Sunday, June 29, 2008

Running a-frame, take two!

If I haven't been blogging about Lucy's running frame lately, it's because we haven't been working on it (last running frame practice was mid-May). About the same time as I started with the pool noodle hoop frame back in May, there was a discussion about running contacts on one of the agility lists I'm subscribed to. The age-old debate about the physical effects of running contacts vs 2o2o contacts (on the frame specifically) came to the fore. Someone suggested that perhaps the act of 2o2o was more physically stressful than the act of a running contact, BUT if in the process of obtaining a reliable running contact the dog has to do hundreds if not thousands of repetitions to get the muscle memory thing happening, then in the end which one has more of a potential impact on the dog's wellbeing?

That question got me rethinking Lucy's frame re-training plan, hence our timeout. The hoop thing seems to me to be very much a muscle memory thing, where the dog gets used to lowering their head as they run under the hoop. Not much learning/understanding going on as it relates to the performance of the actual obstacle. I still like the idea of a running frame, but perhaps a different approach should be considered.

Enter the May 2008 edition of Clean Run in my mailbox, featuring a detailed article by Rachel Sanders about her running frame training method. (Click here for an overview of her method.) The more I thought about it, the more I could see the merits of her box method compared to the hoop method. To me the big benefit is it seems to be a concept that the dog can really understand, since unlike the hoop method they're not *forced* by the prop to perform the criteria; rather, either they hit all fours inside the box and get a reward, or they don't hit all fours inside the box and consequently don't get a reward. Also, in her article Rachel recommends doing only four to eight frames per training session and only three to four sessions per week, raising the importance of quality over quantity.

So I finally dragged my butt out to the store this week and bought the pvc to make our a-frame box. Couldn't find the 3-way corners her article mentions , but hopefully that won't make too much difference. Here it is being tested on the frame before gluing it together:

It's great that the article comes with step by step instructions, and I especially love that we can do the first few steps in our living room, especially given all the rainy weather we've been having lately. Looking forward to getting started with it; the glue is drying as I type. :-)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Dogz fun match

Lucy ran the starters standard and starters gamblers course once each.

Standard: I'm trying a different way of starting the course. Instead of having any kind of start line sit, which is where her stressing out begins, we sort of walk around for a few seconds and then just go. Did an easygoing run with lots of praise and treats. She had a couple of sniffy moments but overall seemed fairly content.

Gamblers: Decent run actually, but she's still not back at her excited-and-having-lots-of-fun level of engagement.

In summary, a step in the right direction...

Camping at Sandbanks Provincial Park

Photos of Lucy on her first camping adventure are over on Walter's blog.