I hope you like running contacts because you might be reading a lot about them in near future. I *tried* coming up with a different topic for this blog post, I really did, but the thoughts about RC just wouldn’t go away.
We hit a very important milestone last week: Java is adjusting her stride to hit the target!!!
I suspected it before, but I couldn’t be sure because there isn’t enough space in my living room to vary the distance much. But last week I was able to train her at a bigger distance and she was hitting the same way no matter where she started. Not only there were no misses, but majority of the hits were very precise: first front paw hit the edge of the target, followed by the other three paws neatly spread out across a 30x80cm target. I’m over the moon that she adjusted her stride to give me the best possible hit. 🙂
We’re training on three different targets:
- Non slip bath mat, white, 30x75cm, very thin – gives me the best hits
- Non slip mat for washing machine, black, 30x60cm, 1cm thick – gives good hits, but I think it might look confusing on my carpet. It’s also harder to see black feet on a black mat…
- Dog pillow, blue, 50x70cm, 5cm thick – this one is very tempting to jump over, which is great for teaching Java a difference between good and bad tries
One of Susan Garret’s Puppy Peaks videos shows Swagger running across a low wobble board as preparation for his running contacts and now I’m thinking that it would make sense to make such a board for Java as well. I’m guessing that a dog who can confidently stride through a wobble board won’t have so many problems if the training plank will wobble a little bit. I already have a wobble board in my “dog gym” (my living room 🙂 ), but its fulcrum is way too high to run through. I need something lower.
Along with working different targets it’s also time to pay more attention to turns. I like the idea of working on these from the ground up, so that the dog experiences the differences in contact hits when going straight vs when turning. We have only done a few sessions on turns so far, so it’s high time to get more serious about it.
I have to admit I’m a little unsure about what I like vs what I dislike which is why I have been avoiding them. What do I do when front feet hit the target, but one of the rear feet hits next to the target during a turn? Do I reward that? On a dog walk that rear foot would hit thin air, so I would be rewarding an impossible turn execution.
We’re training turns using a cone/pole to wrap around, so we don’t have problems with missing the target. I did try one session without a pole and Java started just skimming the target, but we soon came to an understanding that she needs to actually hit it. Still, those hits were quite high on the target and I would prefer her to cover the target well and then turn, so I went back to using a pole. Turning high on the contact might be OK on a full dog walk (haven’t decided yet), but while the target is still on the ground I see no reason to let her do it that way.
Then there is also a lurking struggle with stopping vs running. Sometimes Java decides that the training setup looks like 2o2o and offers stopping on the target, especially when the reward is in front of her, because that’s how we proofed 2o2o and she was very good at it. I can usually break her out of it by changing the setup, but it would be nice if we got to a point where I could use a static reward without confusion.
So obviously plenty of things to work on, but for now my heart is singing because Java is adjusting her stride to hit 🙂 Surely everything will be easy now!