There is a classic Simpson’s episode (“The Joy of Sect”), where a cult comes to town and is trying to brainwash all the townsfolk to follow THE LEADER of the cult. But Homer is “too smart” (actuality: has ADHD) and they can’t convince him to join the cult (because he is too busy chasing poofy-tailed dogs). Then they realize that he loves Batman, and they brainwash him into loving THE LEADER using the old Batman theme song.
This is typically me and handling systems, if I am Homer and the systems are the cult. I rarely consider myself a student of anyone else’s training philosophy, not because I think I am above the approach or don’t believe in systems, but simply because I am too ADHD to follow anyone else. I get very confused trying to understand the big systems and honestly can’t tell many apart (I really have tried!). I may LOVE how someone runs their dog and think it would work great for me and my dog, but when it comes to breaking it down into the philosophy and taking the steps to build up into the actual training system, I fail. So I run around chasing my poofy-tailed dog instead.
But twice now, a ‘cult’ has found my weakness for superpowers (Batman!!) and managed to penetrate my skull with the ethereal brainwashing chant in order to grab my attention long enough for the basics to sink in. The first was on developing jumping, accredited to Linda Mecklenburg. I get it. I totally get it. I can do it. It works for me. I would be a certified cult member if Linda handed cards out.
Now it has happened again. I mentioned a looooong post ago that I had found a lot of hope in reading about Silvia’s teaching and handling of her sensitive soul BC. When I first discovered her for myself, I could hear the faint start of “na na, na na, na na, na naaaa” beginning. Now, it is loud and clear. I completely get where she is coming from in her training philosophy. From the ground up, it makes sense. So yes, I will belong to the cult. I will incorporate ideas. I beg you to bear with me while I use this space to record everything.
I wonder if she gives out cards?
I was equally enthralled by the Running Contacts session last night. It was informative and enlightening. A lot of us who had been attempting to train these alone seemed to go “oooohhhhhhhh!”
*When starting out, video your dog running on the flat. Get a sense of how it looks, so you know what you are looking for in the next steps. (Video a lot, period.)
*Then move onto a board. Wide, thin, longish. If you need to, start first with a rug, then move to a board. You want the dog to run over the thing. Foot placement- not important. (She said that most dogs tend to hit naturally in an acceptable area anyways once the height goes up- as long as they are really running. She does not ask for exact foot work-ever, even in subsequent steps. If it is one paw in, it is still in.) Now, you are only looking for the dog to be running as opposed to jumping (back feet apart instead of together). Send to a toy. Send to a jump too- why not? Click running. Reward a lot. More than you think. Strict criteria=bad and de-motivates the dog from running, as they aren’t going to get the toy a lot. Toy good. You can still distinguish good from bad without taking away the toy or correcting, just make a big deal over the great reps. (For me, she suggested a regular ball every time, but then to let her come back and play with EARTH BALL, the best ball in the world, when she had an awesome stride.)
*Then you could go narrower (she suggested just shaving the sides of your wide board). Or higher. Or both. Just make it gradual. Move on, don’t live forever on a low, wide plank waiting for 100%. Use your table and other supplies to go up bit by bit. You are still rewarding the running versus leaping.
*A great idea she had was that once the board is up a bit (ready to move up from your 16 to 20” table) and is sufficiently narrow, you can ‘graft’ it on to your normal dogwalk. She does this as the dog needs a bit of a run to run the board (obviously) but it wouldn’t be safe to take flying leaps on to the table/other contraption. But you still have the ability to manage the angle of the plank incrementally. Smart! Start with the dog at the top of the descent plank, then move them back as well as moving the grafted plank upwards.
*Then you continue in the same fashion, run, click, toy, repeat. Eventually you get the final performance in full. Once it is truly independent (the dog will run up across and down with you anywhere, you can start on angles.
*She suggested using a small vertical pole next to the plank exit on the side you wish to teach the turn and doing a sort of cik/cap thing (more on that later). Start on the ground, send the dog up on the plank and allow them to run down the few remaining feet and execute their turn. You will trim the pole and fade it away over time. If you do not have cik/cap turns you can also practice with a jump straight off, then moving the jump to the side incrementally, until you get to a full 180 degree position.
*After you do all this, you should be set. You should not need to maintain this as a daily regime. She told us that she mostly runs the dogwalk in sequences, and will only occasionally take the dogs out for a few ball-toss enforcers.
Her thought on the Aframe was that she doesn’t really teach it. If she does it second (after the dogwalk), the dogs pretty much just do it. She will run super low for one session, and then about 3-4 feet (moving up that difference in one session) in another; then will go full height.
She did have a few very good, insightful suggestions/observations for my little retrain issue. Basically, The Dog is SUPER SMART (ha!) and understands wide planks to mean FUN RUN and narrow planks to mean SAD CREEP. I must start over with a wide plank and get the behavior, then gradually shave the board down, leaving it wider as I graft it to a dogwalk. In other words, I really will need to outsmart her. Sounds like a plan for when the snow melts! I have informed the Boyfriend that he is officially on construction duty.
Back tomorrow for turns!