Posted by: allstaragility | June 6, 2010

Rockin’ the Bounce!

This blog accompanies the video recently uploaded to youtube:

It has been awhile, so here is an update on our progress!  Focusing on raising the height of the DW the last few months has also raised the issue of dealing with “bouncing” DW ramps.  Mainly, this has been an issue on our DW at home as the ramps are slightly more flexible and the top does not attach to middle section with a pin, thus it allows more bouncing and slight tipping side to side.  I had been bracing the ramps quite a bit to keep them more stable and even, but it was harder for me to accomplish as the ramps got steeper.   The first time the ramp showed some movement as she was descending, she did alter her stride; shortening and rounding more to keep better balance.  This did result in a “jump” which snowballed to more jumping the more I tried to work her through it.  Now, Solei has a very sensible head on her shoulders.  I am glad that I have a dog who isn’t going to be a kamikaze with her body; especially with the speed she is going.  However,  it did bring up the question as to how solid the ramps are in competition.  I have really watched a lot of DWs in trials and came to the conclusion it is something Solei will likely experience at some point, therefore better to prepare her for it rather than have it become a problem later on in competitions.

This really put me in a catch-22 position.  On one hand, I had to get the correct behavior to mark and reward.  On the other, if she didn’t exhibit the behavior and I withheld reward (or didn’t jackpot), I was beginning to lose drive.  The last thing I wanted was a dog who was “thinking” too much rather than just running.  I was very certain it was something she would “get over” by boosting confidence so we did lay off working so much on the one at home.  I am very fortunate to have access to at least 3 other DWs on a regular basis; all much more solid than ours.  I took her several different places over a period of a few weeks and worked DWs low to high with lots of reward.  I was very confident she “knew” her job as she had a near perfect success rate.

When I started using this DW again at home, I moved it to a different area, used a high-value reward about 25′ past the end (rather than sending to a jump as I was doing previously) and didn’t brace it as much.  Rather than make her perform the entire obstacle, I started with having her run down the ramp to do quick repetitions with lots of reward for drive.  At this point, I was rewarding just for driving forward.  I knew the stride would come back as her confidence was boosted and I was right!

I have to comment at this point about her striding.  As much as I would love to have 4 feet in the yellow, I am just not sure that is “natural” for her.  I have beautiful video of her performing lower DWs with her hind feet hitting near the bottom of the board.  However, I think stride is affected by angle of decline, thus changed as the DW was raised higher.  I feel certain of this because I could always lower and get amazing striding through the yellow, but when I raised it, even very gradually, I always got to a point where she hits the yellow with her hind feet.  Mind you, this was also at the same time I was recognizing the “bouncing” issue so I get “deeper” strides in the yellow on more solid ramps and feel pretty good that this will only improve with time and more confidence.

Before working through the “bounce”, I was having Solei drive ahead over a jump or through a tunnel to get the reward either placed beyond the next obstacle or back at me.  You can see in the video that she now working DWs in small sequences part of the time (i.e. jump, DW, jump, tunnel).  This has also increased her overall drive on the DW as she wants to keep going!

So, what’s next?  I know I will have to address turns off of the DW at some point.  I have to say honestly that this isn’t my biggest concern at this time.  I have practiced a few call offs and turns with good results (immediately followed by several reps of running straight!).  More importantly will be her getting on the DW from less than desireable approaches, as I have been looking at all the DWs in competitions thinking “what would I do in this situation if my dog had a running DW?”  Our jobs, as handlers, are to be at those critical junctures on a course to keep our dog on the correct paths.  With a running DW, I envision this means sending my dog to the DW while I am hauling to get to the other end to direct off of it.  Well, that it the goal, anyway!

More updates to follow- stay tuned!

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