These are the chronicles of two Shetland Sheepdogs and their adventures in rally-o, obedience, flyball, agility, tracking and therapy dog work.
Also including information on raw feeding, canine epilepsy, positive training, and lots and lots of Sheltie hair!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Contact Training

Romeo is really progressing well in agility. He absolutely loves it!

It's time for us to start working on some contacts, as I would really like him to have some nice solid contacts that I don't have to worry about. The trainers that I am taking classes from are fantastic, but I'm not a huge fan of the method they are teaching for contacts. They are emphasizing the 2o/2o contacts using a hand touch. Well, I'm just not coordinated enough keep up with Romeo, beat him to the bottom of the contact (he flies over them all!), get my hand down there and ask for a touch before he comes barreling down, and then click and treat after his nose touches my hand. I'm not an athletic person, and I'm certainly not coordinated enough for that!

I've decided that I now want to teach contacts "my own way" at home, and if we work on them enough here I should be able to transfer it over to the contact equipment at class without having to play along with the hand touch method. I'm certainly not trying to second guess my instructors, I have no doubt that they know exactly what they are doing. I just don't see this method working for me.

I started tonight teaching Romeo to nose-touch the ground on command using the clicker. I then rigged up a board with one end sitting on top of a thick broomstick so that it was on a bit of a slope. Set Romeo up behind the board, and ask for a touch, at which point he ran across the board and nose-touched the ground at the bottom. YAY! Success!

The rest of our short training session worked on making the touch more solid, really getting it into his head that his front feet need to be on the floor before he can nose-touch, and trying to keep the speed up so that he races to the bottom of the board. He hasn't gotten it 100% yet, of course. But it's a pretty good start.

My eventual goals with this is to have a longer board propped up against the couch for him to run down, practice this method on the stairs, and also work on being able to send him to do the contact from various different angles and distances.


Kim said...

IMO, teaching contacts with a hand touch would be difficult, especially with a dog with any speed (and really, even the slow dogs can outrun a person). In our classes we teach the 2o/2o using a clear target (like a pringle lid) at the end of the contact. Clear contacts are easier to fade away than white one are. A target, as opposed to a hand touch, will also teach your dog independent contacts - you do not want your dog to "need" you there to be able to find his position, you want them driving to the bottom and then waiting to be released. This method also keeps the dog looking down as he comes down the equipment. This is what you want. You do not want your dog looking up for your hand, as this can put a huge strain on your dog's neck and back. You want the dog's head, neck and spine in a nice straight line as they come down the contact equipment and having the target on the ground help with this. Since Romeo is clicker savvy, you should have no problem teaching him what is job is at the end of the contact. I think you are making the right decision in not using the hand touch and he should catch on very quickly.

Diana said...

I agree with Kim. There is no way to beat a dog to the end of the dogwalk for a hand touch. I think what your teaching is fine. It sounds the the susan garrett method except she first has them nose touch a target and then fades the target and they touch the ground. But if your dog can just nose touch the ground then there is no need for that step. Sounds good to me. Diana

GeeRome said...

Thank guys! The reasons you gave were essentially the same that I had that made me want to switch up the methods. I did start with a lid, but have started working on fading that out and giving a click for a nose to the ground. With that, I have already started adding distance in to the contact work, so that I don't need to be right beside him all the time. Because face it, this fat kid is never gonna keep up with a Sheltie! I need to be able to work away from him. haha


yes I find the hand touch very difficult to do for the same reasons as you. They used to teach contacts by using a clear piece of plexiglass at the bottom of the contact.

I can't remember why they changed - there was some reason for it but I just don't remember, Anyways they will probably fade it out pretty quickly and just go with a nose touch to the ground / clear plexiglass.

I would be doing the same thing as you at home too. You gotta do what works for you and your dogs.

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