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Training Exercises: You Touch! I Touch!

An agility game to proof two-on/two-off contacts by Alicia Nicholas.


My students like a competition once in a while, so this week we tested our contacts using a course with strategically placed traffic cones (or some other touchable object). It sure is interesting how human nature wants to "win," even if it is just bragging rights! 

The conversations that stem from this game might just get the point across to some people who struggle with their two-on/two-off contacts. When training a two-on/two-off contact, the best way to think about the reward is in terms of the stay. Dont reward your dog for stopping; reward your dog for staying! 

Think about that for a second. What does rewarding your dog for staying look like? Where should the food/toy go? How many times should you reward? What is the handler doing while the dog is in two-on/two-off position? Where is the handler while the dog is in two-on/two-off position?


The You Touch! I Touch! game can be used with any course that has contacts on it. The course given here is just used as an example. You will need some traffic cones (or something else people can touch) and a way to keep score. On a standard course, place traffic cones in various spots out of the way of handler and dog path (near stanchions, tunnels or under contacts). The cones should be placed in a way so that handlers have to proof being ahead, behind or lateral of their dog when it is on the contact.

The rules for the handlers are:
1. Only one "contact" word may be given
2. Each cone is worth one point when touched (if dog maintains criteria)
3. During each contact being performed, the handler can touch more than one cone but not the same cone twice
4. After successful completion of the contact, all cones become live again.
5. Handlers can reward their dog after they touch a cone.

If the handler has to double command or use "stay" or "wait," no point is given and if the dog never performs their two-on/two-off criteria or breaks their criteria, no point is given. 

Allow the handlers to walk the course and plan their cone touches. Ask the class to watch as each dog does the course; this will allow for accountability and discussion of criteria and points given.

In the example course given, the cones are in black and labeled A thru D. A handler might choose to touch cone A and B after #3 A-frame. If they are really greedy, they might go all the way over to cone C. Cone D is the obvious choice for the dogwalk #5; it forces the handler to be behind as the dog is performing the contact. In total, if the handler touched all four cones after each contact, it would total 20 points. You could set a time limit, or a cone limit to even the playing field.
An extension of the game could be to require different handler behaviors at each cone: jumping jacks, tie your shoe, say the dog's name, drop a toy/food on the ground, and so on. Use your imagination to proof those contact performances!

Alicia Nicholas has been doing agility since 2001 and has been teaching the sport since 2004. She started her agility journey with two Corgis, and since then she has run Border Collies, a Swedish Vallhund and a Papillion. Alicia believes that dog training is a very important aspect of dog agility and encourages a strong foundation for dogs that do agility. Alicia teaches all levels of agility handling, from foundation to international level classes. She also teaches competition obedience, focus and relationship, puppy classes, how to coach yourself classes, tricks classes, and more. Alicia says, "Agility is a sport which requires mental toughness and goal setting while keeping in mind that your canine partner is in it for fun! Goals are an important part of the journey; it's how you attain them that matters!" Alicia can be reached via email at ffluffy444@gmail.com or through her website (www.journeyagility.com) and you can read her blog at ffluffy.com

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