It has been a long couple weeks in DuncanDes land, as all of us are adjusting to a life without out little Frenchie girl. But, if Lucy taught us anything, it is to live life to its fullest, to get out of the armchair and into the yard (or even better, the mountains or canyons)…to snork in the flowers and crawl in the new grass, and above all – love your pups and people as much as you can. Lou, we miss you so much, but you as always, would be right.
So on the note of doing things you love, how about an update of Dunc’s Running Contacts?
Duncan, Desmond, Angus and I spent the weekend at the BARC Spring NADAC trial this past weekend. I couldn’t think of a better place to be, and NADAC courses are beautifully made for pushing the speed on our running contacts. That was our goal for the weekend: Fast. Happy. And Confident. I’d say we were successful.
Duncan and I have been working on his running contacts for about a year now. I don’t admit to being the most diligent at working these throughout our trialling season last year, so it’s been a long road. Last fall, I started to see progress, and began to push him in trials, moving from a barely managed run-through-the-contact-please-don’t-jump hope for the best method to the independent contacts in this weekend’s video. We’re still not done, still have yet to work full height at home, but through trial and error (and a pile of cookies) he’s learning to find his striding on his own. And as a result, instead of Shy Dunc, we have Super Confident Fly over the Apex Duncan, showing more speed throughout the entire course.
While true running contacts aren’t very common in my area yet, I know the word is out and there are several good agility folks contemplating training them. While I am in no way an expert, I have whacked away at this project for many moons, and have learned a thing or two along the way. In my finite wisdom, here is what I have figured out:
1) Running contacts, true running contacts (with no management) are a lot of time and effort. Prepare for many months of foundation training, trial and error, and a steep learning curve no matter what method you choose. Two on/two off is a heck of a lot clearer as a criteria, but if you have good reasons, RCs can be the right choice.
2) If retraining a dog who had stopped contacts, prepare for failure in the ring. If you are currently trialling, you’ll lose some Qs while you both figure it all out.
3) Running contacts are not just for World Team competitors. I chose RCs because Duncan found stopping at the bottom of the contacts to be a real bummer, and I wanted to find a better way to keep his motivation high. We are learning Sylvia Trkman’s method, because she recognizes RCs can be highly motivating for tentative dogs and drivey dogs alike. I think this may be the case for all the other great RC training methods out there, but Sylvia is highly supportive of all speeds and size of dog, which was important to me.
4) During early training, a pivotal moment was being told we didn’t need RCs because Dunc wasn’t yet confident enough to run the contacts full out. Nothing digs me in deeper than being told I can’t do something, and I’m even more stubborn when told Dunc can’t do it. Inspiration can be found in random places…take it, run with it, and believe in your dog.
5) No matter what criteria you choose for your contacts, if you believe it’s right for you and your dog as a team, then go for it. Deciding to abandon a 2o2o and train a RC was a leap of faith for Dunc and me, and maybe I was just stubborn enough, and Dunc trusting enough to make it work. We still have a ways to go, but so far, so good.
It’s been a heck of an adventure, full of jumps and leaps and finally, YES finally, feet down a little more often than not. I couldn’t have chosen a better teammate to learn with. Duncan is truly the Little Dog That Could.