I didn't blog about our previous two classes because I was so busy with the move. We are still practicing weave poles here and there, but our focus for these six weeks is contacts. I didn't want to train a 2 on 2 off contact with Cai because I'm wary of the force it puts on dogs' shoulders as they hit the ground. However I didn't want to do a pure running contact because I failed at teaching that to Dragon -- I wasn't able to make my criteria clear to him, and he started jumping. I truly think he didn't understand the behavior I wanted. I decided to go with a behavior that seems like a good compromise -- a modified running contact, or "run through the contact zone and then lie down on the ground". My hope is that because Cai is getting ready to lie down, that keeps his focus low and he won't jump the contact. (I have heard that some dogs will still jump over the zone and land in the trained position on the ground, but if necessary, I'll start using a hoop to keep him running low.)
We have already spent a lot of time learning to lie down on a mat (rectangular piece of bright pink yoga mat, which has great traction), and then run a contact trainer and lie down on the mat. That part is looking great, so we're using the lowered dog walk and a-frame in class to back chain it. This week I sent him over the entire a-frame and he had to problems with it other than trying to figure out his striding. At home, I have a tiny dog walk and a-frame that create the same angles as the AKC equipment, and the dog walk is currently set up for practice so I can work on speed and lateral distance.
For the teeter, I've got my small teeter (not as tiny as the dog walk and a-frame, but still smaller than regulation) set up on the back deck. In class, we've worked seperately on having him run up a full-height teeter while it was held steady by the instructor, and then working on dropping the end bit by bit and lots of feeding. He does very well with that part. So now we're working on having him run across a lowered teeter that will pivot normally under him. He was doing well until I moved forward too quickly and he shot off the end of the teeter, stopped himself with his back feet still on, and it lifted up under him and startled him. Then he started to slow down around the pivot point. So at home, I'm focusing on building drive to the end of the board but watching him carefully so that he's learning to stop soon enough that he doesn't make the same mistake.
In the meantime, the weave poles are, um, okay? He'll do a few reps perfectly, and once he makes a mistake, he starts skipping poles over and over. I decided to "go back to kindergarten" because his confidence and willingness to do the poles were taking a nosedive. We're back to four poles and I'm doing gentle proofing work to help him understand his job. I have to remember to keep it short!!
With jumps, we're continuing to practice 180s, 270s, back sides, and occassionally serpentines and threadles. It's all going well. We've had a breakthrough in lateral distance for 180s, yay.