When canine agility comes to mind, most people imagine a super fast dog racing through an intricate obstacle course. What many people don't know, though, is that agility requires control and precision in addition to speed. For the dog's safety, several obstacles, including the A-frame, dog walk and seesaw, require the pooch to target a "contact zone" while entering or exiting the obstacle. Targeting on the A-frame is particularly important because of the obstacle's height. Starting early will help keep your agility dog's performance solid, strong and safe.
Step #1 - Lay the A-frame out flat. Starting low to the ground allows you to focus on the contact zones themselves without having to worry about keeping your pup from falling.
Step #2 - Approach the A-frame with your dog. The instant your pup touches the contact zone to walk up the obstacle, give your dog a treat and praise her enthusiastically. Practice until your dog looks to you for a treat every time she enters the contact zone.
Step #3 - Progress to entering the contact zone and walking down the flat A-frame. The second your dog hits the edge of the down contact, praise her enthusiastically and give her a treat. Your goal is to teach your dog that the yellow-painted contact zone is an awesome spot to touch and to teach her to touch it reliably.
Step #4 - Raise the height of the A-frame to its second-lowest setting and practice the entire routine again. Progress only when your dog reliably and consistently touches the up and down contact zones. If your pooch falters, loses confidence or begins to jump off the obstacle, back off a bit, lower the A-frame and train at a lower height for several days before trying to increase the challenge.
By Kea Grace
Affordable Agility: All About Contacts
Club Doggie: Beginning Contact Training
Agility Addicts: Contact Training: Training Your Contacts using Positive Reinforcement, and the Agility Addicts 4-Off Contact Training Method
About the Author
Since 2001, Kea Grace has published in "Dog Fancy," "Clean Run," "Front and Finish" and an international Czechoslovakian agility enthusiast magazine. Grace is the head trainer for Gimme Grace Dog Training and holds her CPDT-KA and CTDI certifications. She is a member of the APDT and is a recognized CLASS instructor. She's seeking German certification from the Goethe Institut.