…and bang your forehead against that square as many times as it takes. 

Ok, for real. Let’s look at the facts.  I started training Idgie her running dogwalk when she was about a year old.  She is now almost 2 and a half.  So, a year and a half into this thing, and we’ve been competing for about 4 months.  Her first two trials she was 100% awesome and never missed a contact.  Then stuff started to slide a little, and as she gained confidence in competition she started to bust out of her lovely rotarty gait and leap off the DW right about where the yellow starts.  She still only got called on about half of her DWs in competition, until we trialed in USDAA where the contact zones are itty bitty and she started getting called more often.  Now we’re still at about a 50% F rate in competitions, but she is almost never meeting my “rotary gait to the ground” criteria in practice.  So, it appears as though her DW is broken.  I continue to not train her A Frame and we continue to rarely get called on it, though video review indicates that she is hitting the yellow VERY high up on the AF when she is hitting it at all.   But, when she is good she is very very good on the AF.  Which is what she does most of the time in practice.  Her 2on2off teeter remains beautiful.

Why is this happening?  Well, as much as I would like to know the answer to that one I know that good dog training dictates that you really shouldn’t dwell on that question.  Instead, just figure out what you’ve got and what you want and devise a plan to move from A to B.  The crappy thing about point A, where I am right now, is that when I “correct” the girlie for jumping (meaning I say whoops! and withold her reward and head back to the start of the dogwalk to try again) she often goes ahead and jumps again.  Which means she doesn’t know what she is supposed to do, because she would fix it on the second try if she did.  Bleh.

Idgie has a great rotary gait across the dogwalk.  She breaks out of it and jumps right at the top of the yellow, almost every time.  I want her to maintain that rotary gait all the way to the ground.  Here are things I have come up with:

  • Just teach her a f*cking 2on2off.  There. I said it.
  • Teach her a f*cking 2on2off and use it in trials while I take the time necessary to retrain her running DW from the ground up, using the Trkman method again.
  • Continue trialing her with her fake running DW while I retrain her DW using Trkman from the ground up.  I will not give her verbal cue “run” in competition.
  • Train her a 2on2off to use in competition while I fix her broken running DW using one of the following “new” things I have thought up:
  • Reinforce her early. Click her while she is in the rotary gait and then move in to reinforce, regardless of what happens after that.  Slowly change my click timing until I am clicking her right before the jump.  I would probably do some sort of physical thing (like a stupid hoop…barf) at the bottom just to prevent jumping while I reinforced the rotary gait.  Not nuts about this idea…but it is a thought.  I am just not sure I will be able to reinforce properly.
  • Change her criteria.  The whole reason I liked Trkman in the first place is because it doesn’t involve any regulating of the dog’s strides, changing how they choose to run the thing.  I have a hit-it board, and I am considering teaching her to punch the hit-it (that will be easy, she will love it).  Then I will add the hit-it to the bottom of the board (on the ground) and then move it up onto the board.  She will then make an effort to hit a certain spot in the yellow every time, which I think will encourage her to maintain her rotary gait…??? 

Bottom line: I am not actually ready to ditch this thing yet.  But, I am not averse to the idea of teaching her BOTH a 2on2off and a running DW. 

Some stuff I did today:

Put out the little post that I used to teach her to turn off the dogwalk, and put it on the side I was running on, each time.  The first time, she JUMPED OVER it.  But I stopped her and made her try again, and her contact improved (still not criteria, but she was much much closer), which I take to mean that she understands how to turn around the post–at least that’s something.  Then, I set a jump out.  Just about 8 feet away from the end of the dogwalk.  I intentionally put it that close because I know she can bounce a jump that distance easily, and I wanted to see where her priorities were.  She BOUNCED straight off the DW to take the jump.  It was actually hilarious 🙂  When I NRMd her she ran the contact the second time. Still not quite rotary to the ground, but she jumped off from the middle of the yellow (which I have to admit I accept a lot of the time–it’s so hard to see!).  She failed to take the jump but I didn’t care.  Then, and THEN….I asked her to stop.  My 2on2off cue is a hissing sound, just a sssssssss as the dog decends the plank (there are a LOT of reasons for that, but that’s another blog), and I through it out there to see what happened.  She stopped four off (poor girlie didn’t know how to slow down on the DW!) and looked at me like “what the f–” so I praised her and we tried again.  That time she nailed it.  Ran all the way across and then PLANTED in her 2on2off and weight-shifted back.  It was a thing of beauty.  Then this really cool thing happened.  I asked her to run.  And she ran the best she had the whole session.  Could it be that asking her to stop actually clarified how to run?  I don’t know.  But I’m going to keep playing with this.  We’ll see!

Cheers.

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