Dog Agility Contact Training
Dog agility is a sport in which a handler and dog team maneuver through an obstacle course. The object is to complete the course in the quickest time with the fewest mistakes. Each agility course is different, but contains the same basic types of obstacles: jumps, tunnels, contact obstacles, weave poles, and a pause table or box. Basic agility training is quite easy and fast, but to compete, the dog and his handler need to learn more advance techniques and train more regularly.
One set of dog agility obstacles are called contact obstacles, because they include yellow contact zones on one or both ends. To successfully negotiate these obstacles, your dog must get at least one paw in the contact zone. Contact zone rules were created to increase safety for you dog. Without the contact zones, dogs might be tempted to jump off an obstacle from too great a height or attempt to mount an obstacle in an unsafe manner.
There are four basic types of contact zones that your dog agility contact training must include: the A-frame, the dogwalk, the see-saw and the crossover. The best contact obstacle to start your dog agility contact training with is the A-frame. The A-frame has adjustable height, so you should start with it as low as necessary, even flat on the ground. Walk the dog over the A-frame. Put your treats directly on the contact zones and clue your dog in that it's there by using a command like treat, look, spot, or something else. You dog gets the treat ONLY on the contact zone. Not somewhere other than the contact zone, not from your hand after completing the obstacle. ON the contact zone.
Most dogs have more trouble going down the down side of the A-frame than up. Here's a good dog agility contact training tip for that: physically pick up your dog and put him on the contact zone. After he gets his treat, walk him off the A-frame. Repeat this several times, gradually putting him on the A-frame higher and higher up the down side. Be especially alert to any tendency your dog might have to jump off the A-frame. Often this happens at the highest, most dangerous point. You may need a helper to steady your dog from the other side of the A-frame during dog agility contact training.
The dogwalk is like an A-frame with an added horizontal section in the middle. The dogwalk, however, is more narrow than the A-frame. It's best if your dog agility contact training has already covered the A-frame. Train your dog to keep his eyes on the walking surface by holding treats in one hand held low and steadying him with your other hand. Put treats in the contact zones like you did with the A-frame. If your dog is scared of this obstacle, work backwards like you might have done with the A-frame. Start on the downside and gradually work your way back to the beginning.
Once your dog agility contact training has helped your pet understand the dogwalk and the A-frame, then you are both ready for the see-saw. You really must enlist a helper for this obstacle. The trick with dog agility contact training for the see-saw is teaching your dog to find the equilibrium point. Guide your dog slowly toward the middle. Just before the see-saw starts to teeter, use the treats in your hand to encourage him to stretch his neck and body forward. Don't grab the see-saw, just steady your dog. The movement may scare him at first and cause him to back up. Once the board teeters down, walk your dog off. You'll need to add an effective command for "wait" to your dog agility contact training. You want your dog to recognize that the see-saw is different from the dogwalk.
By working consistently and methodically, your dog agility contact training can teach your dog to successfully handle these contact obstacles and have fun at the same time.
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