Fluid Contacts 

I’m a big believer in allowing my dogs to choose their path in agility. I want my dogs to choose what works for them, both physically and mentally, and in my opinion contacts are one of the “big” things that I like to let my dogs choose.

Every dog is different. Their structure is different and where they are mentally is different. So when I start teaching my dogs their contact behavior, I allow the training to be very fluid. I want my dog to tell me what works for them!

All of my dogs start with the same “base” training, but I will make adjustments for each dog. For example, I like to start teaching all of my dogs a rear end behavior on the contact (a 2 on 2 off), and I also teach a contact behavior with a sit. Once those are mastered, I begin to take into consideration the individual dog.

I have four dogs; let’s talk about each of their contact performances:

Try remains in a standing position with all four feet on both the aframe and the dogwalk.

Nargles has a running contact on both the aframe and dogwalk.

Ally has a 2 on 2 off. She chooses to lay down on the dogwalk and sit on the aframe.

Trip does a 2 on 2 off for both the aframe and the dogwalk.

As you can see, all offer very different behaviors, and I am okay with all of them!

Each one of these dogs chose a contact behavior that felt good to them. I used the same “base” training, but then I let them choose what works best both physically and mentally.

Even these contact behaviors could change as well over time. When Ally is sore or she is not properly conditioned after her winter off (and conditioning plays a HUGE role in contact performances), then she will stand for both the aframe and dogwalk. This tells me that something is “up”, and perhaps as she gets older, her contact performances will change. I will allow that! I want her to be happy and choose the behavior that works for her.

Part of my contact training foundation is about observing the dog in daily life. When waiting to go outside, does your dog sit? Stand? Down? What is their natural behavior when asked to wait? Does your dog like to stop? Or run? Or maybe take a few steps and then stop?
All of these things can help tell you what kind of behavior your dog might want on the contacts; pay attention them!

I have also learned that a lot of dogs have different preferences for the aframe and a dogwalk. that’s fine; I allow for that too. 🙂

Another big thing in my dog’s contact training is teaching my dogs to shift weight to their rear end. I want my dog’s body to be in balance when coming down the ramp. This means I want their weight to be balanced between their front and rear end. Naturally, dogs carry more weight on their front end, so I want to help counteract that by encouraging a weight shift to their rear when training contacts. During their training I watch my dog carefully and ensure there is a balance between their front and rear end. I don’t want my dog to come down the ramp with all their weight on the rear, because at the bottom of the ramp they will they transfer their weight to their front, which makes it more likely that they will jam their shoulders.

I help teach a rear end weight shift by asking for a sit behavior in my early contact foundation training. I feel this helps teach the dog a proper weight shift and encourages balance in the dog’s body. Once I have worked through the foundation steps and feel that my dog is weight shifting and keeping their body in balance, I will start to loosen the sit criteria. At that point, if my dog chooses to stand, I will let them. And by the same token, if they choose to lie down, that’s fine too! In Trip’s case, he liked sitting at the bottom, and he continues to do so. But he also sits naturally in daily life as his preferred waiting position, so his behavior on the contact made sense to me.

You can view and participate in the entire Consistent Contacts program in the Fluid Motion Patreon group, click this link to learn more! www.patreon.com/fluidmotion

Published by Amanda Nelson

Amanda Nelson is well known for her distance handling skills, and she has been traveling the country and teaching seminars for 20+ years. She has traveled around the world to Australia, Japan, Netherlands, England, Switzerland and the Philippines teaching all levels of agility, with nearly all dog breeds. Amanda focuses on teaching teamwork as well as how to create a strong connection between dog and handler. She works with all styles of handling, from running with your dog to distance handling. Amanda tailors each training session, large or small, to the dog and handler to help bring out the best in the team. Her training techniques consist of a large amounts of targeting, food rewards, and toy rewards. Creating a fun learning environment for the dog encourages a fast, fun, and motivated dog in the agility ring. Amanda uses a combination of Upper Body Cues, Lower Body Cues, and Verbal Cues. This system was derived from the natural cues that most dogs read and pick up quickly. Handlers are taught how to use all of these cues, together, to create a customized handling system that can be tailored to their unique dog. All of these techniques have resulted in Amanda earning numerous titles with her dogs including the MOD SQUAD award, Purple Achievement Cup, and over 40 NADAC Championship titles. She has won the NADAC Championships multiple times, including winning the Super Stakes and Starter Stakes division. She has also been Top Bonus Dog, Top Purple Dog, and Top Dog of the Year several times in NADAC.

4 thoughts on “Fluid Contacts 

    1. Hi Lori!
      We will be starting with the foundation and working towards working on a full board. Some dogs in class may not go all the way to working on a full size contact (young dogs) and we may move some dogs to the contact faster (older re-train dogs) It will really all depend on the dog, amount of time training and overall goals of the handler. 🙂


    1. Hi!
      Either an aframe or a dogwalk, you do not need to have both. (I will talk about how to train both, but you do not have to have them for class) I have a couple students who will just be using a board on the ground until they can get to a full size contact also. 🙂


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