Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Plan

Brief Introduction
I've decided to create a blog dedicated to my summer contact retraining of my sheltie, Bentley.  He's a great, biddable little dog with horrible contacts.  He's managed to string enough Qs together to get into advanced, but his contacts are worse and worse so it's time for drastic measures.  We plan to retrain his 2o2o (2 on, 2 off) contacts to become running contacts.  This is my summer project, and this blog is a way for me to measure his progress (and mine, too!).

Here's a video from his most recent Standard run.  It was the last run of the trial and his contacts detoriorated as the trial went on.  So without further ado, here is our
"In the beginning..." video:

With that out of the way, our plan is to follow Silvia Trkman's method.  Being the novice handler that I am, I'm not really sure I understand all of the methods out there.  I did eliminate Rachel Sanders' box method because it expects the dog to have 2 contacts on the up and 2 contacts on the down of the A-frame.  This seems unreasonable to ask of Bentley (not a fast, excitable dog).  The Trkman method (slowly) teaches the dog to correctly stride to the end of the contact obstacle, starting with flat work.

Here's a good website with some information:

Two Main Concerns of a Running Dogwalk:
1-- Accuracy:  It seems that many argue that a 100% rate of meetiing criteria is impossible, or difficult.  Obviously others disagree.  My thought is this--what we are doing now is NOT working.  We have tried over the past few months to start over with 2o2o, with little improvement.  If we could get Bentley to a high rate of success (not 100%), I would be satisfied.  We aren't out to make Nationals, so I'm okay with less than 100% success.
2--Speed:  The other big concern is whether or not you can keep up with a dog that has a running dogwalk.  The advantage of 2o2o with a speedy dog is that it allows the handler to catch up and direct the dog to the next obstacle.  The reason that I am not concerned about this is that I have come to the conclusion that Bentley will never be an extremely fast dog.  He is too cautious.  It is in his personality.  I guarantee that I can beat him to the end of the dog walk every time, 2o2o or running, either way.  As of now, it takes him almost 4 seconds on the obstacle (with a target plate, so the "creeping factor" isn't slowing him down when clocked at 4 seconds).

Starting tomorrow, 4/26, the plan is to get Bentley outside working on flatwork (just a board 12' long, 1' wide  with a contact zone painted on) until he has a high rate of success striding to the end of the board.  Clicking and rewarding for correct strides, ignoring and trying again for jumping off of the board.

I have no idea what to expect, so we shall see how it goes.  Expect more tomorrow!

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