28 May 2008

Proofing your dogwalk contact-a primer.

All right. We're back and it is contact bootcamp week at my house. I feel mean and surly and like I have bad contacts and we are going to revisit EVERYBODY's and by the time dog shows start again for us in July, we will have sparkling clean contacts, all shiny like they've been bleached and dusted and waxed and vacuumed and look way better than the floors in my house.

So everyone has different dogwalk contacts in my family. I didn't plan this, it just happened. I believe it is evolution. Or devolution. Or disintegration? OK. They're not that bad, actually, our contacts are fairly decent but with, surprise, training holes in them sometimes. So we are going to actually practice all methodical like and see what happens. Let's start with Ruby.

She has a running contact. Did I teach it with years of careful practice, starting on the low board and clicking for millions of repetitions until we had a shiny happy and perfect contact? Of course not. It started as a 2o/2o and somewhere I fell in with a fast, dangerous crowd and I guess the peer pressure was too much and I started a quick release and it felt so good and I did it some more and before I knew it, a dicey, fly by night running contact. I was hooked. It was there. We tried to quit it here and there, contact rehab and cold turkey, but the monkey's there, on my back, and the monkey whispers, "fly like the wind ruby, down that yellow, fast as you can." We sometimes blow it, but I'm pretty good at holding it together, man. Except when that tunnel is there, staring me in the face, the mouth of god there, rolling it's big round lips into words, rolling off it's tunnel lips, "You should really have a totally consistent contact." And she's in, she may have bailed the yellow, but there was just no stopping her. Tunnel sucks her in and she's a goner but it feels so good.

So our little patch of a fixup is I throw food at the bottom of the dogwalk. I reward almost all contacts in practice. I click for feet in the yellow. It's a fine, thin line we walk on, this so-called running dogwalk contact. We are practicing clicking for feet in yellow during bootcamp. We'll see how it goes when the dog shows start up again. How do you like that turn to the tunnel? Inside hand, good thing I had a clicker there in my outside hand to keep it occupied. I believe that is good handling. Although I do need to stay near her dogwalk, is my tradition and voodoo belief.

You know, she's just a damn good dog and ran a whole heckuvalotta dogwalks today after a several week agility vacation and did not miss a contact out of the bunch. Or a turn to the tunnel or a straight ahead with the tunnel there. And never seemed sore and happy to run later in the evening at the beach. We believe her to be in good health and good spirits and will take that over maybe sometimes missing a dogwalk contact if that's what we have to do.

Otterpop started her contact career with a four on the floor. Which turned running on occasion when the judge was on her back and she was running down the dogwalk, looking over her shoulder trying to decide to jump, or perhaps fly off the handle at the judge, and we just decide to keep on running and get AWAY from that judge. So when she's slower, I just let her run down the bottom. So she practices sometimes running, sometimes stopping. Her cue is whether I call ok on the top or target. God knows if she gets this or not. I used to think she got it just fine until recently.

We have been practicing back with targets lately because she started leaping dogwalk contacts a couple months ago out of the clear blue sky. Always something. I believe I had said something to someone like, "Oh, Pop NEVER misses a dogwalk contact." Was struck down then and there. The agility commandment, Though Shall be HUMBLE re. your Contact Performance. Her four on the floor can be little haphazard and if it's too far out, creates too wide of a turn to the tunnel.

For some reason, I didn't really deal with the word turn with her so much as just say tunnel and point my claw and in she goes. But she is always speedy into that tunnel because frisbees lurk in the air outside of tunnels is her belief and speedy fast she goes hoping to be right. And Otterpop is always right.

Gustavo. Who is enough of a monkey we just stayed old school and 2o/2o on that dogwalk and it's staying like that until I receive some message from some mouth of god, saying, "You can Quick Release now." Like way far, down the line. Until then, he's staying put there. Too wiggly and giggly and fidgety and quick. Like maybe when he is 7 years old and has no giant wart on his snout.

We proof. He does ok. Feet are not supposed to be on the target and what am I doing about it? Yeah, that would be nothing. Sometimes I just really suck at dog training. Pick yer battles. He stopped, didn't he? He's staying put. A nose went down. Details, details, details.

So he doesn't have a turn exactly so to get him in the tunnel. And because we haven't formally met the whole concept of Turn-Tunnel, I am fully escorting him there and yes that is my outside hand and pointy finger. Special occasion. I swear we won't do many of these til I teach the turn. But the other dogs were practicing and it's just a couple and you know I won't get hooked. What's one or two tunnels? I promise, I promise, I promise I'll set up the baby tunnel by the contact trainer, maybe today and start teaching it the real way. One or two little ones, it won't hurt. Right? Right? You are NOT telling Susan Garrett on me. Or Greg Derrett. I know it's his system. Put down that phone. I knew you were his best friend. It's just one little outside hand turn, that was it. I swear. OK. We are going to practice right now, I promise, I promise, I promise.


Anonymous said...

I think you should have one of your Project Runway designers come up with a stylish method to cover the pointy finger or keep the arm immobile so the pupsters wouldn't be confused by the pointy finger.

Double S said...

I'm so glad ur back to having the fun times with your Team of Small Fast Kick Yer Ass Dogs! Especially happy that Ruby is sound n' running in good form.

Today in my agility class we were being busted for "giving our dogs the [pointy] finger" when it wasn't appropriate... had to stifle a cackle due to your recent claw-busting here. See, we TSD readers really *do* need you and your self-deprecation, Captain!

Um, the running contact seems to be a move/behavior that's generating a whole mess of training recipes these days... do you feel that running contacts are the be-all-end-all for The Future of Agility, or do you think there is an advantage to sticking with the stop/release contact? Your editorial commentary would be appreciated.

team small dog said...

Yes, the hand flipper is what I am thinking, they sell them at surf shops. I think I am going to try running holding rocks tomorow.

The right contact for the right dog is like a constant source of entertaining conversation fodder and good thing to think about sitting in traffic jams. The fast border collies with running dogwalk contacts now could change judging as we know it, because they are so hard to see. Poor judges. I think staring at contacts all day would make me want to claw my eyes out and then someone is going to have the video where the dog really did hit it and we all have heard how that one goes...

If I had a big fast dog puppy right now, I am pretty sure I'd go old school on the dogwalk. I think those running dogwalk border collie people are brave souls with their own dogwalks. If I had a place to practice with more space, I would probably have tried a running dogwalk with Gustavo-I am really happy with how his running a-frame is going but I think that is easier to teach than the dogwalk. This is the first time I have taught an a-frame exclusively running, both the other dogs have a modified one from stopped contacts. And I have friends teaching their dogs a special Rachel Sanders running a-frame method right now which is kind of a cool way.

Also I wonder about people who are not fast runners having a running dogwalk. Sometimes they like to have some brakes. And for teaching in class, a 2o/2o is a lot easier to teach everyone in a busy class situation.

But you know how it can go. Once the brave pioneer dog trainers have found a way to get those running ones to stick, then us masses start to follow and then all of a sudden it's the cool thing and peer pressure to be as cool as the coolest and then we all start running dogwalks. And poor judges just start clawing at their eyes and weeping at all those dogwalks.

OBay Shelties said...

Oh my god you really made me laugh today! I think I need a team Small dog shirt for when I go to the European Open and the peer pressure makes me push those contacts. :-)

I just saw a blog yesterday where the dog was proofed to high hell on it's crate games and contacts and i was feeling like Oh such a lousy/lazy trainer until I read your post today!
Bernadette and the OBay shelties in England

team small dog said...

Well Bernadette, let's just say that we have not been invited to the European Open so I suspect you are doing something right with your contacts and likely for the European Open you should just succumb to peer pressure and kick some sheltie ass with some fast running contacts!