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Contact Training

I am kinda stuck/ paralyzed on my contact training. And in fear of screwing up my dog, I have not corrected his behavior on the contact equipment. Frankly, it has not been that bad. But I know we can do better. First, I want to improve his speed over the DW as well as the teeter. He usually hits his bottom contact but sometimes creeps off. I started his training with a 2o2o behavior but I am unsure he knows it. I have toyed with the idea of retraining a running contact to improve his speed and then go back and then ask for a 2o2o behavior. But I have done nothing thinking I would mess it all up. Please help. Paralyzed. I am having a hard time wrapping my brain around speeding up my contacts, 2o2o, running contacts, my body motion etc...

Hi William,

Thanks so much for your question!

Have you watched our 2on2off video yet? It gives a lot of ideas on teaching the position as well as creating drive into the contact zone. It can be found here: https://www.oneminddogs.com/article/agility-obstacle-training-dogwalk/

It really helps if you make sure you are always rewarding the dog in the 2on2off position, not for the release. This will make the dog want to drive into the position faster and also reduce the creeping because they are not waiting for a release to the reward, they get the reward only in the 2on2off position.

Make the 2on2off the best place to be, you can even feed your dog his daily meal there. Put his bowl just in front of the contact, restrain him half way up the plank, get him excited and then release him into the 2on2off. As soon as he takes up position, give him permission to eat the food, if he breaks off the position while eating, take his bowl away until he offers the position again. When he finishes his food, give him a release cue and put him away. That way the position is super exciting rather than the release. The most common reason dogs creep to the contact is because they are waiting for the release which has been historically more rewarding for them.

I would steer away from running contacts until he has a clear 2on2off criteria that you are happy with. Unless you want to completely retrain to running contacts but then you will have to take him from competing for at least a few months to retrain.

Your body motion should not affect the contact behaviour at all, if it is trained the way the above video shows, the dog should take up the 2on2off as quickly as possible regardless of what you are doing.

I hope that helps :)

Thank you so much for your reply. The advice and the video are a great reminder that I already have the tools that I need to improve his drive an 2o2o. I just need a little tweaking of what I have already trained. I need to improve my mechanics and timing a bit, but now we are well on our way.

So, I had kinda an epiphany moment at last nights training runs. I was told to stop making direct eye contact and to look at the target area off his down contact. (Thank you Claudia) When I did this, his speed improved and his 2o2o improved. I realized that the direct eye contact could be interpreted as a collection cue and that was slowing him down as well as making him unsure about his 2o2o criteria.

Anyway, I guess it takes a village..

Now I think I have a clearer path forward. Thanks again for your help.

Can anyone tell me if there are any videos on the OMD website for teaching running contacts, especially for the A-frame? While I have found some great videos for teaching 2o2o, I haven't been able to find anything for running contacts - am I missing something?

Can anyone tell me if there are any videos on the OMD website for teaching running contacts, especially for the A-frame? While I have found some great videos for teaching 2o2o, I haven't been able to find anything for running contacts - am I missing something?

Hi Juliet,

You are not missing anything at all. We do not have an instructional video for running contacts yet because our coaches have only just started experimenting with running contacts in the past few years. Once our leading coaches are happy with the method they are using, and they have tested it on several dogs and in many situations, then they will release a video.

Meanwhile, OMD Coach Mari has trained a running A Frame with her kelpie Hu, you can follow her training for the A Frame by watching Hu's video blog, particularly these episodes for the A Frame:

https://www.oneminddogs.com/article/hu-puppy-training-video-blog-19/

https://www.oneminddogs.com/article/hu-puppy-training-video-blog-21/

https://www.oneminddogs.com/article/hu-puppy-training-video-blog-29/

Hopefully that helps you :)

William, I'm glad you found the issue, hopefully things improve now for you :)

i have trained 2 on 2 off for both the A frame and dogwalk.   they are very reliable at home in training but when i get to a trial setting my dog always comes off early.   How do I fix the issue ..  getting very frustrating 

 

i have trained 2 on 2 off for both the A frame and dogwalk.   they are very reliable at home in training but when i get to a trial setting my dog always comes off early.   How do I fix the issue ..  getting very frustrating 

 

Hi Gary,

I can imagine that would be very frustrating! The key to this issue is consistency between training and competition: https://www.oneminddogs.com/article/Trial-As-You-Train/

I also recommend looking at this Online Learning course to really push your contacts in training too to make sure your dog has a thorough understanding: https://www.oneminddogs.com/course/Contacts-Proofing-and-Troubleshooting/

You might enjoy my article on the use of TFI and the concept of NEVER focusing
on the contact problem.  

See: http://www.dogtrainingpsychology.com/targeting-dog-agility-skills-improvement

My TFI (target for improvement) for Momo is now consistent and speedy run down to the contact zone.

To focus on the solution of getting good contacts in trials, I suggest simulating trials. Go to classes where there are lots of dogs around. Go to "Fun Matches" which are NOT official trials, but which offer a similar experience. Do it often.  Research shows that animals (including humans) adapt with experience and eventually perform at a very high level even though at first they seem inept.. I see that in Momo who at first would run as fast as possible OUT OF THE RING -- but who is now racking up lot of Q's and ribbons in AKC Excellent and Masters courses.  You can see her recent AKC Masters JWW run here.

I like to use a verbal reminder as Momo is coming down the A-frame or Dog Walk to hit her contacts.  That helps a lot. Not everyone agrees. Some think that the run to contact zone should be automatic.  I can see that, because if I forget to give the "hit your contacts cue" Momo takes that to mean, "OK, I can do what I want now -- I'm going to speed things up by leaping off this 'baby.'"

Notice that I am not focusing on the problem, but on my Target for Improvement. There is a big difference. When we focus on problems, we just get more of them. When we think about solutions, we open our mind -- our mind expands and ideas come to us.

There are many approaches to contact training.  One of my trainers (an agility champion) says emphatically I should NOT reward the dog at the contact zone and only AFTER the release -- just the opposite of what Niki says. This trainer says that putting a treat bowl at the bottom of the contact zone is luring -- and not a good training method.  Others even call luring bribing to make the point that it is not good.

Hey, I disagree. Luring is fine because it helps the dog to perform the behavior which can then be reinforced with primary and secondary reinforcers.  The term reinforcer was coined by Professor Skinner of Harvard University around 1930. A reinforcer is different from a reward in that a reinforcer ALWAYS increases the rating of responding of the behavior that it follows, while a reward may or may not.  If a reward does not "work" then it is not a reinforcer. We need to find out what can serve as a reinforcer by trying different things. 

To improve Momo's contact behavior, I've set up a simple "dog walk" in my living room -- like the one in the video at my website.

When Momo sees me snacking as I watch TV, she wants to join in the fun.  So I send her to the dog walk and reward her sometimes at the contact zone and sometimes after she comes off the contact.  I think it is important to give a SECONDARY REINFORCER as soon as the dog hits the contact. That could be a clicker, but I like to use a verbal secondary. Some call this a "reward marker" -- signaling to the dog that she/he has performed correctly and that a primary reinforcer is on its way soon.  The secondary reinforcer should not be the release word. By using a secondary reinforcer, we can give immediate feedback to our dog that she has done a good job and then release her later.  Skinner's research revealed that immediate reinforcement is much more effective that delayed reinforcement.

This may be valuable when we need to position ourself in a certain way by the next obstacle before giving the release word.  My verbal secondary is "Hai, Hai" (Japanese for "Yes, Yes") and my release word is "OK" which is the same in both Japanese and English. 

It is interesting how Professor Skinner discovered the concept of the secondary reinforcer -- you may want to see a video of Skinner training a pigeon to turn left and right in a matter of minutes by visiting http://www.dogtrainingpsychology.com/clicker-training-exposed

A new idea is to use one of those slow feeding treat bowls where the dog needs to really work to get her dinner. Momo seems to enjoy working to get her food and it takes her 10 minutes to eat her dinner, instead of 60 seconds.  

I may try letting Momo eat dinner for a minute or two while in the 2on2off position. I don't want her to have to stay there for the full 10 minutes! 😂 👀  Well, got to go. Time to do Momo's nightly teeth brushing. See photo below. 

 

 

 

 

 

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