Monday, August 18, 2008

Running contacts redux!

Since I've recovered from my iliopsoas muscle pull in January and continuing to get my speed back, I've been missing my dog walk contacts, a lot! I missed them pretty much all through Regionals in July, and several trials before. My frame contacts are still really good, Mum and I are both happy with them, no babysitting, no worries that I'll miss them no matter where she is. But we needed to find a way to retrain my dog walk running contacts.

We originally chose running contacts, because when I was just learning them a couple of years ago we tried 2o2o. The minute I'd try to stop, my backend would fall over my front end. It was kind of silly looking and not a good situation. We also found out later with other sheltie friends that it's pretty common with shelties. Most people want a nice running contact and I did before my muscle pull, but now that I'm faster and more eager, I'm blowing them. So, we decided to retrain them.

After a lot of thought on how to retrain them, we settled on a system. One that would give me specific criteria to meet, that would be clear, concise and one we could train on the flat and then apply it to the dog walk when we could get on the equipment at class. We reviewed Sylvia's method, and Rachel Sanders Frame method and more.

This is the plan we decided to follow:
  • Utilize a mousepad (for me, a yellow floppy disc for Gracie, since we decided to teach Gracie the same method) for (lack of a better word) targeting.
  • The criteria for targeting would be a paw touch on the pad - running to it and running off of it. Not a stop and not a nose touch, with the command 'get it.' (The command is so that we can continue to trial and work on our dog walk contact during trials, as well.)
  • Begin training the paw touch on the flat, utilizing clicker work to help me know exactly what the criteria is.
  • Move the mouse pad to a board (or in our case, our teeter board, since that's what we have at home), and continue the touch training.
  • Take the mousepad to our trainers once a week and work with the mousepad on the full dog walk; continuing to decifer my striding and where to place the mousepad.
  • Once the mousepad has found it's firm placement with my striding, and touches are hit 100%, begin to fade the mousepad by cutting it down in size over time. Also work on fading the size at home and continue working it on the flat.

So we've been into this work for about two weeks now. I only train on it a couple to few times per week. Gracie too.

During the first week, Trainer J didn't believe that I fully understood that the paw touch was the criteria, so we have continued to work to define it for me over the past week with clicker work on the flat. Mum thinks I'm really starting to get it now.

Here's a vid of our two weeks of work on the mouse pad. We added in the 'get it' during the second week. Mum's using 'get it' with me, but is still kind of shaping the behavior with Gracie.

This past weekend at the trial, Mum used 'get it' on almost all my dog walks. She saw me several times, look to the bottom of the dog walk and 'think' for a split second - gave me good boys for that. I didn't miss a single dog walk all weekend; so we think it's working.

Another one of the main goals is to get both me and Gracie good speed on the dog walk during this entire process. Gracie's dog walk is at about 1.8 seconds, mine is just under 3. So we'll be anxious to see how that goes as well.

Enjoy the vid!


  1. Try tossing the reward out ahead of the dog after the feet touch the mouse pad. You eventually want the dog to "touch and go"--to continue straight ahead, so you want to build that foundation from the start, even in early shaping sessions. The reward shouldn't be given from your hand, and the dog shouldn't be touching the target, changing direction, and coming to you for a reward. If I have time I'll post a short video--Emma is trained to touch a foot target.
    If you really want a thorough method for how to shape and use a foot target, get Ali Roukas' Running Contacts DVD. It's excellent.

  2. Hey Kathy, great to hear from you! Great thoughts and ideas, thanks.

    We're still in the early stages. I'm ok with doing that with Johann (throwing the reward and getting him to move from the start), did some of that from the beginning, it's just not in this video. And we're throwing the reward only in the next stages. I want both of them to know exactly what the criteria is before they progress.

    It's not easy to check the touch, click, throw, and then go give the treat, ya know :)

    And Gracie's different. I'm rewarding her from my hand only for now, because she needs more understanding of her job in the very beginning and that the reward is coming from me. She needs 'working with me' reinforcement, since she tends to run off sometimes in practice and always in trails.

    Eventually I want them to run in any direction after the touch as well - on a turn out, turn in, or straight ahead - so we will be working on that in the later stages, too.

    Looking forward to your vid!

  3. I will be interested to follow your progress with this. I recently started Rachel Sanders' pvc box method with the frame for one of my dogs but we haven't gotten very far with it yet. (Still on step 1/2 of the flatwork.) Might help if I actually practiced it more than just once in a while. lol!

  4. My mom and I are working on touching a target too. Mom says she loves your picket fence--I don't get why humans like fences; they make it so hard to go play with friends. woofs, Kharma

  5. Hi Johann!
    We think the mouse pad idea is great - I want to learn a running contact too (so far I can do 2o2o but mom is lazy at making me stop there until she releases me so it ends up being half 2o2o and half running - not clear for me at all!) We loved your video! Thanks as always for sharing your training ideas with us!

  6. LucyandWalter...understood, we need to practice more too. I'd love for Rachel S. to present something for dogwalks too. Maybe soon?

    Pogonip...can you believe that this is the only type of fence allowed in our development? This height, this exact spacing between pickets, etc. HOA folks actually came and measured the space between my pickets to make sure we were in compliance, sheesh!!!

    Hey Ricky - glad you like the stuff. I hope it works. At least we put a lot of thought into the steps before we started something this time, BOL!

  7. Jojo, we have HOA police too! Fun to bark at although Mom doesn't like them much.


Thanks for barking in!

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