I recently learned about home-made squeaker mats from Silvia Trkman and quickly ordered 100 small, flat-ish squeakers, a non-slip rug pad, and a yellow yoga mat.
My love of low-tech audible mats goes back to 2013, when I created a clicker mat that was built into my A-frame and dog walk ramp so it was invisible to my dogs. But I left behind all my large agility equipment due to moving twice during the past 6 years. Plus Lil’s contacts were so stellar (due to using my clicker mats) I didn’t need them.
Fast forward to 2019: Over the past year, I’ve been trying to figure out how to transition Takoda’s A-frame performance from 4on to something that is easier to do on the higher, slatted A-Frames used in USDAA and UKI, which we started competing in 10 months ago. Prior, we had only been doing NADAC where 4on worked well due to lower A-frames with no slats.
The trickiest part about transitioning him to a moving A-Frame has been his long history of NOT floating over the Apex, a necessary component of the 4on performance. I tried to train a “true running” A-frame for a while, but I didn’t like the high hits, even though they were usually in. The bigger issue for me was that his performance was not fully independent and I didn’t like being limited in my handling options. So I stopped trying to train a true running A-Frame.
But recently I decided to see if I could get Takoda to understand “rear feet targeting.” During his running contact training, it was clear he was targeting with one front foot, which the rear feet followed BUT they were incidental to him and too high for me. 🙂
After working on rear feet targeting for a week or two, I feel like he understands that he is being rewarded for his rear feet hitting a mat, but he also thinks a front foot needs to hit the mat (based on him doing the same thing every single rep). I’m hoping over time, with enough good rear feet separation and extension/ reach beyond his front feet, that he’ll realize only his rear feet need to hit the mat, which will be easier for him to do on an actual A-frame. If I am not successful, he’ll continue to target with a front foot followed by both rear feet which will work, but the overlap will not be as significant so it likely won’t be quite as low as it could be without intentional front foot targeting.
Onto the squeaker mat which I made the width of an A-Frame. The squeaker portion of the mat is 20 x 20 (the size of a FLOR tile I had on hand).
For our first session, I oriented the mat lengthwise, hoping his front foot would sometimes hit the non-squeaker part of the mat, and his rear feet would overlap and hit the squeaker part, which would help clarify its only his rear feet that need to hit the mat.
This video is an example of that perfect scenario. Most of the time, he hit with one front foot followed by two rear feet but this was his first session so I’m staying openminded about what might transpire over time.
(below) squeaker grid. I used a hot glue gun to attach them to the bottom of a 20×20″ FLOR carpet tile. (below) detail view of squeakers
(below) non-slip rug mat. This mat has silicon embedded in it and it is the most non-slip surface imaginable, even on artificial turf.
(below) yellow yoga mat glued to the anti-slip mat along the edges to form an envelope to encase the squeakers and FLOR tile.
This whole project took under 30 minutes to complete and it works perfectly.