The Agility “A” Frame: How to Train
The A-frame is not one of the tougher obstacles to train, but is one of the easiest to lose points or even disqualification.
A large triangular shaped obstacle that looks like the letter “A” (hence the name A-frame) constructed of two matching hinged sides each three feet by nine feet. On the bottom of each side/ramp shows a contrasting colored painted area, called the contact zone. Simply put, the dog goes up one side of the “A” and down the other side of the “A”, touching that painted contact zone.
It usually does not take a lot to train Buddy to do the up and down on the A-frame. Where it gets challenging, is those nasty contact zones.
To start, make sure your A-frame is almost flat. The apex should be something easy and non-threating. Let Buddy check it out for himself, and click-treat and praise for his courage. (If you don’t know click-treat, please see Operant Conditioning article on featured content.)
Once he has this monster of an obstacle mastered on the low height, and shows nothing but total confidence to the “A,” raise it approximately a foot. (It is impossible for me to tell you how high to make it. I don’t know your dog, his size, or his temperament.) Just make sure it is not too high for him to get injured or scared.
Now is the time to start introducing the contact zone. There are many methods for teaching contact. Pick one that makes sense to you and try it out. If you or Buddy are not elated with the progress, pick another method. One of the great things about training if one method is not working for you or Buddy, you can and should, try another method. Nothing is etched in stone, all dogs are different. You can always try again with something else.
Now it is just a matter of raising the apex of the frame slowly, all the while clicking-treating and keeping things light and fun, along keeping that contact zone work, up to par.
Finally, get the A-frame to full height, continuing to raise the criteria, and click-treat, praising for speed and performance.
Note: If you check out my article on the Teeter Totter, you will see some suggestions that may help you with training the contact zone.
Also, please note that in the near future, I will be dedicating a complete article on Contact Zones.