December 13, 2005

Contact Behaviour

Susan Garrett describes the behaviour she wants on the three contact obstacles as "The dog waiting at the bottom of the contact with his front paws on the ground, his back paws on the contact, his weight shifted onto his hips, and his nose tapping the ground in front of him." She says she wants the nose touch as a way of giving the dog a job to do that keeps his head facing forward, avoiding potentially dangerous twisting or turning as he hits the contact area at speed.

But is this what we really want? Don't we want the shoulders flexed ready to absorb impact? If a dog has his nose to the ground do we achieve that? Or is his weight now forward? If the dog were in the same position, shoulders low but head UP would more weight be forward or back?

Thommo tends to bring his head up to slow down, transferring his weight to his hindquarters; and to drop his head to accelerate, shifting his weight to his forequarters to drive off. This is the reverse of what a nose touch asks for on the contacts.

Almost every fibre in my body tells me that if Susan uses a particular method then it must be the best method - but there is one fibre that wonders whether a nose touch can really be best, particularly when Susan describes Buzz getting nose bleeds from the intensity with which he touches.

Another contact behaviour that seems preferable is the chin press. In order to press his chin to the ground the dog has to ease back, not bend forward. Also the chin press is a stationary behaviour, more easily marked and rewarded. And it doesn't involve the dog trying to breathe with his nostrils smushed into the dirt. An example of a chin press rom Greg Fontaine's dog Maverick -

There is also the down at the end of the ramp, the running contact, and the one rear toe on. We'll continue working the necessary pre-obstacle skills and make a decision later before we get to the equipment.

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