Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Running Contacts - Change in Strategy

Today was my 7th RC session with Belle, and the failure rate was very high.  (So high, I really didn't want to watch the video.  However, I did.  Only a 20% reinforcement rate, and way too many reps.Silvia Trkman's method would advocate getting a piece of carpet and working on that until Belle was consistently running over it and hitting in the "contact zone."  If I ever find a new puppy, I will indeed try that, and who knows, I might even give it a go with Belle if my latest strategy doesn't pan out.

Toward the end of this morning's session, I decided we were getting way too many reps where Belle jumped or over-extended over the contact zone and either missed it entirely or placed one front foot down too close to the edge of the board (either on it or just off of it).  I tried placing the standards in a different spot and I tried putting a hoop at the end of the board, with no success.  Then I decided to try back-chaining the behavior I wanted.  Instead of starting Belle on the ground, I had her sit on the board and released her to run after the ball was thrown.  It seemed to give her a much better chance of being "right."  I didn't film our first efforts with this technique, but I did film the final four tries of the morning.

I can see from the video that the biggest problem with starting on the board is that Belle doesn't have a chance to get up to top speed which results in her rear legs being too close together when she hits the yellow.  On the other hand, at least she is hitting the yellow.  I will move her back as quickly as possible, but I do like the idea of being able to reward her for hitting the yellow, and am grateful that this seems to work.



  1. Daisy Peel's method is similar to Trkman's method, but she differs in the early stages by doing something similar to what you're doing. Daisy is OK with dog's going slower and thinking more in the first several steps as long as they're thinking about hitting the bottom 2/3rds of the contact. Silvia of course does not want any slow behavior at this stage and would pay zero attention to whether the dog is actually hitting the yellow or not when the plank is flat and there's so little difference between the edge of the board and the ground.

    Difference in philosophy leads to slightly different methods :)

  2. That's good to know. The biggest problem I see with starting on the board is that the dog's striding changes pretty dramatically when she starts from off the board. Luckily, we're working with plank and not a dog walk and dogs don't generalize. I will continue saying "easy" as Belle crosses the top of the dog walk at trials for a few more months :)