And here comes some copy-paste from my correspondences with people, starting to use this method or thinking to start using it or questioning it or whatever… So, some FAQ on my running contacts:
- How do you handle a difficult sequence after a running contact?
The same as any sequence that isn’t at the beginning of a course and therefore doesn’t allow you the advantage of a lead-out. Just because it’s easier to handle a dog if we’re well ahead, it’s not our goal to slow down a dog enough for us to be well ahead of him all the time, is it? Yeap, just as I don’t stop a dog after a straight tunnel, I don’t stop a dog after dog-walk, but can still handle a sequence after it. If I don’t, it doesn’t mean there is something wrong with running contact method, but that there is something wrong with either my handling after it or training a dog to respond to that handling. So yes, handling a difficult sequence when a dog is coming there with full speed as opposed to from a stop is more difficult. But my goal is not to make things easy, but to make them as fast and fluent as I can. Easy is boring, I love training challenges!
- How reliable are running contacts?
Some dogs are 100%, some aren't - depends on individual dog and the training he had - as with every method, I guess... La was pretty much 100% for 5 years of intensive competing - when all of the sudden, she started to jump – just 10 days before WC in Basel! I tried to quick fix it, but only created a conflict and made it even worse, so her contacts were as bad as 50-50 at that time. Later, we found out she was reluctant to put that front leg down because of a pain in a shoulder… Poor doggy. We’re slowly getting back to old % now…
With Bu, I had more problems because she is afraid of unknown dog-walks and therefore slower, so her striding is totally off and I did have problems first on new dog-walks. I’m lucky to be able to train on many different dog-walks during my seminars, so the problem was pretty much solved before she started to compete, but her speed over new dog-walks is still not s good as on ours.
- My trainer doesn't let me train running contacts as he says he saw many dogs (I will left out the names) with running contacts in WCs that were missing them.
My running contact method is, from the dogs that we've seen in WC so
far, used by exactly four dogs: my La, Mudi Sja from
German Terrier Fita from Tjasa Gregoric from
Slovenian team and Croatian Sheepdog Gera from Miska from Slovakian Team
(yes, those are two different countries and no, we don't even share the
border!:). That's the only four dogs that I feel responsible for
their contacts. I also know all other dogs you mention and I can assure
you they DON'T train any kind of running contact. Most of the dogs you
mention have 2on2off, but are being released early on WC. The others
that you mention have "luck or no luck" contacts as I call it.
- I would like to use your method for my new BC puppy, but as our judges are not used to running contacts, I'm afraid I'll be getting faults for contacts that were done.
I wouldn't worry about the judges. It's true it's hard to see fast little merle legs, so La is sometimes (but not very often!) misjudged, but it's VERY easy to see where those long white BC legs are. I competed under many judges from everywhere and my BC's contacts were never misjudged. If you go watch some of Bu or Bi's videos, you can see that it's really well seen, no doubt at all. It's very easy to misjudge crawling contacts, but when the dog is running like they do when trained by my method, at the same level and the same speed, it's really no problem to see it.
- What is your opinion on other running contact methods?
I don't know enough about them to have an opinion on them. I never took the time to research them as I'm perfectly happy with the results my method is giving and feel to need to change it. It goes the same for you: if any of those other methods work for you, you should stick with it!
- How long does it take to train a dog a running contact with your method?
Depends. I'm pretty sure Bi could get to a normal dog-walk in less than two weeks, but I chose to focus on other things (turns, handler positions, fading a stationary reward...) first as adding angle was never an issue for her. The whole process (together with turns) took me 2 months. Give you some more time, though. In general, the better the dog understands the clicker and the better you are at clicking, easier and shorter it is.
- Does a size matter?
Not at all in a learning process: a question of how much of a thinker a dog is, how well he understands a click and how good you’re at clicking at the right time and for the right things... What is easier for shorter striding dogs, though, is to adjust to different lengths of dog-walks or adding a stride when necessary for a good turn: short-striding dogs simply have more opportunities to do so, but well, they still need to understand their job, so I said: the learning process as such is no different.
- My dog is a Poodle/Terrier/fill-in-whatever-you-want and is naturally bouncy. Do you think training her a running contact would be too difficult?
No, it isn't any more difficult as with any other breed as long as my assumption that your Poodle/Terrier/whatever isn't bouncing when chasing a squirrel is correct. Dogs that run full speed don't bounce and all you need to do is to get that dog to really run. My BC Bi is bouncy too when she is trying to get somebody to play with her - but she sure doesn't bounce when she needs to beat Bu towards her ball!
- I started your plank work with my 14 weeks old puppy and wanted to ask...
Why on earth are you running a 14 weeks old puppy over the plank??? There are many way more important things you should be doing with your puppy. 14 weeks old puppy can't even really run! He has no legs in a first place! So I would focus on other, more important things first and get back to plank work in three or four months. I started with Bi when she was 5 months, but only because I had an exclusive opportunity to have more room as I normally have in that time (ie. a garden vs. my normal little apartment). There is no other good reason to start with plank work any sooner as 6 months.
- Is it so simple as to train the plank with the criteria 2 paws hit the end of the plank & not jumping?
I think being too strict with the criteria is the major reason why La's contact broke down at one point. It's just so very difficult to do the contacts the way she does (thanks to me, insisting on front feet only when training it, of course) that she started to skip them here and there at one point. You can see how much harder it is for La to do her contacts as it is for Bu and Bi even from the photos below:
- Are you happy with less speed first and then add that factor or you work with full speed from the beginning and if so, how do you get it on a short plank?
I started my puppy on a plank on the floor, but she doesn't run full
speed towards a stationary object. I can only make her run if I run with
her and throw her a toy.
- My dog only focuses ahead nicely if there is something there. If I have a toy in my hand to throw it later, he only watches the ball and misses all contacts.
You should do some more tricks training and teach that dog that you don't get a toy for staring in it, that the only way to get a reward is to take his eyes off it and do some thinking what to do to earn it.
- Where do you reward?
- How much and how do you reward after a behaviour is trained?
How often do you need to train at this stage?
Running contacts are not hard at all to maintain, you don't need to reward more often as 20, 30%. Personally, I love to reward a lot, so I probably reward about 50%. For a reward, I use what is most rewarding for my dogs, meaning food for La, a tunnel for Bu:) and a toy for Bi.
Unlike some people think, you don't need to train much after the behaviour is trained. With La and Bu, I never train just contacts (only in sequences) and their contacts are perfectly o.k. even if I don't train at all for months. In fact, Bu's contacts get even better because the more excited she is and the faster she runs, the better the contacts. La can have a problem with contacts when too excited, but it has nothing to do with how long we haven't practiced the dog-walk but with the number of people watching her:).
- I guess you started with a low A-frame and dog-walk about the same time outside? Or did you focus mainly on the dog-walk to start with?
- Are you saying you pretty much start with an A-frame already on a full height?
Pretty much yes. I start with an A-frame somewhat higher from a dog-walk angle and move to the final height within 10 repetitions. I noticed that when people obsess too much over A-frame and work on a low one for too long, dogs don't see a reason to do an additional stride on a down side and prefer to land on a contact, but that gets ugly when A-frame gets steeper. Another problem another friend had was that she taught her dogs to go too low and when it got steeper, the dogs were always falling on their shoulders after running all the way down and eventually started to jump to avoid that, so... Keeping it simple and just run was what proved to be the best option, even when a dog is having some troubles initially. I even very rarely reward it (probably just when I forget where to go next:).
- What do you think of this A-frame? Looks like he generalized the behaviour from a dog-walk really well, no?
My only concern about your A-frame is that it looks too good:). We only have had problems with dogs that went all the way down at the beginning and then later on realized it's really not comfortable and started to jump... That's why I actually don't want them to transfer the bahaviour to the A-frame all that much and I also use different commands for the two obstacles. If you see the end of this video, there are several A-frames in slow motion by Bu. As you can see, she is very, very high. BUT she is ALWAYS there, she has never missed an A-frame contact in her life. I noticed that with dogs that go all the way down, it's either perfect or really ugly, so I actually prefer Bu's style. Anything deeper than first third of the contact is physically very hard for them. So... I don't really train A-frame systematically, but simply include it in sequences and just run, I don't really reward A-frames, but would correct (redo) misses if those ever happened.
- Do you use different commands for dog-walk and A-frame then?
Yes, I do.
Bu and La, showing two different styles on A-frame. I prefer Bu's style as it's easier for a dog and therefore, she has never missed an A-frame contact in her life - La, again, will miss it here and there, when too excited.