I train a stopped 2-on/2-off contact what exercises I can use to help keep them consistent?

By consistent I mean they should be within the criteria is the below. I think that other types of contact behavior should be a different question because the different styles are SO different and each deserve their own focused question.

  • A reliability rate of about 80%... I don't want more than this because I think it makes the rules to stiff and doesn't encourage a guessing/edgy dog. I don't want less than that because when we are in the exciting trial environment I want them to hold up.
  • Smooth stride up the up side. I don't want them to hit the A-frame hard on the way up because I think that causes to much stress on their shoulders, front legs, and feet over time and certainly doesn't help the speed of the rest of the a-frame.
  • Speed over the top
  • Striding nicely on the down side. I don't want a stutter step because it eats up time and also seems hard on their shoulders over time
  • Striding deep into the down-side yellow. I don't want a jump to the bottom because if they miss the bottom and the yellow altogether it is a fault. And jumping from that height can be hard on their front end over time.
  • A stop at the bottom with both front feet pretty far into the dirt and both back feet on the obstacle. I want the front feet far into the dirt on average so that the range in the performance doesn't ever include the dog stopped with either front foot still on the obstacle. I think this helps make the desired position clear.
  • An instant release on cue.

I know others also include some of the below... if you have more ideas on criteria to add please do:

  • having a specific foot forward so that the weight shift on take off is most efficient but I'm not that technical yet. :-)
  • having the dog sit at the bottom instead of standing. I think they do this so that they are loaded to "spring" off... or maybe it is just to help encourage the weight on the back end to reduce wear on the shoulders?

(Should this be a community wiki?)


1 Answer 1


This is my current list and the why on each. I have to thank all the AMAZING agility trainers who have taught me this over the last 10 years! And to all the great students who have helped me find the holes in what I've used.

In order to maintain consistent contact performance we must have a routine maintenance package that reinforces all the components of the contact behavior we want. Below describes what part of the contact behavior each game is designed to teach and reinforce. Contact maintenance ideally is done several times a week. It can take as few as 15 seconds to play one of these games. I only aim for 80% of the performances to be rewardable and maybe 20% to be worth "caviar"... striving for more than that will create a sticky release or a slow performance because you are teaching them that they should error on the side of caution. So the error will show up in a slow or non-release or will cause the dog to worry about the yellow and either come down slowly or jump over it to avoid the pressure. What you consider “perfection” should be in the middle of their range not at one of the extremes.

2 on – 2 off on X: Teaches and reinforces the 2 on – 2 off position. X can be a travel board, stairs, phone book, ramp, anything sturdy that has a clear definition of back-end up and front end on the ground. We use this to introduce the position but it should also be used to continue the muscle memory for that position. This game helps to reinforce the position without coupling it to a handler position or action. (Baby dog – Advanced) Drive to Position on Travel Board: Reinforces driving into the 2 on – 2 off position. It also helps decouple from the handler position. Releases should NOT be used with this game… use a hand in collar to get out of this one. (Beginning – Advanced) Up – Up: Teaches and reinforces “in the yellow” behavior and drive to position on the contact equipment.

Run – Recall – Send: Reinforces entire contact behavior with handler running with, in front of, and behind dog. This helps to decouple the performance “before the yellow” with the handler position. (Intermediate - Advanced)

Release with Movement: Reinforces being ready for the release, clearly defines what the release is, and decouples handler position and movement from the release. This game gives a different picture for the dog because the release could come at any time… you might be moving and release! (Advanced only)

Hoop Run Through: Reinforces full stride and “before the yellow” behavior. The dog understands that when a hoop is there they should run through at full stride without a 2-on – 2 off position. (Intermediate – Advanced)

Reinforcement Position Behavior: Rewards the correct position vs. just the stand or release. This can be a front foot tap, head nod, or anything that doesn't put the dog out of position. (Beginning – Advanced)

Release Word Reinforcement: Reward and build up excitement for the release word. Hand in collar, release from down or sit, release from doorway, etc. Remember we are only aiming for 80%... perfection on this will create a sticky release because you are teaching them that they should error on the side of caution. So the error will show up in a non-release… perfection should be in the middle of their range not at one of the extremes.

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