since class and I think I'm going to stick with his running contacts.  Vito's a baby dog and is no where near ready to trial so I have time.  He's going to need a lot more proofing with high valued objects, be introduced to turning after the dog walk, independence from me running straight with him, and distance on the obstacles following it.  But I have time and I think it's just a training issue.  Yes it's going to be extremely hard to keep up with him, but if I have those other things in place I won't need to.  I went to Silvia's website again and found this great quote:

"Just because it’s easier to handle a dog if we’re well ahead, it’s not our goal to slow down a dog enough for us to be well ahead of him all the time, is it? Yeap, just as I don’t stop a dog after a straight tunnel, I don’t stop a dog after dog-walk, but can still handle a sequence after it. If I don’t, it doesn’t mean there is something wrong with running contact method, but that there is something wrong with either my handling after it or training a dog to respond to that handling. So yes, handling a difficult sequence when a dog is coming there with full speed as opposed to from a stop is more difficult. But my goal is not to make things easy, but to make them as fast and fluent as I can."

So there it is.  And don't tell me I can't do it.  

In other related news, Vito had his obstacle focus back today!  The past 3 weeks Vito has been really handler focused and hasn't been driving towards the obstacles like he used to.  He even stopped his cute little scream that he always let out at as I released him from the start of a sequence.  It's made it really hard to practice our rear crosses.  But tonight it was back with a vengeance! (and of course got the little dude in trouble with his dogwalk!)

Mango  – ( January 30, 2010 at 5:01 AM )  

I am no expert on agility, but I did read that the running contact is less stressful on a dog's joints than the 2o2o. I would expect that is particularly true with a speedy pup like Vito.

Mango Momma

Crystal  – ( January 30, 2010 at 8:06 AM )  

It does sound like the running contact will be more work. But if it has benefits- like being less stressful on his joints- it's definitely worth it.

Muttsandaklutz  – ( January 30, 2010 at 8:15 AM )  

The Sylvia quotation is right on. My dogs don't do a running dogwalk, but I have nothing against the method and really admire the end results of the hard work of those who do. Pretty darn exciting watching a dog fly across the dogwalk at full speed and hit that contact without stopping. There's a woman in my area who's in her 70s and runs a speedy fast border collie. Her dog does 2o2o but the point is she has no trouble at all directing her dog from great distance all around the course as there's no way she can keep up with him. So yeah definitely with the right training I have full confidence you and Vito will be successful and show those well-meaning "you can't/shouldn't do a running dogwalk" people once and for all! :)

Megan  – ( January 30, 2010 at 8:17 AM )  

YAY Laura! I'm SO glad you didn't decide to abandon it!

YAY! YAY, YAY, YAY, YAY, YAY!!!!!!

PS: Good luck today!

achieve1dream  – ( January 30, 2010 at 6:58 PM )  

Don't feel bad. You know your dog best and can make the best decision for him. Stick with it if it feels right. :) Good luck at your next class. I'll be eagerly waiting to hear more.

Anonymous  –   – ( January 31, 2010 at 8:17 PM )  

Good for you! I'm teaching a running contact with my fast dog and it's no more work that what you have to put into for any other kind of contact. Go with what works for you and your dog, not what works for everyone else! I too had a trainer tell me that the only way to run contacts was 2o2o...and now I see her dog having a hard time maintaining his 2o2o consistently while my dogs running contacts are going gorgeously. But, everyone has small setbacks, especially with a young dog in a new place. Stick with it! You'll do fine :)

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