Sunday, January 18, 2009

Contact Zones in Agility

One of the most important things you will do with your agility dog is to decide what type of contacts that you require of your dog. There are alot of methods, three I see alot are:
  • Two on two off: This is for people that want a very clear criteria for their dog AND allows for catching up on course. What this looks like: Dog runs as fast as possible and stops with two feet on and two feet on the contact zone (often presents as a nose touch to the ground - see Susan Garret or Moe Strenfel videos).
  • Running contacts: This is NOT for the typical agility student but is very popular right now. What this looks like: Dog runs as fast as possible striding in the contact zone and off the obstacle often leaving the handler in the dust.
  • Four on the floor: I've seen a few people use this, but really don't know what the advantage or disadvantage would be. What this looks like: dog runs as fast as possible striding in the contact zone and downing just after the contact equipment.

The primary objective of any contact obstacle is to get the dog to run as fast as s/he can across the contact, put a foot in the yellow zone, then move wherever you are indicating.

The problem I see is that many people don't do a good job teaching their contacts (me included) and end up with Hail Mary Contacts (aka: say a little prayer contacts).

  • Hail Mary Contacts: This is for people like me who have a dog you've totally screwed up and the poor dog doesn't know what s/he should do. You say a hail mary before the run hoping that the dog will move quickly without jumping off the yellow zone. This is not a conventional method taught by top trainers. I am surprised how popular this method is.

You will recognize these "hail mary" contacts by the dog handler team that:

  • Dog runs/trots along the dog walk, as they get to the yellow zone the handler yells something similar to, "CONTACT" (usually really loud) while the dog launches himself over the yellow, the handler then usually can be heard saying, "Oh, that's ok" or "Oh you!" or "darn you rover"...etc.
  • Dog runs and then slows down as they approach the ramp, stopping a number of times looking at their owner (sometimes wagging tail), while the owner says, "contact" over and over (generally increasing in volume) until the dog either launches early or eventually gets in two on two off.
  • Dog runs extremely fast until they reach a contact obstacle. Then walks the contact obstacle and once off of the obstacle, speeds up again.

I hope to rectify my bad teaching with little Fin (we'll see). Poor Tazz, I am just happy when he gets around the course.

There are TONS of videos out on teaching contacts available at http://www.cleanrun.com/. Check them out and see if you can change from the hail mary to a more conventional type of contact behavior.

1 comment:

LucyandWalter said...

Hi there,

Surfed across your blog. I find your description of the "Hail Mary contact" to be equally hilarious and accurate!

Cheers,

Lisa