January 19, 2007


From Summer Camp with Canine Fun Sports:
Contact obstacle performance involves three separate activities: running across the obstacle, taking up the contact position, and releasing from the contact position.

Running the obstacle
When practising running the obstacle, the criteria are speed and confidence. Reinforce these with rewards.

Practice on planks, walls, and ramps away from the dog walk, scramble and seesaw to build confidence and speed.

Do not reward slow performance, even if the contact behaviour is correct. Start again and rev the dog up for faster performance.

Contact Position

Decide on a contact behaviour and train it well away from the obstacles. Start on the flat then use planks, ramps etc.

Reward the dog in position. But ask it to maintain position until released – the click/treat does not end the behaviour. Initially give the release immediately after the reward then build duration and add distractions.

After rewarding move behind the dog (before the end of the dog walk) so that as you release, you move forward past/with the dog.

Train independent performance from the beginning. Taking up the contact position should not be dependent on your position or on hand signals or body language.

The Release

Decide on a release word and use it consistently. Be careful not to combine it with a physical cue.

Practice the release with a target on the flat, and then on planks and ramps well away from the agility obstacles.

Release the dog with you moving in the direction of the next obstacle. Don’t release the dog with you standing still beside the contact zone.

Practice the release under a variety of conditions:

  • Release before you reach the dog.
  • Run past the dog and release.
  • Run past, stop and release.
  • Run past the next obstacle and release.

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