Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dogwalk Dogwalk and more Dogwalk

I'm going back to basics to try to retrieve some semblance of behavior that I want on the dogwalk after the last 2 dismal trials.  I looked back over my training vs successful trials and it looks like things started to break down while working on turns in earnest.  The practices themselves were o.k. but the trials that followed not so much.  Could be related but maybe not.  I think the more likely scenario is that he had a bad day at a trial and the next trial was in the same location and he kept up with the incorrect behavior.  In any case the plan was to do some back chaining with the treat gizmo then a few full dogwalks.  Unfortunately I forgot the gizmo and the end result was a dismal 6/14 hits (43%).  On the upside the hits were towards the end of the session so he was finally starting to get the behavior back.  The downside is that watching the slow motion of some of the big leaps is scary.  He's flying onto the down ramp with an alarming rate of speed and power and he can't (or won't) control himself on the way down then uses the down ramp as a launch pad.  I need to figure out how to get him to not extend so much.  The last rep. on the video shows this even though it was a hit.

Yesterday I sneaked in another practice before a snowstorm hit and I remembered the treat gizmo.  Success rate was 4/5 (80%), much better and the one miss was maybe a hit, one of those very iffy ones (1st rep on the video) though and I rewarded it at the time but didn't like the look of it after watching it in slow motion so I won't count it.  Those are the worst because I almost always reward them.  But at least he was putting in the stride on the downside and not leaping.

It's funny what a difference the treat gizmo makes.  So it could be the elimination of the treat gizmo when I was training the turns that contributed to the breakdown of the behavior as well.  I did work to fade the thing but fading props has never been my strong point.  I know, we could argue about whether the treat gizmo is technically a prop but whatever term you want to use it's something that needs to be faded.  Next training session I'll do a few reps with the gizmo then replace it with a jump with the gizmo on the far side of the jump, then  a  tunnel, etc.  That's how I faded it last time but I think this time after I totally fade it I'll bring it out every once in a while (maybe once a month) for a couple of reps to try to keep things solid.  It's such a pain to haul that thing around along with the video camera and tripod and I was thrilled when I was finally able to fade it and maybe faded it a little too quickly.

I've got all the wood sawn for my backyard dogwalk and now all I have to do is paint it and assemble the sawhorses.  I also need to get some hinges.  I've seen some kits specifically for the dogwalk online but the cheapest one I can find is $50.  So far I've spent about $75 so that's a huge expense.  Home Depot didn't have any hinges with removable pins and even if I can find hinges like that it might be hard to get a long bar bent on the end to use in place of the pins.  I found these cool hinges but they would end up costing $57.  Boulder only has one hardware store and I'll try them today.


  1. Anonymous11:11 AM

    Just curious -- I can't tell from the video, but are you giving him some kind of command as he approaches or is on the down ramp? I know you don't want to have to babysit the DW in competition, but for training purposes I was wondering what you are doing so that he understands what your expectations are.

    Also, and this may not have anything to do with anything, but I noticed in a couple of his runs, the end of the DW actually leaves the ground. Do you think that might be contributing to his exits of the DW?

  2. I'm training running contacts as well, but we're still struggling at 18in, so I'm no expert.

    However, this is what I see in the first video: he misses when he turns the head to see where you are. Were you training turns this time? The one rep in which you are straight ahead of him is the best. I noticed that because my dog started doing the same thing and this is causing him to miss the contact as well (after focusing nicely ahead for a month - what a tragedy it was!). The treat gizmo works better because it helps him focus ahead, and even if you place it after a jump or a tunnel, he still has something to focus on.

    That is why Silvia recommends throwing a ball ahead at the moment when the dog reaches the down ramp, because we need to teach the dog to focus ahead, not on the handler. After a while we're supposed to send the dog over a jump and then throw the ball, so that he stays focused ahead even when he doesn't see the ball.

    That is the theory, at least... I'm not so good at putting it into practice :)

  3. You might want to check out Max200. They sell dogwalk hinge sets for $25.

  4. @Renate-There is no cue, verbal or physical, for the down ramp behavior. It was shaped starting with just a plank on the ground, then a plank resting on a table then on to the full dogwalk. I will sometimes tell him 'go go go' and then 'jump' (or whatever the obstacle is) if I want him to head straight ahead to an obstacle or I'll stop short and tell him 'turn' if I want him to turn away 180 degrees into a tunnel. In practice he should understand what to do based on whether or not he gets his reward. I think a verbal cue will confound things, much the way you see people with 2 on/2 off yell 'touch' as the dog is descending and the dog slows or stops before getting to the yellow. Also introducing a verbal cue is tricky with the timing because if I give the verbal and he then misses I'm teaching him that the verbal means to leap. If I issue the cue late, after he's off the board correctly, well, it's too late.

    As for the dogwalk bouncing off the ground, that's an excellent observation and something I hadn't noticed. I did notice a certain amount of bounce but didn't realize it was so bad. From now on I think I'm going to put some kind of intermediate support when I use that dogwalk. I'll have to check my trial videos to see if something similar is going on. If so then maybe I'll have to fade the support as well.

  5. @Andreja-The first video I wasn't training turns but I did have the toy in my pocket and he's turning to me looking for his toy. This has been an issue since the beginning so I got the treat gizmo so he'd focus ahead. I was also using a flower pot with a toy underneath at one point. I'm terrible at throwing toys and he gets so overstimulated with toys so the treat gizmo worked nicely. I used a toy when I faded the gizmo and this could have caused some problems as well because maybe I was rewarding when he was looking at me because he still managed to get the contact. I'm pretty sure when I faded the gizmo that I always made sure he had some obstacle to do after the dogwalk but maybe I got lazy about it. I'll make sure to be more careful about it this time.

  6. @katie-The hinge set you mention is the one I found and initially I thought it was $25 per hinge so it would cost $50 because I need 2. But I just had another look at the link and it looks like it's $25 for 2 hinges which is perfect. Thanks for making me take a second look! Problem solved.

  7. Had a quick look at some old video and it looks like some dogwalks used in trials have and intermediate support and some don't. None of them look as bouncy as the one at my practice field though so maybe the thing to do is try a support then fade it. If he can get used to that practice dogwalk then I know he can handle any that he's likely to find at a trial.

  8. Ha ha, I love the flower pot idea! At some point I got so frustrated I started looking for a remote-control ball launcher, so I understand :)

    My dog gets over the top when I bring out the toys as well, so I do my best to train with them, but if he stops thinking altogether I switch to food until he's running again. But Silvia cautioned me on more than one occasion that I should really minimize use of food because during trials he will be over the top as well and if thrown toys are making him jump he will most probably jump in competition. I keep thinking there must be an easier way to train this... but nothing so far.

    I wish you lots of lovely running contacts :)

  9. I know I shouldn't be such a wimp about breaking out the toys. It's hard to see the success rate plummet and the dog brain fall out of the head but it is good proofing for the ring. He is to a point these days where I can use toys for things, I use them for the weaves all the time now and for handling exercises. Hopefully when I get my walk built for the backyard I'll have more opportunities to train and we can work through the toy thing.

    I wish you lots of lovely running contacts too! Hopefully your training will go a little easier for you since you get to work with the expert ; ) I tried to get her to come here next year for our club's seminar but she doesn't want to travel that far and honestly I don't blame her.

  10. Have you thought of maybe using a hoop at the bottom of the board so he has to actually do a little weight shift back for a slight head duck? That weight shift might be all he needs to get that whole last stride on the board. I know of others who train a dog walk run into a straight tunnel, again going for the weight shift back, collected stride and a head duck to run the board to the bottom. Personally, I wouldn't train turns until my dog knows what the criteria is for the down ramp itself, but the hoop placed at the bottom could ensure the run to the bottom and then the turn on the ground, not a turn off the board. Just some thoughts.

  11. Thanks for the suggestion Kim. A true running contact doesn't have collection though. I should have been a little more precise in my wording. I still want extension over both the flat and down ramp, I just don't want so much. I want him to adjust his stride so it's a little shorter and I'd like him to control himself better rather than tumbling down the ramp but I don't want him rocking back and collecting. Nothing wrong with training that but that wouldn't be a real running contact. I do know someone who taught a nice running A-frame using a hoop but this was a re-train from 2o/2o to 'running' because the dog had a shoulder injury.

    I could try a stride regulator but that's sort of a last resort. So hard for me to fade the props and I'm skeptical that the behavior will hold up in the ring once the prop goes away. Again I know someone who has a beautiful running A-frame that she taught with stride regulators but she uses them all the time in practice and to me it would be a nuisance having to deal with them all the time (she's a much more patient trainer than I am).