February 2011

Running Contacts and Nose Touch Contacts

I’ve always got a lot of balls to juggle when it comes to training my dogs. Obedience, agility, herding, tricks and sometimes search and rescue. I love training different sports and I mostly think it’s a strength, both for me and for the dogs. I feel that even though it’s a lot of work, obedience training helps agility and vice versa. The tricks I teach help both obedience and agility. The border collies loves herding and if I want to breed border collies it’s an absolute must. As a bonus, I feel that herding is great conditioning for the dogs. They get to do long outruns where they run as fast as they can and they walk slowly and deliberately with sheep. Both things feels like excellent physical conditioning. The only problem I feel is that some of the obedience behaviors conflict with the cues in my agility handling (like some minor blind cross-behaviors and running away from a stationary handler).

Yesterday was a good example of how we train different sports. We started with some herding in the sun on our small training field outside the house. You can see some pictures of our puppies herding here. After lunch, we headed for the indoor arena in Kungsör, where we did obedience and agility. I made a video of Squid’s (and Pogues) dogwalk contact behaviors. When Squid was about a year old, I started working on her running dogwalk. She didn’t seem quite ready for it, so we didn’t do much until she got a bit older. Even then, I didn’t really feel like her performance was as perfect as I wanted it. While I was working on this, I also worked on a nose touch contact for the see-saw. As our debut trials came closer, I decided to introduce a stop on the dogwalk as well. I wanted to feel certain that her contacts would be good and buy myself some time to work on her running contacts during the winter. Introducing the nose touch behavior on the dogwalk was very easy, since she already knew both the behavior and the cue.

At her first trials, she got to do her nose touch contacts. I’ve been working some more on her running contacts with just the down plank, starting with it on the ground and working my way up. She’s a lot easier to train now than she was a year ago. She has much more confidence and drive, and can be recalled away from the toy when she fails without loosing speed in the next repetition. I feel like this made all the difference. I couldn’t do this last winter, so I used to just throw the toy forward as she met criteria. It worked fine, since she is good at running forward without looking back to see the throw. Her running contacts look great now, but I haven’t tried a lot of turning and sequencing. I have tried to mix running and stopping in two sessions and she seems to be able to switch well. She is adding some extra strides while running, probably because of the mixing, but I think that will get better with experience. Here is the video from yesterday:

Squid’s second agility trial

This week has been packed with dog training. I counted 31 hours in indoor training arenas in four days! We’ve done obedience, agility and herding. Yesterday was finally the day of Squids second agility trial. We entered one trial in December, where we weren’t prepared enough for performing in that environment. Squid gets very excited around other dogs doing agility and I wasn’t really prepared for it (especially not with a sore foot that made me limp around the course). Since then, I have taken every chance to train with others, letting her go crazy and then work on start line behavior, contacts, weaves and handling. All the hard work has really payed off. Squid was completely quiet before her runs (I managed her very carefully), didn’t move a foot on her start lines and ran clean and fast. She came second in the standard run and won jumpers. We’re now one third on the way too the next class. Here is a video of our runs: