Start with a-frame on top of a white stanchion. Contacts should be trained backwards. Place dog on the down side of the A-frame first and then bait/encourage to exit the obstacle. Then place the dog near the top on the down side, encourage to come down. Then place dog at the peak of the A-frame. Then place dog on the upside, but within sight of the peak of the A- frame. Then place the dog further down the upside until it is ready to attempt its first run by. Run by is attempted with handler holding collar and releasing it just as dog commits to A-frame. (Katie Greer)
Contacts: When training contacts, especially with the A-frame, many people are in too big of a hurry to push the height up to competition levels. Try training the A-frame at a low levels longer, until you have a super solid contact zone (at full speed), and then slowly raise the level up, working on contacts the entire time. The longer you keep the A-frame low and develop a super solid contact zone (meaning that the dog is not just running across the zone, but is either checking the target or doing a quick down - whatever method you've decided to do - on the contact area) at fast speeds then as you slowly raise it up the dog learns to use the force of gravity to work the zone instead of having to fight gravity to stay on the A-frame.
The habit of stargazing is also easy to deal with using this method since the height isn't as appealing early on to let this bad habit get a firm foothold. At competition height the medium to large dogs really have to fight gravity to hit the zone and it's so much easier (and fun!) for them to jump off and let gravity take over. For small dogs, it is the upside that is their struggle, although they need the contact training also! I've found that this method also helps the dog really focus on what the objective of the A-frame really is - not to just climb it, but to make contact with the safety zone.
And last, but not least - never quit training and working your contacts! You want to randomize it so that they never know when you're going to reward them for offering the correct behavior. Just because you taught it to them in the beginning of their agility training is no reason to quite working on it. If they're not in the process of learning a behavior, then they are in the process of forgetting it! (Penny Winegartner)
There seem to be four methods in general use for training contacts that might be best categorized as follows:
- The hoop method - You train the dog to go through a hoop that is just a little bigger than his body and then place the hoop at the base of the contact zone and run the dog over a jump, over the contact equipment and then over another jump. This method is suppose to produce fast accurate contacts.
- The wait method - you put the dog into a wait of some form as he reaches the contact zone. Probably not the best method since it stops the dog and does not seem to be very accurate - but it is very widespread.
- The come method - you beat the dog to the end of the equipment and call him into a present so that his backside sits on the contact zone - not very ideal since it causes the dog to stop, meaning that you can't send him on ahead and runs the risk of a '5' for handling if the dog normally gets really close on a present.
- The heelwork method - you beat the dog to the end of the equipment and heel it over the contact zone. This method has the advantage that the dog does not come to a standstill but the disadvantage that you cannot send the dog on ahead over the contact equipment.
A couple of other points:-
If the dog stops on the top of the A-frame and you yell at him to come down you are almost sure to blow the contact.
If the dog is higher than you and you make eye contact he may see it as confrontational and since he is higher and hence superior he will think that he is the winner and hence decide that he doesn't want to play your way anymore. (Tony Dickinson)
If you tried the hoop method and find your dog missing contacts, a possible reason is that you haven't been using hoops long enough. It takes time!
The dog has to be forced by hoops to drop the head hundreds of times before he'll automatically do it. Even then he will eventually realize that he doesn't have to do it anymore if you stop using hoops. Every single time your dog is allowed to cross the dog-walk, there must be hoops there. Make them progressively smaller and less visible, so that the dog doesn't see them, but hits the hoop if not dropping the head. After a lot of repetitions, the dog will drop the head and lower the body also when there aren't any hoops. This takes time!
Training contacts with hoops is worth it, but if you need contact problems solved in short period of time, use targetting or stopping at the bottom, or whatever is easier to teach.
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