Workout Wednesday – TOTO
We’re not going to be talking about the Wizard of Oz today, but one of the more interesting foundation skills for doggies doing Agility – the Two On Two Off or Contacts training.
Having a small dog, one of the foundations skills I just didn’t worry about was the contact training. As Jaxon gets faster and more confident, however, I’m realising that this really is a necessary part of our training, and something we should at least cover the basics of.
The last thing we want is for him to fly off an a-frame or a seesaw and injure himself.
The biggest thing I struggled with on the Contact training, was how to teach it to Jaxon.
The first piece of advise I had was to start on stairs. We did this & learnt it quickly, but the outcome was that Jaxon did this for STAIRS, and no-where else.
Back to the start. So now, I got a simple board from the local Hardware warehouse, put a strut under it, and voila! a tippy board. Now we were in business – or so I thought.
Using my usual training method of building on a behaviour over one week, 5 minutes in the morning & 5 minutes in the evening at meal times every day, I started getting Jaxon on the tippy board & rewarding his two-on two-off positions.
The thing about this was in the house, this works fine. He really gets it. Outside the house is where the issue is, and remains.
Having researched & chatted to a few experienced instructors now, I have the start of teaching Jaxon a method on contacts that will work for a small dog.
First of all it’s about getting your pup to recognise the position you want them to be in. Having them approach the board, then come to the end of the board. As soon as their front feet are off the board you need to click or marker word (YES!) and reward.
Do this a couple of times until the pup gets the idea of which behaviour it is that you’re looking for.
Then try it on the other side. So if you started with your pup on the left hand side, now build up to the right hand side.
The next step is to start building in the stay in this position. Again, you are looking for the pup to find this on their own. Do this by rewarding the behaviour you’re looking for. Start by taking only one step forward. If your pup stays put, then click or marker word (YES!) and reward.
At this point you can also start to build in a verbal command for the TOTO. I use “Find it”. I’ve heard “touch” used also, however I use that as a rev-up command, so I don’t want to use it in a contact training session.
Keep building on the stability and moving away from your pup. One step, two steps, further. At each point check the stability of the stay in position on both sides (left & right). Then throw in some dancing & gestures to see how stable that stay really is!
Don’t forget to use your release word to get your pup moving again! I use GO! Others use Break! and there are lots of other examples.
Once you’ve mastered this, you should start to move outside, bring in some speed (running), and again, build on each correct behaviour.
By the end of the week, you should be outside training contacts, have built in a verbal command & release command, and be well on your way to having rock-solid contacts.
Advise from here would be to:
- start re-inforcing the behaviour over lots of different locations, and with the full obstacles;
- build in distractions & really test that stability;
- make sure every session is short, sharp and full of FUN!
So – we’ll see how we go on our contacts, but like a lot of training, it’s something we will always revisit to keep reinforcing.