O.k., so here comes a new section on turns. It's partly a copy-paste from my puppy updates as Bi is the first dog I'm concentrating on turns after dog-walk, simply because I never felt the need to do it before as La never had problems turning after a dog-walk. Bu is somewhat different in that aspect, so that's one reason and another one is that this year, all (with two exceptions) judges in Slovenia started a war against running contacts.
So training for turns seems like an interesting new challenge. For everybody, mailing me asking if they should do the training for turns too now: depends on what you have and what you want.
For example, I don't plan to do any additional work with La as her turns are perfectly good. Bu's turns are somewhat bigger, but I wouldn't really mind that if only they weren't so dependant on my timing: they can be perfect when my timing is perfect, but when I call too early, she will shorten her stride so much that she doesn't come very deep on a contact anymore - and not enough to put another stride in, so the contact gets ugly. And if I call too late, she won't turn anymore because that's how she is: being a perfectionist, if she doesn't have all the info in time, she won't put any effort to try to fix things, but will simply give up and just take whatever she planned or go into a circle around it... That's why with her, I did go into training for turns too.
In general, dogs that do their contacts with front feet are turning better as those that do it with hind feet. Meaning that with most dogs that do it with front feet, additional training is not necessary, as even if you only call them when front feet are coming to a contact, they can do all the necessary changes shortly after, when hind feet are coming down. On the other hand, if you call a dog that does a contact with hind feet only when they're getting to the contact, they can't do much anymore, they'll be landing with front feet mostly straight forward far after a dog-walk before they can turn. With those dogs, the turns are somewhat larger, but then again - it's your personal decision if that's too wide for you or not. As I said, Bu's turns after dog-walk wouldn't bother me if they were somewhat bigger, they bother me because my timing had to be so good to avoid off-course or bad contact. With Bi, I don't expect so much problems as she is not a perfectionist like Bu - and she mostly does her contacts with front feet, so my major reason to go into training her for turns was that I had nothing better to do (as her straight forward contacts were 99% from the day she got the idea with a plank still on the floor) and I love experimenting, so...
What I did was, basically, simply setting a jump after which there was her toy, somewhat to the left/right - very gradually of course. - No problems at the beginning, but as expected, her contacts did get worse at one point of putting a jump more and more to the side. We then finally agreed that that's not how we make contacts and the following angles all went real nice: I first moved a jump further to the left/right, then rotated a jump perpendicular to a plank and finally brought it closer. Something like this:
(as summed up by Daisy Peel)
She didn't jump again, but her last stride was getting more and more to the side of the plank and also somewhat higher. To stop this pattern, I put a pole at the end of the plank, to one side of it, to mark where she can start her turn. She understood it immediately and that pole helped me a lot with further moving of the jump. I rotated it some more to finally have it parallel next to the plank and then I brough it further and further back. It did somewhat affect her speed over the plank, but the contacts are mostly good. You can see the whole process in this video.
We're still working on it, so I'll do some more writing after I see the end product. The plan is to make that pole smaller and smaller (I don't expect much problems here) and let her understand the difference between the two type of handling and verbals (running + "go, go" vs. hanging back + "left/right", said already at the top of a plank).
So far, what seems the most challenging is keeping her speed over the plank when she knows there is a turn after. As you can see on slow motion turns in a video, she is capable to do that without shortening her stride, so I'm jackpotting those tries. However, she figured out she can meet my criteria of coming all the way down easier when shortening her stride (and therefore slowing down) more as I would wish for, so we still have some work to do. Will keep you updated.
And to answer some questions on turns that I got by now:
- Why do you use left&right vs. cik&cap on a dog-walk? My friends use cik&cap for any tight turn.
Because cik&cap means go straight to the first object you see and wrap around it. If I say it on a dog-walk, my dogs will run straight forward to the first jump after it and wrap around it. Left&right means we'll be turning to the left/right on flat. If you're using cik&cap for turns on flat and for wrapping around something, you're using the same command for two completely different things and it's not fair to the dog to expect from him to know when you want what. I can't help if your friends misunderstood my cik&cap - if they asked, my answer would be as above. It's NOT cik/cap.
- At what stage can you introduce turns to a dog that is just being trained for running contacts?
As soon as 1.) the dogs runs nicely all the way down the plank when going straight and 2.) the end of a plank already creates a visible angle with the ground. You can see at what height I started turns with Bi in this video.