I did research at the University of Missouri for many years during and after getting my college degree. I do believe, other than being one of the coolest jobs ever, it really helped hone in my observation skills. Formulating plans based on what I thought would happen, but also able to adapt.
Observation skills are a huge asset when you are training running contacts...because I will be honest. So far for ME, they are the hardest thing to teach relative to everything else in the training process.
Embarking on this new contact method with Even Steven has started out very easy...but we have just started with the very basics of the method. I expect it to all get much more difficult soon. If it doesn't...I will tell everyone to sign up for the online classes IMMEDIATELY :)
I am having fun with Gator's retrain...after having some striding issues, grid-work really helped all of that smooth out. I wanted just two hits, and even striding.
Going back onto the A-frame I saw that the grid-work really did make a HUGE difference. I plan on continuing to work the grid in addition to the actual A-frame. It not only improved the striding (he is no longer over jumping the apex) it has also helped him relax into the striding! Which I do feel is VERY important! The easier it is, the more it is rewarded, the better chance of the dog doing it!!
I also had the box higher before the grid-work, (per the DVD) which eliminated the extra foot he was putting down...but I couldn't get it moved down into the yellow zone entirely. Since grid-work, there is no issue there. The box is fully in the yellow :)
He is also not hitting the box like he was. Two clean strides, good hits and his feet are falling into place. He is relaxing and has a very workman-like look to his strides.
The one thing I am working towards is the box not elevated at all on the A-frame. Gator didn't like it when I removed the risers (little pieces that raised the top part of the box off the A-frame to make it more visable). He would stutter, and start overthinking. Or hit the box. But now... through this process in the video, he is settling into the risers not being there. On and off and on and off are the risers...as you can see, Gator isn't really caring about them anymore. I will continue to do this until Gator can go an entire session without the risers being on. Amazing what that one variable does (one tiny inch off the A-frame!) but it has to be worked through before we move on :)
You might be asking, why 5'3". Well I experimented and observed. Right now, that is where he seems most comfortable. Enough of an a-frame he doesn't have to think too much about his striding, but not too much height that I am wearing him down and he starts wanting to do some weird striding to get in the box. I want him to "solidify" here for a bit...then the plan will be to move it up very very slowly. Like one link at a time. If I see confidence and no stride changing or an increase in thinking too hard...I will move it up until we are at full height (5'9"-5'10")...I only do USDAA so that helps eliminate the variables. Although Lynn does a 5'6" the same as 5'9"...I wouldn't expect issues.
I am already putting in variables (I always think in variables...dogs do as well)...in regards to loads. Loads from jumps, loads from tunnels, loads on the ground, etc etc...He seems to be able to compress that stride very nicely (thank you grid-work!!!) So that is great.
After the A-frame there is a jump and I will be working with things after the A-frame soon to see how he reacts to that. For for now...just working on obstacles leading TO the A-frame.
People are asking me lots of questions about the method...I have used it to train several of my students dogs...it really does work great. The best advice I can give you is spend the money and buy the DVD from Clean Run. Seriously. It's not that expensive and it tells you SO MANY THINGS about the method, rewarding, troubleshooting, retraining from a stop etc etc.
It's so very nice that there are so many running contact methods...AND...many of the people that have developed these methods make them AVAILABLE at a VERY REASONABLE PRICE to everyone. So support them...I do.
I will say it has been tougher retraining from a stop than all the dogs I have trained without prior experience...but I think at this point Gator is really getting the idea :)
This is probably WAY more info than anyone cares to hear about a running A-frame retrain :) BUT...I want it here so people can, if they need to, learn. And if I decided Gator's goes super well, I can maybe think of retraining Klink's in the future. The Lyme issue put her back in the qualifying plan for Nationals. She needs two GP's and one Steeplechase. After she gets those (hopefully soon!!!) then I will probably go on this path with her as well. I will admit. I HATE stopping now. So much easier to RUN!!!
Ok...done analyzing :) For today anyway :)