Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Looking back on Teaching 2o2o

A couple of friends have asked me recently how I trained Tangle's 2o2o contacts.  I decided to take the opportunity to put in "on paper", consolidating my thoughts and methods.

In general, when I was training Tangle I broke everything down into the lowest common denominator, training many small skills and then combined them together into the "big" skill.  When I taught things this way most all of the skills could be taught while he was still too young to begin the "real" training.

In general for contacts I needed
  • A solid stay regardless of motion or lack there of (ideas from Mary Ellen Barry)
  • An understanding of feet position
  • The desire to blaze to the end of the contact (ideas taken from Tracy Sklenar)
In order to train Tangle the true meaning of "stay' I did a ton of proofing on the flat.  Proofing start lines have a direct correlation in my mind to how well they can stay on a contact. 

I would release Tangle from a stationary position in the middle of a dead run, front cross him then release, rear cross, etc…  He knew that no matter what I did, the only thing that released him is the work "OK".  In trials I still take the opportunity to run from the startline and release from a dead run some point when ever possible.

In general I did a lot of rear-end awareness types of tricks with him. Here is a sample him learning to back up the stairs when he was just a baby.  

Rear-end awareness

Learning to walk backwards, going backwards up stairs putting his rear feet on anything and everything,  All of this was to help him be aware of where his rear feet where placed and when it came to contacts that would matter.

When Tangle was about 7 months old I started him on running dog walk training as well.  Yes, I wanted to see if I could get a running DW, but it was also in preparation for a running AF which was a solid goal.  He had such solid rear feet skills by this time that I knew I could put a 2o2o on the DW if I decided to give up a running DW.  Also, I wanted to just get Tangle comfortable running on the contacts.

Running DW

A running DW is something that I would train every dog I have from this point forward.  I found so many benefits to teaching it aside from the objective of a running DW (RDW).  I really learned a lot about how Tangle learns, his abilities to focus, how my dog moved, he learned shaping in an environment other than clicker and food, etc.  I would HIGHLY recommend it  Just a fabulous way to learning more in-depth about your dog.

Tangle and I spent the next 5 months running the DW.  We got up to full height, worked on turns, obstacles off the DW etc..  I wanted to keep it going until Tangle had his final body structure and I could really tell how his long stride would affect his performance.

I was still working solid stays, start lines, and table performance.

During this time the teeter was actually the first obstacle that Tangle learned a 2o2o on.  In preparation we taught the "bang" game.  This game was designed to keep him comfortable with the noise, motion,  and slamming of the teeter.  I started with the teeter about 6 inches high and we just played on the plank, moving side to side  He was rewarded for staying on the teeter or jumping onto the teeter.  Once we started focusing on the end behavior the reward was a huge game of tug at the end.  If he kept his feet on the teeter we would continue to play, the moment they came off the game would stop until he got his feet back on. (BTW, this is how I taught the table as well, table on the ground and we tugged).  I finally put the whole performance together when Tangle was about 11 months old (not full height).  I started him from 6 feet before the teeter, called him onto the teeter, have him his "feet" command.  It took all of 10 minutes for him to put all the basic mechanics together and perform the teeter.  We worked from there to get it more passionate.

I decided to put a 2o2o on the DW at about a year old.  During this time I didn't do any other contacts.  I didn't want him confusing the AF, Teeter or DW.  Again, it took about 10 minutes to convert him to the 2o2o.  His foundation skills for "feet" were so strong that his ability to generalize that behavior was already a skill.

I then proofed the DW with the very same skills that I use for the startline.  Running full speed past the contact and expecting him to stay, rear crosses at the start, front crosses/blind crosses at the end.  Tunnels at the end.  Throwing toys.  Basically anything that I could think of to challenge his skills.  I did not hold back!

The last stage of proofing his contacts was to take it on the road.  I went to several agility fields and friends houses to proofing his skills (Thanks everyone).

Very frequently I will stop in practice and tug with him at the end of the contact to keep that spot a highly rewarding place for him. In practice who cares if you loose 30 seconds on a run the reward is better pay for the dog.

Maintenance of the skill.  I won't lie Tangle tries to cheat every now and again and only "pause" on his contacts.  But it only takes one time calling him on that performance and he is back on track.  I won't quick release him at this point there is no reason.  When we are in finals at a Champoinship then I will consider it :)

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