The Fuller Brush Principle

I don’t know if it’s like an urban legend, or what, but I remember this thing they used to say about the Fuller Brush. If you took it and twisted it in your hands you’d have this twisted brush. However, if you dropped the twisted brush into hot water it would revert or reform to its original shape. How cool is that?


Today we were talking about contact training in the small private camp I’m doing this week. It’s a confusing array of options that the handler has these days in deciding which course to take in contact training with a young pup. Believe you me I’ve really been considering the options myself with my young boy Kory coming up.

The current phase or fad in the agility world is the running contact. And I have noted in my writing recently that as a judge it’s been many years since I’ve called so many missed contacts.

So here’s the deal, you have a young dog coming up that basically trots right down through the contact zone. You think “This is pretty cool! I think I’ll just let him have his natural stride!” Indeed, just to look like a good dog trainer you’ll put out a “stride regulator” and mark the dog positive every time he steps through it.

There comes a day when the dog’s brain catches afire. I call this the “cowabunga moment”. The dog suddenly gets the surfing nature of the game and is off riding the big swell. He lights up and runs with new fervor and commitment to the race. The handler/dog trainer finds out at this wonderful and precise moment the very thing… that he’s never taught the dog a damned thing about finishing a contact obstacle. To the dog’s point of view, when running and in a big damned hurry is that it is considerably more efficient to leave the ramp well above the yellow than to trifle running down through it.

At this point many frustrated dog trainers will consider the Plan B options for training the dog or for handling the dog for contact performance. Maybe the order of the day is 2o2o or maybe just strictly handler initiative. And these new plans can be highly successful, especially when measured against the tactic of not having really trained the dog at all.

However, what we’ll often find is that in the big competitions, when everything is important and on the line… the team is in hot water. And now the Fuller Brush Principle applies. The dog will revert to his original form, that is, he was trained to no performance whatsoever in his foundation. So the story has a sad ending.

End Notes

This has been a cautionary tale. In my usual erudite mix of conversation with students I will warn against flavor of the week training methods; and flavor of the week dog trainers. Switching protocol only confuses the dog. Find an effective method stick with it live with it.

Sue Sternberg told me not three days ago as I talked about the array of options… “Don’t do running contacts!” It was a dire warning. And so, trusting her judgment this morning I began my 2o2o training with my boy Kory. I’ll  also be going back to refortify the 2o2o of my girls Hazard and Blue.

Fuller Facts


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at


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