Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fast Contact Obstacles

D can lose a lot of speed if they lolly-gag over the dog walk, A-frame or see saw.  If a whole run's Standard Course Time (SCT) is 60 seconds, and D stops on the apex of the A-frame to survey the arena, or sniffs its way across the dogwalk, or stops half-way across the see-saw and waits leisurely for it to tip and go down, you've just added maybe 10-20 (or more) seconds to your run time.  You absolutely can't afford slow contacts.

So, how to get fast contacts?  As always, FOOD!

Start with floor work with your puppy.  Sit D or have someone hold D on leash.  Walk away with a good treat or toy in your hand.  Call D to you.  "Maxie, come!"  Encourage them to run fast.  Increase the distance until D is running to you from 50'.  If you have a training partner, both of you can take turns calling D and treating at each end. Increase the difficulty so there is NO TREAT if they walk, run slower than top speed, run a crooked line, sniff or get distracted.

Interspurse a jump (or straight tunnel) midway along the straight path.  "Maxie, over, come!"

Interspurse a contact obstacle in the middle of the path.  See details below.

All of these exercises assume D knows the contact and isn't afraid of them, has a good sit/stay . . . .

I've already covered how I train a fast reliable see-saw in a previous post: See-Saw Training.
Every dog I observe who has poor see-saws doesn't do this training, or doesn't do it with precision.

Assuming D knows the dog walk and isn't afraid of it and has a good sit/stay . . . . .
Position D about 4-6 feet out from one end of the dog walk in a sit/stay, or have someone hold them.
Walk to the other end.
Show D the treat in your hand and say "Walk it", or whatever you say for the dog walk.
They will come charging over the dog walk to get a good treat.  If not, encourage with verbals such as "come on, hurry up, come get it".
Decide what kind of contact behavior you are looking for (2 on/2 off, 4 on, 4 off), and just before they reach the end of the down contact say "Halt", "Stop", "Wait", or whatever you say for them to pause at the end. 
At the very moment you get the desired behavior, present your treat down close to the board.
"Good Halt"  "Good running"
Train D's head to be DOWN at the end of every contact.  This prevents D from leaping off the boards and missing the contacts altogether.
After you get the speed you are looking for, begin positioning D a wee bit off to either side of the up contact, what folks call "Around The Clock" exercises.
Begin positioning yourself around the clock of the downside contact and further and further away from it, and delaying the treat until the contact behavior is given and you call D off the obstacle and to you.

Do the same as for the dog walk, only most D's can't manage to stay on the steep slope in a 4-on.  Little D's with weak front shoulders can't even do a 2-on/2-off position.  With Maxie, I don't make him stop on the board at all because, with his 12" stride, he isn't capable of leaping completely over the yellow contact zone.  I just make sure and treat in the very middle of the bottom of the board, about 2 feet out.  Lucky, with her 5' stride, could easily leap over the yellow zone.  I make her do a 2-on/2-off, and she has strong front shoulders to handle it.  Some handlers make their large D do a DOWN ON THE GROUND at the bottom of the A-frame.  In all cases, make sure and treat in the very middle of the bottom of the board, never near the outside edges.  You want D to get used to staying in the middle all the way to the bottom.

If you want precision and consistency from your D, your D needs precision and consistency from you.

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