a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Dogwalk Up Contact

Friday, October 13, 2006

Dogwalk Up Contact

SUMMARY: Addressing a long-standing problem

Tika has missed enough Qs (or, in the case of Grand Prixs, clean runs) by going over the up contact on the dogwalk that I've known for probably three years at least that I should do something about it. I really meant to do something about it before last year's Scottsdale Nationals, and didn't get around to a private with Nancy until about a month before, which is really a stupid time to be trying to fix a major problem like that--and then we spent most of the time on attention and obedience stuff because Tika was being such a pill!

We did try adjusting her stride with barriers, but (as I reported then, I believe), she ended up finding amazingly creative ways to blast literally halfway up the dogwalk ramp before setting fooot on it. So, last year at Scottsdale, we missed the Grand Prix semifinals by about 4 dogs (out of 150 or so)--you guessed it, it was an up contact that dropped us below the cutoff.

Similar to what I have. The board is about a foot square and beeps when when pressure is applied near the center. It looks and feels like part of a dogwalk up-ramp.
So REALLY I was going to do something about it this year. So I am. Now that it's a month before Scottsdale (sigh), I've finally gotten a hit-it contact trainer. I worked with Tika for a month or so beforehand on just a plain square of wood, painted and textured the same way, trying to get her to move across it and hit it with her front foot, but it was hard for me to see whether she was succeeding and I'm afraid that my clicking was off. So we made some progress but not a lot. I needed something that would give a more reliable notice to the dog that she had hit the sweet spot.

Have had this for about a week now, and have been working on it every day. It's very odd. Going in one direction, she almost always hits in; going in the other direction, almost always steps over it. I've tried holding goodies or toys in the opposite hand, tried staying back away from her, tried tossing the goodie right on the ground in front of her so she keeps her head down (which she doesn't; she's still looking up at me when she gets to the board before she hits it)....

Oh, I just had a flash of inspiration. Maybe I could combine the treat'n'train with the hit-it contact trainer to keep her from looking at me for a reward? If she hits the beeper, I could use the remote to drop a goodie... hmmm, but then I could go in only one direction at a time over the trainer, not back and forth. OK, worth a shot.

Then, when she's doing it consistently, get her somehow to go faster and faster. Then, when it's the way I want it (ideally, she runs across it and hits the beep), I put a command to it. Then I move the beeper board onto a flat board on the ground and get her to do it there. Then I try putting the board on a ramp up, maybe to the deck, so she doesn't have to go all the way across the dogwalk to get the reward. THEN I put it on the actual dogwalk...

Can I do this in 17 days? Argh. Unlikely... But here we go again... She's clever and motivated and energetic; I just have to find the right way to convey the info quickly and efficiently.

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