We've been working on Wall-e's running contacts on a plank (Silvia Trkman's method) for six and a half months now. We've had lots of highs and lows, but I felt that he didn't really undertstand the behaviour. He could only hit the yellow consistently when I called him over, not when I ran with him. Nevertheless, after lots of discussion with friends, one of my friends convinced me to try him on a low dog walk. Yes, it took a LOT of convincing, let me tell you :)
Wall-e's been on a low dog walk before, three times, but it was completely by accident. When we were taking classes and he was about ten months old, I never trained the dog walk because the class was being taught 2on2off and I was training running -- I didn't want to mess up his running with the 2on2off. So one evening at class, we were on one side of the mini dog walk (training something else, not the dog walk) and he saw a dog on the other end of the dog walk in 2on2off position. So he ran (yes, ran as in galloped!) over the dog walk to see his new friend. I didn't know how to other dog would react, so to avoid a possible scuffle I called him back over just as he reached the down plank. He spun around on the down plank and raced back over the dog walk, actually hitting the yellow.
The other time he went on the dog walk by himself was the next week at class, when the class was running a sequence. I always skipped the dog walk when we ran sequences, but this week when I tried to pull him (with my body language) around the dog walk, he ran on ahead onto the dog walk, leaving me standing clueless. When he reached the centre plank (still in a gallop), I got to my senses and ran after him. He reached the down plank and soared over the yellow.
I guess all that plank work he'd done gave him the confidence to do his first dog walks on his own!
So. Let's get back to the present. On Sunday evening we went to the agility field to try the mini (2 foot high) dog walk. I backchained it. First I put him at the top of the down plank so it looked exactly like it did at home, and he hit it perfectly, but as we moved farther back along the board and then the entire dog walk, he missed every rep.
I think that he missed the contacts when I moved him farther up the dog walk because he doesn't know how to regulate his stride when he hits the yellow. When he starts at the top of the down plank he takes three strides into the yellow, but when he runs the whole dog walk he takes one or two strides on the down plank.
On Monday we went to the field again. I followed some advice that I'd read on Silvia Trkman's web site and put a jump set at 26" at the very top of the down plank of the lowered dog walk, creating a sort of 4 inch "stride regulator" since the dog walk was 24" high. (Silvia doesn't recommend a jump, but I didn't have any poles cut to fit the dog walk. We're going to cut a 2" pool noodle today to fit the dog walk before we go to the field again.)
I decided to do 3 reps over the whole dog walk with the jump in place. I wanted to see if the jump would help him think about his striding. The first rep was BEAUTIFUL!! I can't even say how perfect his hit was!! He took two strides on the down plank, hitting the contact with his front feet past the middle of the yellow and then brought his back feet under him to hit at the very edge of the bottom of the yellow! Awesome!!
The next two reps he took one stride on the down plank and missed the yellow. Looking at the video, he probably hit each of them by part of a toe, which is a bit of improvement.
I analyzed the clips in slow motion. The first rep, he landed after the jump pretty close to it, while in the other two reps he landed a bit farther away. So, today when we go to the field again, I'm going to try moving the pool noodle a bit farther back so it's on the end of the centre plank instead of the top of the down plank.
That hit in the yellow encouraged me...there is hope! Now I know that Wall-e really can have a beautiful running dog walk, and there's no way that we're switching to a different performance now!)