Monday, 3 November 2008

Zeki's Training - some thoughts about the dog walk

Zeki continues to make me laugh. She is such an outgoing and confident little person. She will be eight months' old on 8th November and I can't believe where the time has gone.

I have started to give real thought to Zeki's dog walk contact. I'm rather wishing I hadn't given it too much thought and just got on and trained it like I did with my other dogs because it has given me a dilemma and consequently I have been reading and re-reading different ideas on lots of different blogs and of course the web site of the wonderful Sylvia Trkman.

I had kind of thought I would train Zeki to run the dog walk down plank; partly because my target training is still not strong enough to put to the contacts and partly because I want her to run fast across the plank without thinking about stopping for the time being.

We had our first session practising last Friday and at the end of it I wasn't really very satisfied with what I'd done. She had a good time with lots of reward so no harm done but I was still not practising anything with conviction; just playing around really. I placed the plank on an old caravan step so it was some 8 inches off the ground. I then had two of her plastic cones placed either side of the entrance so she made a straight entry onto the plank. By the end of the session she was happily picking up the entrance for herself with me stood either side of the plank. However, I wasn't getting the speed that I wanted. She was very happy coming down the plank but it wasn't really fast.

So, I had a thorough read of some articles including Sylvia Trkman's ideas and now I have a plan forming. I'm going to do away with the cones and only run Zeki onto the plank from a straight entrance so that she can get up speed before she arrives on the plank. I am going to place her food pot a good deal further out than I was on Friday so she has to keep running and focusing on her pot. I will probably stick with a food pot (rather than a placed or thrown toy) whilst I work on this because I think it will be easier for her to transition to her target in due course. I will be clicking as she runs through the contact and then throwing the food out beyond her pot, i.e. she will get her reward whilst focusing forward and not looking to me.

One thing I have decided is that I'm not going to use props to achieve the running contact, I'm going to try the Sylvia Trkman method and if things go to plan then maybe I'll end up with a choice: either I can continue down the route and train full running contacts or I can bring in the target and end up with a fast run to a target.

I haven't trained contacts like this before so it will be interesting to see if it works out. I hope that by training a solid behaviour with her target alongside running fast over the plank it won't be an issue to merge the two methods.

Maybe in a month's time I'll be posting on here saying it isn't working and after all I'm going back to my preferred method of back chaining (on lead) to the target!

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