SUMMARY: OK! Time to get serious about agility training!
After everyone seemed light on the concept of Correct Contact Performance this last weekend--how did I manage to ruin Boost's Perfect Contacts? Really, they were the best I've ever had on a dog!?--I have vowed that we're all going to do 50 contacts a day here in the yard all week so we'll be prepared for this coming weekend's USDAA trial.
Although I don't know what it's worth--does Boost EVER leave a contact early here in the yard before being released? Not in the memory of humankind.
But what the heck, maybe if I do it often enough then it will overwrite the neural pathways that she has developed that say it's ok to leave the contact as soon as you feel like it. Research has shown that you can do that. That's kind of how you develop habits in your brain--do it over and over and your brain rewires itself. That's what neuro-linguistic programming is all about. Can one do NLP if one is a canine and doesn't have so much of the same linguistic capabilities? Can dogs do daily affirmations? Look in the mirror and say "I will do contacts correctly this weekend"?
I think perhaps we can do the equivalent with lots of repetition and reward.
So I will be a dog-brain rewiring specialist this week.
Yesterday we first revisited nose touches to a target. Ah, indeed, it's ok to just brush your nose past the surface of the target? Or swipe it along the target? Really? Did I ever teach them that? So instead of 50 contacts, we did 50 attempts to get them to >>ponk!<< their nose straight down on the target, not swipe, not push, not lower to their elbows first, not put a paw on it also. Just >>ponk!<< straight down and up. It's really lovely as long as I hold it in my hand at ground level or lean it against the toe of my shoe. Do you suppose the judge would mind if I stood at the end of the contact with a clear plastic target leaning on my shoe?
But there is something evil about the target lying flat on the ground. Really, once upon a time I could swear that we all did this correctly.
Actually, here in the yard, even without the target, Boost will bob her head up and down as if she were thinking about maybe ponking the target if it were there. I tried that this weekend in the ring after many many, shall we say hundreds, of leaving the contact earlies. She just stared at me. Stared. Like, "'Touch?' What is this noise you make?"
OK, so we will also do 50 jumps a day to learn once and for all that knocking the bars isn't an OK thing. Yesterday we probably didn't do 50 each. Might have done 20 each. If I were a Four Star Trainer, I would be logging these things so I'd know exactly how many I actually do. We all seemed to be getting the idea. Until we'd throw in a sequence, then we'd go back to whack-a-bar.
I'm jumping them both at 28" or so this week because we have a USDAA trial this weekend. I think Tika can handle a week of that. And Boost usually jumps 22", so maybe if I get her used to thinking higher and working harder at it, she'll pay attention.
But I also know that I need to work on her just *doing the obstacles in front of her* for crying out loud instead of looking at me. Or, officially, doing obstacles between me and her. Like, say, on a straight line to a turn where I'm calling her and have done the front cross and she's still blasting straight ahead full speed, looking at me and not bothering looking to see whether there's an actual obstacle there to take.
Oh, yes, we have lots of info on how to fix these things.
I just have to do it.