A-frame Aggravations

Q. Hi there,

I have a small dog (8 lbs) that’s been doing agility with no problems for over a year. At one of our first trials she slid backwards down the a-frame and now doesn’t want to do any contact obstacles. Any help would be appreciated.

Kenni & Roxy

A. When your small dog has to scamper up a steep a-frame, physics are most emphatically not on their side!

One of the first things to consider with a small dog and contact problems is a possible change of competition venue. If your dog has trouble with a steep a-frame, perhaps you should look into TDAA. However, TDAA trials may be hard to come by, and thus prohibitive. If that is impossible, consider entering in preferred or veterans’ classes to lower the height, and thus soften the angle of the a-frame. Even with using either option, you need to conquer your dogs’ fear of contacts.

Something to keep in mind is sometimes dogs have difficulty gaining traction on a painted wood surface. If you own contact equipment at home, consider treating it with a rubberized surface for your dogs’ safety. While some trials do not have rubberized equipment, some do, and it’s great for home use with a dog who has trouble on contacts. If you don’t own your own contact equipment, consider speaking to the trainer/operator of the center you go to and bring up the possibility of rubberizing their contacts.

Go back to basics. Begin by laying the A-frame completely flat on the ground, or up only a few inches. Reward your dog for trotting across it, on or off leash. You may need to gently encourage your dog to complete the obstacle, but remember, positivity is paramount. Don’t soothe too much, or your dog will be reinforced for its’ fear. Be positive, encouraging, and upbeat. A-frames are fun, don’cha know?

Once your dog is not reactive to surfaces (which could take no time at all, or a good deal of time), you may begin to raise your A-frame. Hopefully you’ve rubberized the surface so your dog can get a good grip. Stop if your dog becomes fearful, and go back down a few inches. You may have expected too much too soon.

When you’re training the A-frame, make certain your dog has a clear shot, even if it costs you a little course time. Head straight for it so your dog can gain momentum to get up on it! Concentrate on helping your dog swarm up the A-frame and go down the ramp safely, without sliding. If your dog can get a good jump up, chances are it can keep going. Encourage your dog to scramble!

Contacts can be difficult for small dogs, but if you can decrease the incline, give better footing, and teach your dog to speed up and over, then you’ll be well on your way to a solid contact performance! Be patient, and remember to have fun with your dog relearning.

Does anyone else have any ideas to help?

5 Comments on “A-frame Aggravations

  1. Yep I lowered it and have been taking her to extra practices. Let’s see how this goes. We did it 2 days in a row. Woo hoo!

  2. Hi Sonia,
    Somehow you need to get that a-frame down lower in my opinion. Ask the trainer for time after each class to tip the frame and change the chain, and you’ll have to pay extra for her time but if you can do that each time you may be able to overcome this. I also agree with Terry the previous poster about keeping the nails trimmed also. Good luck!

  3. I am having the same trouble with my sheltie. She has gone over the a-frame many times, but when on the course she stops at the a-frame and we have to start at square one again. How can I help her get over the incline of an a-frame? She does fine with the down part, but the “up” is scary. My trainer suggested I buy an a-frame, but I don’t have the space at home. It’s frustrating and I don’t let it out on her, but each session of class I am hoping one day we will make it over the a-frame again. Please help!!

  4. Our trainer mentioned that the dog’s nails should be very short, as longer nails can keep the pads of the feet from making a solid contact. Also, you can trim the hair from between the toes, as you want the pad to make a good contact. As that’s were the ‘grip’ is.