Sometimes you have to go back to go forwards. In fact that happens a lot in dog training. Recently I felt Sparrow was not quite clear on the criteria I was asking for with her running contacts, so I took a step back, I reassessed and I decided to go back to groundwork.
I began running contacts with a carpet, I now switched to a yoga mat set side on. The width of the mat is slightly smaller than the contact area of a dogwalk, which means I can use it as a target on the dogwalk eventually.
The first session went well
There were two things I took from this – speed and distance. The further I set Sparrow back, the faster she approached the mat and the harder it was to hit. That was the speed element. The distance part was where I placed the reward (a click and treat box). The further that was from the mat, the more likely Sparrow was to miss it. This gave me two things to work on.
The next session I was more careful about the placement of the treat box, only gradually increasing the distance, however I kept the speed element consistent.
When I went to my next training session I decided to see how our contacts were doing on full equipment, again adjusting speed and the distance of the treat box to reinforce the correct criteria. I was very satisfied with the results. Sparrow is a messy runner, and I don’t think that will change, but if we can keep her in the contact area, we will be winning.
One last thing, I have switched from concentrating on hind feet hits, to front feet hits. Working on the mat demonstrated to me that if Sparrow hit with her front feet deep she usually also hit with her rear feet. This seems to work better for Sparrow.