Contact training is a necessary step in agility, both for your dogs’ safety and your sanity. Stopping on a contact can give you enough time to catch up, lead out, or find where you are on course! Training contact stops should be fun and rewarding for your dog, using a target to learn the behavior, and then fading the target. Pay attention to your dogs. Dogs may learn this behavior at different rates. It’s important not to bore them by drilling them in contacts, and it’s also important they feel that contacts are fun.
REMEMBER: keep sessions very, very short, 1-2 minutes at most, since dogs burn out quickly on targets.
- Shape the dog to target with his nose or paw, whichever you prefer. Many handlers prefer the nose since it seems clearer to the dog that they MUST stop. Reward repetitive touches, or ‘holding’ the touch. Build value for touching enthusiastically!
- Practice targeting on stairs, and then fade the target itself, thus leaving your dog with a nose touch to ground behavior. Use any stairs you can, in different settings. Keep sessions short and highly rewarding.
- Begin practicing the targeting on contact behavior, again beginning with the target so your dog ‘gets it’, and then fading the target, leaving the dog with a nose touch to ground. Keep sessions short and highly rewarding! If at any time your dog’s behavior deteriorates, go back a bit in training, and work your way back up. Never take a good contact stop for granted.
- After the dogs are used to contact training, start them on proofing – so they know to stick it no matter WHAT you do!
If you prefer not to train a 2on2off for any reason, these contact zoners will help your dog learn not to ‘fly off’.