Friday, February 15, 2013

Running Contacts - Session 9

I went out armed with 10 treats this morning to see how well I could follow the "rules" I laid out for myself yesterday.

I definitely followed the first rule - don't allow Belle to fail more than twice in a row.  We had only one back-to-back set of NR reps.

I didn't adhere to the second rule very well:  no increasing of distance until three sucessful reps.  However, I basically started Belle within a 1½ foot area on the board with each rep.  If I plan to follow this rule more closely, I can see where putting down a  marker would be helpful.

I created the third rule to keep myself from asking for too many reps.  Although I didn't follow it to the letter, I think I was faithful to its spirit.  We did 15 reps with a 60% reinforcement rate.

I was also pleased that I didn't miscall any of the reps.  However, there was one that should have been a JP which was only an R.  Which brings me to a Susan Garrett post that ruffled my feathers when I first read it yesterday.  Basically, what I took away on my first reading was that middle-aged and older people don't have the visual acumen to determine whether the dog is hitting or missing.  However, when I re-read the article, although she feels younger people have a distinct advantage, training the handler to see better is certainly possible, and indeed is one of the first things she works on in her running contacts course.

Silvia Trkman also stresses that you have to train your eye so that you make good decisions about which reps to reward, which to JP and which to ignore.  On her DVD, she demonstrates this skill by placing her hands on the contact zone where she saw her dog's feet hit.  She is very good at seeing where each paw hit!

I think I have a fairly good eye, but it is certainly not anywhere nearly as good as Silvia's.  However, the beauty of the criteria that Silvia sets is that you don't really have to make the hair-splitting calls a judge must make at a trial.  *With Silvia's method, there are three acceptable behaviors:

1.  One foot in the yellow toward the middle.
2.  Two rear feet in the yellow (ideally they will be well separated).
3.  Three feet in the yellow.

Hitting close to the top or bottom edge with one or two feet is not acceptable.  Even not being able to see each foot (especially the front ones from where I am standing at this point in our training), there is a gestalt or impression that the three acceptable criteria give that just isn't there for me when Belle brushes the top or bottom of the yellow with one or even two feet.

In the early stages of training on a thin plank or piece of carpeting, speed is what is being reinforced initially.

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