Big Dog Contact
Those of us with larger dogs know what a trial contacts can be. Not only do our dogs have issues hitting the zones, but also falling off of dogwalks and teeters can be a real possibility! How can you help your big baby to stay on the contacts?
- Start your contact training on an A-frame or table. Get them used to a surface that is wide and solid for their first forays into getting up on things.
- Use tables on either side of your dogwalk to give ‘step off’ points for your dog to learn to mount and dismount.
- Train the plank. Train a narrow plank at every opportunity, and jumping on and off a lowered dogwalk. I go to the park and use the benches as well!
- Reward with your outside hand that is, the hand on the side away from your dog. When you turn in towards your dog when they’re on a contact, it can push them out, and off the obstacle. This is especially common with larger dogs and herding breeds. Reach in with your outside hand to reward on the plank, and be sure you are rewarding on the center of the plank.
- Watch the plank, not your dog Dogs look back at us when we look at them. By looking at your dog on the plank, you’re asking for their attention. Watch the plank and they will too.
- Rubber contacts I hesitate to put this here only because if your dog becomes too dependent on them it can lead to issues. However, I find that training a dog on rubber contacts until they are confident in their contact abilities to be helpful more than harmful, and as more and more venues rubber coat, this will become less of an issue.
- Get over your own fears! This was a hard one for me. I’ll admit, the times I’ve had Quick on a full-height dogwalk I’ve been nervous about it. There’s no way I could catch him! I had to think to myself that, well, I’ve taught him the best I can, and now it’s up to him and I and our teamwork. Quick hasn’t let me down when I’ve trusted him to complete something I taught him to do. He hasn’t fallen uncontrollably. He HAS slid off, but as soon as he starts to feel the slide, he jumps which is safer.
Don’t forget proprioception work. Knowing where their back feet are can help a lot when it comes to staying on a contact obstacle, and can improve their contact behavior too.