WARNING THIS IS A LONG POST AND JUST WORKING OUT MY THOUGHTS AND MY PLAN FOR WHAT WE WILL BE DOING WITH OUR CONTACTS. I suspect most people will not want to wade through all these thoughts, LOL. WELL, because Breeze has a definate physical problem with her hips, whether it is causing her problems now or will ever cause her problems......she does have arthritis starting, and so after reading Chris Zinc, DVMs thoughts on the safest contact performance, and after talking to lots of people I had deceided to do a four on the floor contact with Breeze, I can be pretty consistent when I want so I felt like it was worth trying if we could make it easier on her body, and my instructor felt that it would be best to just keep it the same with both dogs, so that is what was chosen for Lizzie too. Chloe the sheltie does a gorgeous 2O2O but she has injured her shoulders in the past with that, so....I have taught her to rock back and sort of angle down on the down side and we just dont do many because she already will blow off a tunnel or jump if she sees the AFrame or dog walk, especially the dog walk, so we really dont need to make that more valuable now do we? Anyway, Liz learned it right away and LOVES going to her mat and HAD the most beautiful performance. Breeze took a long time to learn it and I was hating mat work for a bit, but she finally got it and her natural default behavior is a down so it does work really well for her too. Let me clarify this is a modified running contact if you want to define running contact meaning that they dont stop in the contact zone and stride right through. But it is a definate stopped contact. The dog strides up and over the contact, the way it has been working they lower and start to drop a stride or two before the mat and when they reach the mat they crouch into a down and then wait for a release. I have all my criteria for the obstacle written out and I review it pretty often to make sure I am watching all the criteria. YIPPIE, SKIPPIE, it all works fantastically well and gets the job done. UNTIL when my instructor was gone and we spent about a month without working contacts, Liz has gotten more confidence, and you know that border collie is always thinking of ways to do things a little easier and faster.... Anyway, first thing to happen was Liz was making this big splat sound when going on the upside of the contact. I rewound and checked the video and sure enough she was consistently missing the upcontact, she would jump right up past the upcontact, do a mighty leap over the apex and then continue on her way. The rest of it looked all right. I was not excited over putting out a big stride regulator to make her jump and land closer to the Aframe so she would have to be safer and stride in the upcontact, but we hauled it out and I tried to find it a home in my car for traveling, LOL. So that worked for.....hummmm....a few days, until I figured out where the stride regulator should be to really make my upside look good. About that time Liz started a bad curling in behavior turning toward me on the mat.....so I brought out my treat and train-worked with the mat on the flat to get her really used to driving to the mat and looking ahead and not having to look at me, and tried to get her to use more toys for her release so I could throw those over her path of vision and away from me, and I noticed....... YIKES, once we got her striding nicely over the upside, we got a leap from the upside over the Apex, down to the bottom of the green, before the contact started and then she leaps down onto the mat where her bottom is touching the bottom of the contact. HOW COULD SHE DO THAT???? A person had warned me that would happen, LOL, but I hadnt really believed them, but YIKES. So CRAP, that wasnt going to be acceptable now was it. So I reviewed all of Ann Crofts work with four on the floor which we had modified and put our own spin on it, and here is what I think was missing from my initial training:::
1. I think I taught Liz to approach the obstacle and stride up and over, but she just was happening to stride through the yellow to get to the mat. Lizzie Lou figured out a way around that and figured she would save me some time, she knows this is a game about time, so in her defence I never made it clear that striding through the yellow was part of it, just get your butt to the mat. So now I see why Ann insists on using the hoop at the bottom, a concrete way for the dog to know they have to also go to the bottom of the obstacle not just fly on down.
2. I have never rewarded striding, and as Alicia says collection on the obstacle, again I just figured because it was there to begin with it would always be there, humm, guess that isnt necessarily so.
3. I ASSUMED to hit the mat when it is very close to the bottom of the Aframe that it would be automatic that there would be a stride through the yellow contact zone, WRONG on that one, LOL.
4. I think I totally underestimated Lizzies WHOO HOO behaviors. She is a weird combination of wanting to please me and being fundamentally soft, and being totally exciteable and over the top so it makes it really hard for her to keep her head at times. I know I always need to have VERY CLEAR consistent criteria and this is one case where I think she needed more criteria and my criteria was not nearly as clear as I thought it was, there were loop holes-DRATS.
5. I think that Liz just hasnt a clue how to work out her striding, when we fix the upramp the down side is messed up, when the downside was gorgeous the upside was a mess, think she needs to actually be taught again HOW to go over the obstacle and how to handle her body, along with criteria she understands to make the obstacle safe. GUESS WE GOT SOME WORK TO DO.
So this ends up at the current conflict about what we are going to do with this contact stuff. the Options:
1. to do a 2O2o, which will probably take care of the problem EXCEPT seeing how Liz is handling stuff now I think she still needs to learn to stride correctly or I am SURE she will leap from the top of the obstacle into a 2o2o position and I can not imagine what that will look like for her shoulders. So it might take care of the hitting the yellow problem but not sure that will automatically make it a safer performance. So I think I can only do that if I do some other training too.
2. I always like new things......and reading the clean run article about the Rachel Saunders running contact training on the Aframe, just sounds very intriguing-would be totally cool to be able to teach the striding and body collection on the flat. Liz is very clicker savy and picks things up quickly. So here is the crazy idea, why couldnt I train the box and still add on the mat behavior at the end? Eventually weaning that out and ending up with a running Aframe???
3. I could go back and work on my four on the floor, add in the hoops, start with the low aframe and work on teaching Liz to collect on the obstacle, being more clear about encouraging her to look elsewhere. The bummer with this whole situation is Ann just started a series of articles with revisions for the four on the floor, some of the things that sound like they have been revised sound like they address some of my issues, so wouldnt it be nice if I could read it all now and not have to wait three more months??? That would be too easy to let me read all the new hints and tips now, right???
So, the plan.....taaaa daaaaaa, is to stay off the Aframe for the moment, no big hurry to rush into anything, and going to do some work on the flat and see how it goes, feel my way through and come up with a plan. Breeze is not working contacts right now, so .......good thing I have some time to modify my training and deceide what I want to do for her-last she was on the contacts she had a gorgeous four on the floor, but seeing her excitement, not sure how that will end up.