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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Using the Manners Minder to teach contacts to Zaz and Itz

First I just want to say that I am NOT an expert on running contacts. I am playing around with them with Zaz and Itz simply because I wanted to see if I could train it. It took me awhile to feel inspired to train the pups and trying something new helped me get some enthusiasm back. I watched videos and analyzed blogs from people who have seemed to have been successful teaching their pups from beginning training through to competition. (Cflyrun and Adventures of the Millers Four Pack). These two trainers are now successfuly running their dogs in competition. I also read and re-read Sylvia Trkman's Running Contacts Information on her website. Obviously Sylvia is the running contacts guru! All this information was free! Amazing in this day and age when everyone wants to hide their "agility secrets" or charge ridiculous amounts of money for information. I also watched Nancy and Zeki work through the process and was inspired by Zeki's lovely running Aframe.

What I did find was that I either needed another person to reward the dog for me (to prevent the pup from looking back at me) or I needed to invest in a Manner Minder Treat Dispenser. Luckily Dennis was back in NY and he brought one home for me! (Now you can buy them in the UK).

I looked through some of the videos today to see if I could find any that showed how I used the manners minder. Unfortunately I did not take that many videos as I found it was too much to try and train both dogs, set up video, look at video, download video ect ect. The earliest videos I took (of the pups on the plank on the ground) were with Quicktime video and I just cannot easily make a movie of those. If the pups end up competing successfully with running contacts I will eventually show those early videos as they are very very funny!

So here are two clips of the more advanced stage where the plank was first propped up on a caravan step and then propped up on a table. The Manners minder is set up about 15 feet away from the bottom of the plank. I tried to work through sending, recalling, running with ect ect at each stage. You cannot see the Manners minder but you can occasionally hear it beep and you can see the small remote in my hand. I took the videos focused on the contacts so that I could see if I was rewarding the right behavior. The most difficult thing for me was trying to decide in a split second if the contact "hit" was as I wanted it. So I took some videos to watch back after training to see if I was correct in my calls. These videos were taken in June and July. I found the Manners minder very helpful as I could concentrate on watching the dog's performance and not worry that they would be looking at treats in my hand.

I hope some of you find this interesting and take it all with an understanding that I am also learning something new. Use what you can from this information but realize there is no substitute for just getting out there with your dog and working on it! I am so glad we did the majority of the work already as my garden is now flooded and I think puppy training is going to be limited over the next month or two as this rain seems to be never ending! My weave poles have now been moved onto the patio slabs and I may be able to do some weave pole training only if the rain and wind would stop.


Christine said...

Great to see and thank you for sharing:-)

Debbie said...

I **LOVE** my MM. Got it last year for Christmas, and I've used it for stopped contacts and weaves mostly. I can get independent performances while I'm across the ring. It's not as hard to fade as one would think, being as it's huge and all. I have also used it in a crate to reward quietly lying there watching the action. For dogs who would open it and eat all the food, you can remove the tray and put it on top of the crate so the kibble falls from the sky. :) If it hiccups and doesn't respond to your remote, replace the batteries in both pieces and 99% of the time that will fix it.

Have fun!!!