Contacts: Bridging the Gap Between Training & Competition DVD


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What is it about? 

Did you teach your dog a fast, accurate, and independent two-on/two-off contact behavior only to find it now failing you in the competition ring? The more we compete and the longer it has been since our initial training, the more our dogs’ competition contact performance seems to deviate from their training performance. Perhaps your dog’s contact performance is slowing down. Or maybe she is no longer driving to the end of the contacts without you next to her. Perhaps your dog is no longer waiting for your release command and releases on her own. Or you may find yourself repeating your contact command or decelerating at the end of the contact to facilitate a stop. Worse yet, your dog may be missing contacts altogether.

Finally there’s a clear-cut method for bridging this gap between training and competition so that you can achieve your ideal contact performance in the ring. This DVD will show you why your two-on/two-off performances are deteriorating. It will also provide a comprehensive training plan for “release work” on the contacts that will allow you to recreate your competition behavior in the training environment so you can fix your areas of weakness. The end result is a contact behavior in competition that is the same as the behavior your dog gives you in training.

But this program is not just for trained dogs; it’s a great program to use in your initial contact training so that you avoid problems. If you are starting contact training with a new dog, you can begin the release work on the flat portion of Rachel’s training program at the same time that you’re training the two-on/two-off position. You can progress to other parts of the release work even before the dog is able to perform the entire contact obstacle.

Who presents it? Rachel Sanders

More about Rachel-  For the past 25 years, Rachel Sanders has been involved in a variety of dog training activities including competitive obedience, general pet training, hearing dog training, and agility training. In more recent years, her focus is solely on agility or agility related training. Rachel currently competes with her two Border Collies, Fable & Stuie, and her Jack Russell Terrier, Better. Rachel has put ADCH and MACH titles on multiple dogs. She and her dogs have reached the finals of the USDAA and AKC agility championships on multiple occasions, and have earned four national championships. Most recently Rachel and Fable earned a spot on the 2008 IFCS World Team.

When was it released? 2008

Who produced it? Clean Run Productions

Running time- 49 minutes


~~Do you feel that despite the work you put in at home your dog’s contacts are letting you down in competition?  Rachel Sanders, IFCS world team member and four times national champion, has produced a clear-cut methodology for ensuring that your dog produces consistent contacts at all times. With the main emphasis on release work, Sanders introduces us to a simple yet effective method to help  achieve that winning performance.

The aim of this DVD is to help build a solid contact performance. Sanders points out that in competition we don’t want to be worrying about our dogs contacts, but instead on running the course.  She begins by explaining the three categories of contact work:

  • Position
  • Motivation
  • Release

The main bulk of this DVD focuses on release work.

  • Sanders explains the three requirements that every dog must have before beginning to train release work. These are:
  • An independent contact performance
  • A verbal release cue
  • A moving sit, stand or down

She then moves on to explain and demonstrate the four different types of releases.

  • Quick release
  • Early release
  • Self-release
  • Absence of behavior

Sanders continues by exploring what she considers, ideal contact behavior.  She shows us how we want the dog to drive quickly across the dog walk into the 2-on, 2-off position, and then wait for the verbal release cue, explaining that our body language should not affect the dog’s performance or cause him to release.

Sanders next introduces us to the four handling manoeuvres she uses for release work. These are:

  • Run past
  • Front cross
  • Push past
  • Run-stop-run

She explains the purpose of using these 4 manoeuvres and the reasons why she excludes the rear cross from these.

Sanders then shows us how to teach the release cue, explaining that the aim is to isolate this cue from physical motion. She describes how to start teaching this with the dog in a sit position, first with no movement from the handler and then slowly adding it in.  Sanders explains that we can practice the release cue in a variety of situations, including getting out of the car, going through doors, or coming out of the crate.

Sanders demonstrates how she always cements the release work on the flat before adding in obstacles. She explains how we can put our dog in a sit, stand or down and  go through each of the four handling manoeuvres, practicing them first at a walk, before moving on to a jog and then a run. The dog must remain in position until given the release cue. While doing this we can vary rewarding the dog for either staying in position or moving off on the release cue.

She shows us how, as she runs past, she shouts different words and adds in body movement (such as raising her arm and turning her head) to check that the dog has a solid understanding of the release cue.

When demonstrating the run-stop-run manoeuvre, Sanders shows how when stopping by the dog, she rewards him with food, before continuing past. She explains that dogs often think that once they have been given a reward, they can release themselves. If the dog is having difficulty with this exercise she recommends changing it to run-stop-walk until the dog begins to better understand it.

Sanders then moves on to release work to an obstacle. Again, she practices the 4 manoeuvres, starting with a walk and building up to a run, varying rewarding the dog for either staying in position or the release.

In order to appreciate the level of difficulty in training our dogs to remain in the 2-on, 2-off position, Sanders introduces us to a human contacts game. By going through various exercises, but asking another person to touch the bottom of the contact with their hand in place of the dog, we see how even with the person the initial focus is on body language, before they learn to concentrate on the voice and listen for the release cue.

Sanders next looks at release work from the dog walk. When training this there is no need for the dog to do the complete obstacle but instead he should be able to bounce into position at the bottom of the dog walk. To be able to practice these exercises, your dog will need to have an independent contact performance, that is to drive into the 2-on, 2-off position on cue without physical assistance. Sanders then demonstrates all 4 handling manoeuvres from the bottom of the dog walk.

Finally she moves on to release work using the whole obstacle. Sanders says that by this point she expects her dogs to be well trained enough for her to start this exercise from a run.

She then provides us with the following useful do’s and don’ts of release work:

DO always complete each handling manoeuvre before returning to reward the dog.

DO NOT run straight ahead when the course bends to the left or right.

If returning to your dog to reward him for staying in position, DO NOT then lead out from there to the release position. DO back up and repeat the handling manoeuvre and the release.

DO always release in motion.

DO vary timings of release – for example, sometimes early, sometimes half way and sometimes after your front cross.

Sanders then looks at what to do if your dog self-releases. She explains that she prefers to put the dog into a sit  immediately and then give the release cue rather than back on to the contact, as the problem is not with the contact itself, but with the release.

Sanders studies some of the common things that go wrong with contacts in competition, and what we can do about this. If the dog self-releases, she advises us to take a moment to regroup by putting the dog into a wait and then immediately release and continue the course. She explains that often in competition we are tempted to early release. She urges us not to do this as it gives the dog the liberty to release himself. If there is a complete absence of the 2-on, 2-off position, Sanders explains that you can chose to leave the ring. However if this problem occurs more than once then it points to a lack of understanding and therefore means that you need to do more work in training.

Finally, Sanders looks at what we can do to help our contacts in pre-competition warm up. She explains how she likes to practice some release work, on the flat or using a practice jump, before going into the ring.


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