A Critical Key To Training the Running Contact?

Friday, January 30, 2009

I have had a few of you email me privately and one post to my blog why I thought a “fool-proof method of running contacts was unlikely.” I don’t pretend to have all of the dog training answers and I am not a pessimist about ANYTHING. However,  I do believe I have a pretty good grasp of how behaviours are learned and how they are eroded. That is why I think a fool-proof, cookie-cutter running contact method is unlikely. Notice I didn’t say impossible, I am still holding out hope. But lets look at the facts, there is yet to be anyone running at the elite level of the sport that has produced a running contact with more than one dog that has stood up for the dogs’ entire career.  I have trained 3 dogs to run their contacts and I would say they are 95-99% successful. But that is not 100%. I know without a doubt I can train a dog that can compete at the World Championships level of this sport with stopped contacts and have that dog go through his entire career without ever missing a contact. I have done it with Buzz.  I can’t say that about the running contact. Although Encore has only missed one of her running A Frame’s that one was unfortunately at the World Championships, it cost our team a place on the podium. I am still working at it because I would love to have a method I could teach my students, knowing they will have success. So far no one has showed me that has happened. No disrespect to those of you that may cry “foul” because your dog may happen to look good at this point, but lets see these dogs when they have put in a career running contacts and then lets see that be followed up with more dogs that can do the same, finish a career with their running contacts AS RELIABLE as they started it. Then we are on to something.  I am a person that sees the possibilities where few others see them. I will continue to experiment, any of you that think you are onto something I have over looked please let me know! 

In the meantime I will leave you all to ponder this video and the methodology that you may have overlooked while training your own running contacts. Have a great weekend everyone, I am off to Omaha for fun and games with all of those crazy mid-westerners. Super bowl party here we come!

Today I am grateful to be heading south for the weekend, oh wait, it is Nebraska . . . south of Canada does not necessarily always equate to warmer weather



  1. I agree. There’s no long-term reliable method that doesn’t need constant tweaking. I’ve got 3 dogs who run, and all 3 are slightly different. They were all trained differently (1 was trained sloppily, which doesn’t help), and all view the obstacles differently. All are fast though. I am normally happy with a 95+% success rate, although of course Drifter missed one of his view DW’s at GP Finals in the fall, first one he’d missed in quite a while.

    As more and more people run their dogwalks, I think American judges, at least, will begin to make courses more and more twisty off the end of the ramp.

  2. And I’d say that Rosanne’s dog has about the best running A Frame out there. He is no longer a baby (not that I am calling him old:)) so his contacts have been tested under years of competing at a high level, giving her opinion a heavy weight of validity.

  3. Why thank you! He was taught with a very mish-mashy method that involved foot targets, confidence building, and lots of reps at slow and high speed. But I don’t practice it hardly at all anymore, he’s just perfect now. Kiba’s is pretty bad, she was trained very haphazardly. I only call it “running” because she doesn’t stop or really slow down. My youngster’s is looking fantastic though, more like Drifter.

    I think Encore’s is the most natural I’ve seen aside from Drifter’s!

  4. So did you train your new dog’s the same way you did Drifter’s?

  5. No, I did not. I’m always changing what I do. Seri doesn’t even know what a target is, I went free form with her. And she has 2 dogwalk behaviors too:-)

    With her I spent a lot of time with confidence, understanding of the mechanics of climbing properly, and how to come down the downside without doing faceplants (she’s a bit kamikaze). Once she started trying to avoid faceplanting on the up and downsides, she was pretty much golden. She’s big for a girl and has a nice big stride, which I think helps. Kiba is little and has a tendency to pop like popcorn, which does NOT help.

  6. “I have trained 3 dogs to run their contacts and I would say they are 95-99% successful. But that is not 100%.”

    I’m not sure why you have a different standard for “success” with the running contact than you do with the weaves or jumps. Despite your awesome system for training weaves and putting in the time and effort to proof Encore far beyond the norm, she still missed her weaves at the worlds. So is your weave system not a reliable method for training weaves either? Of course not, in my opinion. She also pulled bars, so is your jump training not reliable? They’re still living creatures, and just as WE make mistakes despite trying to train ourselves to a high degree of reliability, they also will make mistakes. For me, that doesn’t mean the training method is at fault.

    Lee Baragona

  7. my problem with 2o2o was that I am not reliable with a stopped contact! Forget the dog…

  8. Lee, I know they are dogs and nothing is 100% but I would group my expectations of a start line, a table, 2o2o contacts, weave poles and my tunnel performances to all be as close to perfect as possible. Jumping of course is a whole different ball game as is a running contact.

  9. You don’t think Silvia Trkman’s running contacts on her dogs, most specifically La (who has been competing longest) are 100% successful or darn close? She said that La was 100% successful for 5 years, then very suddenly started to have problems. A shoulder injury was diagnosed and after being treated she is back to 100%. She has seemed to have no trouble maintaining a 95-100% success rate with her next dog, Bu, and is now working with her puppy who is about 8 months old, same method.


    The other side to your arguement is that you must examine how many dogs in top levels of competition HAVE true running contacts (not retrained, not early release, but were trained from the beginning to run the whole way). There’s no way to know a statistic for sure, but there are lot more stop-contacts in WC dogs than running contacts, so you don’t have many dogs to go off of.

  10. I am not able to see the video,- anyone else having the problem?

  11. Dear Cat – Thanks a million for directions to the LoLaBuLand site, I’ve just had time to watch a few videos and wow! I’m in admiration. I also read what she had to say particularly about Pyr sheps, and I’m going to go back and look at the entire contents… I have a 3 yr. old pyr shep who is a fantastic dog. He’ll still leave me to warn and I’m grateful for the experience and wisdom of the importance of building drive, now I know the goal I hope we’ll achieve.

  12. ‘a career running contacts and then lets see that be followed up with more dogs that can do the same, finish a career with their running contacts AS RELIABLE as they started it. Then we are on to something.’

    I jave great news for you Susan, your wish is coming true right now. Quite a substantial number of dogs are successfully doing their running contacts in competition and even more are being trained using Silvia Trkman’s method. I am from Slovenia myself and can observe at least 20 dogs at competitions regularly. A few have ran World championships too, as far as I know that would be La, Sja (Mudi, Polona Bonac, 3 times already), Fita (German Hunting Terrier, first time in 2008), and Gera (Croatian Shepherd from Slovakia). First three dogs are from Slovenia. BUT, natuarally all dogs taught by this method are at least 2 years younger than La, so there is no way of doing a statistical analysis yet – none of them have finished their agility careers. Majority of them are just starting to compete, so yes, we will wait and see how reliable they are. You have to take into account, that quite a few of handlers here, who are teaching running contacts are first time handlers, or it’s their second agility dog. So they had to learn from scratch how to have good timing, how to see those legs best, how to vary positions… Some other handlers that used this method for the very first time and have been in the sport since its beginning – they have (no surprise here) statistically most reliable contacts – but that’s because they know more about timing, have better idea of how quickly to progress and so on. So that is the biggest difference I would say – it really depends on the trainer, but so do great 2o2os! I have great respect for handlers who are able to teach fantastic 2o2os, but not all are. I’ve seen some poor results with 2o2os here too, because the handler did something wrong in the training process.

    You can read more about how Silvia teaches her A-frame on her site, but basically, once dog has nice running contacts on DW you spend very little time training A-frame, it translates nicely. The dogs that are trained running contacts with Silvia’s method here (that I can see at competitions) have all very natural and safe running A-frames. And these A-frames are rock solid too! So basically the time one spends on trying to teach a running A-frame, could be used on DW and then you get 2 for the price of 1.

    As far as turns after DW go: in Slovenia the judges seem to have a vandetta against running contacts, it’s no picnic to get through the courses. For us here, running contacts would NOT suit these courses best. It’s getting harder and harder and we are very aware of the fact that in order to qualify for the worlds, your dog will have to turn well. And yet more and more people are teaching running contacts. And Silvia is doing a wonderful job of testing her new way of teaching tight turns after DW with her 8 month pup (videos on her site).

    So Susan, I really wish you could come to our competitions here and observe the results, some great, some less so. But like I said above, it’s not the method that is or isn’t reliable, it’s how you implement it.


  13. he he he .. what a great video … gosh does anyone know where i can get a cat like that????

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