Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Picking the Right Method for Human and Dog

I last left off with my decision to complete a re-train Murr's dogwalk, and had come to a good "trial stopping point" to commit to the training.  Next, was finding the right method for our team.   Way back before I started agility, I'm sure that the method you trained was the one that your instructor knew.  Now, with the interwebz, online courses, books, DVDs, and instructors who have become household names, there are more decisions.  I feel like if I'm committing to a training method I need to be on-board with it from day one.

The first major split in the decision tree is stopped versus running.  I don't think that a stopped contact is necessarily the slower of the two - a true 2on/2off is incredibly fast and drivey into that bottom position.  But I can usually get ahead of Murray, and had no compelling reason to switch from a "non-stopped dogwalk" to a stopped 2o/2o.  So running it is.

Next, has been deciding on the method of instruction.  There are plenty of big names in the agility world offering their contact training instruction - some of which can be conducted through online classrooms.  The "big 3" I've been made aware of are Silvia Trkman, Dawn Weaver, and Daisy Peel.  I quickly wrote off Silvia's because (a) my friend warned me about the amount of repetitions required and (b) after watching "Ready, Steady, Go" I had a hard time digesting her information in small fragments.  That seems to be the "catch" to me - I need little building blocks, but ones that are clear in direction; an amorphous approach was not going to cut it for me.  My instructor generally teaches Daisy's method, and walked me through the steps.  I have several friends who have developed great running dogwalks with their dogs through Daisy's method - and at Cynosport the best dogwalk I saw was from one of Daisy's students... I mean, it was literally jaw-dropping amazing.  However, the more I got to understand the process, the less I felt like it was the right approach for me.  I don't think my eye is trained enough to see the split-stride, and my personality is such that I am soft - I'm more likely to over-reward my dog and with something like the SS, I thought I'd wind up frustrated when I couldn't train my eye to see a black-and-white criterion.

The criteria for Dawn's method, on the other hand, seemed more black-and-white in the manner it was presented to me.  I enjoyed learning the A-frame through the "bounce box" method (Rachel Sanders) because there was a physical piece of criterion in play (dog goes into PVC box, dog comes out of PVC box).  Starting with foot targets, to me, seemed less abstract, and was therefore the better fit.

I'm not far along enough to know if this truly is the best method for Murray & me.  Likewise, I am doing this training locally, rather than directly from Dawn through her online classsroom, so it's more likely that I'm going to be training based on an application of Dawn's method (which I prefer, since my instructor knows me well and can therefore help adjust to our team).  Finally, it's very likely that various approaches would work for us, and that the other methods that I mentioned are just as effective - there are several exhibitors I know who have used any permutation of the above training methods with great success.  This method, when the various options were presented, just felt like the one that I could comprehend best and could most clearly communicate to my dog.

I started the re-train on October 25, and got a tri-pod to start recording our training sessions on October 29.  We are doing two short sessions (for breakfast & dinner) daily.  In my next post I'll give a Week 1 summary and provide some videos.

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