2on2off issues

The most common contact behavior in Denmark is without a doubt the 2on2off position - front paws on the ground and hind paws on the contact. Even though this is the most taught behavior it does not mean it is easy to maintain. You might start out with a perfect 2on2off position in training, which means great speed and holding the position until released. But as you get more and more competitive you might find your dog loosing speed and missing a contact every once in a while. I hear a lot of people saying oh, my dog know what to do, so I don't get why he's breaking his stay, or just the plain old good one "the dog is cheating!".

There are some critical point to a 2on2off position that you need to be aware off in order to maintain speed and reliability.The position it self isn't hard to teach, but keeping a high success rate on the other hand can be.

When you have taught a behavior you need to maintain it otherwise it will break apart. So just because you think your dog knows what to do doesn't mean you can stop rewarding the correct behavior. You do not need to reward every single correct behavior, but you need to maintain what you have taught.

The release is another critical point. The goal is to get the dog to leave the contact on a verbal and only on a verbal command regardless of your position.
Before you even start releasing the dog from the contact make sure your dog has a perfect understanding of the release command. This means the dog will leave the contact at once when you say *okay* and only when you say "okay".
I see many messing up at this point. They will do extensive proofing by saying other words than the release when the dog is on the contact. They actually tent to tease the dog holding it's position on the contact by jumping around and shouting other words than the release. You don't build any value for the behavior by doing this, but you might get a very confused dog. Believe me proofing is great, but don't exaggerate it.
Another mistake is done when they finally decide to release the dog; they will do this standing still and than moving forward as soon as they say the release - this produces a very grey area because which of the following releases the dog; movement? verbal? or movement and verbal combined? Remember dogs are much more visual than verbal so if you want your dog to fly off the contact on your verbal command only don't connect it to your movement. Either stand perfectly still as you give your release or do a run by. It might not seem like a big deal but uncertainty is what makes your dogs contact behavior slow. Remember to do extensive proofing on the release - change the speed on your run bys, practice lateral distance and turns right after the contact but always remember to reward the correct response.

Reward the behavior your want! so simple so easy to do. If you want speed; reward it. If you want the dog to hold position; reward it! If you want to practice lateral distance or run bys then reward the dog for getting it right.

The most important thing is to maintain your criteria in training as well as competition. Because of the time issue in competitions we tent to release the dog before it reaches it's position in order to safe time. This is the same as releasing a dog who broke it's start line stay; you are rewarding the dog for not getting into the position and breaking criteria
You are guarantied a very confused dog when you demand a perfect position and stay in training but alter the behavior in competitions - talking about grey area!

If you don't keep you criteria black and white it will produce a dog that's insecure about what you want and therefore you will get slow contacts and lame releases. The speed and the confidence are proportional.

My point is people tent to blame the dog for faults on the contact, when they don't even realize how they have created a grey area by not maintaining criteria. This is a handler mistake! The dog is a reflecting of your abilities as a dog trainer - so don't ever blame the dog for your own mistakes.