Okay, Gabs and I have been working/playing with agility for about a month now at our training club (low heights, low frequency, etc) and just started up lessons yesterday now that she's been medically cleared for it.
We started teaching the weaves with wire chutes- she catches on so fast- she's already got them down (with the wires of course!). She LOVES the dog walk and the tunnels and the jumps are no problems. We're working on the A-frame (she tends to get to the top and look around) and the see-saw. We're also starting contacts soon.
So: What do Gabs and I need to know in order to be able to compete in novice? Obviously, we have to be able to run a course and work on contacts- but there are always things that you figure out later that you should have known/taught/worked on. What are those things?
Also, what are the advantages/disadvantages to running contacts vs. two on two off?
It depends on you and your dog. Are you a fast runner? is your dog slow? are you slow and your dog fast? Keeping your dog under control at a trial can be very hard, agility trials are full of barking hyperactive dogs and owners that don't have the same mindset as what you find at obedience trials. I consider a startline stay a priority and made the mistake in assuming that since Amber had a CD that this would be a piece of cake. teaching a dog "right" and "left" is a great advantage if your dog is faster than you. The ability of a dog to go away from the handler is great for agility and can be taught. Probably 80% of weave problems are missed entries so practice having your dog find the weave entrance on their own. Tables are often a challenge for new dogs as they get worked up at shows and sometimes fly right over them. Name the obstacles different things that DO NOT start with T. Having a dog distinguish between Teeter, Tire, Tunnel, Table at a trial is hard enough without the linguistics problem.
A two on two off contact is easier to train? gives the handler time to catch breath and catch up to dog. has the dog focus on the handler while waiting for the release word. Gives you a chance to do a front cross or change the dogs direction.
A running contact is much easier to the dogs shoulders and elbows especially for the A-frame. Is way faster. Is more likely to lead to a NQ if not taught completely and correctly.
Kelly and Amber
Yay for agility!! Definitely know how to cross your dog, front and rear crosses (you cross in front of and behind your dog), it sounds simple, but you'd be surprised how much it can throw the dog off, especially the obedience dogs who like their left side positions Be sure to train the weaves bilaterally (left and right sided handler) and train them from angles. Work on sending like Kelly said, we did this at home with a jump and a bumper. Toss bumper over jump "Jake jump!" Jake jumps, we moved farther, my hand signal now is my arm out pointing to what he's supposed to do. As an aside, I used "jump" not "over" because I use over a lot in everyday use and find it easier to get my commands down when learning courses when the command is that same as the obstacle
We do not do 2-on-2-off, we do running contacts for a number of reasons. Jake's a fairly large-chested dog, and I don't like the concussion and joint strain that comes with a complete stop that abruptly at the bottom of the obstacles. He's also got a lot of momentum coming over, so I don't know that it is physically possible for him to maintain his enthusiasm and still stop. We did running contacts with hoops at the bottom and me being ahead of him and targeting him to my hand at the bottom of the obstacle for a while. He might miss a contact here or there, but I'll forfeit the entry fee for less stress on his joints. He does respond to "slow" and "wait" which means, stop where you are and then I'll tell you where to go - he's a lot faster than me, so sometimes I need a moment to catch up!
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Yep, yep, and yep to Kelly's post.
We have running contacts and they worked great in novice and open. Now that we are in excellent, I really need to have some point where I can stop to get my bearings, catch my breath, and/or catch my dog and the contacts are the logical spot to have those so sometimes I really wish I had 2o2o. 2o2o would also be great for those distance challenges when you need a moment to reposition. I have thought about retraining them but under stress, a dog is going to revert back to it's original training so I'm not sure it's worth the effort. It is interesting to note that at the USDAA National's most of the top competitors now have running contacts. Running contacts were out of favor for the past few years. Lord knows I've gotten more than my fair share of people's opinions about our running contacts whether I asked for them or not. : My trainer said she wished she had nice running contacts like ours and told me to ignore what everyone else thought since they are clearly working for us. Now everyone thinks running contacts are the greatest so I get as much grief as I used to.
My default table command is "table/down" all one word. Murray will slide onto the table and already be in a down position. This also helps eliminate those run offs the other side. If it happens to be a sit, I just tell him to sit from the down. If you have a dog run straight on you either have to tell them to sit or down. At least my way, we are already in position for the down and don't lose precious time getting into position. Also, most people have more issues getting their dog to down on the table than to sit especially if the dog is stressed or inattentive so if the default is down, you are already ahead of the game IMO. I wanted to teach Essy 2o2o since I learned from my mistakes. She does 2o2o for dog walk and teeter but she has a running contact for the a-frame. The angle of the a frame is just to harsh for a heavy dog like a Lab. Essy even did a hand, er paw stand a number of times trying to do the 2o2o because her rear is so much heavier. We discussed it with my trainer and decided to do the running for the a frame only.
I don't worry so much about the names of obstacles. Dogs order of communication is body language first then verbal. Remember, dogs communicate primarily with body langauge so that is what they are most comfortable with. I can't tell you the number of times I've heard someone yell out the completely wrong obstacle (tunnel vs teeter for example) but the dog always takes the correct obstacle identified by the handler's body which is usually the correct obstacle. Even if both obstacles are side by side, the handler's body position will override what their voice is saying. For example, with a tunnel dog walk discrimination I have yelled "tunnel" when my body was clearing saying "dog walk" and even Murray, my tunnel sucking dog, took the dog walk. I told my trainer that Murray knows "tunnel" and loves tunnels so I didn't understand why he took the dog walk. She said everything about my body screamed "DOG WALK!!" ;D If you don't believe me, trying running a course with zero verbal communication. You will be surprised how well (possibly even better) the dog will do.
You've gotten some great advice here.
I would just add... try to go to some other places to run courses, on other equipment with distractions your dog is not used to.
Most trials will have two rings going, pretty much beside each other, so it is very distracting for a green dog. More often than not something is going to weird your dog out... like a teeter that bangs louder than the one you practice on, or a dog walk that is slippery, etc. It's amazing how different equipment can throw a dog off. For some reason Ruger hates red tunnels. I finally bought one and now it's a non-issue.
I highly recommend concentrating on foundation skills - 'flat work' (working on front/rear crosses, send outs, right and left turns, etc - all with no obstacles); contacts and targetting.
I ended up with 2o/2o, but I like the idea of running contacts more (sophie's front end is not constructed very well ) - unfortunately, no trainers here are experienced in teaching a proper running contact..
The thing with a running contact is you HAVE to have some way to let the dog know he's hit it. My command is "touch" and I point to the contact area. When my dog hits it, REWARD with a big YES!. (Yes, my dogs do contact obstacles slow enough that I am there at the down side of the contact... that's why we run them, I don't want to waste any time with any pausing for 2on/2off.)
I will take the time to reward with a slight pause and food treat at home on the contact (not in 2on/2off position) so my dog understands where it is supposed to "touch". At a trail I give the verbal YES on the fly as a release/reward as we continue to run.
Ha, those are relative terms. I'm not super speedy and neither is she- I would say we're pretty well matched. She's a moderate build so she's not as quick as the field breds or the border collies.Originally Posted by KzunellSo 2 on/2 off is easier to teach but running contacts are better on the joints? I know my trainer teaches 2 on/2off but with Gabby's hips and back being questionable, I'd rather avoid excess strain.Originally Posted by yellojakesmom
Is there a good explanation somewhere of how to teach running contacts?
(technically that's a moving contact, not a true running contact. A true running contact has no pause or hesitation at all... but it's really semantics, unless you are aiming for world team levels...Originally Posted by raian
The biggest problem with running contacts is being absolutely consistent ...a running contact should NOT rely on handler position - most people train them with a combination of hoops and reward markers
a running contact is NOT safe on a teeter
2o2o is very clear for the dog and for the handler and can be practised anywhere - sally likes her 2o2o and offers it often
Brody does what is known as a moving contact - he is steady enough that he doesn't need to hit a target but he does steady and look for a directional cue before picking up his pace .. in a true running contact he would just keep on moving
clean run is doing interesting articles on this exact topic lately
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” H. Keller