Friday, November 28, 2014

Project Dog Walk

Let me preface this post by saying that I am a big believer in Agility Evolution. Collectively as a sport, we are growing, learning, adjusting every day.  And so we rightfully should.  I have very little respect for trainers that get stuck in a rut due to prideful arrogance or ignorance.  Obviously I have training 'rules' and systems in place, not only when running my own dogs, but also when teaching students. All trainers should, having criteria (and being consistent within your criteria) is the basis of dog training after all. However it is of utmost importance that through careful analysis, observation, research and logic, we constantly ensure that our methods, criteria and systems are the most efficient and effective training and handling methods.

So for example, I at once stage encouraged and actively taught 'reverse pivots' as a method of doing a pull through sequence. It fit in with my handling criteria.  I depended on my shoulders as my main source of physical cueing.  By doing a reverse pivot, I was opening my shoulders, encouraging what was effectively a recall to the front, before redirecting.  Over the past few years I have improved/changed my training to greatly increase my dog's sensitivity to mere hand movements.  I now actively DISCOURAGE reverse pivots as a method of doing pull through's, my reasoning being that it sacrifices the handler's ability to get course position, risks off course due to movement timing (due to increased sensitivity of dogs to hand movement) and the recall to the front act may cause hesitation.  I don't just say these things willy nilly, I took video, analysed, timed splits, tried several different options that all support my current hypothesis. I never asked Chaos to compromise on his criteria.  To this day, he still knows a perfect reverse pivot.  When I made the 'change', I taught it as a brand new command, a brand new behaviour, with different criteria, different foundation. Similarly I at one stage discouraged blind crosses, back crosses, a down as a startline position etc. I have since learnt that all those things DO have their place.

I think trainers that evolve and admit their evolution (not try to pretend that they were always right, but package their 'new solutions' under false pretences) are the future of the sport.

So let's get back on track.  Those that know me will know that I have been the world's biggest doubter of running contacts.  The criteria attached to the available methods were just not clear enough in my mind.  I am very much a 'black and white' kind of girl and there was just too much grey out there for me. I have great respect for Silvia Trkman, Jenny Dam (this handler is on a pedestal for me even, I have endless respect and admiration for her and often turn to her writings and teachings as a guide and inspiration) , Daisy Peel etc etc, that have achieved great success with running contacts.  Their methods and input, while influencing my thought process, just didn't work 100% for my mind. That part hasn't changed.  Not quite.  But after a lot of observation, calculation (yup the actual mathematical kind, I LOVE math) and some calculated guesses, I determined that there was a way that I should be able to teach Volt running Dog Walks on top of his 2o2o (he already has a duel A-Frame).

Currently my process is still one giant experiment, but I am starting to feel a lot more comfortable in my experiment parameters.

Below you will find 5 videos of our recent Dog Walk training. The training process, however, has not been the most interesting part in this journey though.  Running contacts is one of those 'it' subjects. At the last few competitions, I have been running Not For Competition (NFC) with Volt, taking in his toy to try and bridge the 'training to competition' gap with minimum fuss using running Dog Walks.  Unfortunately they have all been 'national' competitions, so I cannot post those rounds for now, but I am VERY happy with the result. It HAS however gotten some tongues rolling...

First of all, without exception, most people have assumed that I am using Silvia Trkman's training method. Immediately offering input that applies to this method.  I always (try to) listen politely, thank the handlers and then inform them that I actually have not used the method at all.  This is generally met with great suspicion (as if they don't believe me) and then criticism. While I can see some of the things she uses in Volt when he is running, it is just a cross-over, not intentional training. I do appreciate input in general, but it seems that even people that have not USED this method are stuck in this manner of thinking, while the followers, trainers and believers in this method struggle to accept that there is another way.  Well maybe there is, maybe there is not, that is what my 'Project Dog Walk' is all about.

At this point in time, I don't know where this project will end for us, but as I always do with Volt, we are having a very (VERY, very, Very, very) large amount of fun with Volt. I assure you (because many people have confuse this issue), I have the greatest respect for 2o2o and will most probably never stop using it.  Running contacts are not better or more fun for me, I enjoy the process of training a dog to achieve success with great enthusiasm, regardless of what I am doing. I don't think that running dog walks will ever be a 'must' to achieve amazing things, which include winning World Champs and European Opens.  I am pretty convinced running dog walks will NOT be for all dogs (the same way I feel about 'four on the floor' or 'down' contacts). I am not nearly far enough along in the process to tell you whether what I am doing will work categorically.  But I am looking for some 'sucker' students for next year to further develop my thought process with other dogs and handlers.

It might be worth a mention, that after timing many, many, many splits at this year's AWC (as in many, you should SEE the spreadsheets), I will not be trying to teach super tight turns off my running dog walks, but rather use 2o2o off for that.  Even the best of dogs lost time in subsequent sequences to tight turn dog walks, where 2o2o were FASTER in total, despite the slower dog walks. But once again, let's see where we go with this.  

13 November 2014

20 November 2014

21 November

26 November

28 November

I will keep you updated in my little training experiment.  Until then happy training...


  1. Interesting. I've decided to teach my dog, who has a running DW, a 2o/2o. She does well in AKC trials , where the contact zone is bigger, 42 inches. But not as good on USDAA and UKI , where the contact zone is 36 inches. It's taken so much time training it and I need to work on handling.

  2. That is very interesting, I didn't realise you had different contact lengths. FCI dog walks are 90cm (so roughly 36 inches).

  3. Watching, reading and listening with interest Alett

  4. I love the blog. Great post. It is very true, people must learn how to learn before they can learn. lol i know it sounds funny but its very true. . .
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