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Link and I have been having some trouble with contacts. He does them fine on the bottom of the obstacle (on the A-frame, decent on the dogwalk), but when we start doing the whole obstacle it falls apart and he comes off the contact. If someone is waiting on the other side and puts treats on the target he does ok, but usually I'm working by myself. My instructor suggested having him jump up on the side of the A-frame using a table, or lift him onto the dogwalk and start working backwards, since it really seems he is having a hard time slowing down, and on top of it doesn't really understand his back feet have anything to do with it. I did a little bit of that though and it worked better. We also have a target box at home that we do back foot targeting with, but I don't know how to transfer the behavior to the contacts. this is my first serious agility dog, so I'm pretty confused on how to address this. Any suggestions?

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I was told to train it in two sections by a couple of top trainers in my region, then put it back together. I was not sure how this would work but it did.

You work the bottom of the contact, so the dog understands the position and you can send him into it from any location. This needs to be a solid behavior so there is no doubt he understands what he has to do. At the same time you teach him to drive over the contact, using a hoop at the bottom so they complete the obstacle. You start by back chaining up the contact and having the dog drive to a toy or treat until the dog is driving hard over the obstacle. Then you put it back together.

Look for Amanda Shynes new book, I think Clean Run have it. At our first seminar with her, she told me that she loved my dogs talent but hated his contacts as he did not drive into the bottom. I took her brief description of what to do and when I started privates with her she was happy with the results.

What you have to be careful of is having a dog that creeps to the bottom if it does not fully understand the stoped position, you will see this at every trail in every venue, and when you watch you can start to see why the dog is doing it.... Basically do I stop here, or here or here.....

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This could be a strength issue. The dog doesn't understand how to control its own momentum and either falls off the contact or its butt slides sideways because it is jamming on the brakes in front. You can help the sliding rear end problem by using guides at the bottom of the contact, but in the end, the dog has to learn to shift its weight backwards as it is going down the ramp. Several years ago, Stuart Mah wrote an article published in Clean Run called Balance and Rythm on the A-frame (or something like that) that explains how to strengthen the hind end for A-frame work and what to look for as the dog is coming down the ramp. You may be able to find the article by digging around on the web.

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Another thing to look into is where is his first stride is hitting the down board after he clears the apex. When a dog soars over the apex if they hit the down side of the contact too far down the board it makes it very difficult to the hit the contact zone, whether running or stopped contacts.

 

Back chaining can help with this, as can using stride regulators. The stride regulators I use are PVC foam insulation with a piece of PVC through the center and a bungy cord that goes through it and holds in onto the a frame.one stride regulator is placed a few inches above the contact zone and the second a few inches down from the apex. This gives my dog a visual market to hit the area in between, thus giving him better body control to correctly perform the contact.

 

Don't know if this makes any sense or not. Renoir tends to be a thinker and creeper so while I started him with back chaining it backfired when fine tuning his behavior. The use if stride regulators has really helped keep his stride open and moving quickly but easy feedback on hitting the contact zone.

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How good is his drive to the target on the flat?

 

You can train momentum into a 2o2o using a flight of stairs. If they're enclosed it takes away the potential of butt-flop off the sides, and you can add momentum by starting him higher and higher up.

 

If your issue is too much momentum with him flying off the end, whether you have a partner and are going back and forth or working on a flight of stairs with some momentum, you can adjust how strong your braking cues are. If you're standing facing him with your toes 6" from the target plate, that in conjunction with the target should be enough pressure to cue a stop. Once you're ~80% on this level, start fading how much pressure you give - take a small step back. Repeat this until you're far enough back that it's clear he's driving to the target plate. Then you can change the picture small steps at the time: start by turning in place so he's driving to your hip rather than your toes. Next you can change the angle you make with him, eventually moving back to even with him or behind him. After that, proof handler motion, taking a step forward parallel to him as he drives into his stop. When you can run ~5 feet after he's stopped using two handlers on the A-frame or a full run of stairs, then I would transition back into running alongside.

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I train position on a practice plank, then add a tunnel before it to increase the dog's speed. Use a curved tunnel so you can send the dog in and be ahead for the contact. Then I get ahead in a recall position. The dog needs to learn what to with his body to stop from that kind of speed and having you there gives a little more incentive to figure it out (unless the dog is willing to run into you). Note that you don't TEACH position this way, but are simply using it as a temporary aid to help the dog figure out body mechanics. Increase distance and speed on plank and get it solid before putting it on a real contact. The dog has to also develop some strength to do this coming down a steeper ramp.

 

Edited to add a link showing on of my pups learning 2on2off. The recall/speed part is near the end of it.

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Thanks for your responses everyone! I can't type a good response right now since my laptop is in the shop, but I've been trying out some new stuff so we'll see how he does the next couple weeks. I'll update what I've tried and how it went when my laptop is fixed.

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Diana, that is a fantastic video!!!

 

The way you did the captions is creative and very effective, and you showed the progression really nicely.

 

How old was your puppy when you stared the first step?

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Quick update. We are doing backchaining, and using the video that Diana A posted in combination with practicing rear end awareness with a target box and the stairs, and it's going well! We haven't worked up to doing a full obstacle yet, but he's consistently offering 2o2o and we've worked a little ways up both the A-frame and dogwalk.

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Another update. Today was our last class in intermediate. We got several compliments on how solid Link's contacts are, and my instructor used Link's 2o2o's later referencing how they don't slow him down at all.

 

I just wanted to thank everyone here for the help! I'm really proud of Link and we're having a ton of fun learning and navigating this new sport together.

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