Ever since the Great Contact Meltdown of 2011, The Dog and I have gone back to the basics.
Me: Dog, here is a plank. You run on the plank.
Dog: So… I do two on two off?
Me: No. You run off of it, no stopping. Then you go get the ball.
Dog: Ball? Yay. Ok.
(Fast forward to a later session)
Me: Dog, here is the same plank as before. You still run on the plank, it is just a bit higher.
Dog: Ugh. Ok, two on two off, right?
Me: Uh, no. No stopping, get the ball.
Dog: OK. But you want me to creep, right?
Me: Not really. You RUN, then get the ball.
Dog: OH! I forgot, yep, ok- I run, get the ball.
And it pretty much goes just like that for several sessions, until she finally FINALLY seems to be getting the idea. She runs the plank like a champ. I click like a clicking expert. She is duly rewarded and the clicks are clicking something in her brain. She does not rely on voice commands or my position (I’ve been trying to wean her off of pacing me).
Then we move to a low dogwalk. I expect regression; there is none. We back-chained all the way, that seemed to help. Project Leader is happy. Dog is happy; she got the ball a bajillion times.
Last night we made it up to full height dogwalk again. I start back-chaining. She is smart and runs off and I click and the ball is there. We spend a long time moving back across. Finally, we try a whole dogwalk.
She goes into two on, two off. TWO. ON. TWO. OFF.
Where is this…?
WHY DID SHE DO THAT???
At this point my brain exploded. No foolin’.
We did un-stick her fairly easily, but the point was made. I just don’t know if I can ever deprogram that part of her brain. She must have done a million 2o2o positions in puppyhood. I know she doesn’t like to- it makes her worried. And even after a bajillion reinforcements for moving through the zone, she still reverts to that as default. It is completely hardwired. And I seriously think that if I 1) pulled her from shows 2) stopped doing the dogwalk for one year and 3) retrained running over the period of another year she would STILL revert to 2o2o because her mind is hardwired. It’s like when ducks imprint on mommy- “mommy” might be a pig for all they care and even if you show them a million other suitable duck mothers they will still go back to that pig every darn time, even if it means they don’t migrate and stay in the frigid north.
Dog…FORGET THE PIG AND MIGRATE, WILL YA???
The only thing that seems to work, than can un-stick her, is if I do allow her to pace off of me and pretty much hop in her brain to control the exit. This means that she loads fine and fast on her own but I have to haul it to the exit, get ahead and connect at the exact moment she would either leap or creep. Then she will lock onto my pace and, if I have good timing, move at the right speed, apply the right amount of pressure, etc, etc, this gait will be one suitable for taking her all the way off the contact. This sort of sucks for many reasons:
She isn’t going to go as fast as she could,
I have to be there every time and that is inevitably going to result in a FAIL at some point,
I have to have perfect timing, speed, tension and THAT is also grounds for an inevitable failure.
And probably other things I am not even aware of at this point.
But since the world didn’t end when I gave up pushing start lines, and there was no apocalypse when I let her do the teeter her own way, I will give it a chance. Those both turned out for the better. This also is essentially how she does the Aframe as well, and that has worked fine historically. I think our recent issue with the Aframe was her being too HIGH and me not realizing that this was how our Aframe functioned and not applying appropriate pressure. (Aframe, by the way, has been back to normal. Turns and everything. Go figure.)
So we will see if this works in a show or not. I am sooo happy that Grand Prix is the first class with contacts and gets to be the experimental run. (Not. Sarcasm is my friend.) But rather than set up for possible disappointment, I will just try to look at the whole weekend as a training exercise. It's all about trial and error, right? This is just the trial part.
(However. If this is an Epic Fail, I may revert to MY default program: Whine and Cheese and plastic fish.)