March 5, 2024

Episode 336: How To Walk Your Dog Off the Course

In this episode (46:45)

In this episode, Sarah, Jennifer, and Esteban share their experiences and advice on how to leave the ring after the dog fails to meet the expected criteria. They discuss key dog training concepts, ethics, and explain who should and who should not use this strategy.

You Will Learn

  • When it’s appropriate to walk your dog off the course.
  • Why you should not leave the ring for handling errors.
  • How to leave the ring properly.
  • How positive reinforcement and negative punishment relate to each other.
  • Which dogs are poorly suited for this training option.


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Welcome to Bad Dog Agility, a podcast helping you reach all of your dog agility goals. Whether it's competing under the bright lights of the televised finals at Westminster, or successfully navigating a homemade course in your own backyard. We'll bring you training, tips, interviews, and news about the great sport of dog agility. Are you ready? I'm ready. I'm ready.

I'm ready. The show starts with your host, Jennifer Estevan and Sarah. I'm Jennifer. I'm Estevan. And I'm Sarah. And this is episode 336. Today's podcast is brought to you by Magic Mind, your companion for those long trial days. Whether you're an agility trainer or handler, keeping your mental energy and focus sharp is key. Magic mind is crafted with a thoughtful blend of ingredients,

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Go to hit for the new Teeter TeachIt and other training tools and toys, use discount code BDA 10 to get 10% off your order. That's hit Today we're gonna talk about how to walk your dog off the course. And I think this is something that is a little bit controversial in the dog agility world. I know when I was first exposed to the idea a long,

long time ago, I wanna say 15, 20 years ago, it was something that kind of made sense to me at the time. A, a budding dog trainer, and at the time just really learning about behavioral psychology and the four quadrants of, what is it, what is it called? The four quadrants of Operant conditioning. Operant conditioning, there you go.

Opera and conditioning, learning about opera and conditioning. And, and the theory made sense to me, but when I saw it executed in practice, I was like, I, I don't know that this is working. Like everybody thinks it's working or, or, or how it should be working, but I've actually found it to be a very effective tool when done correctly.

So I want to get into all of that here. And first I'm gonna go around the ho horn very quickly. Lemme start with Sarah walking your dog off the course. Totally bogus or legit if done correctly. I think legit if done correctly, I, I, I've got lots of caveats or I have lots of thoughts, but I'll, I'll save those for the rest of the podcast,

Right? I mean, that's why we're having this podcast. Okay. And Jennifer, Yeah, I'm kind of the same way. If done correctly, I'm okay with it. But there's all those perfect conditions that have to apply. So I'm not against it. I'm not gonna do it all the time, but if done correctly, I'm a fan. Well,

let's talk about what it is, first of all. And so when I think of walking out the course, why would someone do it? And here's where I think you gotta go to your quadrant. And for myself, I'm always drawing a box and then putting two lines in it to make four smaller boxes, right? And when we think of dog training,

we think of behavior. They're behaviors that we, we like, that we want, that we're trying to create in a dog. There's behaviors that we could, we would rather do without, right? Examples would be knocking a bar. That is certainly a behavior that I don't want to increase. I wanna decrease that behavior. Staying on the start line.

I'd like to increase that behavior, right? Flying over the contact zone on a dogwalk A frame. I would rather not have that. So let's decrease that behavior. And there are things that we can do, and we have a, a, a pair of terms that we need to use here, right? And the first pair is reinforcement and punishment,

right? And, and it has its own special connotation here in psychology or, or, or at least in, in dog trainer speak, right? And so the idea here, as far as reinforcement is it's anything that makes a behavior, whatever behavior you're looking at more likely to happen again, right? So it, you're trying to increase that behavior and punishment.

It isn't necessarily punishment in the way that you're, you, you may be thinking, but it's just this idea of decrease the decrease in behavior, whatever behavior that you happen to be looking at. So that's one, one duo there. Reinforcement and punishment. And the other one is positive and negative, right? And so positive is you're adding something negative is you are taking something away and you can combine these two pairs,

and then you get things like positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, negative punishment, right? And there are examples in each of those four quadrants, and I think all of us here prefer to hang out in the positive reinforcement quadrant, right? And I would say that that is the heart of agility, Jen. Yep, that's exactly where we want to be.

But I think the most important part of it is understanding these quadrants. And I think that's hard because this is all about the, as you said, the science, the psychology, the dog training aspects. So when we come to the support of agility, I think we've, a lot of times it's just agility. It's teach the dog the equipment, run in point.

That's what it is. And so I think with understanding, you can then figure out where you wanna be, why you wanna avoid certain areas. I mean, I think positive reinforcement, we like to say it because it's the right thing, it's positive, it's reinforcing. So everybody runs around saying these words, but to me it's the understanding of it,

the theory that's the most important. I want people to have the conceptual grasp of things, Right? I think that's a really great point. So positive reinforcement is where we like to hang out. And I think the easy one that people say, okay, we, we don't wanna do this, probably ever is positive punishment, right? Where you are doing something,

you're adding something that, that's where you get the word positive and and punishment, which decreases in theory, the behavior. So I think of all the classic dog training tropes, right? You bring home a new puppy, and this is a pet owner, of course, no agility person would do this, but they have an accident, right? They,

they pee on your carpet, you know, just a young eight week old puppy, and then someone rolls up a newspaper And hits 'em on the nose. Lady in the tramp style. Yeah. Yeah. So that's a great example of positive punishment. And we don't wanna do that. I'm especially against it with respect to the sport of dog agility. Because if you are trying to positively punish something,

it, it, in most dogs, it will result in a decrease in confidence, which eventually translates to a lack of speed. And that's in addition to the ethical reasons for not inflicting positive punishment on your dog. There's also in high level agility. Now we do a lot of contrast stuff on course, right? That's what adds complexity. So for example,

you might do a throttle or a backside on a jump. Now imagine that we always punish the dog when they took a jump the wrong way. Well, there are gonna be plenty of times they do need to take it the other way. And you don't want them to develop a kind of neurosis or anxiety around that, or around any obstacle, really.

So everyone kind of knows positive punishment. We don't do it. The other ones, we don't talk about very much negative reinforcement, right? It's where you take away something unpleasant to actually increase a behavior. But where walking off the course falls under it is this final one, it's negative punishment. So you are delaying or taking away, and, and I,

and I like the concept of, of delaying here, that they, they add in here, taking away something good or nice in order to decrease a behavior, right? And so, and we're gonna talk about exactly what behaviors you can use this with and which ones you should probably never use this with, right? So as, as Jen alluded to earlier,

there are very specific parameters that excellent trainers have, ourselves included. When we, when we decide to interrupt a run, you break that behavior chain and say, we're done. That's it. We're leaving the course, buddy, let's hit the road. And so that's not something to, to be done lightly. And there there's a proper way to do it.

And so we're going to get into that. So while we were getting ready for this, Jennifer made a great point. In fact, it's so good, Jennifer, that in my notes is, I was preparing for this, it was my point number one, and I have it right here. I'm just gonna read it, do it in practice first.

So your dog understands it as negative punishment. So Jen, what are your thoughts on that? So my big takeaway with walking a dog off course, so the biggest point that I would like to make is that I do think it's a behavior that needs to first be implemented in training situations. It needs to be something that the dog understands as a form of training so that they don't associate it with the trial environment.

So what I see a lot of times is that people will walk the dogs off, but only in a trial. Like in class, they would set the bar and redo it, or the instructor would tell 'em to take another turn. Or if you're in a private lesson, it's just an hour of indefinite training. And then they go to a trial and they walk the dog off.

Whether or not they like stop and lied the dog down, or they picked the dog up, or they walk the dog off. And the dog is not used to this reaction. And so now instead of understanding it as a training tool, the dog is associating it with the trial environment, which is already very different and very overwhelming. You're already not out there with reinforcements.

There's more pressure on your end. People are watching, the judge is out there. The, the sequence might be longer than what you train. So there's already these other things that are potentially adding stress or changing the environment. And now you're going to do this. And then I think it can, can become very confusing, very frustrating, potentially a stressor for the dog.

So my big thing about walking a dog off the course in a trial, if we're talking about, you know, trying to correct a behavior is it has to be something that you are consistent about. It has to be something that is first done in training. And I think those are the two biggest things that I see missing. So often people aren't doing it in classes,

they're not doing it at throughs, they're not doing it at lessons, and they're not consistent about it, you know? And now I do think, you know, one of the things we'll talk about here is how FEO and fix and go, I guess is rather fix and go has kind of changed to this a little bit. But it has to be something that's done first in training.

That's my big thing. Yeah. And, and I'll just kind of play the part of, or or like speak to what I think newcomers or, or people who haven't really thought about this in the way that we think about it, how they might come at it. And the reason that we walk the dog off the course is because we don't have very many options when we're in a trial environment,

right? We can't use really positive reinforcement 'cause we can't have our toy and we can't have our food unless we're in FEO. Well, You can't use a positive reinforcement that dogs are accustomed to getting in the training environment. So we do try and use positive reinforcement as much as possible by rewarding the dog to essentially go on and take the next obstacle, right?

Right. That that's each, each obstacle reinforces the one before it. And I will freely develop right. Understanding and strong response to the, to the word Yes. The marker. Verbal praise. Yeah. Verbal praise, right? And a lot of people will say, good boy, good girl. Right? And when done correctly, that can give you a little bit of a boost.

But I, you're absolutely correct, but I just wanted to throw that out there, that the, that the dog that you do have some tools available to you, just not the big juicy one, right? That your dog really enjoys and, and, and shows up for. Exactly. Exactly. But just to kind of finish that thought of where people,

where I think people get off track is they're, they're thinking, okay, well I'm taking the dog off the course because it is, it, it is a form of punishment that I have access to in the trial that I, that I, I don't have, I can't do anything else, really. And then they don't do it in practice because they're like,

oh, but here I can just down my dog and they understand that, or I can do this or I can do that. But I think the point that Jen's making here, and, and I've heard of Savon say the same thing, is it's not that you, it, the, the thing is that you just need to do it in practice so that it makes more sense in the ring.

So yes, you have access to other training methods in practice, you have access to better reinforcers and different maybe milder punishments or whatever, but you need them to understand what walking off means. And so you have to put in, you're essentially almost like training this routine, or at least giving it meaning in the same way that we charge a clicker, Right?

Well, there's a key point here, and the key point is this, the same action of walking off. Let's say I have two dogs, my own and someone else's dog, right? And let's say that owner has walked that dog off previously, maybe, maybe angrily, maybe said some things to the dog in a very nons, smiley kind of way.

And, and the dog looks a little wilted as they're carried off the course, right? And I, I leave the ring with my dog, I'm all smiles, my dog is happily wagging their tail. I call them to me, they come to me, I pet them, and I say, good job. Not for their mistake, but for coming to me.

And then I leave and exit the ring. That dog appears quite happy. So I go and I do the same thing with the other person's dog. And you know, they, they, they have a little bit of a meltdown, right? So it's, it's, there's a key point here, which is that dogs experience things just like people do,

right? I don't like to fly. Other people may find their first airline flight a really thrilling and wondrous thing where they, they take a lot of pictures of the sky outside of their window. So, you know, they experience the same event differently. So for one dog, my dog, hopefully it's just a tool. It's negative punishment. Hey,

I've made some kind of error and dang it, now I'm on the track where I get these low value rewards, like, good job for walking over to the handler and I gotta leave the ring. And I know there will not be the usual bowl of food or ball toss, things like that, right? You Can almost think of it le less as punishment and more as information,

information that you didn't quite do the right thing. And therefore you are no longer on the path to Disneyland. You're on the path to your crate for some amount of time. Positive punishment though is something entirely different, right? And so that's, that's a bad place to be. It's not the place that I'm taking my dog. And so one dog may view it as punishing and one dog may view it as pretty good information and that behavior will be reduced next time because they're like,

ah, okay, yeah, that's right. No, I, i I can't break the start line and, and take three obstacles before my handler is turned around and release me. And this also goes for spectating, right? So you're gonna see people and they're going to be upset at their dogs or treat their dogs a certain way. And you know that,

that, that's for the most part, it's going to be very positively punishing for the dog. That is not what we are recommending. That is not how we do it. And when it bleeds into that or transitions into that from negative punishment to positive punishment, you are doing it wrong. Right? You are doing it absolutely wrong and you're going to hurt your relationship with the dog.

And you're not really gonna help them with the understanding in their mind, which is what you've been saying, Right? The the negative punishment part of it is that you're taking away something good. So what is the good thing you're taking away, right? It is the agility, right? They don't get to go on, right? That's the only thing you need to do to make it negative punishment,

right? It's take away something that, that they want. When You, when you stare your dog down, when you tell 'em, when you say things or you make sounds that are, are very discouraging or you yell at them firmly or you point a finger at them, or you take a menacing body posture, you stand over them. Anything that your dog doesn't like,

right? Guess what? You're not taking away the good thing anymore. Now you're adding something unpleasant, right? In your mind. Yeah. You're taking, you're taking 'em outta the ring. So you took away the good thing. Of course this is negative punishment. No, no, no. It, it maybe started as negative punishment. Maybe you planned it to be negative punishment.

Maybe there's some of that in there. But now it is positive punishment, right? And you have messed this thing up badly, okay? So how you do it is very, very important. I like to say you do it with a smile on your face, okay? I don't, I, I typically, I would not pick up my dog.

It was mostly 'cause when I was learning all of this, I had a 67 70 pound rottweiler and pretty heavy. Pretty heavy. So I, I didn't wanna be picking her up all the time. Okay? So now let's talk about behaviors. Oh wait, the, going back to practice, because Jen made that great point about you gotta get this done in practice first looking at any behavior,

let's say context. I am not going to bring this out and walk a dog off course for mis contact unless they're pretty much a hundred percent in practice. That is a standard. Look, if your dog is like one outta two 50% in practice for weave pole entries or missed contacts or start lines, you get 'em up to 70, 80%. Guess what?

That is not good enough for you to be walking them off like you, that means you still have work to do in practice. There. There's a whole nother level of proofing. You need to look at your reward schedule. There is some very basic training mistakes that you are making, right? And you simply are not ready to be in the ring or you need to take a break from the ring.

Jen, what are your thoughts on this? I feel like people need to get to basically a hundred percent for any behavior before they show up at a ring and they're like, Hey, I'm gonna leave the ring because you're not doing this. Right? Absolutely. And I would add to that, 'cause I agree with that. I I have nothing to argue on that point.

I'm just gonna add to it that also consistency at the trial, right? So if, if the dog is allowed to do the behavior in standard, but then you go to time to beat and because it's not pertaining to your double Q or your qualifications for nationals, right? And the dog exhibits sustained Behavior, this is a Good point. Walk them off there.

That is not, that is not okay. Right? Like there has to be the consistency, it's very confusing to the dog. And that's what I see a lot is they allow a behavior, whether it's a mis contact, knocked bar start lines say to be okay in standard in jumpers because the double q the points, all the things that matter for nationals and mock,

but then they go and they're like, oh, I'm gonna enter time to beat and I'm gonna, I'm gonna work that start line stay, that's, or I'm gonna go into fast and I'm gonna work those contacts Entrapment. That's fine if the dog did not get away with it in those other classes. But so not only do you have to have it from the standpoint of training,

but you need to be consistent about it within a trial, you know? Yeah, I witnessed that too. And it's very frustrating, I think, and I I not the dog, right? And, and I think that that gives us a huge clue as to what things that we're going to walk dogs off for and what things you aren't, right?

Because what are some behaviors that we can expect to get to a hundred percent? I would say start lines, I would say stopped contacts, right? I would say waiting on the table until you're released. Right? But would I say that I can expect my dog to be a hundred percent on turning tight? First of all, what does turning tight mean?

Second of all, like, right. Like what are the factors? How is my handling, et cetera. So, so it's like you're gonna have to find those behaviors where, where this is the only way for you to communicate to your dog. It's like you're reading off of my sheet now, I'm not, I know you're not, but it's like you are because it's the very next point that I have here and I have some thoughts on behaviors that it's great for,

and you mentioned them start lines, contacts tables, so that, and I would say stopped Contact, Stopped contacts, we're gonna, we're gonna get to that exception. We're gonna get to that exception. And it's bad in general in my opinion, for handling things, right? So if, like you mentioned wide turns, but I would say even off going off course Yep.

You're trying to throttle a tunnel, you're a little weak on the skill. Maybe you're not weak on the skill, maybe the dog's usually quite strong and they, and they throttle into the wrong end of the tunnel. And I think my main reason for that is in the moment it's difficult to know if, if, if I, I have done the absolute perfect right handling thing the majority of the time,

nine times outta 10, even for a very high level handler, the mistake is going to be on the handler. And I do not want to ever reduce the correct response to something that I did. Right? Right. So if let's say, I think I'm th threading the tunnel, but it turns out I said the wrong verbal or I'm gross you out position,

or you're ridiculously late, or you're very late is probably the most common, right? Right. And so the dog appropriately did not throttle the tunnel because my cue was too late or, or whatever. And then I leave the ring. Now I have literally introduced this punishment, this negative punishment, and I am reducing the chance of my dog doing the absolute correct response the very next time.

Yep. Right? So you need to think about this al almost clinically, right? And you need to be very careful with that. So handling, I I, I don't take any chances. I just assume I did something wrong and I'm, if I'm looking at a handler who's not me, I'm basically like 10 outta 10, you're, you are probably doing something wrong,

you know, Jen, what do you, what do you think about that? Yeah, I, I agree. It's it, you have to have a plan going in. I mean, I know you said it's almost clinical. You have to have a, you have to know what you can't have a plan. Right? Understand, have a plan.

But yes. Handling things. I mean, I have seen people leave a course in a non-negative way because they've gotten lost and they're frustrated or they are saving their knee, or like, so we're not, we're not talking that we're not, that's a situation where I always, I always say, just pretend the course is over for the dog. Like they don't know that they only did nine off 17.

But yeah, handling tight turns, I mean, you have to have a very black and white, you have to be able to define what your criteria is very specifically in order to then communicate to the dog. And, you know, a lot of times when I ask people, okay, well what do you, what exactly are you looking for when you say check,

check? And they're like, well, a turn. Okay, well, how tight of a turn? Well, I want collection. Well, what's collection? You know, if you can't give me a very black and white answer and then therefore cannot communicate to that dog and then therefore cannot make it clear when you, when they have not met criteria,

it's not gonna be a good one to walk them off for. Yeah. In general, I'm not, I don't do a lot of walking off. I don't encourage a lot of it from my students. So rare, rare cases. Yeah. We, we, It should be a short-lived thing. I mean, if you're walking a dog off a course that told you that that skill was weak,

as you already alluded to, there needs to be some training, there needs to be some stuff happening. And you should not be trialing three weekends a month and walking the dog off every weekend or walking the dog off at once, a one run a day. Like if your walking off is happening at that rate, we need to stop and reassess the whole thing.

Right? Right. No, you are a hundred percent correct. That is such a great point because let's say we're trying to retrain a dog, okay? And I, I've retrained several dogs that for other people, and whether I ran them or they went back to the other, other, other person, and there's a little bit of an extinction burst around,

you know, breaking their start lines and, you know, they will test you. I, I I used the phrase, they will test you. They're not really testing you, they're offering you, they're seeing what works something they're, they're offering you something in a range of behaviors that had previously been awarded, right? Scooting forward, standing up, you know,

taking off without the release and all this stuff. So for these dogs, typically the retrain is gonna be done in not, not too many trials, right? Let's say I, let's say I showed twice, twice in a weekend. So Saturday, Sunday, and they do two runs a day. What is that? Four runs? So two shows is eight runs.

So by the third or fourth time I've left the ring, because they just lifted one paw by that fifth run or so, sixth run for sure, they're, they're, they're going to start offering me some of the perfect behaviors, and then they get to run a course, right? And then maybe on the next one, then they'll scoot again. And then we leave the ring.

The point is after two, three shows, so now you're looking in the, like anywhere from four to 12 runs for start lines specifically, right? You're, you're kind of, you, you kind of reach a point where suddenly they, they, it really clicks in their head with your perfect absolute consistency and you're good to go. Every once in a while they'll throw in something.

And usually that won't be in intentional, in, in a way that they're like testing you or seeing what they can get away with. Usually more often there's something like, oh, there's something exciting, or a dog was barking, or something like that. And it's just, it is kind of a little bit of a habit, you know, you're just like,

breaking a habit is kind of hard. So as, as Jen pointed out, you're doing a lot of this in a very short amount of time, but if I drew a curve, right, an x axis and a y axis, you would see a huge improvement in, in the behavior, right? That's doing it properly. Okay. Now, if you're a handler and you've had start line issues for two,

three years with this dog and you know, every third or fourth show you're, you say, oh, it's time to toughen up and get real and start leaving the ring. Yeah. I, I don't think you're doing it right. Right. I think, I think the majority of the, the mistakes come in training. Like I, I think that people always overestimate how good their training is because there's no real punishment for the handler when things go wrong.

And so you almost don't even register it. You sit your dog, they scoot, you go, Hey, hey, hey, we don't do that. They, they stayed. They sit and you get to run the course and you almost instantly forget that that happened. And you're like, oh yeah, my dog stays, like I'm able to run and practice and stuff like that.

But if you literally like wrote down every time you would see that every training, like every training session you're having a couple of breaks, you know, and you're getting like eight stays and two breaks in training and then it's gonna get even worse, you know, in that high trial environment. So I'm like, you know, I think that a lot of the proofing is about being more aggressive in your proofing and being more honest with yourself in how the proofing is going.

Right. And really treating like, you know, really treating those start lines or contacts or whatever in practice as if it were a trial. There's no second chances, you know? Yeah. So I, I think I mentioned on a previous podcast, I'm working with this border Collie right now. A great dog, fantastic dog. And, and she has the most adorable thing where the,

she goes, she circles around your leg and comes between your leg. That's her lineup behavior and legs down. So she lays down and then you can tell her to stay, and then you, and then you can lead out. And every once in a while, like she doesn't want, or, well, she didn't want to at first lay down and it,

it was that kind of down where their elbows aren't on the ground. Yeah. Kind of the vulture, like a halfway between like a vulture sit, let's Be, it's a low sit, Right? It's super low Sit. And so I'm like, yeah, we're not, we're not going. And I, and I would reset her up again, I basically,

I would never go, right? And, and, and the owner was watching me do this and she was like, oh no, that's how that, you know, that's how that breeding, that's how that line, that's how they down. I was like, no, it's not. And I'm going to fix this right now. And yeah. So I I have never,

not one time let that dog go from a vulture position. And so yeah, that's not gonna be the same issue it is for me that it is for that owner and that that's just an issue of consistency and understanding what your criteria is, what you're rewarding, right. And just basic dog training stuff. And it probably has nothing to do with the line or the energy level of the dog.

But having said that, I do feel that there's some dog personalities that are better suited Yes. For this kind of Yes Thing, which is a negative punishment. And there are some personalities that it's not such a great thing. Right. And I would use it extremely sparingly to the point where I may, I may, I may not even pause. I,

I, I may ignore certain mistakes and continue on. Before we go there, I think I kind of did this outta order. I'm gonna say there was an exception to the stop context. I think both of you made a good point about stop contact, but running context. So yes, years ago, put running contacts. The first thought I had running contacts on came with running contacts to me,

and that was Gitchi, the golden Susan, her owner, I taught her running contacts, working with Sylvia Turman, a Slovenian trainer, Julie Handler, world champion, fantastic person and brilliant trainer. And when we talked about it, I was like, well, so stop contact. I know how to reinforce that start lines and, and trials. And I know if the dog breaks what I'm going to do,

I've got a plan. I don't have the issues with dogs. I can retrain even very tough dogs. But what about running contacts? Like, do you, you, because at the time you couldn't do it again. Right? Right. And by the time you left the ring, the dog is like in the next tunnel over the next jump. Yep.

So there was a timing issue, right? Yep. In general, you wanna catch the dog in a mistake in that moment, right? Right. And so Sylvia's response to me at the time, frankly, I didn't believe it at the time, she was like, you, you never leave the ring for that. And not that leaving the ring is wrong.

Right? She, she also felt that it, I, I believe, I don't wanna misrepresent her, but I believe she thought that it was okay if done properly and, and for the right things. But she's like, we don't do it for writing contacts, because what I have found, she, Sylvia had found is that you didn't need to,

and the dogs actually got better and better and better, and you had to put your time in, in the training field. So if you think about it in terms of just like sheer either volume of repetition, I don't know, but I trusted her on this. And so anytime Gitchi missed, I never fussed at her. I never paused, I never did anything.

We just went on and finished the course. Eventually I deci made the decision to start using markers in the ring. So if she hit it, I would say yes. And if she flew off, I just wouldn't say anything. But we would continue on. But I, I'm serious, I didn't even hesitate or pause or anything and it just went away.

And the last like three years I had her, she never missed a contact. Well, I have, I have really strong feelings about this. I think above and beyond everything that you just said, I don't think it is possible for the handler to truly know if their dog hit the running contact and also for that same handler to give the appropriate information that that dog needs coming off of that running contact.

Like the, the way that we handle running contacts, if you are looking back and trying to see if the dog is hitting the contact, every time you do a dogwalk, you will not give appropriate information. You might actually cause the dog to miss the contact because you are not giving them the information they need. It never comes up. I completely agree with that,

but that is different from the point that Sylvia made to me. Agreed. Right. So I, that's what I'm putting out there for people who are, who are wondering about what to do with a running contacts. Because if you were like me and, and you had a lot of success retraining dogs, your own dog, your students' dogs with setting up good criteria around,

you know, when am I gonna leave the ring? When am I not training and stuff like that. This, this is kind of the exception to the rule. Yes. So there's one more exception, and then we'll go back to dog personality ties. My apologies. And the other exception that I do not leave the ring for ever. And so this is probably gonna be a little more controversial,

so I'm excited to get Jen's opinion on it, is dropped bars. Okay. And we have had dogs like me and Sarah personally, have run dogs and known dogs who had issues with bars and not because of ETO. Right. Just some bar knocking fools. Okay. And I think I, I wanna say with at least one dog, we did some experimenting around that and I just did not notice any improvement.

And in talking with other trainers, the, the problems of course are epic and, and, and legendary. And right up there with everything you said, like, can you get the timing right? These, some of these dogs, they'd be over two more jumps before you could even realize that A Was it your handling? Yeah. Was it the wind?

Sometimes, you know, delayed bar knocks Yep. Where they like rattle it and then it falls down. But literally there are two obstacles and 40 feet away. Well, and can you ever expect a hundred percent on bars for any Dog? The answer is no if they slip, because remember the whole point is absolute consistency. So if a dog flies off the A frame,

I feel comfortable that it's fair and consistent to, to leave the ring. Right. Assuming they're a hundred percent everywhere else, unless you see them physically slip or something. Right. Or stumble or, I, I, I don't know. But with jumping bar knocking, like that's just kind of part of the game. Like you can't attain that kind of accuracy.

And maybe that's, that's, that should inform us about the running contacts position that Sylvia Turman was taking. I don't know, this kind of like big thinking here, like, Jen, what are your thoughts on, on all of this, especially bar knocking. So on the bar knocking, I'm probably on the other side of the scale in terms of being more willing to walk the dogs off for that.

But I will say that I think it requires a very high level of training and knowledge and timing. Again, I think it's something that has to be done in training along with the trials, but I would almost say that if I look at the last, I don't know, 10 times I've walked my various dogs off a course, it's more for bars probably than anything else.

And I do think that that comes from my knowledge and experience of knowing which ones I feel like are ex I, I don't wanna expected of my dog. That's not the right word, but I mean, obviously if the dog trips or falls, that's, you gotta be able to see it and know. But I do think the knocking is such a slippery slope because if the dog,

and maybe it's individual, but if a dog that is jumping 16 inches learns that 15 and a half doesn't get anything wrong with it, there's no consequences. And 15 and a half instead of 16 and a half is perfectly fine. Why put the extra inch of effort in? So, you know, I think, I think it's a little bit team dependent,

but I will say I'm, I'm okay for walking off on bars if the training has been put in. Right. You can genuinely say to yourself, my dog has been taught this particular turn or this particular move. You know, they know that we've proofed that we've done that, we've done it with distractions, I've trained it in high stimulation, and then they go to a trial and make that fault.

I do think that it will help. Dogs can get ring wise and dogs can learn, oh, they're not gonna do anything about it. If I hit a bar out here and that's when I'll just say, black and white bar comes down, you're gonna stop. And, and the hard part about that is I do not advise walking off the first time.

Right. I'll fix and go, right. I wanna fix and go, I wanna make it a learning opportunity as po as much as possible. So dog knocks a bar if you can stop them before they get to the next jump, that's a big key because you don't wanna have 'em clear the next bar and then stop 'em. So if you can get to 'em before the next one,

stop set the bar, recreate the handling as exact as possible, and if they keep the bar up, you keep going. If they hit it a second time or they hit a bar later on on the course, then you do have to leave. So I don't wanna just, oh, bar dog hits a bar, walk off, try to turn it into a learning opportunity,

try to train. I mean that's been one of the great things about fix and go. But if you are not sure if you as a handler cannot tell me that A, you've trained every element of it, B, that you can stop 'em before the next one and C you can pretty much guarantee that it was a failure of assessment on the dog's part and not handling,

you can't give those three things, then I typically don't advise it. Okay. Then actually, yeah, absolutely. We don't disagree on this point. Right, right. So what I'm trying to say, I think is that the majority of people, myself included, cannot meet that criteria. Yes. You, I, I can't that, I don't disagree with that.

I do think there are dogs where you can meet that criteria. Yeah. So I think that's possible. I do wanna make very clear that I am absolutely, and I'm guessing probably everyone else here at this podcast very much against positive punishment of drop bars. So there are people who will, like I, I've seen a lot of unfortunate things in my day.

Will will like pick up a bar and like swing it at their dogs, yell at their dogs, put their hands on their dogs. To me, these are all that, that is pure positive punishment. It has no place in the training. I don't believe that it, it works very effectively. I'm not gonna say the positive punishment doesn't work or work even work well for certain things and certain situations.

I'm very much ethically against it. And I believe it is too risky because of if, if you, even if you take ethics aside, which in my dog training I don't do, but there's some people who don't believe in the same things that I do that it's too risky to your dog's like mental state and Well, their Agility Performance directly impacts their speed.

Right. They, you, you're gonna make your dog slower. Right, right. That's the, that's the bottom line there. But I, I think this talk about that she was talking about, about the jumps, I think probably leads pretty well into the personalities of dogs because I can think about the personality of dogs where, you know, the jumping might,

you know, be an issue. Right, right, Right. So yeah. So dogs that are like, I guess a little heartier. Yeah, I think Like a little, The dogs that are, that that walking them off in general works for, well first of all, you have to look at the definition, right? You have to be taking away something good.

That means they have to love agility. Oh, I Like that. Yes. So, and the dogs typically that love agility, right? The more they love agility, the more they show that they love it with barking and, you know, going stupidly fast and running around and stuff like that. Sure. So that's the kind of dog where, you know,

when people say like, oh, I couldn't walk off because it would deflate my dog. Well the personality of dog where it, you are taking away something good, it's like not going to deflate the dog. Right? Right. The dog is is already so amped up. It's actually a highly effective tool for highly Effective Tool. Exactly. Those kinds of Dogs.

And then the kind of dog that I think truly you shouldn't do it with, like what we would call a soft dog. A dog that doesn't take correction very well, that they shut down. Right. You're, when you take away agility, you're not necessarily taking away something that they desperately want to do. So it's not gonna be very effective. And I would also argue that a dog that is,

has a soft personality generally is very trainable, is very biddable is the exact kind of dog where you should be able to get to a hundred percent because they're not so wild and crazy and so, right, Right. You shouldn't need to walk that kind of dog off. Right. Your problem probably is in the training field, it is in the practice,

right. With the, that dog. But with the dog that's super excited and loves agility and is aroused, that's the kind of dog that can get to a hundred percent in practice and then fall apart in a trial because their arousal level is even one notch higher, you know? And so then they start making the mistakes. Yeah. It's about a,

about the dog's motivation and not what you think is punishing or rewarding. Right? Right. So if I like, I like ice cream, I find that rewarding, but you know, you're lactose intolerant and you hate strawberry ice cream, then obviously it's punishment if, if I make you eat that kind of the same scenario here for the dog. So you have to have some knowledge of your dog when you're executing this.

I think the last thing I wanna talk about, and we've covered quite a bit, I think it's been a really good podcast, is dealing with judgment. Because now that you've listened to this podcast, I think you're like much more educated about it and you have a solid, pretty solid understanding of how the three of us think about it and think about even dog training in general.

But there are gonna be a lot of people who are either new to the sport or even some people who've been around for a while, but aren't quite in tune with the behavioral psychology component of a dog training or can't view your intentions very well. Right? So maybe they have watched person after person after person leave the ring in a very mean way to their dog.

And the dog's been deflated so that when they see you leave the ring, they don't even catch the clues that you are smiling and your dog is wagging their tail and walking very happily next to your side. All they see is another handler who has left the ring and oh my God, it's Jennifer Crank or who Right? Can't wait to tell Facebook all about this.

So you, you know, they, that may be something that you have to deal with. You may have a a, an instructor who for very good reason because they see people be so mean to their dogs time and time again who say, this is absolutely not allowed. You can't do this. If you do this in a trial, I'm gonna be upset about it.

Right. And so I think you just need to be very curious in talking with that person, be curious about why they think that way. And, and usually there's a pretty good story, some pretty good reasoning behind it, but I do feel like this pretty legitimate when used and executed properly and somewhat sparingly and in the right circumstances with the right dog for the right behaviors.

A very effective tool, Jen. Yeah. I think with regard to kind of the perception of what people are gonna think or people are gonna say, it's, it's, it's the attitude. It's all on how you do it. And we already talked a little bit about that. If you're sure, you know, scowling at the dog, you're raising your voice,

you are seeing your dog lay down, you didn't even tell 'em to lay down out of fear. That's, that's the negative part. That's what people are going to see. And that's not what we're advising here, right? If you just stop and you say to the judge, thank you, and you heal your dog off, walk your dog off gently hold their collar and you're just like,

Nope. I mean, that's it. You know, that's all you need to do. All we're doing is, as we said, is delaying what it is that they want. You know, it, it can be a really great training tool and you can use it as an opportunity to educate somebody who may be asked, why are you leaving? Or what is the purpose for this?

Educate them on, you know, and, and really I think it can be a testament if done well to your knowledge of dog training. And that's how you gotta kind of flip it around. Don't look at it as, oh, I'm gonna be judged. Somebody's gonna be negative. There's gonna be somebody out there there who says good job for being consistent way to go on holding your criteria and making it so clear to your dog that it doesn't matter that you paid $20 for that run.

You are upholding your standards. So in a lot of cases, I, you know, commend people for, for maintaining that level of, I've seen people do it when there is a cue on the line and I'm like, good for you. I will go out my way to say good job of not falling victim to all for the cue and being a very,

very good dog trainer. I love it. I've thrown away double cues. I think it's the right way to train. So we're gonna end on this note. Absolute consistency. Okay, so if your dog's breaking start lines and you're retraining it and you have this component of leaving the ring and you leave five times in a row and then your dog's like,

ah, I got it. And they sit five times in a row and then that six time they stand up and start scooting and then you don't leave the ring, you're gonna have problems. And then when you do a second round of, oh well now I'll go back to, you know, doing the thing where I leave the ring, you're gonna find that it does not work as well.

Think about it in terms of reinforcement schedule and what you're doing with this dog, the inconsistency in the handling, and you are making it worse almost to the point where it's probably better that you didn't even try to fix it in the first place. Come on, let's not do that. So be absolutely consistent people and be good dog trainers and you'll be able to work out these issues.

And that's it for this week's podcast. We'd like to thank our sponsors Magic Mind and hit it Happy training. Thank you for listening to Bad Dog Agility. We hope you enjoyed today's episode. For more information updates and links to all our socials, just check out our website, If you haven't already signed up for our email subscription, we would love to have you join the BDA community.

Until next time, take care. The past, the present, and the future walked into a bar. It was tense.


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