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- My dog has reliable 2on2off contacts. Should I retrain?

 

No. You should avoid retraining as much as possible: more you retrain, more youíre confusing your dog. However, if you're not happy with your 2on2off performance, you might indeed want to rethink the retraining. As with every retrain, it takes more time and effort as it would with a fresh dog and even after all the training, some experienced agility dogs have problems transferring the behaviour to the competition ring. It depends on each particular dog, some had no problems shifting to the new behaviour and some had so many that their handlers eventually decided to go back to the old method, so... It's hard to say. The good thing is, though, that training for running contacts never really ruined the old behaviour, so you're not risking much, other than some additional training hours with your dog:).

 

 

- Why didn't you retrain Lo to running contacts?

 

Lo was the one that made me think in the direction of running contacts: she is great little dog that loves to run, but as it's written in her breed standard:), she has "maximum of nervous energy" and finds it very hard to be static, that's why she never liked stopped contacts and that's where we loose lots of time. My guess was that La won't like it any more as Lo, so I started her on a plank right from the beginning, despite not knowing for sure what I'll get. When I saw the method is really working and proved great in competition too, Lo was 7 years already. Not really old for a PyrShep, but her major problem is that she is afraid of height and I didn't quite see how to train running contacts since she would have a problem turning on a high object and I don't have an option to set a real dog-walk in my apartment. Also, while she might run on a low plank full speed, I don't think she could ever run full speed over a full-size dog-walk, especially not one that she doesn't know, so that would change the picture completely too. - That's why I decided not to go into it, I already retrained her contacts so many times that I don't want to confuse her with it any more than that. Retraining to running contacts is a long process anyway and for a dog with 7 years of experience of stopping on contacts (and leaping over it occasionally...) and is afraid of height, running contacts wouldn't be my advice anyway. As I mentioned before: you should think twice before you go into it.

 

 

 

- I don't have an access to competition size dog-walk, our club has a dog-walk of different lenght and height. Can that cause my dog to miss his contacts in competition, on normal equipement?

 

My guess would be that it depends on a dog and how good he gets in making adjustments to get till the end... From my dogs, I'm pretty sure La and Bi would do just fine - while Bu would for sure need at least occasional training on a real dog-walk. The general rule would be that the shorter strides the dog has and better understanding he has, less problems it could cause.

 

 

- I started the plank work, but my dog is very shy&sensitive, a kind of like your Lo, and will slow down completely when I say "no" when she jumps at the end of a plank.

Oh, no, my Lo is lion brave in comparison to Bu... She had many traumas as the puppy, but she never shuts down like you describe - it's not Lo-like at all, when Lo has a feeling something is not quite right, she only gets louder and more hysterical, but will never shut down: more you frustrate her, more energy she'll be putting into it. What you describe is very Bu-like.

First thing you should do is to stop saying "no". I don't know how soft or not you say it, but I use very soft and almost happy "ups" - it shouldn't sound like "no, don't do that", but like "what a great joke, but you're still not getting a reward for that". HOWEVER, with extremely soft, sensitive, Bu-like dogs, even that is too much. So what I did when contact was not as good as I wanted was to simply send her around me and back to a plank, with a happy excited voice, but no click&no reward. Also, when starting with normal dog-walk, I just ignored the jumps, didn't stop her but continue a sequence so that it took me back to dog-walk eventually and when it was good, went absolutely frantic about how great she is. The funny thing with Bu is that even if you click& reward, she will sometimes not believe you she did good enough and starts to worry, so you really need to act as the happiest person in the world for like 10 minutes before she believes it. I was never so tired as I am after every training with her, I sure do miss La's attitude: "it's your fault, we all know I'm perfect". If your dog is a worrier, make sure you don't give him any reason to worry!

With Bu-like dogs, you can't afford too many mistakes + you can't afford marking them, so
1. don't say anything, stay happy, send her back happily
2. heave it even less as you do: one by one centimetre if it's needed for her to succeed

At this stage, you shouldn't be getting much jumping anyway, your plank should be so low that it should still be natural for her to just run. If positioning of the legs is not perfect, don't worry about it, reward everything that is not actual jump (meaning prolonging a stride at the end or making it higher). You will work on positioning of legs later.

 

 

- I measured my dog's stride length and it's about 1.2m, meaning that if she just runs, she will miss the contact sometimes.

Do you have idea how Bu corrects for this to meet your criteria?

 

You're too scientific for this method:). You need to be more philosophical:).

In initial phases of training, my only focus is that a dog runs full speed, with constant stride length, no prolonging of a stride at the end or making it higher or whatever. Later on, when you have more of an angle, dogs seem to choose to take a last stride from the middle of the contact on their own, I think it's most comfortable to them. Of course, they sometimes don't get there, so you then just don't reward those and eventually, with lots of practice, they learn how to adjust their striding to get there. But it does take some time, since they need to learn how to get there no matter what their speed over the dog-walk is: coming to dog-walk from an angle or straight etc. It's normal your dog can't do it after few days of plank work!

Bu adjusts her stride at the point where horizontal ramp meets a down ramp: she will stretch out there just as much as necessary to get on a contact. It's only on new, strange dog-walks that sometimes she won't feel comfortable to stretch enough and in those cases, contact won't be just as nice. Every next try on new dog-walk is then better.

 

 

- What exactly is your definition of jumping? For example, on this video, would you reward all tries? 

 

From this video, I would reward all tries yes, but would jackpot/reward more enthusiastically those that are very low. For me, a dog is jumping when the last stride is higher or longer as his normal stride. That earns no reward. All other tries do, if you're too picky about foot placement, you loose some speed and frustrate some dogs, so I prefer to be more generous with my rewards. Foot placement is more easily trained when you already have some angle (as it's more visible where the end is) and they learn it somewhere on a way anyway, because of jackpotting the best ones, without any special focus on it right from the beginning.

 

Those two pictures might help you see the difference between jumping and running:

 

See Bi's hind feet. On a first photo, she is attacking her toy, jumping on it with hind feet leaving the floor at the same time. On a second photo, she is running, her hind feet are seperated - and that's what you should look for on a plank too.
 

 

- I only reward hits in a bottom third of a contact, is that right or am I being too picky?

I think that's too picky yes. If you limit a dog to such a small space, you limit his options on how to get there and make it too hard, sometimes even impossible without slowing down. All I ask for is a foot in bottom two thirds and with Bu and Bi, I get all possible variations of that, depending on approach and exit from a dog-walk. La is stuck to one particular way of doing it (front foot on bottom third of a contact) - and is less reliable and slower on a dog-walk as Bu or Bi, so I would loosen that criteria up a little bit if I were you. The easiest the behaviour is for a dog to do, the easiest it is for you to maintain it as it doesn't need much reinforcing once it's trained.

 

 

- My plank is still on the floor, but since I don't see the difference between running and jumping that well, I simply click for anything in last two thirds of the contact. Is that o.k.?

 

Not really: at the beginning stages, your major focus should be that he is running, not jumping, so it's better to click for hind feet separation as opposed to placement of feet. At this stage, it's not fair to expect from a dog to see the difference between a plank and its end and the ground (that's exactly the idea behind it all!), so I would click anything that is not jumping. Only later, when you have 100% of running and the plank is creating an angle with the ground, I start to pay attention to paw positioning too and jackpot the lowest and not reward the highest. Before an end of a plank creates an angle with the ground, it's unrealistic to expect a dog to be able to know where the end is and what to do with it.

 

 

- My plank is still on the floor, but my dog keeps jumping off the end every time anyway.

 

I had a similar problem with Bi. So I stopped training running contacts and just played ball:), throwing it so that she was running over the plank while chasing it. She jumped everything for first few sessions, but then settled and I finally got something to click and rewarded her enthusiastically. I let her have her ball every time, as I would loose the speed otherwise, but only played with her enthusiastically when I saw some hind feet separation. After several sessions of just jumping, we got to 99% running in one session then and she never failed to meet that % again after that session.

 

The only important thing is that your plank is really thin and wide enough. If so, the problem will disappear once he doesn't see it as a plank anymore, but instead just run to get that ball.

 

 

- What to do to prevent a dog gets a reward from a bowl after he jumps?

 

Well, you have different options: 1. you call her off the bowl, 2. you let her have it and make sure you reward even more when she is running all the way down and 3. you have somebody there to take it away. I did 1 and/or 2 with my dogs - mostly 2, especially with Bi. She got that ball every time, but she knew the difference, because if I clicked for the contact, she came back enthusiastically right away, expecting some more playing. And when I didn't click, she knew to just bring the ball back, spit it out and try again. Especially with soft&sensitive dogs, it's always better to reward some more as some less, otherwise you'll loose the speed and enthusiasm - the most important thing for running contacts!

 

 

- How long is your plank? I was told you need a real size equipment for training running contacts.

 

With my method, you don't need any real agility equipment, just a plank. I live in an apartment, so I can't afford much more than that anyway:). The length doesn't matter, as long as a dog can develop some speed on a plank and/or before it - what does matter is that a dog runs the plank with full speed. My plank is about 2/3 of dog-walk down ramp and my dogs performance of contacts doesn't change on different lengths of a ramp. They know how to adjust their striding to take the last one from the end and are not stuck with the same striding pattern over the whole obstacle.
 

 

- You say: "Donít make a dog hit a contact as such by using low stride regulator: use one at the top, just to make a dog think about his striding." Why do you do think a low stride regulator is bad? Why do you think the stride regulator at the top helps that more than a low stride regulator?

 

I don't think that, I think it helps LESS and that's exactly why I put it there (IF I put it - I normally DON'T use it at all!). The catch is that I don't want to help the dog with stride regulations in a first place!!! If I did, I would be using "stride regulations" method, but I don't, I use my own method that is described above. Stride regulations have no or very, very little place in it (we used it with 2 out of +100 dogs). And no, I don't think stride regulations are bad, itís just that in my training, I by all means avoid tools that would need to be faded. Thatís why I don't like stride regulators, hoops, guides on weave-poles, whatever - that doesn't mean they're bad, I just personally don't like them. Small stride regulator at the top of a dog-walk is the only thing that I might sometimes use, but even that was used for 1 dog per 60, trained by this method.

 

 

- Where could I see some videos of dogs, being trained by that method and what are their dog-walk times?

 

Here is the video of 20 different dogs (10 large, 9 medium and 1 small), trained by my method, here is a new training  video of Bi on a plank and the old ones of La, turning after contacts, Bu,  running dog-walk, Bu, running A-frame and some more La and Bu on dog-walk (including Bu's 1.3s dog-walk) and A-frame. The fastest dog-walk of Bu that I have on video took her 1.335s and the fastest dog-walk of La on video is 1.462s (measured from the time when first paws make a contact with a plank to the time when the last leg leave it). Most of the dogs, trained by this method, have 1.5 to 1.6s, in maximum 1.7s dog-walks.

 

Some more links to videos of various dogs in various training stages, being trained (or retrained) by my method: PyrShep Luka, Poodle Chica, BC BlueBoy and BC Solar (several videos, showing the whole process), PyrShep Vigo, PyrShep Noun, BC Bilbo, BC SmittenBC Gorgeous,   BC Klepto, BC Rocket, BC Gyp, BC Bi, mix Jimmy, Mudi Pletyka, Croatian Sheepdog Kaj, PRT Skye, Sheltie Rici, Malinois Chelsea.

 

Testimonials:

I run a rat terrier named Dylan.  Just a small background...She is my first dog so to have some control she had two on two off contacts.  Then we went to a running Aframe and she LOVED it and it is very speedy and consistant!  She came to have a terrible DW though.  The creeping got so bad that one summer she was at a just over 9 second dogwalk performace.  My instructor, Jen Pinder, said lets try to speed that up first before we automatically go to a running.  Even at it's best, it still wasn't ok for the level I wanted to compete at.  So, we decided to go with your running DW method.  She is SOOO happpy being allowed to just run.  She likes not having to think about a certain spot to touch a certain paw, but is happy to just run.  She picked it up so quickly too.  In the video clips, the first few "In Action" shots are after only 2 and a half months of work!

Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for all the info on your wonderful running DW training method.  It has made a huge difference.  She's so much happier on the DW which has produced a much faster overall course.

 
Thanks again!
 
Angie Benacquisto and Dylan 

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