Giving Up.

The corgi and I are giving up.  True running contacts are apparently not meant for us.  Between his body structure, love of flying, and tendency to stress, slow down, and then completely shut down when trying to figure it out it's just not working.

Thanks to Loretta's suggestions on giving him complete control of offering starting the dogwalk plank without any release cue from me and shutting up my praise which was putting too much pressure on him, I am able to get him happy again fairly quickly.  But then a few weeks later we go through it all again.  I am just not a good enough trainer to communicate what I want to him.

We are also giving up on the aframe.  Without someone to help me lower it we haven't been able to practice it as much as we need to.  And even with a completely lowered aframe I can't get Lance to clear the apex nicely and do clean striding.  He stutters and it hasn't gone away even with increased confidence.  At least Lance has never gotten stressed out on the aframe but I still can't get what I want.

I guess I could go back to our 4 on the floor for the dogwalk since that seemed to work ok there, but the crashing into the ground on the aframe is what started this 6 month project.  Since I have completely destroyed my dog by retraining so many times I think we are going to go to managed contacts for both.  I haven't decided how I'm going to manage them yet but that training will at least be on me and not my dog.  Now Lance can just run carefree, no stress.  It might put a damper on gambles but any other course I should be able to beat him to the bottom and handle as needed.  And if I'm not there, well Lance can just have fun flying!

I always thought I hated managed contacts but I guess I just don't like the people who don't admit that they have one.  Those who scream at their dogs to touch and then get really upset when the dog misses.  They say they have a running contact but the poor dogs have no idea what they're supposed to do.  Maybe since I am going to completely own my managed contacts it will be ok?  Or do I need to train a 4 On for the aframe and something for the dogwalk?

I want a happy corgi!

Photo by Anna Kucera

On a happier note, Lance ran hoopers and weavers on Friday at the NADAC trial.  He had fun

Amy / Layla the Malamute  – ( September 5, 2011 at 6:35 PM )  

I'm sorry it didn't work out the way you'd hoped. But I applaud you for acknowledging it and moving on! I'm sure you've also seen the people who are trying something that's clearly not working but they're too stubborn to admit it.

Whatever you decide, since you're committed to sticking to a certain criteria (once you decide what it'll be), I'm sure it'll be successful.

Laura, Lance, and Vito  – ( September 5, 2011 at 8:32 PM )  

Basically there are two types of contacts: independent and managed.

Independent contacts are where the dog is specifically trained in a behavior and can do so from start to finish without aid of handler. Whether that's a running contact where the handler can be way behind, way out in front, lying on the floor, etc. Or a stopped contact (most dogs do a 2o2o, lance did have a 4 on the floor) where again the dog finishes the behavior regardless of what their handler is doing.

A managed contact is where the dog is not specifically trained in a behavior, or they may be trained in a behavior but it is very dependent on what the handler is doing. With a partially trained stopped contact maybe the dog does a nice 2o2o but only when momma is within 5ft. Or with a completely managed contact maybe the handler has to be in front of the dog to slow them down just enough to touch, even getting their hand in a way (to supposedly show the dog where to touch), or maybe they have a verbal collection cue that again slows the dog down a hair and gets a foot in the yellow. Basically the handler does something or says something at just the right moment in order for the dog to get in the yellow. It runs from being a very mild action to extreme in the dog's face yelling and gesturing. A lot of people in the managed contact category don't realize that they have not trained for independent contacts and it can make for some very upset people when the dog misses.

Crystal Thompson  – ( September 5, 2011 at 8:40 PM )  

Ah! Thank you for the very thorough explanation. I tried to google it, but I wasn't using the right words. From what you've described, I don't see anything wrong with managed contacts if they're used appropriately. I have no doubts you will.

I'm sorry that you feel you need to give up, but I hope it's less stressful for both of you. I know you've worked really hard on it.

Kristen  – ( September 5, 2011 at 10:10 PM )  

I feel your pain. You could try my training strategy of just thinking about it and not actually training anything for months and months. However, I cannot guarantee results...

I can't wait to see your solutions and how it goes!

Shenna Lemche AKA Project Leader  – ( September 6, 2011 at 8:46 AM )  

Hmmm, I think happy dogs live inside their well-understood criteria. If the greyness of running contact criteria was too stressful for him, wouldn't managing be the same thing (not that you would run like the scary screamy red faced people)? My vote would be black and white criteria if you're taking a vote. :) I tried managing (letting her pace to my speed) for a period with my stressy girl... no go.

On another note... I caught one of Vito's DWs over the weekend and it looked AWESOME! I think that boy really gets and OWNS the concept.

Laura, Lance, and Vito  – ( September 6, 2011 at 6:16 PM )  

Shenna, that's a really good point! I know Lance was really happy with the black and white of a 2o2o on the dogwalk but we didn't keep that for long as I wasn't happy with the pounding into the ground he was doing. He then had a 4 on the floor which isn't quite as black and white but seemed to do ok with it and I was happy with it on the dogwalk. I have no problem going back to 4otf if I need to on the dogwalk.

I just don't know what to do on the aframe! I think the only stopped contact I have left to try is a 4 on and I don't think that's very clear to the dogs. Or I suppose I could try a 2o2o on the aframe that very quickly changes to a quick release? I just worry that since he never started out with that foundation that it would deteriorate very quickly with a quick release and an actual 2o2o wouldn't be good for him if he was doing it with any speed.

Ninso  – ( September 7, 2011 at 1:16 PM )  

Gah! How frustrating! Sorry it didn't work out. I hate when that happens. If it makes you feel any better Lok is a 100 percent "managed dog." With EVERYTHING!! I failed completely at training that one.

Kathy  – ( September 7, 2011 at 1:21 PM )  

I was suprised and happy when at the Daisy Peel seminar she brought up managed weave entries or managed contacts and said that handlers in the past did that a lot more and knew how to manage things like that very well and that there was really not something wrong with knowing when you need to just manage, there is an art to it, and it is not a dirty thing, LOL, as long as you know that is what you are doing.

Loretta Mueller  – ( September 8, 2011 at 10:54 AM )  

I agree with Shenna---the more concrete you can be with Lance (who is soooo freakin' cute and Andy would sooooo take! LOL) I think the happier he will be. Stressing is no fun. Poor guy!!!!

Honey the Great Dane  – ( September 8, 2011 at 4:59 PM )  

I don't really know much about agility at all but I just wanted to say that I know how you feel about "giving up" on certain things - as I'm sure you know! - I've decided to "give up" on certain things with Honey and trying to do it the "proper/ideal" way that everyone else does because she just isn't that type of dog - whether in body or temperament or whatever - because like you, the most important thing to me is my dog is happy. Btw, I had never considered that over-praising her might be an added stressor - thanks for mentioning that! I will keep that in mind.

Oh - and I actually popped over to say thank you for your tips about crossing paws! They were really useful. I think I wss trying to be lazy/greedy and skip the step with the target - but I will go back now and try it with a lid instead and see if that helps. Ludo's owner also mentioned that using my feet as a target might be confusing Honey coz she knows/likes so many other dance moves involving BOTH legs/paws and moving my feet (even though it's a crossing movement) - may be too similar a cue to those old tricks, which may be why she keeps offering alternate paws...

Thanks again!

Muttsandaklutz  – ( September 10, 2011 at 6:52 PM )  

Just watched Vito's USDAA video and wow his contacts sure do look amazing -- a real testament to your training skills. Sorry it hasn't gone quite the same with Lance, but you obviously have his well-being as your top priority so I know you both will have fun with it, regardless.

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