Training Dog Agility Contacts with Targeting

dog agility contact trainersThere can be great debate on which style of contact you should teach your dog, the 2on 2off or running. Each has it’s own downfalls and benefits and really depends on your and your dog. Some dogs are prone to flyoffs when given the opportunity, or take the initiative, to perform a running contact. While others lose motivation and drive when asked to stop. Many trainers now teach both so they can interchange as the course or mood of the dog dictates.

Most will agree, however, that it is imperative to teach your dog a solid 2on 2off for the teeter for you and your dog’s safety. When taught on all obstacles, the 2on 2off can provide you with the time you need to catch up when running a fast dog or getting a lead out on a sticky line that may come after a contact.

On the flip side, a solid running contact can give your dog the ability to perform distance work and keep up their ground speed. It can also help shave some precious time with a slower dog. Though we stress that running contacts should be taught with the help of an experienced instructor as it does tempt fate for fly-offs and injury to your dog when taught incorrectly.

Either way, contact training is a necessary step in agility and needs to be fun and rewarding for the dog. The use of a target as well as teaching a “touch” command is a great place to start with 2on 2off contacts. You want to fade the target as quickly as possible and teach the 2on 2off as an end behavior to the contact area.

As with all new lessons you need to pay attention to your dogs, stopping before the dog becomes overwhelmed or bored. Drilling any agility obstacle can cause avoidance and resentment, you want to keep contacts fun and upbeat. Here are some helpful tips for target training.

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 choose to try running contacts, we offer contact zoners to help your dog stay on the contacts to the end and avoid them ever learning to ‘fly off’.

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What is the Best Dog Breed for Dog Agility Pt 2

This is part two of all the replies we got about your “best breed” for dog agility. Yes, we all know there are some breeds that excel in dog agility naturally, but the dog you have is always the best breed for dog agility. In a sport that is all about being the best team you can be, breed has little bearing on what you can do with your dog.

There are superstar agility dogs of every breed, style, sex, and temperament. And there are dogs of every breed that rather not participate. Remember, always run the dog you have. Learn their strengths and weakness as a breed and an individual, then go out and do your best always learning and improving yourself as a handler and you will find you have the best breed for dog agility.

Enjoy these biased and loving stories from dog owners just like you as they share why their dog IS the best breed for dog agility.

tashi says: Hundreds of professional dog owners can’t lie, the Australian shepherd is the best both on and off the course. The speed and intelligence to compete with the border collies and an off-switch, so they can be your favorite couch potato at home.

Peaches says: My Rottweiler Peaches just loves to play agility! She is 26.5 inch tall and athletic built girl. She weighs about 97lbs and just flies over the jumps. Her fav is the A frame and is doing great as she has both her masters and is going for her PACH. She is my first agility dog and I am hooked!! This rottie rocks lol!

Rob says: I have a 27 1/2″ (at the withers)130lb Rottweiler.He has qualified for DOCNA Nationals 4yrs. in a row. He can run with just about any dog, considering most of his “competition” is half his weight.

S. M. Cooley says: The best breed is the only dog I have right now. Best guess is a cross between a basenji and pointer. Fastest and most athletic dog I have ever had and, luckily, since not a purebred basenji, relatively easy to train. She loves treats and pretty much every person and dog she has ever met.

Sherri Broughton says: My American Staffordshire Terrier mix is an amazing agility dog. Although thick and muscular, he’s so incredibly fast. I strive to keep up! Hurray for shelter dogs!!

barbara says: My agility partner is a shih tzu/poodle mix. This little guy has so much drive, heart and desire to please unusual for this cross. He has titled in two venues in less than three years and we are now working on our MACH. For a 10 pound “uncommon” agility dog, he rocks!!!

Lucygooser’s says: My favorite breed is my Rescued Golden Retriever. She is a happy girl when she runs and shows it with her energy and enthusiasm on the course, she loves the sport!

Susan Horak says: I have had BCs for a long time but not just because we do agility. They are the best breed for my active lifestyle. We hike a lot and are constantly doing fun things:) I love to train and BCs intelligence makes training fun and a challenge at the same time. We do many things together; Rally, Nose Work and of course Agility. But he is mainly my loving companion and snuggle bug:)

Amy says: I love competing with my GSD and GSD/Husky mix!! I think they are fantastic!! 😉

Vicky Janicki says: The best agility dog breed is…the one you have right now. The breed that is under utilized in agility is a Pomeranian. I have 2. One is running in Masters and the younger one has his P1 Jumpers. The breed actually wants to be active and agility work brings out their work ethic (after all they are from a German background) and sense of humor. Also they are easier to keep up with than say a Border Collie or a larger breed on the course. And finally they are so darn cute that no matter what happens on the course they will make you smile.

Gigi says: I am a sheltie fan too. I love their cooperative nature! Our Sasha loves to train, and becomes very excited when she sees me get out our gear. Her excitement is infectious and that makes it even more fun for both of us.

Helen says: English Shepherds rock at agility! They are smart herding dogs without the herding obsession and they have perfect manners. They are the original collie. The dog at the top of the article is probably an English Shepherd. They often show up as shelter dogs and come in many colors.

Missy Gordon says: I love doing agility with my Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. I love the white blaze that streaks her nose and the smile on her face as she streaks around the agility courses.

Yuvonne Miller says: My Zak is a Golden Retriever and absolutely loved agility. Agility helped us become a team on the course and in the field when we hunt together.

Carolina says: I have worked with a lot of breeds over years and I discovered that the mixed breed dog is the most versatile and intelligent type of dog for sports and work. An athletic, slim-body mixed dog is best suited for Agility. Actually I’m competing with 2 mixed breed females who also do trickdoging shows. Since I had my first mixed breed I fell in love with this type of dogs. After all who else that doesn’t have a mixed breed can say they have the talents of several breeds summed up in one dog? 😉

Diggy Dog says: Standard Poodles are definitely the best dogs! We have two, and they LOVE to play on “The Playground”. They also love to put on a show and show off what they know. The more applause the better they perform. They also tend to love observing. This is their one bad agility antic. Did you know that the top of an A-frame is a great spot to people watch? Our two rascals seem to think so.

LisaH says: My dogs are both border collies. I love their drive and sense of humor! They can play endlessly.

Melissa Fiorenini says: Of course, my wonderful purebred Border Collies! They are the best and my 4 don’t make me prejudice!

Janet Lynn says: My Pembroke Corgi’s are simply awesome at agility. They so look forward to class and then t trials. My older gal has Catch 3 in CPE agility and my new gal is coming along just fine. They enthusiasm and energy they put into these events is amazing. Happy girls and loving every minute!!! Corgi’s ROCK!

rocket says: I have a Eurohound and he is every good at agility. He is a sled dog and needs something to do during the summer so we do agility. I love doing it as much as he dose.

Ali says: Nothing better than a mix! I have a Australian Cattle Dog, Border Collie, other mix who is quickly becoming a rock-star at agility! Only 7 AKC trials under her belt and she is already in Exc JWW! My other mix (who knows what she is) is also a blast to run agility with. She’s not as solid on courses as her younger sister, but we have fun together and that’s what matters. Just about every healthy, happy dog I meet these days makes me think, “I want to try agility with that dog!” I plan on having many different breeds and mixes in the future. Agility really is for every dog!

Cynthia Becker says: I love running courses with my chow chow Kobi! He may not be the absolute fastest but he knows the game and is dead accurate. He has had only one off course in the 5 years we have trialed! Mostly, he loves the applause he gets for a good run….he is a real performer and a big ham!

Karen Dayberry says: I train two AKC greyhounds in agility. They are smart and funny and constantly teach me to not take things too seriously. They not only learn from me, but learn best from each other — the good, the bad and the naughty. People love to watch them run on the course, and across the arena, and around the judge and to the edge of the course at a barking dog and…back to me.

Chris Esposito says: I think the best breed is border collies, however, I have a purebred rat terrier and he is awesome!! He listens and follows directions very well. We have gone from an AKC Novice dog to an AKC Masters Jumpers and Standard in just a few months. He is my forever agility dog. He has the best stamina for the job and on top of that he is a special needs dog. Rocky has diabetes and you would never know it has ever affected his spirit or his drive to thrive in the agility dog sport. I love him to the end of the earth and we will continue to do agility until he can no longer. Rocky has been very easy to train and does the right thing without hesitation. When he and I have made a mistake, I can go back and easily correct it with Rocky. He is a rat terrier gem in the making!!

MBB says: I have a Rat Terrier too. A little over a year ago we started training in Agility together and a few weeks ago he had his first official Double Q! He is a terrific little guy and I will always be grateful for his patience in getting us started in this great sport!

Carolyn Bean says: My all time favorite breed is a sheltie. I have 2 of them. Kricket is small and very much a princess. She has loved someone besides me all her life. She appeased me by doing agility with me but loved my Mom. When my mother passed away and I married she immediately took up with my husband. I love her dearly but she was a challenge in agility, not the normal, driven sheltie. However my second sheltie is all mine. She loves her Daddy too I must admit but her loyalty is with me! She loves playing Frisbee, doing agility and guarding her house from birds and trains, ( she watches for the train to pass our house twice a day!) If only we lived closer to Houston so we could have continued our training. But alas, marriage took us 2 hours from training so we just chill and play these days!

Dazzle says: Miniature Schnauzers is the best dog to have for agility.

Lorie Shaw says: My favorite dog to run agility with is my Sheltie. I love her happy, focused ways. She would rather run Agility than anything else, but can be a couch potato.

TeamTeggo says: We have a “JUG” half Jack Russell and half pug. My favorite feature is her wiggly little butt.

What we love best about these stories is that they are your own. They help others to see that dog agility isn’t about having the best breed, but rather making your dog the best they can be. If you missed Part One you can read it by clicking here.

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What is the Best Dog Breed for Dog Agility Pt 1

If you know our heart and the heart of dog agility, then you will understand the title is a rhetorical question. There is no real ‘best’ breed for agility. Yes, there are some breeds that excel in dog agility, but any competition will showcase a wide variety of breeds all having a blast and doing great in agility.

We asked what YOUR best breed was and many of you shared your stories and comments about the dogs you play the game of dog agility with. Those responses further proved the fact that dog agility isn’t a breed sport, it is a sport for all breeds.

EchoRuby says: My Yellow Lab Ruby, is so energetic about agility, she flies over jumps, and will try almost any new obstacle I introduce her to. I love Ruby!!!

LiAnnV71 says: My dogs Lilly and Echo are Border Collies and running them is like running Ying and Yang. Lilly is the serious, all work dog, while Echo is the fun-loving, goofball clown! The best thing is they keep me honest! Love them to pieces!

Courtenay says: My Malinois is challenging to keep up with, but going to be awesome once he has a bit more…control under his belt! 🙂

Chris.K says: We have 2 amazing Papillons. They are so incredibly smart & agile! We have just started teaching the various agility skills using the “Agility-in-a-bag” kit.

Susan Montgomery says: My Belgian Tervuren is awesome. He is so fast he is hard to keep up with!

Kassandra says: My best friend and agility partner is my black Lab mix, Lucy. She is taller and thinner than most labs with Great Dane paws. She fly’s over all of the jumps, quick, and very responsive. She’s happy to do anything I ask her do (except water activities).

Laurie O says: I run Rhodesian Ridgebacks, not always the easiest to run, but they are graceful and agile by nature. I run 2 now and have 2 up and coming. They are incredible creatures to work with, they are loyal and stubborn(comes from the hound). We learn from each other every run and they really keep me grounded. If you run a hound, you can’t be too serious! They lift my spirit every time we run. They are my joy!

Cheri says: The German Shepherd Dog. My boy Tomoka, aka MoMo, has just earned his Open Jumpers title! What an amazing boy he is. He works hard and tries so hard to please. He wishes his human would get a bit better at cuing a course 🙂

Sandi says: My Sheltie, Amber, is my agility dog. Agility has been a blessing for this rescue girl with some kind of abuse or neglect in her past. As with the Sheltie breed, she wants to please me, and she does love to do agility with me. However, what we have to overcome in competition is her fear of being in a new place. We have to go to a site several times before she accepts that is safe to be there. So for now, practice in the back yard and at our usual training fields is where she can shine. What agility has done for Amber’s self-confidence is truly amazing!

Charteeter says: My Cavalier King Charles Spaniel did her first AKC agility trial last weekend. She enjoyed competing and I never gave up on her. My dog and I competing in AKC agility trials is not all about winning but the fun I am having with my dog and the strengthening of the bond between her and me.

Kate V says: Every dog is the best dog in the world, provided its owner understands and meets it’s needs. For my Sheltie, part of meeting his physical and mental needs is doing agility, and we both love it! Shiloh is huge for a sheltie (20″ at the withers!)- but I think his bigger size is beneficial for agility. He’s certainly fast (one standard course at our last trial had a SCT of 70 seconds, and he had a clean run at 35!) He’s very focused and driven, but responsive, confident, and intelligent. Always willing to go-go-go, he’s also content to cuddle on the couch. I think any dog that wants to can be a great agility dog, but I certainly wouldn’t trade my perfect boy for the world =)

Shiffra Steele says: Weimaraners are great dogs to do agility with. They are athletic, enthusiastic & fearless. They never give up! I am competing with 2 Weimaraners right now, Jade, CH Silverado Wild Horses NA NAJ & Gianni, CH Silverado Gianni Versace RA NJP. I have 2 more in training, McKenzee, AM & Int’l CH Silverado Tiny Dancer JH CGC & Sean, Silverado Diamond Dog.

dibosa says: My favorite dog is my Great Pyrenees, Tesla. She makes me work to make things fun and clear! We’re working on weaving right now!

Wendy Brown says: My agility dog is a double registered Australian Shepherd named Flash. His registered name is, Wendy’s Flash Trax of Westfall. He is a blue merle with one blue eye and one brown eye. He is very high energy, and loves agility. One thing that I really like about him is he’s an excellent jumper. Because of his box body he can bounce jump, slice jump, and broad jump really well. I think his favorite obstacle is the weave poles. He’s very fast. His is also the youngest old dog I have ever had. He will be 13 this May. His hearing and vision aren’t so good any more, but there’s still a lot he can do. I don’t think he wants to be retired yet.

rocketdog says: I adopted my little dog Corky from the rescue group New Mexico Animal Friends 5 years ago and we started agility 3 years ago. He looks a little like the Icelandic breed AKC recognized last year. We have 6 double Q’s toward our PACH. I believe all breeds of dogs are the best when they show their trust, love and fun at heart when they train, sleep on our beds, go for a car ride and work with us on a course in any trial. This little dog works with me because he loves me everyday and it melts my heart when I see his big smile and tail wagging body before and after we have trained or trialed. My dog is the best because he reminds me how life is fun everyday.

Frances Leiby says: Breed: Cocker Spaniel, Her breed’s greatest asset is flexibility.

Sharon says: My agility dog is an Australian Shepherd cross. She is very smart, fast, and loves agility.

Dori (Bubba) Wilson says: My best agility dog is a little Pomeranian named Penelope Pitstop. She is a *ROCKET* on the agility field! She is very fearful, of dogs and people, and has the most pitiful start line stay that anyone has ever witnessed. She was not socialized as a puppy so she curls her body up into a ball w/her eyes totally dilated whenever I place her at the start line. However, all I have to do is say “GO,” and the girl transforms into a bolt of lightening! She nails her contacts every time. She zooms thru tunnels. She’s even solid on the teeter after a terrible incident on it when she was young. Should I ever have a moment when I’m a little late with my cue, Pitstop will immediately let me know via a little bit of sassy barking.(Yes, this is the same dog who just moments before almost had a meltdown at the start line.) I strive to become a better handler because of the potential I see in my little flying marshmallow. Agility has given my fearful little girl a purpose. Her confidence has exceeded my wildest dreams. Ring crew wearing hats or hoods still cause her to look twice, but she’s now gotten to a point where she just keeps on truckin’! Yep, she’s definitely the best agility dog I’ve ever had.

Ron says: A Border Terrier is my pick. They are small in size(easier for carrying crates, eat and poo less), quick and nimble turning and best of all they get along with everyone (man or canine).

waterstj says: My Jack Russell Terrier needs agility to release all of that energy. After doing agility she sleeps through the night. When she sleeps, I sleep too!

Rachel Grommersch says: I have a Pembroke Welsh Corgi. She is small, long and loves agility! Having short legs sometimes proves to be a problem as her nose is so close to the ground that sometimes she needs to follow it! We will begin to compete this summer!

Courtney says: The best dog to have for agility is a rescued Border Collie mixed with a Cattle Dog. His name is Smoky and he is black/gray with white speckles. I am 15 years old and he is my second agility dog. We have so much fun together on the course. We are currently on level 4 in CPE. Smoky and dog agility rock!

Regina says: My Toy Manchester Terriers are fast and quick, with a lightweight body and long legs. Their sleek, racy build only adds to their speed and athleticism. They are all-around outstanding athletes.

Cindy Mancini says: My favorite Agility and all around great dog, is My Australian Shepherd. She is smart, biddable, and loves to run! She is the perfect dog for our household and active lifestyle. She is always up for a run, a hike, agility class, rally, herding, you name it and she is game! This is definitely the most versatile dog. I am so glad we made the decision to add her to our pack!

Stephanie says: I have a Brittany named Ruby. I love the speed that this breed has. Shes fast and quick. She been so much fun to train, hoping to trial with her soon.

Robin says: My Chinese Crested Powderpuff, PT, excels in agility. At 13 inches high, 13 inches long and 13 pounds, he sails over even the big dog jumps, and is smart, attentive and willing enough to do whatever I direct him to do even if I forget the verbal command for it in the midst of a run. As a rescue, PT came with so many screws loose that I wasn’t sure what held him together. Agility training has done wonders for his self-confidence and socialization skills.

Lindsey says: I am new to agility, and the dog I have right now I just got almost 7 months ago. She is a 3 year old Shetland Sheepdog. She is Sable Merle in color, and I rescued her! I was working on a dog grooming course and I ended up grooming some dogs at a fairly large dog breeding operation because different people had bought the place about a year before and wanted to sell all the dogs because they wanted to use the space and they weren’t really dog people.
So I had been going there to groom a couple times a week, and there were two dogs that ran loose on the yard. One was a Lab that they had brought with them, and the other was a really pathetic looking Sheltie. She was sort of a scruffy beige color with tufts of dead hair sticking out. And all she would ever do was run and run and run, and bark and bark and bark constantly! The previous owners had left her on the yard when they moved to town. And these people, not really being dog people just saw her as this annoying, yappy little mutt.
There was a really long driveway to this yard and she would always run along side cars when they would leave just to the end of the driveway and then go back. Well one day when I was leaving, she chased, so I sped up, I clocked her at 40 Km/hr! I thought at that moment, there’s my agility dog! And this is a hair under 16 inch tall at the shoulder sheltie! So I bought her, and soon found out that she had a dark past.
I found out that all the running and barking was all from nervous energy as when I got her home, the whole next day she only woke up to eat, drink, or do her business. She was exhausted!
One time she was laying in the middle of the floor, and my Mom went to step over her and she just scrambled to get out of the way, it was as if something was attacking her. My Mom said “I bet you she’s been kicked.”
A few days later I was doing something in my room and I needed to move my walking stick. I picked it up, she VANISHED! That told me that there was definitely a past. So the next couple months we spent just working through these issues. ‘Cause how can I train her for agility if she’s terrified of sticks?!
Then I got her to the point where I could rub any stick up and down her sides and she just sort of gave me this look like, “I really don’t like this, but I know you won’t hurt me.”
So we started some baby steps on a single jump. I knew she could jump, she jumped shoulder high regularly before I got her. It took a little bit for her to get it that she had to jump over, ’cause all she had ever done was straight up! Then you could see her starting to figure it out because she would come up to the jump and jump, and then she realized that she wasn’t quite far enough over so she just tucked her bum under her to clear it.
I have never seen a dog SO eager to learn and to please. She tries with all her might to understand what I want her to do. And oh boy! When she figures out what I want, there’s no stopping her! Everything I’ve taught her so far that she gets, when I tell her to do something… She does it with her entire heart, soul, and body! She is praise driven, she likes treats but they are of no use for training. All she wants from me when she gets it right is a nod, a sincere line of praise, and for me to catch her in my arms.
Looking back now, the main problem when I first got her was a lack of trust. With having been abused, she didn’t know who she could trust and who she couldn’t. Now that I’ve developed a trust and respect relationship with her, even when she isn’t quite sure about something she still does what I ask because she trusts me to make the right choice.
And as for the yucky beige color she was before, she is now the most beautiful copper color… with a light black overlay, and some small grey patches on the sides of her shoulders. And with being clean and well taken care of her chrome is almost glowing.
When I think of Jazzi’s story, I think of some rare gemstone. At first she was all gross and dirty from both past and present, and then that filth was slowly ground away. Bit by bit revealing the true beauty and splendor of what lie beneath.
With Jazzi being my first hopefully future agility dog, I would say that any dog with a past handled the right way can make an amazing agility dog!
I am hoping to build my agility obstacles this spring and start training her on all the ones I don’t have at the moment… Looking at her speed, her ability, her drive, and everything in between… Even with her only starting at 3, I hope she will go far. How far is still a mystery, but as in all mysteries, time will tell!

Daphne Wilcox says: My 5 year old cocker spaniel had just begun competing when he lost his first eye. He continued for nine months with only one eye and then had to have the second eye removed. He is a happy, well-adjusted and confident little guy. I have taken him back to a low key agility class. He can do jumps, tire, tunnel, chute, dog walk, “ramp”, table and is getting the hang of weave poles again. He amazes us all!

Wow! Talk about some great stories! But we aren’t done yet, read on for the rest of your comments on the “best” dog agility breed in Part 2.

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