Training and Behavior
Do-It-Yourself Contact Training: How to perfect this vital agility skill at home.
M. Christine Zink, D.V.M., Ph.D.
Many agility competitors live in areas with limited space, and must improvise ways to train with minimal equipment. Weekly classes are important, but to make consistent progress, some obstacles, such as the contact obstacles, necessitate training between classes.
Contact behaviors (stepping on the obstacle’s yellow contact zone) are a vital part of agility training because failing to touch the contact zone is a non-qualifying fault (imposed to ensure the dog safely exits each obstacle) in all major agility organizations.
The behavior is best learned in short, frequent sessions – five to 10 minutes once or twice a day. This prevents the dog from becoming bored and allows it to process the information. Fortunately, there are several ways to practice contacts at home, even if you live in downtown Manhattan.
Agility for beginners
If your dog is an agility newbie, familiarize it with standing on an agility practice board while the board is flat on the ground. Once your dog is comfortable, encourage it to stand on the board and walk to the end toward the contact zone. Wait for your dog to reach a position where its back feet are on the board and its front feet are on the ground. This is called the two-on-two-off (2o2o) contact behavior. Then put a piece of food on the ground as a reward.
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