I have been training my Aussie girl, Lumen, to do running contacts for both her A-frame and Dogwalk. This means I want her to just RUN, full speed, up and over, and adjust her stride so she will plant a paw or two in that contact zone as she runs off. She has amazed me with her ability to understand the ‘stride adjusting’ thing but unfortunately with so many breaks lately, has lost her speed and confidence.
I will also be training Loki to do running contacts, however I think he can also have a “hit it” command to drive into two-on-two off position. He’s such a drivey puppy that I don’t see this being a problem for him.
However, I have lots of people ask me about training running contacts and I usually respond the same way: I love, running contacts. It’s my happy place. When everything else seems tough, running contacts make me feel joyful. To see Lu do it how she used to – to fly over a dogwalk in 3.5 strides, a dog who isn’t terribly motivated or fast as a general rule, it takes my breath away. But, they’re not easy.
Oh, how I cried when we raised the plank and after 4 sessions she was still leaping off. How I agonised about whether to drop back down or keep persevering. How I had to train 4-5 times a week on the dogwalk to give her enough practise. How turns are still giving us angst, and we haven’t even started on the hard turns yet. How just when you seem to solve one problem, another one comes up. How, even with the very best dog (Loki), there are still issues (going too fast, crashing and losing confidence). But, with a dog like Lumen, there is no way I could have trained a stopped contact. She would NEVER drive into a position, and making her stop would absolutely drain the motivation out of her. If you have a dog who lacks motivation, maybe this is the method for you. But you are going to have to RUN. You’re going to have to be prepared to blow courses on purpose (like when they put an off-course jump 4 meters after the end of the dogwalk and you’re meant to take the one 90 degrees to the side), and to experience frustration when what you’ve trained doesn’t come through in competition straight away. Be prepared to become very good at making planks of wood, or dogwalk planks, not wobbly when perched precariously on bricks and cinderblocks.
I don’t think running contacts is for everyone. I think you need your own dogwalk, or the ability to access one at least 4 times at week in the later stages. You need one that is fully adjustable, or to be able to acquire enough materials to raise it from 20cm all the way to full height. Some of the ingenious ways people do this is amazing, but I wouldn’t want my dogwalk supported by pallets and garden chairs, personally! I think you need to have a keen eye – watching those feet hit is HARD at first, and you develop the skill more and more but it’s something you need for sure. If you can’t see those feet hitting when your dog is running at full speed, you can’t click for hits! Which brings me to my next point – you need to be fast off the bat with the click, but not too fast if your dog leaps. I’m guilty of many accidental clicks, myself! You need to be able to really jackpot and celebrate with your dog. I’m talking cheering, sweet-talking, partying, dancing. Whatever it takes. Silvia Trkman says in her DVD that if she jackpots her dog, the whole village knows about it.
So, is running contacts for you? If so, great! Enjoy! It’s an absolute emotional roller-coaster but SO worth it. And if not, that’s cool too- I can help you train two-on-two off as well.
Here’s a video of Loki’s most recent RC training (as of 28.9.14)
Not her very best running, but here is some video of Lu training a while ago: