a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Retraining Dogwalk Up Contact

Monday, August 13, 2007

Retraining Dogwalk Up Contact

SUMMARY: Been busy and motivated

So, now, with only a week and a half to go until our next trial, followed by a zillion trials between now and USDAA Nationals, I've found the motivation (again) to work on Tika's dogwalk up contact. My instructor asked a few weeks ago how often she was missing it in competition, and I guessed 10%. That was bad enough. So I went home and checked my database for '06 and '07, and out of 11 Grand Prixs, she's been called for the dogwalk up contact 3 times. That's more than 25%. In Masters Standard, out of 30 runs, she's been called on it 4 times. That's 13%. So it's a real issue. I *knew* it was... it's just a pain trying to decide what to do about it.

My current working theory has been that I'd teach her to hit a target with her feet and keep running, and then move that target to the base of the dogwalk. Well--

I started earlier this year (or was it last year? time flies when you're procrastinating) with a beeper board. Then, when she was paying more attention to me and my clicker than to the board, I added a treat'n'train 10 feet beyond that, so if she beeped the board, I hit the remote for the TNT. She just wasn't being accurate about hitting the board, so I eventually lost interest (especially since I had to set things up every time, and I'm just too lazy for that much setup).

So last week I went back to just the beeper board and throwing a treat ahead of her on the patio. After 2 days, the beeper board stopped working. Crap. I bought it used from a friend, but it worked fine BEFORE and it still wasn't cheap.

So now I've reverted to just a small phone book wrapped in black duct tape. And I'm discovering that she *still* doesn't have the idea of hitting it while running. So I've gone back to a combination of having her just step onto it and then rewarding with treats right on the thing, between her feet, so she's really aware of where her feet are, and releasing fast to a thrown toy or treat.

Meanwhile, I disassembled my dogwalk and laid the two ramps flat on the ground end-to-end and started getting Tika used to the idea that she still had to run from where I put her on until the end and do the 2-on/2-off touch at the end. Confused her a bit at first, but now she seems to have that idea. Then I need to combine them with the target at the beginning of one end, have her hit it, reward, and then release to drive to the other end.

I didn't want to get into a mode of having her stop; wanted one smooth motion. If I were a better trainer, I'd have figured out how to do this more effectively. But there seems to be no standard way of training running UP contacts. I've also toyed with the idea of putting a low hoop over the dogwalk entry, like we did in training with the Aframe for Boost to keep the dog from slamming into the surface but rather running up it. But although I think that might work with a young dog in training, to build muscle memory, I'm less hopeful of my ability to fade that with a dog who's been competing for 4 years already.

Likewise with obstacles placed on the up ramp. We experimented with tika trying to find a good spot, but she always managed to adjust her stride to go wayyyy over them. I did go out and buy some pool noodles the other week, too, because they're easy to carry around and bungie onto the dogwalk.

If I had TWO dogwalks, I could be working the hit-the-target and the hoop-plus-pool-noodle angle simultaneously, but I've got only one, and it's currently disassembled.

And then I have to decide what I want to do in class for the next couple of weeks--be a good trainer and avoid the dogwalk? Or quickly reassemble the dogwalk here and try to figure out how & where to place the pool noodles to get her to shift her stride?



  1. *Whew*...just reading all of this wears me out.

    Poor Tika and what she goes through with you...you really ARE a stubborn little wench during her training runs of you, aren't you???

    You know, this would ALL go much smoother if you'd just give in and do it as Tika wants.

    (Stupid, stubborn humans...sticking to their guns that *they're* in charge...)

  2. Ah, yes, and all of this would be unnecessary if stubborn USDAA would stop judging up contacts--sticking to their guns that they're in change... Anyone out there who thinks that it's a good idea to judge them?


  3. Not me. I hate that stupid up contact. Yeah, I've got big strided dogs (Lola has stilts for legs) and I feel your pain. It seems that some of the judges are lenient with judging them though, we've gotten quite a few gimmes on the ups lately.

    We have a fast Great Dane in the area and that handler initially had her practically stop in front of the dogwalk-o.k. for novice but a refusal in the upper levels. She changed it to more of a stride regulator move, getting the dog to hit a spot just before the dogwalk to alter the stride enough to hit the yellow. I'm not sure what she's doing now several years later as she's in the same class as me so I seldom get to watch her but they have a very high Q rate.