Monday, January 19, 2015

The allure of the running contact

I have trained one dog on running contacts and didn't keep them, I have re-trained another dog to have running contacts (and kept them), and I am in the process of training baby Hoot to have running contacts.  So I have seen this process from a couple of different perspectives.

I will say that each time I go through the process I get more faith in it, and have more patience and appreciation for what the dogs have to learn.  I think that I also get more confident in knowing that one or two bad sessions isn't going to ruin my dog.  I also have complete faith that it is a journey.

But this is a reminder to patient with the process and don't rush it.

I can say that even though Silva's DVD on running contacts does a great job giving you an idea of the process, what she doesn't cover and probably can't is all the changes that you will see in your dog along the way.

The problem with training running contacts is that you have your eye on the prize.  That is a full height DW and the dog reliably hits the yellow.  So away we go, running the dog on the low contact, raising it frequently, putting an obstacle at both ends and before you know it we have a dog running a full height DW.  But when we do this we (and the dog) miss many of the lessons that journey would have provided us.  The allure of the running contact keeps us from fully experiencing the process.

Confidence is one of the gifts in the journey.  It doesn't matter,  my re-trained dog or my green dog, they are both the same.  They build confidence along the way and it is NOT worth rushing it.  I know that everyone wants to get to the end of the line and *have* a running contact, but if you rush it, it is going to be harder to fix when you have problems.  Why?  They don't have the physical confidence on the equipment (I dare you to run 6 YPS on a 12" board that changes elevation twice), and the mental confidence.  The mental confidence is the really important one.

It also takes a while to develop your own internal compass for what is best for the dog each day of the training (and it changes).  This I will say is different for each dog I have trained.   Yesterday I needed to not race Hoot on the DW, today I had too.  I saw a micro-moment (you know that 10,000 hours concept) in her performance that told me I needed to change.

So, if you don't give these things a chance to develop in a controlled environment, they will be changing in a trialing environment.  Many of us know what it is like to take a dog into trialing when they don't have the foundation that they should.  And, we know what it is like to re-train that once they have established a pattern of poor performance.

I am watching the progress of a number of people through out the world training running contacts right now.  So many seem like they are trying to get to the prize as quick as possible.   But trust me when I tell you (and myself), you have to let the lessons unfold until they are all done.   You can't rush the process.

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